The national anthem begins, and the people on the roofs across from Wrigley Field stand. The Cubs are playing the Pirates, and there's no better place to be than on top of one of the three-story houses and apartment buildings just past the outfield walls.
The buildings used to be blue-collar living quarters. Now they are the coveted enclave of yuppie Cub fanatics. More than 33,000 people are inside the park, but fewer than a hundred are on the roofs. Anybody can buy a ticket; only the select can watch from home.
On the neatly outfitted roof at 3649 North Sheffield Avenue—complete with bathroom, AstroTurf carpeting, barbecue grill, built-in bleachers—Bob Murphy sips a beer and watches the Cubs take the field. Bob's brother, Jim, owns this building and three others on the block, one of which houses Murphy's Bleachers bar. Bob loves the Cubs, but as he stands here this sunny day, he shakes his head sadly.
"You've got to be a fan to live here," he says. "I am, but I had to move out of the neighborhood. It's a madhouse down on the street. I got a little burnt out."
In recent years some fans have fallen off nearby buildings and suffered serious injuries, and now anybody allowed on Murphy's roofs must sign an insurance waiver. That cuts into the fun a little bit.
But fun is no problem on the roof at 3639 North Sheffield. Thirty-two-year-old attorney Jon Duncan, girlfriend Michele Mancione and chums Brad Braun and Steve Roess recline on lawn chairs and coat themselves with suntan lotion as the Cubbies take a 3-1 lead at the end of one. The view is slightly better here than from Murphy's roof. The center-fielder and leftfielder are both clearly visible, and sometimes the rightfielder sprints into view.
Duncan, who pays $660 a month for his two-bedroom, second-floor apartment, is properly ecstatic. "My biggest problem is that the Cubs play day baseball, and I happen to have a job," he says. "I'm all for lights."
There is heavier partying on the roof next door at 3645 North Sheffield. It has no railing and requires visitors to climb an aluminum ladder from the back porch to get aboard. No matter; the 14 fans sitting on cement-block bleachers and watching replays on TV guzzle beer and holler whenever the Cubs make a play.
"This is me," sighs Danny Sullivan, 26, a bond clerk at the Board of Trade and a three-year resident of the building. He leans back in his broken-down beach chair and smiles. "At a bar you tell a woman, 'I got the roof and Cubs games,' and, phew, it's so easy." His roommate, bond trader Mike Roach, says, "This might be the best place in the country to live."
With the group is 24-year-old Shawn O'Connor, a quiet, observant young man from Redondo Beach, Calif. O'Connor is on a pilgrimage to all 26 major league parks this summer. His car broke down in Texas and now he travels by bus. He knew no one in this group but simply showed up on the ladder with a six-pack of beer after seeing the rooftop gang on TV when he was in California.
"We'll let anybody up if they love Wrigley," says Roach. "It's a shrine."
"What's nice is that you're at the game, but you're away from it," says Roach's friend Monika Hoemmen. "You cheer, but only when you want to."
The Cubs win 6-3, and all the roofs roar.