Ah Kid, They’re No Good Today

Too many times this year I have heard those words come out of Ira Levin’s mouth You see, Ira is a Budweiser vendor in the left field upper deck, which also happens to be the approximate location of my season tickets. Every now and again I enjoy a frothy beverage at the game, but many times, I enjoy Ira’s banter more than the beer and unfortunately much more than the product on the field. I realize that I am rather blessed to be able to spend as much time at the Friendly Confines as I do, but there is always more than just baseball. I am not talking about some fundamentals area or a shower in right field, but the atmosphere that exists at a real baseball stadium. Ira contributes to this feel with his take on the game, certain players, an unnamed coach and a mysterious General Manager. He is a hard working beer vendor that knows baseball and talks baseball. He could easily go about his business, keep his mouth shut and go home, but he chooses to bring me down to earth with his realistic approach and witty observations. Ira is just one of many parts of Wrigley Field, but today I wanted to bring Ira to the readers of the CCO and give you a little insight on Wrigley that does not have to do with baseball, but instead with America’s other favorite pastime, BEER.

I conducted an interview with Ira and below are my questions and his answers. Ira can talk and he provided his answers in writing, but has added a great deal of thoughts while dispersing a few pops over the past month as well. I hope that you enjoy his thoughts and are able to get a better glimpse of heaven whether you are in Chicago or Sri Lanka.

1) How long have you been a vendor at Wrigley, always beer?

I started working at Wrigley Field in May of 1963 thru 1971. Then I came back in 1984 to the present. I rented seat cushions @ $1.50, taffy apples (on hot days they would fall off the stick), Cracker Jacks, Ron Santo’s Pizza during the ’69 season when Da Bears played at Wrigley. I sold the Sporting News in the players’ dressing room when they were still wearing their jock straps. $.15 Fresca because Mrs. Wrigley wanted a $.15 diet drink sold in the seats. Frost Sticks (ice cream bars) $.15, Malts @ $.25, $.15 Peanuts. There were 100 bags in each load and it would take me 3 innings to sell them. $.30 hot dogs, $.15 Popcorn, Coolie hats for $1.50 and Orange Aide and Lemon Aide which we called the Hernia Box. The Beers were Hamms, Old Style, Schlitz, Bud, which sold for $.45 in glass bottles.

2) Has the amount you pay attention to the actual game changed over time?

Yes, I only watch when an important part of the game is taking place.

3) Are you a baseball fan? If not, were you? You seem to know a great deal about it.

Yes, I love the game. I have no allegiance to any team. Just a pinch towards the White Sox.

4) Are you a Cubs fan? If not, were you at one point? If it changed, why?

I’m not a Cubs fan in this era. I was a fan during the mid fifties. Baker, Defondy, Banks. And I loved the ’69 – 74 Cubs. I changed my support when all the good players left the ’69 Cubs. I was also a Yankees fan from 1956-1976 until George Steinbrenner took over.

5) Is there a curse? Explain a little.

Yes, I was born in 1946 and the last pennant was in 1945. There is too much pressure to win at Wrigley because of the day ball they play. There is a strange mentality that happens at Wrigley, they are the lovable losers and always will be.

6) What would you do if you owned the Cubs?

I would have the vendors with 20 or more years of experience select the lineup for the day by committee.

7) Do you have any distinct memories of 1969, 1984, 1989?

1969 was the best Cubs team that I ever saw. Sweet William William Williams, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Fergie Jenkins. The reason they lost in 1969 was that there were not enough reserves used in the lineup. They also won a 13 game home stand that year.

1984, Rueschel, Mooreland and Ryno, were a nice team. Too bad about the sticky glove that Durham had.

1989 Not as good as the others.

8) What has changed the most at Wrigley in the time you have been selling beer?

The price, the size, from $.45 to $5.75 and from 12 oz. to 16 oz. and from bottles to cans. The vendors wore whatever we had, including torn hats, shirts and pants.

There are more time restraints in selling the beer. We used to be able to sell until the end of the game, which we called “blowoff”.

9) How have the fans changed?

The fans arrive much later today. Spending habits have changed. Fans used to buy more items at the ball park and not bring in food as they do today. They are not as obnoxious as they used to be. There were lots of fights in the stands.

10) Do you have a favorite all-time Cubs player?

Sweet Billy Williams #26. He had the most level swing in the history of baseball.

11) Who is your favorite all-time baseball player?

Mickey Mantle #7 when I was a teenager. And the best player ever was Willie Mays #24.

12) If you had it to do all over again, would you?

Yes, the job is still similar to the way it was. What job can you say the same thing about after 44 years?

13) Have you ever served a celebrity/athlete/famous person?

Yes, I almost served Richard Lewis, he wanted a beer, but his agent waved me off. Steve Dahl the disco demo man. Bill Veeck always had extra beer on hand for anyone who wanted to stop by and talk.

14) Why am I your favorite customer?

Because you always grace the Friendly Confines with your upbeat candor no matter what the situation is during the game.

15) What is it like to have Wrigley Field as your office?

It makes vending complete. It is the icing on the cake. Being there is like a day in the park. Where else can you be watching the greatest game take place in one of the oldest original parks?

To view a picture of Ira, click on www.beervendors.com or scroll down. Ira is in the top row, fourth picture from the left.

Well folks, I hope you enjoyed the take of a man who has spent his life in a baseball stadium. Trust me, deep down he is a Cubs fan, he just would never want anyone to know that, but we will keep that between you and me. This season has been tough, but hearing “Ah kid, they’re no good today” always makes me laugh. If there is anything you would like me to ask Ira next time I see him, just let me know, he is always ready to answer.

Thanks for reading, feel free to drop me a line at brian@chicagocubsonline.com, and until next time….

Stay Classy Cub Fans!!!

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Ira Levin