suntimes
CRACKLING 
Weather Updates

Cubs ballhawks aren’t happy about Jumbotron, but they’re not going anywhere

Maps

Updated: May 10, 2013 6:27AM



On Opening Day at Wrigley Field on Monday, the Ballhawks were in their usual spot — though changes planned for the ballpark could signal the end of an era for the Cubs stalwarts. .

The guys hanging out at Kenmore and Waveland to catch errant homers say plans to install a 6,000-square-foot Jumbotron over the left-field bleachers — square in the middle of their playing field — are part of the profit-mongering they see as defining the Chicago Cubs’ ownership.

The group of men hoping to collect home runs and batting practice escapees were in place Monday to celebrate their “New Year’s” with beers, mitts and lawn chairs. They all agree they’ll continue to observe the holiday — even when the Jumbotron cuts their haul.

“We don’t think it’ll end it,” said George Field, 51, a 10-year veteran. He estimated that the sign would catch 80 percent of the balls flying out of left field.

Field was featured in “Ballhawks,” a 2010 documentary covering the group and the 2005 expansion of the bleachers at Wrigley.

Dave Davison, another of the movie’s subjects, has been hooked on hawking for more than 30 years — since he was 10.

“If they want to ruin the look of the park to make a couple bucks . . .” he said of the Jumbotron.

Davison has taken home more than 4,000 balls in that span — keeping them “on the walls, under the bed.” He works in the evenings so he is available for day games.

The team’s owners “need more money in their pockets,” Davison said. “If you spend the most, that’s how you win championships — [but] Ricketts has produced the three worst teams in the history of the Cubs.”

A small crowd formed to complain about team owner Tom Ricketts’ greed at the expense of the field’s tradition.

“To me, a landmark is its never going to change,” Davison said.

Jerry Pritikin, 76, said the team will be called “the Times Square Cubs” once the screen goes up. He has been coming to games since 1945. Already Wrigley doesn’t look like the ballpark he knew.

“This is their toy,” said hawk Matthew Furlin, calling the plans “distasteful, disgusting.”

Despite their anger, the Ballhawks’ love for the game, the corner, the company and the Cubs won’t change even if the park does.

“I am a guy from the street, but this is a hobby that keeps me out of trouble,” Field said.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.