The Chicago Cubs fanbase is very vast, and within its friendly confines you’ll find numerous individuals with fascinating stories to tell. Chicagoan Jerry Pritikin could be the most intriguing of all. I’ll let him edify you on his life experiences.
For part one of the interview with the “Gay Forrest Gump” or the “Bleacher Preacher” go here.
To read about and see his pictures from the Stanley Cup at the Gay Pride Parade go here
By Paul M. Banks
PMB: It seems that this year is a turning point for the Cubs franchise, since ’03 it’s been big payroll and big expectations (unfulfilled) which was a change of pace from the ’80s and ’90s when the Tribune Company didn’t spend as much on players, and therefore fans didn’t expect to win as much as they do today. Where do you see things headed now? With Ricketts in charge, the 2010 season pretty much a lost cause, and a probable roster implosion on the way, what do you see happening in 2011?
JP: Back in 1945, my dad took me to my first Cubs game, and gave me a crash course in Baseball 101 and Cubs history. About a month later, when they clinched the Pennant. I asked my dad to take me to the World Series. He felt I was too young (8 y.o.) but made me a PROMISE…he would take me the next time! I am beginning to think, I am like Moses, I’ll never get to the PROMISED LAND!
There is a great line in the play “Bleacher Bums”, NO ONE EVER GOT RICH BETTING ON THE CUBS, AFTER THE 4th OF JULY! I’ve been priced out of the bleachers at face value of a ticket. Yet trying to find one on day of game for the price printed on the ticket is harder than finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq! As for 2011, the only thing I will predict is the British Petroleum oil well will still be leaking!
PB: I read that you took in the final month of the 1984 NL East Championship season with $4 bleacher tickets! I remember going in the summers when I was home from college (just 12 years ago) for $11. And today, weekend bleacher seats are $70!! Have they gone mad? I guess they need to finance their underachieving, 11 games under .500, $146 million team somehow.
JP: Back in 1991, I boycotted the Cubs when they raised the price of a bleacher ticket from $4 to $6. I said that they were pricing the everyday fan out of the park. My dad reminded me that in the depression, even someone who was out of a job, could still afford a ticket to a game or a movie. Today, even if you are lucky to have a full time job, you would have to file for bankruptcy to buy a couple of tickets. The reason I was always a baseball nut was that my dad would always say “get some of your friends, and we’ll go out to the Friendly Confines.” And tickets were available on the day of the game, including double headers. I used to marvel about the cheap seats, the person next to you could be a bum or a millionaire.
And with their shirts off it was hard to tell the difference. Today, the guy sitting in the bleachers is talking on a cellphone, wearing a Rolex Watch and talking about Dow Jones Averages instead of Earned Run Averages. And the biggest insult- chances are he’s wearing a tie too! The only friends, in the “Friendly Confines”, must be friends of Donald Trump.
PMB: Finally, tell us more about your distinguished softball playing career, especially the San Francisco leagues.
JP: Back in the early 70’s, the average gay guy spent his time walking from one bar to another, during the week or on the weekend, and it was the only exercise available. One weekend, the owners of several bars rented out a dude ranch at the Russian River, some guys took part in high heel races, and others brought balls and bats and their old mitts, and played softball in a pasture. Afterwards, a few guys thought it would be fun to start a League of our own. And in 1973, the country’s first organized Gay Community Softball League was formed, 6 teams playing with Goodwill mitts and Levis and t-shirt uniforms.
The next year several more teams were formed, but with expansion came some controversy. When the trophy became a coveted prize, some teams added non-gays to their roster. A friend asked me to play for his Round Up team. Growing up in Chicago, we only played 16″ ball, without gloves. Our manager recruited several more straight guys off the city sand lots, and our team began to gel. I learned to throw knuckle balls, that floated in the S.F. bay swept winds (Remember when Stu Miller was blown off the mound at Candlestick Park?) By 1977 the league was becoming one of the most competitive leagues in the city. However, they dropped the word Gay from the league’s name, because many of the players worked for Fortune 500 Companies, and they feared if it was discovered they could lose their jobs.
Our team lost our sponsorship when the owner found his lover, in the arms of our short stop. We found a new sponsor: San Francisco’s best known Gay Disco, Oil Can Harry’s. The team that won the ’77 Championship was made up of mostly non-gay players, and when they failed to show up at a banquet in their honor, many gay players started another league for gays only. However, it was the older league that got the invitation to play in the 1978 Gay World Series in N.Y.
I was able to get my friend Mayor Moscone to throw out the first pitch of the season, and we had over 2,000 fans in the stands. There were 19 teams, and by the end of the season my team won the Wild Card spot. I was 4-2 for the season, and in the play-offs 6-0. We won the right to represent S.F. in the Gay World Series. However, we played in the annual Peach-Fuzz /Gay-Cops game and there were 8,000 fans at Lang Field. I pitched the first 5 innings, leaving the game with a 2-0 lead, retiring 9 cops in a row and 7 on 7 pitches (My knuckler was doing the cha-cha-cha!) Mayor Moscone gave us a Citation to take to N.Y. It said the diversity of our team, was like the diversity that helped to make S.F. a great place to live.
However, by the time our plane landed we found OUT that we were kicked OUT for having too many “straights” on our roster. I called the Associated Press, and they ran the story. It made Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News, and the following day- Paul Harvey’s Radio Commentary. Keep in mind this was the time of Anita Bryant, and the Briggs Initiative, and I thought it was great that these players brought their wives, children and girlfriends to our games, but sadly we never got to play. The following season, I played on the first Gay Seniors Softball team in the country, and one of my teammates was former Olympian Dr. Tom Waddell, who went on to create the Gay Games.
Today, there are over 50 cities with gay softball leagues. And just last year, another S.F. team was kicked OUT of the Gay World Series for having too many non-gays on their roster! The more things change,etc.
I have had many last hurrahs, and until recently took part in the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association’s Senior Cup Tournament. I played on one Championship team, a second place team and won the Award for being the oldest active player in the tourney, twice. I am also a member of the San Francisco Gay Softball Hall of Fame since 1991. But would you believe, I just signed on with the Bubbies Kosher Pickle’s “Legends” (Their slogan “A LEGEND IN THEIR OWN BRINE!), a new team in Chicago’s first gay seniors league. The only problem: of the 16 guys on their roster, 9 are pitchers!
I volunteered to play catcher, if they allow me to use a stool!
Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com