When you’re walking around a neighborhood in nearly two feet of snow, you tend to notice things that might not have registered from the comfort of your car. I saw something in Wrigleyville on Wednesday that stopped me in my (extremely deep) tracks.
The sign out front of the bar that was most recently—and briefly—Benchwarmers (and, before that, in reverse chronological order, Harry Caray’s Tavern and Hi-Tops) on Sheffield Avenue, kitty-corner from Wrigley Field, now reads “? Tavern.” The marquee explains: “Name this bar / win a trip to spring training / benchwarmerschicago.com.”
I hit the website and scanned the details—yep, folks are invited to suggest a name for the bar, and the winner gets a trip for two to Arizona, a meet-and-greet with Cubs players, and oh so much more. Then I called the bar’s manager, Michael Roberts, for the rest of the story. Roberts explained that the place is under the same ownership as it was during its Harry Caray’s and Benchwarmers stints, though with new management in place. “The most notable change at this point are the autographed collectibles . . . which range from Ali to DiMaggio, Santo to Jordan,” he told me.
The naming contest, which Roberts says seemed like a creative way to usher in the bar’s new era, started on January 6th and closes at the end of February. As a writer with a competitive streak—though little interest in sports—I asked for insider tips (see the website for complete rules and guidelines).
The Chaser: Can you tell me some of the names people have submitted so far? Come on. Go ahead and tell me.
Michael Roberts: I can’t share any names. It wouldn’t be fair to the hundreds who have already submitted ideas.
MR: We want those who do enter to have a clean plate to work with. Think outside the box. Everything will be considered.
TC: But maybe you could tell me more precisely what you’re looking for.
MR: What would really distinguish an entry is a name that incorporates Wrigley, not only on game days but as the exciting area it has become. We are much more than just a sports bar; we’re an establishment that has a “sporting nightlife” as well.
TC: So what arrangement of letters do you think would look really good on the sign?
He’s a stickler, that Roberts. But I like a challenge. Game on!