WRIGLEY FIELD — Cubs outfielder Ian Happ and team superfan “Bleacher Jeff” have what some might call more than just a business relationship.
Bleacher Jeff, real name Jeff Gorski, has long made himself known at Wrigley Field for his luscious locks, beer-fueled ballhawking, incessant banging on a left field billboard and for shredding Cubs-themed tunes as lead guitarist in the “Bleacher Bum Band.”
Unlike some at Wrigley Field, Happ — a wry, clean-cut All-Star and Gold Glove winner — has chosen to embrace Bleacher Jeff rather than pretend to ignore him.
Happ’s heart has warmed to the point that he acknowledges Gorski and his crew during games, solicits their opinions on replays and indulges in a bit of banter during baseball’s notorious lulls, Gorski said.
On Sunday, ahead of the Cub’s final home game of the regular season, Happ tossed Bleacher Jeff his year-end gift: a signed baseball wrapped in rubber bands that protected a crumpled $100 bill.
“Thanks for the support all season,” Happ scribbled on his money ball. “You guys are the best in baseball! Enjoy this one on me.”
The bleacher creature said he was almost moved to tears.
“It’s humanizing. We’re all people out here and we want the same thing: For the Cubs to win,” Gorski said. “It’s nice to feel like, ‘Hey, these guys understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.’ They’re fans of us, too.”
“The season wears on us, too,” Gorski said. “He [Happ] gets it.”
Happ fessed up to his budding baseball bromance in a Tuesday interview on the Bernstein & Holmes Show on 670 The Score.
“It was just appreciation for the fans in the left field bleachers. … It’s amazing just how much support I get from them, looking up and seeing the same faces every day,” Happ said. “It’s a long season for us and the fact they’re supporting us through and through, they’re so positive. Just to say thanks, I threw the ball at Jeff.”
Happ was mic’d up and revved up during a game earlier this season when Bleacher Jeff caught a home run.
“Long hair with the beanie right in the corner,” Happ said. “That’s my guy.”
Gorski and his fellow bleacher bums have been fans of Happ through thick and thin.
The fans kept it positive through 2021, when both the Cubs and Happ faced struggles. The outfielder made his first All-Star game in 2022 and is now aboard for a late-season playoff hunt.
Each year, Happ has been gifted a baseball signed by about two dozen bleacher bums.
For Bleacher Jeff, Wrigley Field has always been about family.
He would accompany his mom and grandmother to the games that ladies got in for free, cheering on a number of down-and-out Cubs teams. By 1988, when the Wrigley lights first came on, Gorski was hooked.
The Gorskis finally scored season tickets in 2013 after two decades on the waiting list. The Cubs were once again bad in that era. But Gorski’s grandma, Margie Isbell, wanted to claim her seats anyway. She died a year later.
“She knew where I sat and that I was using the tickets all time. That’s why I still sit in the same spot all the time,” Gorski said. “It seems like Ian respects that, and understands this is also a commitment for us.”
Gorski brought Happ’s ball to Cubs bar Nisei Lounge — where he then spent another $100 in drinks after Sunday’s game. He’s hoping the Cubs make the playoffs to keep the party going.
“I would like to see another home game at Wrigley this year,” the fully loaded fan said.
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: