CHICAGO — Irene Mooney was 31 years old when she started at Wrigley Field in 1945. She was there for all the big games that season- not enjoying the excitement of a world series run- but hard at work.
“You couldn’t see the game where we were, it was the bleachers where we were working, in there we could hear them but you couldn’t see them,” Irene remembers.
She says a lot of the vendors at Wrigley were women in those days; it was World War II. Each Sunday they would jump on the ‘L’ to get to the ballpark very early.
“Everybody wanted a sweet roll, but nobody ever had sweet rolls, all we had were hot dogs; they said, ‘no, they wanted a sweet roll,’” she said. Still, Irene said they would sell close to 200 hot dogs a day at a dime a piece. And while they worked hard, it was the people she met who stick with her most. One of her favorites was legendary manager Charlie Grimm.
“He used to stand there and he had a fedora and a Ritter coat on, and he’d stand there and watch everybody, he’d never talk to us,” she remembers. “But he was Charlie Grimm, I’ll never forget Charlie Grimm; he was a nice looking man.”
At 102 years old, Irene’s memory is sharp, and her love of the team has been passed on to generations of her family like her grandson Brian.
“When we had her 100th birthday party we came up with all the things she’s older than: traffic lights, frozen foods, sliced bread, TV; it’s unbelievable,” Brian said. “When you look at when she was born, she was born the same year Wrigley Field was built.”
Born the year Wrigley was built, Irene worked there for Cubs and Bears games and may be about to witness another major milestone in the team’s history. She headed back to the friendly confines Tuesday, the first time she’s returned since working there so many years ago. Her World Series celebrations will be from the comfort of her own home.
“When and if they win, the party will be here in Chicago, and the next day it will be at the cemetery with all the people that never saw it: the dads, and grandpas, and the mom, and grandma’s, and stuff that didn’t make it,” Irene said. “That’s where the next part will be.”