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Northwestern University

The View from Section 416

Professor Bill Savage takes readers into the sights and sounds of Wrigley Field

This is a dream assignment for Bill Savage.

This summer, Savage, a Weinberg College adviser, lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs and associate professor of instruction in English, is documenting life as a Chicago Cubs fan in 2016 for

From the season-ticket seats he shares with friends in Wrigley Field’s Section 416, Savage’s ongoing column explores the Cubs’ chase for history at a time when expectations run high and hopes run higher, as well as the culture that surrounds the ballgame — both in and out of the North Side’s Friendly Confines.

Thus far, Savage has tackled the Wrigley Field renovation and the Wrigleyville neighborhood’s vibrant bar scene as well as the Cubs’ longstanding rivalries with both the St. Louis Cardinals and the crosstown White Sox.

Savage, who teaches courses on baseball and literature, discusses his summertime assignment for “The Worldwide Leader” in sports media.

How did this relationship with come about?

It's a classic Chicago story of who you know. With so much expected of the Cubs this year, ESPN wanted to up its coverage of the team, particularly from the fan perspective. MLB deputy editor Cristina Daglas asked around, and my friend, Christina Kahrl, one of the co-founders of Baseball Prospectus and now an ESPN writer, recommended me. As for my own baseball writing, I had things I wanted to say but hadn’t because I had no outlet for them. This opportunity provides me a forum and an audience, what every writer needs most.

What topics do you have on deck?

I’ve got a piece on the culture of scoring and the history of scorecards coming up, but also plan on writing about consuming the game away from Wrigley, something I’ll do while overseas in August. Thereafter, I’ll write responses to what’s going on as the season progresses, which will hopefully include a deep postseason run for the Cubs.

What issues are you most interested in exploring?

As a scholar, I’m interested in the culture of the game broadly defined — the ephemera, the vendors, the ballhawks on Waveland — and baseball as part of the community, not just an economic exchange or a sporting experience. The more you learn about baseball history, the more interesting the present becomes.

But I’ve also got on my fan’s hat and am interested in the Cubs winning the World Series, not just getting there. That’s a rare feeling for a Cubs fan and one that changes the culture around the ballpark in interesting ways. I aim to both inform and entertain.

How might this effort for weave into the classroom?

One assignment I give students in my Baseball in American Narratives course is to attend a game, any game — Little League, 16-inch softball, the pros — and write a paper about it. Of course, students could write about what happens between the first pitch and the last out, but baseball has porous borders and there’s so much more to investigate. I hope my work here shows them just that.

What is your first Cubs memory?

I was seven or eight years old. There was a church group and a yellow school bus. The Cubs were playing the Cardinals and, not knowing much about baseball at the time, I clapped when a Cardinals player got a hit in the first inning. I was informed in no uncertain terms that was unacceptable behavior.

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