In some ways, the more things change in the bleachers at Wrigley Field, the more they stay the same. Fans arrive early in hopes of snagging a batting practice home run. Bleacher bums still razz opposing players and toss back their home runs. Mass quantities of beer are consumed.
When catcher Miguel Montero launched his decisive grand slam in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers into the right-field stands, the fans in the outfield went berserk, hurling half-filled cups of brew onto their fellow bleacher creatures and leaping into the arms of strangers. It was all par for the course.
The remodeled bleachers, however, do allow for quieter, and drier, ways to soak in the ballpark and playoff atmosphere for fans who pause and take a few steps off the beaten path.
Underneath the left- and right-field bleachers are tributes to the Cubs‘ greatest players and the team’s greatest moments, often overlooked attractions in the expanded and upgraded seating area that can supplement the traditional outfield fan experience.
A type of Cubs Hall of Fame lines the brick wall in the concourse below the right-field bleachers, a display of paintings and plaques honoring Cubs’ legends, spanning from Frank Chance to Greg Maddux. Each player’s Cooperstown-style plaque highlights noteworthy stats and accomplishments.
In left field and near the center-field entrance, display cases showcase historical team photos and memorabilia, including second baseman Ryne Sandberg’s 1984 Gold Glove, a hand-colored “Shawon-O-Meter” sign for former shortstop Shawon Dunston, a base used in the playoffs, Sammy Sosa bats and the Toddland-brand onesie Jake Arrieta wore on the team’s dress-up night in 2015.
“I think it’s nice, they needed some place like a Cubs museum,” said fan Bob LeBailly, 65, of Evanston. “It’s too bad that it’s not open to people who are sitting in the grandstand.”
Indeed, unless fans have tickets for the bleachers, they cannot access the outfield seating, or the concourses. Several fans interviewed Sunday at Game 2 of the NLCS said they hoped that would change in the future. One fan suggested opening the bleacher concourses on off days, soliciting a small donation for Cubs Charities.
Many fans with bleacher tickets do not realize the player plaques and memorabilia cases are available to view. An hour and a half before Game 2, the concourse was virtually empty, save for a trundling equipment cart, ballpark staff and a seemingly lost Dodgers fan.
Shannon and Brian Jacobs discovered the history items while taking their time on the way to their seats, a luxury they usually don’t have as they rush to find a good spot among the rows of green benches. Unlike the regular season, bleacher tickets for the NLCS include assigned seats by row and seat number.
“I knew they did something different here, but I didn’t know what,” said Shannon Jacobs, 35, of Plano, after she took a few photos. “I like the history, the nostalgia. It brings up memories from childhood.”
Brian Jacobs said he frequently travels to other major league parks, visiting at least one a year with his dad, and features like the remodeled bleacher concourses are his favorite attractions, elements that celebrate the uniqueness and back story of each franchise.
“I think that most fans probably don’t know this is down here,” Shannon Jacobs said.
The concourses began to fill up with more onlookers as game time approached, fans taking in the timeline of key events in Wrigley over the years, and remarking on the painted Cubs logos through the decades on the wall under the left-field stands. The logo wall is located near a mural that reads “Future Home of the Chicago Cubs bullpen,” one of the proposed next steps in the ballpark remodeling project.
“I think it’s unbelievable,” said Tom Poehling, 50, of Madison, Wis., as he photographed the greatest players’ wall. “It reminds me of some of the things they have at Yankee Stadium, with all of the monuments and history. I think it’s a great idea.”