How a man and a song turned the seventh inning into hallowed Wrigley tradition

Joe Mantegna, "Criminal Minds" actor: It’s pretty intimidating. You’ve got to pay attention to the organ player. The first time I did it I was so excited I wasn’t quite listening to his instructions and I think I ended up being one beat ahead of him. I realized the next time I did it I’ve got to pay attention to the instructions. Once you get the whole crowd with you, it’s exhilarating. I think if you did it every day, it would extend your life by 10 years because you feed off the energy of the people.

Kerry Wood, ex-Cubs pitcher: I don’t want to hear myself over a PA system in front of 40,000 people. I started (singing) it and let my kids take over. When you’re pitching, you’re only focusing on the catcher. It’s different when you’re looking around knowing you’re on live TV and all that stuff. It’s nerve-racking. But it’s something everyone should try once.

Morello: The singing of the seventh-inning stretch is the easy part. Throwing the first pitch is more nerve-racking. I have friends on the team and want to make sure I don’t bounce it. The singing aspect is something I do for a living. And unlike some rockers who have taken part, I know the words to the song. I am the biggest Cubs fan you will ever meet in your life and have been to hundreds of games. I’ve been singing that song since I was a child.

Katie Marta, ex-Cubs special events and entertainment coordinator: Gary Sinise is one who always had a great intro. We always asked that people keep it short: “Great to be here,” “Let’s do this for Harry.” We had people who would want to give a speech. Gary Sinise was loud and had this really strong voice. He had the perfect combination of holding the mic out and singing. We always encouraged people to hold the mic out. There really is a science to it. You see enough of them and you understand what makes them good and bad.

Sinise: I just try to think of what Harry would do. He would go slow: “A one...a two...a three.” It always had this rhythm.

Ryan Dempster, ex-Cubs pitcher: I always paid attention to the seventh-inning stretch. I thought it was a lot of fun. “Oh, this celeb is in today? This might be entertaining.” If Bill Murray was doing it, we knew we were going to laugh. Michael Keaton was super excited. He’s a big Pirates fan. I had a chance to talk to him before the game and he was all jazzed up to be doing it. You have these celebs who sit there in front of a camera and put on these performances and are comfortable with it, but they get scared the minute they have to sing the stretch. That was pretty entertaining to see him all nervous. I didn’t expect that.

Michael Keaton, “Batman” actor: I don’t have a great voice. There have been hundreds of people who have done it. I’m sure I’m somewhere down in the bottom 30. Maybe not. I’ve heard some others sing and they’re down there with me. You get extremely nervous. They keep saying “Don’t worry. Have fun and enjoy yourself.” And the next sentence it’s “Now you’re not going to hear anything. We’ll give you the signal and don’t stop. That’s very important.” I was worried about everything -- about coming in on time, forgetting the lyrics. Now (Dempster) may have played up how nervous I was. I was nervous, but I was excited as well.

Marta: It felt like I was baby-sitting my six-year-old niece by the end of that day. (Keaton) wasn’t a bad guy. It was just exhausting. He was very friendly, but he was in the locker room getting into everything. “You shouldn’t go in there.” In the dugout before the game, you want to stay out of the team’s way, but he was up and down the dugout.

Keaton: I find baseball fields really beautiful. I have photographs of them from planes. And when you’re on them, as you know, you get a whole other perspective. I’m not really a jock sniffer. I just love the game and the stadiums. I was very excited. Frankly, it was a combination of excitement and nerves.

Offerman: I’m very hopeful that I one day get to throw out the first pitch and lead the choir in those drunken tones. It has been intimidated that I was welcome to come by. My problem is getting to Chicago with enough time to catch a ball game. Given that some of the – shall we say – less than melodious members of the Belushi family have gone before me, I think I would attack it with confidence.

Ozzie Guillen, ex-White Sox manager: I don't think I've got the guts, because they would boo me. I'm tired of people booing me already. If I ever do the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field, that's going to be a fiasco. I don't think they'll let me sing it because people would be booing me all over the place. I don't want TV highlights showing how people are booing me in Chicago.

Marta: Everyone thinks it’s so fun: “Why would anyone not want to sing the seventh-inning stretch?” But a lot of these people, even the big name actors, if they don’t understand the Cubs and get the seventh-inning stretch: “You want me to sing in front of 40,000 people?” (Michael) Jordan wouldn’t do it. Him or Oprah (Winfrey). Robert Redford threw out the first pitch on opening day a few years ago, but didn’t want to sing. Johnny Depp came to the ballpark a couple times when he was filming “Public Enemies.” We begged his people, but he just wanted to enjoy the games. Same thing with Kevin Costner.

Stars who've struck out

Pressy: Mike Ditka put it on the map. He was kind of late. I guess he was golfing. And he runs up the ramp, which is not an easy task – especially with his bad hip. He took the mic from Steve Stone and sang it in a polka tempo. I didn’t know he was going to sing it that fast. I probably caught up to him a quarter of the way through. It turned out to be pretty fun.

Stone: We were an eyelash from doing it and then boom there he was. He came up out of breath and ran through that thing like his hair was on fire.

Caray: The one I really thought was the worst was Ozzy Osbourne. Oh my God, I really almost called the Cubs to say “Just quit this. This is ridiculous to have that guy singing.” That was the most disgusting version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” I’d ever seen.

Stone: Ozzy Osbourne had the words right in front of him. I still believe to this day he faked not knowing anything because it played better. He’s one of the great singers in rock ‘n roll history and all of a sudden he can’t sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”? Like I said, I think it was orchestrated. He figured he’d do something memorable.

Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne were two of the nicest people we’ve ever had in that booth. They were wonderful. They thanked everybody for allowing them to be up there.

Wood: The Ozzy one was classic. We got a chance to meet him in the fifth inning. He came into the clubhouse to sign some balls and I remember him leaving the clubhouse and I said “This is going to be a good one.” We made sure we were all out there for it and he didn’t let us down.

Len Kasper, Cubs TV play-by-play announcer: I usually say, “Great job” no matter what. Jeremy Piven did it once and afterward, dropped (“let's hug it out, you little b******”) in the style of Ari from “Entourage.” When he finished, he asked me, “Was that OK?” I replied, “Well, you're still here, so I guess so.” I didn't know what else to say.

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