Build a big fire on home plate out of your Louisville Sluggers baseball bats,
And toss my coffin in
Let my ashes blow in a beautiful snow
From the prevailing 30 mile an hour southwest wind
When my last remains go flying over the left-field wall
We’ll bid the bleacher bums adieu
And I will come to my final resting place, out on Waveland Avenue
— Steve Goodman, “A Dying Cub’s Fan’s Last Request”
It doesn’t matter if your granny and grandpa were the Cubs’ No. 1 fans, the team does not want you scattering their ashes at Wrigley Field.
Not that people necessarily abide by the Cubs’ wishes.
In 15 years as a funeral director with the Cremation Society of Illinois, Brooke Benjamin — whose office is located at Addison and Halsted, close enough to catch the roar of the crowd from Wrigley Field — said she’s heard again and again that people planned to distribute cremains of their loved ones at the Friendly Confines.
“I personally have nothing to do with it, but I know it happens,” said Benjamin, adding that she’s certain “there are pounds and pounds of cremated remains at Wrigley.”
Another funeral director near the ballpark hears similar comments. When customers start talking about letting their loved ones’ ashes drift over Wrigley, “We plug our ears,” said Eli Turnbough of Lakeview Funeral Home, 1458 W. Belmont. “It’s private property.
“I’ve heard a number of times people say, ‘Mom wanted to be scattered at Wrigley,’ ” Turnbough said. “But we don’t get involved with that.”
The Cubs forbid it, team spokesman Julian Green said: “We do not allow the scattering of ashes at Wrigley Field, and there are no exceptions for anyone.”
There have been in the past. After the 1983 death of 85-year-old Charlie Grimm, the former Cubs first-baseman and manager who helped lead the team to pennants in 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945, the Cubs arranged for his ashes — and later, those of his widow, Marion — to be spread at the ballpark.
Benjamin urges the bereaved to be both sensitive and practical. She asks: “Do you really want strangers spilling beer and treading upon your dad’s mortal remains?”
Besides, she said, “A full set of adult cremated remains is four to eight pounds. That’s a lot of cremated remains, folks, which is hardly surreptitious.”
Hardly surreptitious is just what happened in 1995 when a fan reached over the wall during the seventh-inning stretch and scattered the ashes of his late father on the warning track, prompting this observation from Houston left-fielder Luis Gonzalez: “Man, there were a lot of ashes. It had to be a big individual.”
Then-Cubs left-fielder Scott Bullett was more than a little creeped out. “I’m going to watch my step out there,” Bullett said.
In the pandemonium after Saturday’s pennant win, Andrew Grexa, 24, says he scattered some ashes from his father, jeweler Ronald “Ronnie” Grexa, onto the field at Wrigley. The Denver-area software engineer posted a video of him and his aunt, Leslie Ruoti, shaking out a Ziploc bag with a gray substance as she exults: “To Ronnie!”
“I thought he was a good-luck charm,” Grexa said.
He said that, after they clinched it, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve never seen that many grown men crying in one place, including myself.”
One famous fan was the subject of an unofficial scattering. After his death in 1984 from leukemia at 36, friends and family spread some of Steve Goodman’s ashes at Wrigley Field. The singer-songwriter composed “Go Cubs Go” and “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request.”
Others prefer to keep cremains around for company. Last year, a fan brought her father’s ashes to a Cubs game in a pill bottle. She told WGN: “I have the safety cap on so he doesn’t spill everywhere.”
One family took a 10-day Route 66 road trip to scatter a little of their late father at spots including Addison Street in front of Wrigley Field. Pastor Jim Barton, 59, died in 2009 of illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure from serving in the Air Force in Vietnam, said his son, Arizona attorney Jim Barton II. He and his brother, Jeff Barton, an underwriter, drove back to their dad’s hometown of Indianapolis, stopping along the way to distribute him at some of his favorite spots and the churches where he served.
“We did scatter them in front of Wrigley” under the big marquee, Jim Barton said. “We kind of did it in cover of darkness because we weren’t sure what the rules were.”