CHICAGO – With the Wrigley bleachers barren, Cubs fans hoping to catch a homer have to settle for the streets.
But a souvenir won’t come easy.
“Oh it’s competitive, yeah.”
Rich Buhrke began ballhawking in 1959.
“I’m the first one to have baseballs in eight decades.”
More than four thousand in all, filling garbage cans and fish tanks in his home.
“My wife Is ready to throw me out with them.”
Waiting on Waveland with Burkhe are fellow ballhawk veterans like Dave Davison, who caught his first ball in 1977.
“It’s extreme. It’s a little nuts. You are staring at a brick wall for three, four hours a day.”
Davison snagged Barry Bonds’ 752nd career long ball and David Ross’ 100th before returning it to Rossy.
For the ballhawks, nothing tops the summer of ’98.
“When Sammy and McGwire were going at it, this place was nuts. There were so many people out here it was crazy,” explained Buhrke.
“When Sosa would come to bat back in 98, it was sort of cartoonish how you’d have 10 people out here and then slowly as his at bats showed up there would be 200. They’d all disappear after he grounded out or hit or homer or whatever,” noted Davison. “Wish we could bring those days back. Maybe not steroids, specifically. But, they are juicing the ball now, so that’s good. They’re tightening the ball up, less seams, so more offense. I’m all in favor of that.”
Through the years, their hobby has gotten harder thanks to a delayed radio feed and Wrigley renovations.
“The jumbotron is hideous but it is what it is. Everybody else inside loves it,” Davison remarked.
But the ballhawks keep flocking outside the friendly confines, even in a pandemic.
“It’s like family. We hang out together, play cards together, we do everything,” added Burhke.
“It’s not just the baseballs. It’s the friendships and hanging out every day and being a part of the game.”