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'Wrigley cemetery' to give fans chance to buy eternal season tix

7/11/2008 - Chicago Cubs

CHICAGO -- Finally, the perfect answer for a team that has
been killing its fans for 100 years: A place to put their remains.

A Chicago man and Bohemian National Cemetery on the city's North
Side are joining forces to build for Cubs fans a final resting
place that looks a lot like the spot where they saw their dreams of
a pennant die year after year.

Called "Beyond the Vines," the 24-foot long ivy-covered wall
is designed to look like the one in dead center at Wrigley Field.

It's all on the drawing board now, but the wall is expected to
be up and ready to accept fans in October -- just about the time
Cubs fans are starting their annual mantra of "Wait till next
year."

And when it does go up, Dennis Mascari the president of Fans
Forever, Inc., says it will transform the cemetery experience, if
not for the dead, at least for the living.

"When you come to a cemetery to visit a loved one it's usually
a pretty sad, gloomy situation," he said, standing on the lawn
where the wall will be erected. "But when you come here and visit
[what looks like] his home away from home ... Wrigley Field, it's
going to be a great feeling for people."
Mascari, 60, is envisioning something special. There will be a
stained-glass scoreboard. And at each of the 280 niches in the wall
-- "eternal skyboxes, that's what we call them," he says -- there
will be an urn emblazoned with the Cubs logo.

Near each urn will be a bronze baseball card with a photograph
of the deceased fan who, Mascari said, depending on the wishes of
the family can be dressed up in a Cubs hat, Cubs jersey or full
Cubs uniform. It could also include the dead fan's 'statistics'
such as date of birth, date of death, and maybe their favorite Cubs
game and favorite Cub.

There's even talk of piping in Cubs games on speakers so nobody,
living or dead, will miss an inning. Not only that, but if this
idea appeals to more than 280 Cubs fans, the cemetery has set aside
enough land to add a right-field wall and a left-field wall.

The price tag for interment will cost as much as $5,000, the
"grand slam" package that includes pick up of the body and
delivery to Bohemian for cremation in its brand new $100,000
cremation oven, a service, and, of course, the baseball card plaque
and urn.

But Mascari knows there are plenty of fans who have long since
died and their remains are just sitting in urns somewhere, waiting
for their own Field of Dreams. Interment of those ashes can cost as
little as $1,200.

If this sounds, well, crazy, urns with the logo of the Cubs and
other sports teams are already on the market and the maker of those
urns -- Eternal Image -- says last year that Cubs urns accounted for
10 percent of their Major League urn sales.

And nobody who saw survivors of dead Cubs fans bring photographs
to the 2003 playoffs will forget the sight of them trudging home,
pictures under their arms, after the Cubs once again failed to
reach the World Series.

Besides, Cubs fans have for years been scattering ashes of loved
ones at Wrigley Field -- a tradition immortalized by the late
singer-songwriter Steve Goodman, in whose "A Dying Cub Fan's Last
Request" an old man asks his own family to do just that at the
"ivy-covered burial ground." Those ashes include some of
Goodman's, scattered there by family and friends a year after his
death.

That tradition reminds Mascari that his wall can offer something
to fans they can't possibly get from having their ashes scattered
on the outfield grass: Peace of mind.

"Last year the turf [at Wrigley] was removed," Mascari
explained. "So something like this would make sure that fans would
never have to worry about any turf being removed and put somewhere
else."

Over at Wrigley, the Cubs aren't saying much. Team spokesman
Peter Chase said in an e-mail that nobody connected with the team
had heard of the wall or wanted to talk about it.

A longtime Cubs fan himself, Mascari hopes the team likes the
idea, if for no other reason it might prompt fans to head to his
wall and not Wrigley with dead fans' ashes.

But since there won't be a Cubs logo on the wall and the company
that makes the urns is already licensed to do so by Major League
Baseball, he doesn't think the Cubs can stop the wall if they
wanted to.

One man who is talking about it is Philip Roux, the
superintendent at the cemetery.

"I think this is great, the best publicity a cemetery could
have," said Philip Roux, Bohemian's superintendent.

For one thing, he said it would remind people that the cemetery
perhaps best known for being the final resting place for Anton
Cermak, the Chicago mayor who was assassinated by a man aiming for
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is still open.

"We have space available," Roux said.

The big test will, of course, be convincing Cubs fans their
remains belong in the friendly confines of Bohemian National
Cemetery.

Out at Wrigley, where the Cubs were playing this week, fans'
opinions varied. Some said they hated the idea. Others said they
liked it but wouldn't want their remains to be alone and they just
couldn't imagine their family members joining them.

Steve Kopetsky, a 53-year-old fan who lives in Corte Madera,
Calif., said he didn't have a problem with spending the money to
reserve a spot on the wall as much as he did if word got out that
he'd done so.

"My wife would kill me," he said.

But Don Rood, a 31-year-old Chicagoan who wore his "Die-Hard
Cub Fan" shirt to the game, said it makes perfect sense.

"What else are you going to do, lay in a box next to loved
ones?" he asked. "It would symbolize what your passion is, what
you enjoyed about your life."