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February 6, 2011

Wezen-Ball

Ferris Bueller's Day Off at Wrigley Field

by Larry Granillo

On his day off, Ferris Bueller had quite the adventure. From "borrowing" the 1961 Ferrari 250GT of his best friend's unforgiving father to visiting both the Sears Tower and the Art Institute and finally to singing "Danke Schön" and "Twist and Shout" in front of thousands of Chicagoans, it's fair to say that no one ever had a day off quite like it.

On Ferris's agenda that afternoon was, naturally, a trip to Wrigley Field. After grabbing a bite to eat (as "Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago") at a snooty Magnificent Mile restaurant, Ferris and pals headed to the stadium to catch a ballgame.

As movie-viewers, we don't learn anything about the Wrigley Field trip until we see Principal Rooney in the greasy pizza joint. As he wipes off the soda that was just thrown into his face, Rooney walks up to the restaurant's counter where the game is being shown on television. There, we get a good glimpse at what is going on in the game (including some play-by-play from, I believe, Harry Caray):

On the screen we see Chicago first-baseman #10 holding on an Atlanta Braves player wearing #18. The announcer pipes in: "Runner on first base, nobody out. That's the first hit they've had since the fifth inning, and only the fourth hit in the game. … 0-2 the count."

Chicago pitcher #46 throws the pitch to a left-handed Atlanta hitter with a two-digit number ending in "5" and what appears to be a long last name. The batter swings at the pitch and hits a long fly ball to left. "That's a drive! Left field... twisting... and into foul territory."

The Chicago leftfielder races for the ball but it screams foul, into Ferris' hand. The announcer continues with a train of thought we must have missed: "Boy, I'm really surprised they didn't go for it in that inning. Lee Smith..."

This is the point where Principal Rooney has his brief conversation with the pizza maker. In the background, we hear one of the announcers say something about playing "a very shallow third". We then hear "There's the ball bunted foul back to the screen. Boy I don't know..."

The scene finally shifts to Wrigley Field, where Ferris and company are sitting near the leftfield foul pole. Off in the distance, we can see the Cubs on the field and one or two baby blue uniforms around the diamond.

It appears obvious now that this is a real ballgame that Ferris is at, not just something recreated for a film crew. The Harry Caray play-by-play and the Braves players on the field are pretty solid evidence of that. So what game, then, are they watching? Did the Cubs win, or did Ferris sing "Danke Schön" as a way to wash away the stink of a Cubs loss?

The movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was released on June 11, 1986. The ballgame then must have been filmed either real early in the 1986 season or sometime during 1985. Looking at game logs from those seasons, we see that there was no game in 1986 in which Lee Smith (#46) faced the Braves at Wrigley Field. There were four such games in '85, though Smith left the Braves hitless in one of those. Of the remaining three games, it isn't hard to find the game we're looking for.

Ferris Bueller and his pals were at the June 5, 1985, tilt between the Cubs and the Braves. The foul ball that Ferris caught was hit by Atlanta rightfielder Claudell Washington (#15) in the top of the 11th inning. The game was tied at two (not scoreless, like the pizza guy claimed) and backup second-baseman Paul Zuvella (#18) was being held on first by Leon Durham (#10) after a leadoff single (the fourth hit of the game, and Atlanta's first hit since the fifth). Washington would end his at-bat with a flyball to leftfielder Davey Lopes. The next batter, Rafael Ramirez, would wind up hitting a two-run home run and the Braves would go on to win 4-2. The movie, however, cut away before that happened.

Sadly, we don't have pitch-by-pitch data for the game, so we can't verify all the details presented in the movie (an 0-2 foul ball from Washington and then a bunt foul?  Was that a bunt by Ramirez before his home run swing?). I have no reason to doubt that they are correct, though.

More interesting than that is the timeline that this presents for Ferris. It's said in the movie that the reservation he stole was for noon, but we can't say with certainty if that's what time they ate. Seeing as how they finished the lunch with no hassles, it's safe to assume either Abe never showed up or he showed up well after their lunch was finished. Either way, with a start time of 1:25pm that afternoon, there is plenty of time for Ferris and company to make it to Wrigley in time for the game.

The eleven-inning game took 3:09 to complete, which means that the foul ball Ferris catches had to have been sometime after 4:00pm. That leaves, at the most, one hour and forty-five minutes for their trips to the museum, Sears Tower, the lake, and Sloane's house, while squeezing in two musical numbers during the parade before racing home at 5:55pm. Seems a bit tough to squeeze all of that in for most normal people. But, seeing as Ferris has the magical ability to sound exactly like both a young Wayne Newton and a young John Lennon, I'm willing to believe he could make the schedule work.

Now that we know exactly what was happening at the Cubs game they went to, "Ferris Bueller" fans will be clamoring all over themselves to add the signatures of Claudell Washington, Paul Zuvella, and Lee Smith to their posters "signed by the complete cast". Anything less just won't cut it. I'm just disappointed that the Cubs let the 25th anniversary go by last summer without a celebration. What a shame.

UPDATE: Please see this follow-up post for some information about the filming date.

Related Content:  Harry Caray,  Wrigley Field

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