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Warm spirits triumph over cold weather at Cubs home opener

Colorful characters converge on Wrigley Field for Cubs home opener
Colorful characters converge on Wrigley Field for Cubs home opener 02:39

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Hey hey! Holy mackerel! No doubt about it!

The Cubs are on their way, and fans say they are finally out of hibernation for the winter. But with wintry temperatures still kind of hovering, the first fans into Gallagher Way alongside Wrigley Field on Thursday were handed gloves upon entry.

Whether this was their first opener or their 50th, this day at the Friendly Confines means a fresh start for the Cubs and for fans.

The young and the young at heart took to Gallagher Way – a relatively new space up against the 109-year-old ballpark, and a space where new traditions started this Opening Day.


The Schechner family uses spring break as an opportunity to teach their kids, Mary and Kevin, how to bleed Cubbie blue.

How long has Mary been a Cubs fan? "Since I was born, basically," she says. And folks much older than she would say the same.


The love story for Kevin and Mary's parents, Adam and Beth, starts with the Cubs.

"One of our first dates was Opening Day," said Beth Schechner.

"It was colder than we thought," said Adam Schechner, "and we definitely didn't dress warm enough."

Beth Schechner said when she thinks of Opening Day, what comes to mind is "optimism – everyone's so excited on Opening Day. So many possibilities, right? This could be the year."


Sixty years a Cubs fan, Tom Witte made a triumphant return to Wrigleyville after 20 years. He made the 650-mile, 10-hour commute from Oklahoma for Opening Day.

In what still seems like a miracle for many, the Cubs have won a World Series since he last visited Wrigley Field. He also noted the stadium and the neighborhood look a lot different.

He thought back to when an average-looking, but beloved McDonald's stood across the street from the ballpark at 3260 N. Clark St.

"None of this was here before. This was fantastic. This is really cool," Witte said. "The little McDonald's was all by itself in the parking lot – nothing like this."

The old McDonald's dated back to 1980, and was torn down in 2016. There is still a McDonald's on virtually the same footprint, but now as a storefront in the Hotel Zachary – with Swift & Sons Tavern, West Town Bakery + Tap, Smoke Daddy BBQ, and Big Star among its neighbors.

"This is what it should look like. It means Wrigley is here to stay too. That's really here," Witte said. "And to see my heroes that I grew up with the statues – just getting my picture with Ernie Banks is worth the trip."

Ernie "Mr. Cub" Banks is honored with a statue along Clark Street in front of the ballpark. Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and broadcaster Harry Caray are also honored in statue form.

Milwaukee Brewers v. Chicago Cubs
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 30: A fan dressed like Harry Caray is seen outside of Wrigley Field before the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Thursday, March 30, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. Quinn Harris/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Meanwhile upon entering the ballpark, fans might have encountered a Billy Goat Tavern popup – where members of The Second City troupe offered up a "cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger." Fans also got to line up to take a photo with the 2016 World Series trophy – and CBS 2's Joe Donlon reported fans had a lot to say about where they were and what they were doing on that magical night in November of '16.

There was also no shortage of characters at all the Wrigleyville hot spots. At Sluggers, 3540 N. Clark St., the food and drink are flowing.

And right outside the ballpark, it's nuts. Peanuts in their shells, that is.

Opening Day is big business for vendors like Anthony Harris, who comes out of retirement for the six-month season.

"Fans are out here every day," Harris said. "I love to see the fans."

Harris also sells pistachios. Buy me some pistachios and Cracker Jack?


And you might know Jerry "The Bleacher Preacher" Pritikin – the renowned photographer, publicist, and gay rights activist who has been synonymous with Cubs fandom for generations.

At 86, Pritikin is not missing Opening Day.

"I wanted to be here – and I ordered the sun," he said.

Pritikin is known for his 10 "Fan-mandments" – something he has curated since his first game in the 1940s.

The first Fan-mandment? "I am a fan of the Cubs. I shall not root for any other sport before thee."

And this game is special for two-time cancer survivor Howard Todaro – who scored one of the last single tickets.

"Opening Day is almost like Christmas Day," Todaro said.

Excitement in the air at Cubs home opener at Wrigley Field 04:02

We also asked fans about changes in gameplay that MLB has put in place

The biggest  change is the pitch clock – under which pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver the ball in order to speed up games, or 20 seconds if a runner is on base. Batters must also be ready to hit with 8 seconds left on the clock, and if they are not, they are considered to have taken a strike.

Most tell us they're looking forward to a shorter, sweeter game.

And while it's only been seven years now instead of the 108 that had passed back in 2016, fans think it's about time for another World Series victory too.

Todaro said it all starts on Opening Day.

"It's just the thrill and anticipation," he said. "Before we won the World Series, it was always the new promise of winning the World Series. But now that we've had the taste of victory, I want to see another World Series in my lifetime."

As for the game Thursday? The Cubs shut out the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0.

A look back at Cubs Opening Day, and someone who remembers Jim Williams' ushering days 02:55
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