Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Cubs Have Crossed The Red, um, YELLOW Line

This blog item is reposted from my official Major League Baseball Blog.

I haven't posted about the Cubs all this season for one simple reason.  They stink.  The owners stink, the players try their best but overall they stink, and it's been a horrible season. I haven't even gotten the chance to get up to the Friendly Confines Of Wrigley Field for a game due to work commitments.  

But when I woke up this morning and saw this story in what we used to call the World's Greatest Newspaper, my blood went into boiling mode and I simply had to chime in with my thoughts.

Courtesy Chicago Tribune

Anheuser-Busch new Cubs exclusive beer sponsor

Large beer sign to go up in Wrigley Field's right-field bleachers

By Josh Noel and Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune reporters

10:09 PM CDT, September 6, 2013
The Cubs announced a deal Friday to make Anheuser-Busch their exclusive beer sponsor in 2014 and beyond, and they plan to install a 650-square-foot Budweiser sign in the right-field bleachers. 
That's bad news for Old Style, which has had an affiliation with the team for more than 60 years, as well as for Wrigleyville rooftop owners opposed to installing a large sign that could obstruct some views.

A source said the Cubs will install a mock-up of the sign when the team goes on the road next week. While it's questionable whether construction on the $300 million ballpark renovation plan will begin this offseason as planned, the Cubs have the go-ahead to install the sign either way.

"Absolutely," Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. "We could potentially put up the sign by 2014 (before construction begins). … We have the approval to put up a left-field video board and a right-field sign, and with Anheuser-Busch as our exclusive marketing partner, we can do it by opening day."

The Cubs are running out of time to start the first phase of their Wrigley renovation plan, which is expected to take place over five offseasons. They had hoped to begin construction Sept. 26, the day after the Cubs' final home game.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said during a radio broadcast of Thursday's playoff game of the franchise's Double-A Tennessee affiliate that the heavy construction likely would have to wait until after next season. He did say, though, that fans would start seeing some changes in 2014 and more in 2015.

Green said Friday that Ricketts' comment doesn't mean the Cubs are resigned to begin the major parts of the project after the 2014 season, but that several hurdles remain before they can start, and time is running short. They originally planned to finish an expansion of the home clubhouse before next season, which now appears unlikely.

Green said the "rooftop issue" still needs to be resolved before the ballpark renovation and work on a proposed $200 million hotel on Clark Street, across from Wrigley, can begin. The Cubs want assurances from rooftop owners they won't sue over the contract they signed with the team in 2004 providing the Cubs with 17 percent of their revenue.

"We're still talking to the rooftop owners to come to a resolution," Green said. "Basically the (Ricketts) family is not comfortable making a $500 million investment with the threat of a lawsuit hanging over their heads."

But the beer sign and the video board can be installed without the permission of the rooftop owners, and both could be up during the 2014 season, the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field.

As for the exclusive beer sponsorship, Cubs fans can expect to see Goose Island flowing at the ballpark in 2014. Brewery spokeswoman Ana Serafin said it had not been determined which Anheuser-Busch brands would be available, or in what quantity, but suggested the brewery's "Chicago-influenced beers" would be obvious candidates.

Goose Island, which regained the beer contract this summer at the Pitchfork Music Festival, experimented with a pair of brews made just for the weekend-long fest. Though a considerably larger investment, would Goose Island consider a Wrigley-only exclusive too?

"A-B is being really supportive of our creativity," Serafin said. "If we come back and tell them we want to create XYZ crazy beer and it would be perfect for baseball, they would listen. But we don't know yet how creative we can get."

For Old Style lovers and traditionalists who drink it only at Wrigley, hope springs eternal. Green said the team and its concessions management partner, Levy Restaurants, might choose to continue serving Old Style in 2014.

The Anheuser-Busch deal is a marketing agreement only. Budweiser will maintain naming rights throughout the stadium, but that doesn't mean Budweiser products will be served exclusively at Wrigley, which would be illegal.

Still, the agreement gives Budweiser ample muscle when it comes time to set the Wrigley Field beer menu for 2014 and beyond. It appears likely vendors no longer will be selling Old Style in the aisles after 2013.

Whether the deal signals a seismic shift in Wrigley's beer offerings is yet to be seen, but smaller craft breweries such as Revolution Brewing don't sound optimistic.
"Sounds like a lot of dollars changed hands, and we just don't do anything like that to sell beer," Revolution founder Josh Deth said in an email. "We let the malt, hops and yeast do the talking, not the Benjamins. We're hopeful the Cubs and Levy will want to pour actual craft beer made in Chicago. And I think the fans are too."

I don't drink a lot of beer, I'm a Maker's Mark guy myself, but as long as I've been pure brewed Old Style at Wrigley Field. Just like eating a hot dog at a ballpark tastes different, drinking an Old Style at Wrigley made it taste better, way better.  It's part of the Cubs Experience, but now it looks like it may go the way of Frosty Malts and Ron Santo Pizza.
able to drink, I've enjoyed a

I understand times change, but Old Style has managed to stay in business for many years, partly because of the loyalty of Cubs fans, the Cubs organization, and the association the brand has enjoyed with the Cubs for as long as I can remember.  Hardly anything beats sitting in the stands at Wrigley, even the Budweiser Bleachers, enjoying a semi-cold Old Style and seeing Starlin Castro blow a routine force out.  But it looks like that may not be happening in the future.

Tom Ricketts and Cubs Management have done a lot to make me and other Cubs fans angry since they bought the club.  I won't list everything here, and don't get me started on the Wrigley Field renovation plans.  But this time they've crossed the Red, um YELLOW LINE when it comes to how they run the club and the kind of fan experience they give us.

So what can we do in answer to this unprovoked attack on the Cubs Experience? Sadly, not much.  Send an email to and tell them what you think, although they probably won't answer you back.  Anheuser-Busch InBev is allegedly headquartered here in St. Louis, and I know people down at "The Brewery" who will be getting calls and emails from me all next week.  You could appeal to Kevin Feehan, the guy in charge of selling Budweiser in Chicago, to let the Old Style pour, but even if you could get him to respond, he'd probably blame someone in San Paulo or Brussels, the REAL homes of A-B, for the decision.

That leaves one final avenue of appeal, Levy Restaurants, who handles food service at Wrigley Field, and might actually have the power to keep the pure brewed Old Style flowing at the ballpark.  Their phone number is  (773) 975-3606 and you should join me in calling them during weekday business hours or contact them on the Interwebz and (NICELY) demand your Old Style.  They're also on Facebook and Twitter if you feel inclined to follow then and send them a NICE message about this abhorrent situation. Don't act like a Chicago policeman and be all pushy and mean, ask them NICELY to keep Old Style at Wrigley Field. Who knows, it might actually work.  And monkeys could fly out of my butt.

Some things, like the Cubs having a winning season, are an uphill battle.  Getting Old Style in Wrigley Field might be one too.  But I leave you with the encouraging words of Cub Fan John Belushi as you join me on the quest to keep at least ONE Wrigley Field tradition alive.  WHO'S WITH ME?

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