Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers is probably the most famous Cubs fan alive.
He’s been interviewed countless times by local and national media. Other Cubs fans have chased him down for selfies. A bobblehead, in full Cubs uniform, was even created for his character, and a documentary was made about his life.
In 2001, in what must have been his proudest moment, Wickers realized his dream of singing during the seventh-inning stretch.
But after being a Cubs superfan nearly all his life, Wickers still feels as if he is being disrespected rather than embraced.
On April 19th, during the seventh inning, Wickers suffered the indignity of being ousted from the Wrigley Field bleachers because he couldn’t produce an e-ticket.
A spokesman for the Cubs said Wickers had tried to get into the ballpark earlier without a ticket and that is why security staff approached him in the first place.
“Our guest services staff knows who Ronnie is. They know what he does and that he is here to enjoy the games and to somewhat entertain the fans,” said Julian Green, Cubs vice president of communications and community affairs.
“But he has to have a ticket like everyone else,” Green said.
Wickers, 75, denies he tried to sneak into the ballpark without a ticket, and apparently there is no written report of that incident.
“They just lied about everything. I’m going to fight this with my last breath. I would like to sit down with Mr. Tom Ricketts for 10 minutes and let him roll back the videotape,” Wickers said.
The superfan said a friend invited him to the game and the e-ticket was in that friend’s phone.
When the friend, Scott Miller, couldn’t pull up the app on his cell phone to show the e-ticket, and began cursing at security staff, he was escorted out of Wrigley as well.
“I was pretty irate,” Miller told me. “Without a doubt, it was pretty pathetic. Ronnie is a very upstanding person. I don’t know why the Cubs have never embraced him.”
Janet Tabit, Wickers’ longtime friend, and the person who contacted me about this incident, also was asked to leave the ballpark.
Tabit claims that when she asked security officers why they were singling out Wickers to show his ticket, they told her they had orders to ask for his ticket whenever he is in the ballpark.
“The fact that they are told to see Ronnie’s ticket at every game is discrimination. We want to get to the bottom of this because Ronnie wants to feel welcome and embraced, and not get singled out and kicked out of Wrigley for no valid reason,” Tabit told me.
Green said there is no such order pertaining to Wickers.
According to Tabit, Wickers couldn’t have tried to get in the ballpark without a ticket because they were together until arriving at the ballpark. Wickers entered Wrigley with Miller and Tabit entered with three other friends.
But Green maintains that the reason Wickers was approached was because he had been turned away for not having a ticket and was later found in the bleachers.
“Ronnie is treated with the utmost of respect. If Ronnie showed up tomorrow with a ticket, there would be no issue,” he said.
“It was the male (Miller) who refused to show the ticket. If he had shown the guest services staff the tickets, this wouldn’t have happened,” Green said.
But this isn’t really about a $25 (plus taxes) bleacher ticket.
This is about acceptance.
Wickers became famous by being a goofy unofficial mascot for the Cubs.
No doubt, he’s gotten a few free meals and tickets to the games over the years, but who would begrudge him that? After all, he was homeless for nearly a decade.
Being “Woo Woo” hasn’t made him rich, and he certainly hasn’t been treated like he’s part of the Cubs franchise, but it has given him purpose.
“I know I am not on the company’s payroll, but I have supported this team all of my life,” Wickers told me, acknowledging he’s winding down.
“I will be 76 years old this year, and I used to cheer really loud for years and years and years, but I don’t have the voice anymore and I’m quiet as a mouse.”
Obviously, the Cubs don’t need “Woo Woo” to hype up the crowd anymore.
Still, there’s no reason to treat this loyal fan as if he were a nuisance.
“I started to let them drag me out of the ballpark and [news of] that would have gone all over the place,” Wickers said.
What Ronnie “Woo Woo” wants most is recognition that he has been an important part of this city’s legendary team.
Is that really asking too much?