CHICAGO (Tribune News Service) — Darren Rovell is the kind of guy who’s not satisfied to own a 1996 Rose Bowl ticket. The Northwestern alumnus has Clayton Thorson’s stained pants from the 2018 Holiday Bowl, Darnell Autry’s 1996 spring quarter class schedule and the ticket stub from the 1982 streak-buster against Northern Illinois.
“I love the hunt,” said Rovell, who covers sports business and betting for the Action Network.
So when Rovell sought to put together the ultimate “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” collection, securing a ticket stub for the accepted “day off” game was not sufficient. Yes, there’s a second game.
Baseball Prospectus’ Larry Granillo figured out that the game Principal Rooney watches from the counter of the pizza joint was played June 5, 1985. An 11th-inning pop-up by the Atlanta Braves’ Claudell Washington gave it away.
But here’s the rub: The scene wasn’t filmed that day. Actor Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller) and Alan Ruck (Cameron Frye) did their “swing batta” routine from seats down the left-field line on Sept. 24, 1985.
Assistant director Ken Collins figured out the date based on the film’s shooting schedule (the Von Steuben German Day Parade occurred Sept. 21), the powder-blue uniforms of the road team and the comical final score of Montreal Expos 17, Chicago Cubs 15. Collins told Baseball Prospectus he recalled that at least 30 runs were scored.
That meant that the obsessive Rovell needed to acquire two tickets. “Needed” should be in quotes because, really, this isn’t food or air.
“These things,” Rovell explained, “keep my mind going.”
He also views tickets to seminal or novel sporting events as a wise investment.
“Cards don’t relate to a specific moment,” he said, “but when you see a ticket, you have a visceral reaction. It’s nostalgia. People are over-indexing in COVID as they go back and clean up their parents’ home and reminisce about times that were normal.”
Rovell collects stubs from memorable games, using the criteria: Do I remember where I was when it was played?
Examples: Bo Jackson running through Brian “The Boz” Bosworth in 1987, the 1992 Michael Jordan “shrug” and the Chris Webber timeout in 1993.
Plus tickets are becoming more of a novelty in the COVID-19 era.
“This upcoming Super Bowl will probably be the first without printed tickets,” he said. “There may be commemorative ones, but it won’t be your seat.”
Rovell, who wore a “SAVE FERRIS” trucker hat while doing the video call for this interview, had a harder time procuring the June ticket.
Why? Because some people noticed Broderick in the stands on that September day and kept their stub.
“The Cubs stunk in ’85 so there was no reason for someone to keep a ticket unless it was their first game,” Rovell said. “And why keep it for 35 years?”
Nothing existed on eBay, so Rovell hatched an idea: After Washington passed away June 10, Rovell tweeted this out to his 2 million followers: “Claudell Washington, who played 17 seasons in MLB, has died at the age of 65. His memory will live on in a movie. The highlight of his foul ball in the 11th inning of a Braves-Cubs game on June 5, 1985 was used in a movie. Yes, Ferris Bueller caught it on his day off.”
On top of a nice tribute, that was Rovell’s way of signaling that people should check their closets, drawers and shoeboxes for a Cubs ticket from 6/5/85.
“Someone drilled down,” Rovell said. “Within 48 hours, it appeared on eBay.”
Following an auction, it was in Rovell’s possession. He paid $1,000 for a $9.50 ticket with a coffee stain.
Rovell added it to a display that includes the Sept. 24, 1985 ticket (which cost him $232), a black-and-white press packet photo featuring actors Broderick and Ruck at Wrigley and a sloppy Broderick autograph encased in plastic.
“It’s very messy, but it’s one of the best ones out there,” Rovell said. “It looks like he struggled with cursive in school.”
Rovell also has an Abe Froman “Sausage King of Chicago” T-shirt and a Matchbox to replicate the red sports car — dubbed the “Fauxrari” — that has its own interesting backstory.
But this being Rovell, the quest never ends. This is a guy whose collection includes checks signed by Vince Lombardi to Nick Bollettieri for a tennis lesson, by Ted Williams (actually “Theodore”) to purchase life insurance and by Babe Ruth for alcohol. The $502 the Babe paid to the Park Circle Liquor Shop in Manhattan is worth nearly $10,000 in today’s dollars.
Rovell wants Broderick’s signature on a baseball — and not just any rawhide. It must be an official National League ball stamped by Charles Feeney from 1985.
“This is a ball,” Rovell said, “that Ferris would have caught.”
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