Hit a Home Run with Chicago Open Archives

It’s almost October. The leaves are starting to turn, temperatures are dipping and Chicago has a baseball team headed to the playoffs.

In 1977, a different Chicago team, the Organic Theater Company, was looking for a new play. Ensemble member Joe Mantegna had been attending his fair share of Cubs games and pitched the idea of setting a nine-inning play in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. Thus, Bleacher Bums was born.

The production was directed by Stuart Gordon and starred Roberta Custer, Jack Wallace and Richard Fire, among others. It had a successful run and over the next two years was remounted in different cities across the country, as well as filmed for PBS. In 1989, Joe Mantegna directed an updated version, this time starring Dennis Farina, J.J. Johnston, Joan Schwenk and others.

Records of this groundbreaking hit are available for research in the Special Collections and Preservation Division on the ninth floor of Harold Washington Library Center.

This year, the Cubs are still alive and looking good. If you can't find tickets to the game, consider swinging by the library instead for Chicago Open Archives at CPL, a citywide event encouraging exploration of Chicago's archival institutions, including our own Harold Washington Library Center, Sulzer Regional Library and Woodson Region Library.

At Harold Washington, we'll showcase a few things from the Organic Theater Collection featuring Bleacher Bums as well as other treasures from our Chicago Theater Collection. Come "play" on our stage and enjoy a selection of playbills, costume designs, photographs, original scripts, set designs and of course pieces from Bleacher Bums. You might recognize a few actors from before they were stars. Steal on in any time during our open house hours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, October 8, and hear our curator talk at 11:30 a.m.

Round the bases by visiting our partner locations, the John M. Flaxman Library of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Ryerson & Burnham Archives of the Art Institute of Chicago before you head home.

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