CHICAGO - Finally, the perfect answer for a team that has been killing its fans for 100 years: A place to put their remains.
A Chicago man and Bohemian National Cemetery on the city’s North Side are joining forces to build for Cubs fans a final resting place that looks a lot like the spot where they saw their dreams of a pennant die year after year.
Called “Beyond the Vines,” the 24-foot long ivy-covered wall is designed to look like the one in dead center at Wrigley Field.
It’s all on the drawing board now, but the wall is expected to be up and ready to accept fans in October — just about the time Cubs fans are starting their annual mantra of “Wait till next year.”
And when it does go up, Dennis Mascari the president of Fans Forever, Inc., says it will transform the cemetery experience, if not for the dead, at least for the living.
“When you come to a cemetery to visit a loved one it’s usually a pretty sad, gloomy situation,” he said, standing on the lawn where the wall will be erected. “But when you come here and visit (what looks like) his home away from home ... Wrigley Field, it’s going to be a great feeling for people.”
Mascari, 60, is envisioning something special. There will be a stained-glass scoreboard. And at each of the 280 niches in the wall — “eternal skyboxes, that’s what we call them,” he says — there will be an urn emblazoned with the Cubs logo.
Near each urn will be a bronze baseball card with a photograph of the deceased fan who, Mascari said, depending on the wishes of the family can be dressed up in a Cubs hat, Cubs jersey or full Cubs uniform. It could also include the dead fan’s ‘statistics’ such as date of birth, date of death, and maybe their favorite Cubs game and favorite Cub.
There’s even talk of piping in Cubs games on speakers so nobody, living or dead, will miss an inning. Not only that, but if this idea appeals to more than 280 Cubs fans, the cemetery has set aside enough land to add a right-field wall and a left-field wall.
The price tag for interment will cost as much as $5,000, the “grand slam” package that includes pick up of the body and delivery to Bohemian for cremation in its brand new $100,000 cremation oven, a service, and, of course, the baseball card plaque and urn.
But Mascari knows there are plenty of fans who have long since died and their remains are just sitting in urns somewhere, waiting for their own Field of Dreams. Interment of those ashes can cost as little as $1,200.
If this sounds, well, crazy, urns with the logo of the Cubs and other sports teams are already on the market and the maker of those urns — Eternal Image — says last year that Cubs urns accounted for 10 percent of their Major League urn sales.
And nobody who saw survivors of dead Cubs fans bring photographs to the 2003 playoffs will forget the sight of them trudging home, pictures under their arms, after the Cubs once again failed to reach the World Series.
Besides, Cubs fans have for years been scattering ashes of loved ones at Wrigley Field — a tradition immortalized by the late singer-songwriter Steve Goodman, in whose “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” an old man asks his own family to do just that at the “ivy-covered burial ground.” Those ashes include some of Goodman’s, scattered there by family and friends a year after his death.
That tradition reminds Mascari that his wall can offer something to fans they can’t possibly get from having their ashes scattered on the outfield grass: Peace of mind.
“Last year the turf (at Wrigley) was removed,” Mascari explained. “So something like this would make sure that fans would never have to worry about any turf being removed and put somewhere else.”
Over at Wrigley, the Cubs aren’t saying much. Team spokesman Peter Chase said in an e-mail that nobody connected with the team had heard of the wall or wanted to talk about it.
A longtime Cubs fan himself, Mascari hopes the team likes the idea, if for no other reason it might prompt fans to head to his wall and not Wrigley with dead fans’ ashes.
But since there won’t be a Cubs logo on the wall and the company that makes the urns is already licensed to do so by Major League Baseball, he doesn’t think the Cubs can stop the wall if they wanted to.
One man who is talking about it is Philip Roux, the superintendent at the cemetery.
“I think this is great, the best publicity a cemetery could have,” said Philip Roux, Bohemian’s superintendent.
For one thing, he said it would remind people that the cemetery perhaps best known for being the final resting place for Anton Cermak, the Chicago mayor who was assassinated by a man aiming for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is still open.
“We have space available,” Roux said.
The big test will, of course, be convincing Cubs fans their remains belong in the friendly confines of Bohemian National Cemetery.
Out at Wrigley, where the Cubs were playing this week, fans’ opinions varied. Some said they hated the idea. Others said they liked it but wouldn’t want their remains to be alone and they just couldn’t imagine their family members joining them.
Steve Kopetsky, a 53-year-old fan who lives in Corte Madera, Calif., said he didn’t have a problem with spending the money to reserve a spot on the wall as much as he did if word got out that he’d done so.
“My wife would kill me,” he said.
But Don Rood, a 31-year-old Chicagoan who wore his “Die-Hard Cub Fan” shirt to the game, said it makes perfect sense.
“What else are you going to do, lay in a box next to loved ones?” he asked. “It would symbolize what your passion is, what you enjoyed about your life.”