Creating a Legend

Here’s a story about the outfield baskets at Wrigley Field in Chicago. You decide if I made it up or not.

For most of its one-hundred-plus years, the Chicago Cubs played daytime games in the Friendly Confines. Truth be told, they played bad, terrible baseball under a summer sun a few miles from humid Lake Michigan. Having to endure this sucky baseball way back in the day, fans in the outfield cheap seats (lovingly known as Bleacher Bums) sought “alternative” entertainment, so they devised a race.

Runners positioned themselves atop the outfield wall at the base of the left and right foul poles. A woman with a beer and handkerchief would stand at the top of the wall in center field. When she dropped the handkerchief, the runners would race towards her, balancing themselves as they ran along the wall. The winner would get the beer and, if they were lucky, a kiss on the cheek.

The problem was the timing of the race, which started long after the game had started, and the runners often had a few beers to prepare for the race. The Cubs wearied of fans falling the few dozen feet onto the field of play, so they erected outfield baskets, not only to catch baseballs, but to catch their drunk fans falling off the outfield wall.

Is this a true story or is it a legend? It has all the makings of a legend, which is defined by Google as “a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated.” With this definition, and assuming a legend is fiction, let’s break down its three main components.

  1. It’s a damn good story with just enough facts to be memorable. The above story has a believable foundation because Wrigley Field, beer, Bleacher Bums, and the outfield baskets exist without dispute. Baseball fans have admittedly a lower intelligence than most (that’s a confession, not a guess), so readers can easily imagine those bored fans engaging in stupid alcohol-fueled activities. The same readers might even raise a glass as a salute.
  2. Legends are immortalized in in writing. We know the tales of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and various epic figures because people took the time to write them down. We call those people “authors.” I’m not discounting cultures with a rich oral history, but how much of our classical education is based on written works versus oral ones?
  3. The most important component is gullible people who believe just about anything they read. There are billions of written stories since the dawn of literature, with a vast majority lost in the clamor for attention. The stories that rise above that noise are either really good tales or they appeal to thousands who will believe anything written down that aligns with their beliefs (see: “Bible”), even in this day of provable internet hoaxes. (On the other hand, if you publish a best-selling story (or legend), those gullible folks become “fans,” and we love our fans!)

With those three pieces in mind, is the above story about outfield baskets catching drunk fans at Wrigley Field true or false? Am I out in left field? The answer is…

I don’t know.

I did not create the outfield basket tale. Cassidy Carson and I first heard it from a tour guide during an “official” tour of Wrigley Field last week. I did reasonable research afterwards but found no independent source with the above details. The most frequent given reason for the baskets’ existence is to prevent fans reaching into the field of play and interfere with possible home run balls.

Even so, I want to believe this story of the outfield basket catching those drunk fans. There are enough facts to make the story believable, and I took the time to write it down.

Now for the third component: are you gullible enough to believe that young tour guide at Wrigley Field?

If so, you and I just created a legend! Easy, wasn’t it?

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