Friday, May 20, 2011
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Jerry Pritikin, the Bleacher Preacher of Wrigley Field, feels as though he has been excommunicated. A Cubs fan for 42 years and a fixture in the bleachers for the past three, Pritikin wears, or used to wear, a T-shirt that reads JERRY PRITIKIN, BLEACHER PREACHER, THE GOSPEL OF THE CUBS. He claims to have converted 1,500 nonbelievers into Cubs fans, baptizing them with an oath that invokes the names of Bill Veeck Sr., Bill Veeck Jr. and Charlie Grimm, the last man to manage a Cub team in the World Series (42 years ago).
That's what happened on Sept. 22, two hours before a Cubs-Mets game was scheduled to begin. It was raining, but as usual Pritikin was already in his seat. McDowell came out to rightfield and asked Pritikin the usual question. This time, though, Pritikin had come prepared. He took his Frisbee out of a bag and was about to throw it to McDowell when an usher said, "Don't throw it." Maybe the devil made him do it, maybe not, but Pritikin threw the Frisbee anyway. The usher expelled him from the park, breaking Pritikin's 75-game attendance streak. The Cubs beat the Mets 6-2, but it was small comfort to Pritikin, sitting on a bench outside the ballpark.
The Preacher finished up the season by attending the Cubs' next five home games, but things, he says, will never be the same. His T-shirt now reads: THIS SPACE FOR RENT.