He was a Real Ballbuster

Harold Ramis had an amazing career in show business. He grew up in Chicago, and lived in West Rogers Park, which is where I live. He attended the Chicago Public schools, just as my kids do. And he seemed to be a great guy, if his work and the things being written about him now are any indication. His loss is a blow to all of us who love his work, but the legacy he left behind is tremendous. As Dr. Seuss once wrote, don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened.

But there’s something that he did beyond Caddyshack and Stripes and Ghostbusters and Animal House.  His work in television and on stage and in print are also amazing, and any one of them by itself would have been something special. But while everyone tries to put his career into perspective, and sum up what made his contributions so meaningful, there’s an event that has fallen off of the radar screen. And these are the sort of observations that I love to make. You don’t yet know that about me, but you’ll find out soon enough.

We love anniversaries in this society. It was 50 years ago this month that the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. It was also a half century ago that Cassius Clay (as he was then known) beat Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion in boxing.

We can talk about these events this year, because 50 is a nice round number. Next year will be another anniversary of something else, and we’ll focus on that, rather than celebrating 51 years of Beatlemania. And anyone who celebrates 51 years of anything is probably into that thing a little bit too much.

It so happens that, as we’re looking at Harold Ramis’ many accomplishments in show business, that a significant event happened, ten years ago today on February 26, 2004. It won’t come to people’s minds right away, and had it not been for Ramis’ death earlier this week I would have missed it, too. But a little bit of googling turned up the most interesting thing, and I wanted to share with everyone who’s stayed with me thus far.

The most infamous moment in any Cub fan’s memory took place in Wrigley Field on October 14, 2003. With Mark Prior cruising along in the eighth inning, and the Cubs five outs away from their first pennant in my lifetime—and probably yours, as well—a batter named Luis Castillo hit a twisting foul ball down the left field line and, well, everybody knows what happened next.

When the dust settled, and the Cubs’ path to glory had been terribly altered, there was a baseball that skipped away into the stands. The ball was pocketed by a fan, who then sold it for six figures to Harry Caray’s restaurant group. Clearly, the ball came from the deepest regions of Hell, and it needed to be destroyed forthwith.

To carry out the destruction, and recoup some of their investment, Harry Caray’s restaurant arranged for a fundraising ceremony where the ball would be blown up. Keith Olbermann covered the event live, Dutchie Caray sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and a Hollywood special effects specialist was given the job of turning the ball into yarn and smoke.

But for an event like this, there needs to be some sort of a host or an emcee, right? Who do you think filled that role? And if you have to think about it, you weren’t paying attention to the first few paragraphs of this article. Yes, the late Harold Ramis (I really hate the way that sounds) was brought in to add some star power to the evening’s events. He’ll always be known for directing a movie about golf, but he was no stranger to the game of baseball, either.

It’s now ten years gone (a nice Led Zeppelin reference there), and Harold Ramis has left to be with Steve Goodman, Dennis Farina, and countless other Cubs fans who couldn’t hold on long enough to see their team finally win it all. Until Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and the rest of the Cubs front office finally produce a winner for the Cubs, lifelong fans like Ramis will go to their graves without seeing what they spent a lifetime waiting for. But there will be time to get into all of that later. For now, I wanted to introduce myself by thanking Harold Ramis for all that he gave to us. We’ll make sure to celebrate for him when the time finally comes.

R. Lincoln Harris is a guest contributor for Wrigleyville Nation.  He also writes for BlueBattingHelmet.Wordpress.comChicagoSideSports.com, ThroughTheFenceBaseball.com, and FiveWideSports.com.  Thanks R. Lincoln for the contribution!


Photo: _MG_5960 / justinhoch / CC BY 2.0 / Alteration: cropped


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