On June 11 a nearly sold-out house of 380 at Chicago's Organic Theatre Company saw the first of Brunansky's crushing homers. He connected—offstage, of course—at the premiere of the revival of Bleacher Bums, a wonderful little morality play set among the proletarians who inhabit the Wrigley Field bleachers. When the play first opened 12 years ago, the bums included Joe Mantegna, who would later win a Tony award for Glengarry Glen Ross, and Dennis Franz, who would star in Hill Street Blues. Mantegna, one of several coauthors of Bleacher Bums, is the director of the current production, which stars native Chicagoan Dennis Farina, best known as Mike Torello on TV's Crime Story. Mantegna felt the time was right to bring back the play. "Let's face it," says Mantegna, "things haven't changed that much. The Cubs still haven't been to a World Series." That they are flirting with first place in the National League East only adds poignancy to the play.
Six members of the beloved Cubs who fumbled the '69 division title to the New York Mets—Ron Santo, Gene Oliver. Glenn Beckert, Randy Hundley, Ken Holtzman and Billy Williams—were on hand for opening night. The ex-Cubs were more charmed than embarrassed by the play. Williams, the Hall of Fame outfielder who now works in the team's front office, says he still has a special affinity for the denizens of the cheap seats. "In the last two months, I've been going to the bleachers in the seventh or eighth inning, just to sit and watch. I was the closest one to the bleacher bums, having played left. When I was a player, I'd turn around sometimes during a tense game and they'd relax me."
In the final scene, the bleacher bum who catches Brunansky's grand slam homer does what any loyal Cub fan would do: He tosses the ball back onto the field—or, rather, into the audience. At the premiere, Billy Williams reached up and effortlessly caught the ball with one hand.