Book Review: "Wrigley Regulars"

Many times, I have been asked, "Why do you go to every single game?" or "What is it about the bleachers that you like so much?" or "Why do you sit out there when you could get a better seat closer up?"

The answers to these questions are difficult to give, but now I can simply tell people who ask, "Go buy 'Wrigley Regulars', because it answers all these questions better than I possibly can."

Before I tell you about this book, you should know a couple of things. First, Holly Swyers, who is an assistant professor of anthropology at Lake Forest College, is one of the "Wrigley Regulars" and has been a personal friend of mine for more than ten years. She asked me (and other regulars) to read through her drafts to make sure all the facts were correct, and that means you'll find things about me (and about this site) in the book. It's also written not just about baseball and the Wrigley bleachers, but it's designed to be a college-level sociology/anthropology textbook about communities and how they come together.

Because this is a college text, it went through a different process than most baseball-related books; Holly told me often of how it had to be reviewed by a panel, then edited, then re-reviewed. Most of the events she describes in the bleachers are from 2005 and before -- thus, the "old" bleachers, before the reconstruction and expansion. For that reason it's an interesting snapshot of what the life and culture of bleacher regulars was like before the bleachers were rebuilt. (Honest opinion from me: it hasn't changed all that much.)

You'll meet a lot of the people I know and hang with every day, whether it's in line waiting to get in, or in various conversations we have as we all walk around the bleachers to our seating groupings -- that's another topic examined, how the various groups of bleacher regulars (now, mostly season ticket holders) formed and stay together and change over the years. This is how the narrative of life in the bleachers is connected to the academic subject matter of communities.

I won't pretend to be an expert on that, but I will tell you that this is no dry college text. It's very readable, and even the parts that are more academically and less baseball focused are accessible to someone who's not into the sociology or anthropology discipline.

This book is highly recommended for anyone who's a Cubs fan -- or baseball fan -- to understand why some of us spend so much time in the bleachers. Yes, it's about baseball, but as Holly points out, it's also about community and those you get to know so well over the course of many baseball seasons become family. We all found this out just within the last week, when someone who is a bleacher season ticket holder and one of the "Wrigley Regulars" became seriously ill. The outpouring of love and concern I saw everyone show is a perfect example of the family and community that Holly writes about.

If you'd like to meet Holly Swyers and get your copy of "Wrigley Regulars" signed, there will be a signing event/launch party at Houndstooth, 3369 N. Clark in Chicago, next Thursday, September 9, from 6 to 9 pm.

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