The original idea came up five years ago as a way to honor Caray, the late Cubs announcer who had made the seventh-inning sing-along at Wrigley famous. The team decided to play a tape of Caray singing the song, but the crowd just couldn't get into it. So Cubs marketing director John McDonough hit on this idea: Each game invite a different celebrity to come watch the Cubs and sing. For one day the celeb could eat, drink and be Harry.
The idea was a smash hit. If Wrigley is baseball's time capsule, Singin' the Stretch is its warbling soundtrack. Thus, Dick Clark has done it, as have KC and the Sunshine Band, and Eddie Vedder. Not to mention Vanna White a nd Cyndi Lauper, Chuck Berry and Kenny Rogers, Roger Ebert and Macho Man Randy Savage.
And not one of them was paid a dime or expenses to do it. Most of the time their performances were worth every penny. "Right now," says McDonough, "we're at abysmal. We're trying to move up to bad."
It's just that as the seventh inning approaches, the gravity of the situation starts hitting the poor celeb. "With two outs in the top of the seventh inning, some of the greatest athletes of our time turn white sitting next to me," McDonough says. They're handed the mike, the countdown begins, and suddenly 35,000 people are turning, as McDonough says, "to watch you do something you can't do."
Frazier froze so badly his security guard had to take over. KC gagged. "My heart was beating so fast," he admitted. NYPD Blue tough guy Dennis Franz melted into a puddle. "The moral of the story," says McDonough, "is that Harry wasn't as bad as we thought."
Some, though, chew up the ivy. Gibson got so into it, he was hanging out of the booth with only his legs braced against the windowsill to keep him from falling. ESPN's Chris Berman sang, "I don't care if I never go back-back-back!" Former Bears defensive tackle Steve McMichael used the forum to berate the home plate ump for a controversial call the inning before. The umps wanted him ejected. My God, where were they halfway through Ozzy?
The Ozzy thing has some people's boxers in a bunch. The Tribune called for an end to the use of celebrities, basically saying it was embarrassingly painful. Uh, hello? We're talking about Cubs fans here! Highest pain threshold in the majors, 95 years in a row!
Anyway, next time you're in Chicago, take the day off and go watch the carnage at Wrigley. You won't care if you ever ahh-uhn ack.