May 14, 2009

Memories of Working in the Chicago Cubs Clubhouse, Wrigley Field, Summer of 1954

Editor's Note: The following post is by Joe Ragont, who shared his memories of Uptown with us a few weeks ago. If you have memories of your own you would like to share, write us at Thanks again for sharing, Joe!

When I was fifteen, I spent the best summer of my young life working in the Chicago Cubs clubhouse.

Each day I arrived, eagerly ready to work on whatever assignments the equipment manager, Yosh, would give me. Yosh began his career as a batboy in the early thirties and faithfully worked year after year in the Cub organization. Although the Cubs didn’t have a good year in
1954, I certainly did. I was in my glory, being around my heroes, spending time in the dugout during the game and even filling the role of batboy when the opportunity presented itself.

I shared my duties with another lad and would get there early and stay late, especially on doubleheader days. We made sure there were fresh uniforms in each player’s locker and their spikes were shined (the shoes were all black back then). Before the game we would run errands for the players, getting them hot dogs and sandwiches, mailing letters, etc. In those days the players paid for their own equipment and food. No big buffets provided by management and no equipment supplied by sporting goods companies.

Each morning, before the park opened, the pitchers would take batting practice. This gave us a chance to go out and shag fly balls in the outfield. Pitchers, for the most part, are pretty poor hitters which is why, I’m sure, they took BP before any fans got there. But for us, it was a great time of playing ball in Wrigley Field.

The clubhouse was a great place to be when the team won. The place rocked with laughter and jokes as everyone celebrated. However, after a loss the scene was much different. Players got dressed quickly, said very little and used an alternative exit, mostly to avoid the press.

Win or lose, I wouldn’t trade that summer for anything. Being with stars like Ernie Banks, Bob Rush, Hank Sauer and manager Stan Hack sure beat stocking shelves at the local A & P.


S.K. said...

Kind of amazing that Yosh Kawano was with the Cubs for so long (until 2008). I didn't realize he was there in the 1930's.

But back in those days, the area around Wrigley Field was a Japanese neighborhood. Now, there are only a few (dilapidated) buildings on N. Clark (north of the ballpark, even north of Carol's, but south of Andersonville) that still have Japanese characters on their signs/facades. The area was such a Japanese enclave that, after World War II, the infamous Tokyo Rose immigrated to Wrigleyville, where she ran a flower shop until the time of her death (a couple years ago).

Joanne said...

H.J.W.T.--I had no idea about the Tokyo Rose link. Do you have any photos of the area from when it was a Japanese neighborhood?

Joanne said...

Here's the Wikipedia bio on Iva Toguri D'Aquino, a.k.a. Tokyo Rose.

Tonia said...

I seem to remember that Ms. D'Aquino worked at a Japanese import shop that used to be (and maybe still is) on Belmont, just west of Clark, right up until her passing.

There was a Japanese family that owned an eight-flat across the alley from me, on the 4600 block of Kenmore. They had been in the internment camps during WWII, and afterward rented their apartments only to Japanese families who couldn't find housing anywhere else due to discrimination. They just sold the building last year, due to the parents' age and failing health. By that time, they were the only people living there.

It was really necessary for them to move into a different situation, for a variety of reasons, but I really feel we lost some real Uptown history when they sold.


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