It has often been said that walking into Wrigley Field, especially for the first time, is knowing what heaven must look like.
The bleachers, ivy on the outfield walls, an old-fashioned manual scoreboard, an outside marquee. All parts of the ambiance of the true field of dreams that is celebrating its 90th anniversary on Addison, Clark, Waveland and Sheffield on Chicago's north side.
Winter residents, many of whom make the pilgrimage from the Windy City to Mesa every year for the mecca that Cubs spring training has become, love the venerable old ballpark. Who needs the amenities some of the newer edifices have?
Wrigley is, indeed, picture perfect.
To that end, famed panoramic photographer Rob Arra has created a pair of Wrigley pieces. One is called Friendly Confines, the other Batter Up. Each brings to life memories for those who have been to Wrigley Field, and a sense of wanting to go there for others not lucky enough to have made a visit.
Don Robinson of Stone Man Framing in Phoenix knows how much Wrigley Field means to Cubs fans. He has sold quite a few of the 13-by-39-inch panoramas — Batter Up is a night game vs. the Atlanta Braves, Friendly Confines shows daytime action against the Colorado Rockies — to Valley residents.
"It's one of the most popular pieces we sell, especially during spring training," Robinson said. "With all the Chicagoans and former Chicagoans here, they still love Wrigley Field. They have a good team that got so close last year and, with the addition of Greg Maddux, many people think they have a great shot at making that next step to the World Series this year. Arra's pieces are state-of-the-art panoramic photography."
Unframed prints sell for $32.50. A metal framed version is $89.50, while an acid-free, museum-quality type matted and framed version is $169.95. Prices don't include sales tax.
To order, call (602) 971-7150.
ALL BALLED UP?
Of all the sports-related items listed on eBay in recent weeks, some that really raise an eyebrow are baseballs signed by Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers. You know Woo, don't you? He's the guy who attends every Cubs home game and all their spring training contests, dressed in full uniform.
Though Wickers bears a resemblance to Mr. Cub Ernie Banks, there's no mistaking Wickers' penetrating "Cubbies, woo, Cubbies, woo, Cubbies, woo, woo, woo!" yell.
So, it seemed like a possible prelude to the Apocalypse when several dealers put balls signed by Wickers in eBay auctions. They were signed during the destruction of the Steve Bartman "cursed" ball, Feb. 26 at Harry Caray's Restaurant in Chicago.
OK. Seeing baseballs signed by Dutchie Caray, Harry's widow, is one thing. But, Ronnie Woo?
Surprisingly, two of the balls sold. To the same bidder. One for $9.95, the other an amazing $20.95 after three bidders.
"There was a lot of people at the ‘destroy the ball,’ " said seller Cliff Lemaster of Orland Park, Ill., whose ball sold for $9.95. "Ronnie is known for the Cubs, so I put it up to see if it would sell, I guess as a whim."
Forest Cowley of Cubsports on Clark Street in Chicago (www.cubsports.com) down the street from Wrigley Field, knows Wickers well.
"I was surprised it sold," said Cowley, who got $20.95 for his ball. "I just paid for the ball. The rest of the money from it will go to Ronnie to help raise his young teenage daughter. He signs stuff for me and I help him out. He's a great person and just loves his Cubs and people.
"The person who bought it said in an e-mail that he bought it to give to a kid in a hospital. I'm going to e-mail back and see if we can get Ronnie to maybe go visit that kid. That's the kind of thing he'd do."
The buyer, whose eBay name is daib682, did not return several e-mail messages sent asking why he bought the balls.
Another surprise: Wickers has his own Web site, www.ronniewoowoo.com.