Looking the part: Catching obscure jerseys around Wrigley

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comThis is called killing two (mocking) birds with one stone, spotting a Bryce Harper and Cliff Lee when the Philadelphia Phillies were in town.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comThis is called killing two (mocking) birds with one stone, spotting a Bryce Harper and Cliff Lee when the Philadelphia Phillies were in town.

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comMike Fontenot, who stands 5-feet-9, played for the Cubs in 2005 and from 2007-10.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comMike Fontenot, who stands 5-feet-9, played for the Cubs in 2005 and from 2007-10.

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comDave Kingman, who stands 6-feet-6, played for the Cubs from 1978-80. The Fontenot and Kingman jerseys were spotted on the same day and provide a contrast in size.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comDave Kingman, who stands 6-feet-6, played for the Cubs from 1978-80. The Fontenot and Kingman jerseys were spotted on the same day and provide a contrast in size.

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comFather Bob Gilbert, pastor of Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church on Chicago's South Side, sports a Mark Bellhorn jersey.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comFather Bob Gilbert, pastor of Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church on Chicago's South Side, sports a Mark Bellhorn jersey.

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comLee Smith will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. He said he wants to go in as a Cub.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comLee Smith will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. He said he wants to go in as a Cub.

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comSteve Trout pitched for the Cubs from 1983-87.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comSteve Trout pitched for the Cubs from 1983-87.

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comMunenori Kawasaki played in 14 games for the Cubs during their world championship season in 2016.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comMunenori Kawasaki played in 14 games for the Cubs during their world championship season in 2016.

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comFelix Pie was a Cubs prospect who never panned out. He played for the Cubs in 2007-08. The dream would be to get a photo of this jersey next to one of Rocky Cherry, a teammate of Pie for part of 2007.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comFelix Pie was a Cubs prospect who never panned out. He played for the Cubs in 2007-08. The dream would be to get a photo of this jersey next to one of Rocky Cherry, a teammate of Pie for part of 2007.

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comMatt Murton was a Cubs outfielder from 2005-08. Former manager Lou Piniella called Murton an "adorable redhead."

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comMatt Murton was a Cubs outfielder from 2005-08. Former manager Lou Piniella called Murton an "adorable redhead."

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comPaul Popovich was a backup Cubs infielder in the 1960s and 1970s (before the Cubs had names on their uniforms). Some fans feel he should have played more in 1969, when the Cubs collapsed down the stretch.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comPaul Popovich was a backup Cubs infielder in the 1960s and 1970s (before the Cubs had names on their uniforms). Some fans feel he should have played more in 1969, when the Cubs collapsed down the stretch.

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comGreg "The Bull" Luzinski, a graduate of Notre Dame High School in Niles, began his career with the Phillies and ended it with the White Sox.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comGreg "The Bull" Luzinski, a graduate of Notre Dame High School in Niles, began his career with the Phillies and ended it with the White Sox.

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comHall of Famer Robin Roberts was mainstay for the Phillies. He played for the Cubs late in his career.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comHall of Famer Robin Roberts was mainstay for the Phillies. He played for the Cubs late in his career.

  • Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comJoe Nuxhall appeared in his first big-league game at age 15 during World War II with the Cincinnati Reds.

    Bruce Miles/bmiles@dailyherald.comJoe Nuxhall appeared in his first big-league game at age 15 during World War II with the Cincinnati Reds.

 
 
Updated 6/2/2019 8:38 AM

Sometimes they're right in front of you.

Sometimes you have to chase them all the way around the ballpark.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In almost all cases, the quest is worth it.

It's the "Cubs jersey seen today" game, a bit of silly whimsy I started on Twitter a few years ago. The object is to find jerseys of obscure, forgotten or non-star Cubs players and those of greats and not-so-greats from visiting teams.

Initially, I would simply tweet "Cubs jersey seen today" and tell followers I had seen a Ryan Theriot or a Matt Mieske jersey. Soon afterward, I decided to add photos of the jerseys. Showing is always better than telling.

Ever since, the game has taken on a life of its own, and Twitter followers and Facebook friends seem to get a kick out it.

Now, it's become a challenge for me: Find the most interesting jerseys I can every day. Some days I strike out. Some days I strike gold.

The workday goes like this: I arrive at the ballpark about five hours before gametime and do my pregame research before the Cubs open the clubhouse to the media 3 hours before first pitch. We talk with a few players and then meet with manager Joe Maddon before batting practice.

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Once done with that, I grab my cellphone and roam the stands, starting from under the press box and often heading out to the bleachers and circling the ballpark.

One day recently, I saw a guy wearing a "FONTENOT 17." Mike Fontenot was a diminutive infielder who played for the Cubs a decade ago. Then-manager Lou Piniella took a liking to Fontenot after he got a couple big hits. Lou could just as quickly sour on a guy after an 0-for-4 day.

The problem for me was that I saw the Fontenot jersey from afar and had to chase the guy most of the way around the lower deck before I could catch him and grab a photo.

It just so happens that later that day, I saw a blue, pinstriped jersey with "KINGMAN 10." on the back, for Dave Kingman. So within the space of a few minutes, I had the long and the short of it, with the 5-foot-9 Fontenot and the 6-6 Kingman.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Another chase that paid dividends was that of a "MURTON 19" jersey. Matt Murton was an outfielder whom Piniella once called an "adorable redhead." I'm sure Lou would adore my photo.

Dressed for success

Wrigley Field is a destination for opposing teams' fans. They also come dressed for the game.

When the Phillies were in town recently, I hit the literary jackpot by spotting a "HARPER 5" and a "LEE 33" next to one another. Talk about killing two (mocking) birds with one stone with that Harper-Lee positioning.

Also when the Phillies were in town, I spotted a "ROBERTS 36." Hall of Famer Robin Roberts was a member of the 1950 Phillies "Whiz Kids" team. He finished his career, wearing No. 36, for the Cubs in 1966. They were hardly whizzes, finishing 59-103.

The Cincinnati Reds followed the Phils into town. In addition to spotting the jerseys of Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Barry Larkin, I caught a "NUXHALL 41." Joe Nuxhall began his major league career in 1944 at the age of 15. He wore No. 43 in '44.

Sure, I let others play.

While the Phillies were in town, I tweeted that I'd like to see a "MORANDINI" for former Phillies and Cubs second baseman Mickey Morandini. Sure enough, a Twitter follower tweeted a Cubs "MORANDINI 12" at me the next day. I also heard from a follower who traveled to Houston last week and sent me a "RYAN 34" for Astros Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

Some fans let me know they're coming. One day, Father Bob Gilbert, a Catholic priest and pastor of Holy Name of Mary Church on the South Side, gave me a heads up he'd have a special jersey. Turns out the good father showed up in "BELLHORN 28," for Mark Bellhorn, a switch hitter for the Cubs in 2002 and '03.

We'll finish with a pair of Cubs teammates from the 1984 NL East winners. Down near the dugout, I saw a "46" with no name. That was a Lee Smith jersey, actually from 1986. Around the same time, I saw a "TROUT 34," for Steve Trout, who came to the Cubs from the White Sox.

I've been told that as long as I got Trout, I need a Tim Salmon. Maybe Monday, when Salmon's old team, the Angels, come to town.

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