CHICAGO – Wrigley Field is dressed for the playoffs with the traditional bunting, but inside the ballpark many fans dress in something a little less traditional: t-shirts that say “TRY NOT TO SUCK.”
Across from the stadium at Sports World the Cubs postseason gear is obviously popular, but the shirts with the snarky slogan are moving particularly fast.
“It’s such an attention-getter, it’s what this city is all about now,” Dana Wilson said.
Die-hard Cubs fans Jacob Chandler and Joe Ferro designed the shirts for their apparel company Korked, which got its start 80 miles north of Wrigley in Franklin, WI. Chandler had a background in marketing after running another apparel company. A baseball hitting instructor, Ferro had the connections, including a friendship with Cubs hitting coach John Mallee that opened the door.
“We went down to spring training and we made shirts for everybody,” Ferro said.
Their first product featured one of manager Joe Maddon’s catchiest phrases: “try not to suck.” On March 6 the entire team wore the shirts during a spring training workout and it became the signature slogan of the season.
“I just remember thinking, ‘This isn’t real life. Is this happening? It doesn’t make sense,’” Chandler said.
From there things exploded, Ferro and Chandler said. Korked sold more shirts in the first day than they expected to sell in the first 3-5 months. The company has now topped 100,000 shirts sold, in dozens of designs, with Maddon’s quirky cathphrases like “if you look hot, wear it” and “do simple better.”
Still, they couldn’t have predicted their t-shirt idea to coincide with the Cubs’ transformation from loveable losers to baseball’s best team.
In sports, just as in life, timing is everything.
“It’s really cool. It’s almost not real, walking through and seeing t-shirts that you designed,” Ferro said.
Ferro and Chandler work closely with Maddon, Ben Zobrist and David Ross, and a portion of the proceeds go toward those stars' respective charities. They’ve helped raise almost $500,000 so far.
Korked has a whole new line of shirts for the playoffs including an “October Reign” champagne-popping design. And there’s already a shirt prepared if the team were to finally end its 108-year championship drought, but the fans said they wouldn’t dream of jinxing the Cubs’, or their own, success.
“We have it ready. It’s just, we have to hold off on it for now,” Chandler said.