Wrigley score­board op­er­a­tor has seen it all

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Jay Cohen AP Sports Writer

Fred Wash­ing­ton has been sur­rounded by num­bers and cities for decades. Sea­sons full of ones and twos and ze­roes. Pitts­burgh, Cincin­nati and Mil­wau­kee, too. When his beloved Chicago Cubs scored three in the first, Wash­ing­ton put the crooked num­ber in the right spot. When the Car­di­nals jumped all over the Pi­rates, Wash­ing­ton told the story, col­umn by col­umn on the hand-op­er­ated score­board at Wrigley Field. Springs turned into sum­mers and mostly empty Oc­to­bers, and Wash­ing­ton’s most im­por­tant num­bers changed. And he re­al­ized it’s time to go home.

“I think as you get older your body speaks to you and tells you the things that you’re able to do,” he said. “Also, there’s cer­tain things around here that you can’t do, and one of those is, you spend an aw­ful lot of time here and at 66, I think I want to spend some time with my fam­ily be­cause I don’t have very much time to spend with my fam­ily here.”

So when the Cubs play their last home game of the year, that’ll be it for Wash­ing­ton, too. He’ll climb down the lad­der at the bot­tom of the clas­sic green score­board and stroll off to re­tire­ment.

No one will no­tice, prob­a­bly. There likely won’t be any fuss. The Cubs hon­ored Wash­ing­ton be­fore a Septem­ber game, and that was more than enough for the easy­go­ing Chicago na­tive.

It was all a gift, any­way. More than Wash­ing­ton ever ex­pected.

“You never re­al­ize that you’re go­ing to meet so many good peo­ple,” Wash­ing­ton said, “so many peo­ple that had such a bear­ing on your life. It’s very re­ward­ing.”

Wash­ing­ton had jobs with the Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment, the Chicago Mer­can­tile Ex­change and in rail­roads be­fore he was hired by the Cubs in 1984 for a se­cu­rity po­si­tion. He moved to the grounds crew two years later, and then joined the score­board crew in 1990. “This par­tic­u­lar job, it’s kind of next man up,” he said. “Peo­ple re­tire, they move on, and some­body has to re­place them, and you can’t just walk up like you’ve lived here all your life. It’s like any­thing else. It’s a learning process.”

Wash­ing­ton’s home away from home these past 26 years was built in 1937. There are three lev­els in the score­board, and as many as four peo­ple fill in the num­bers for a full slate of games in the sum­mer. Wash­ing­ton and his part­ner work on the first floor for the Cubs’ linescore and Na­tional and Amer­i­can League games on the bot­tom level. Dar­ryl Wil­son , an­other long­time score­board op­er­a­tor, takes care of the sec­ond and third floors along with an­other col­league. Wil­son calls down up­dates that he gets from a com­puter. “We spend an aw­ful lot of time to­gether, and the ca­ma­raderie is such that, we’re al­most re­lated,” Wash­ing­ton said. “I mean we get along, we get along very well. It’s kind of like we’re broth­ers up here.”

“It’s a lot of laugh­ter. It’s a lot of joy up here,” he con­tin­ued, “ex­cept when the Cubs lose.” Wash­ing­ton also has a rap­port with the fans who sit in Wrigley’s famed bleach­ers. He sees it all from his perch above the stands, and he hears it from the crowd if some­one feels there is a mis­cue with the score­board.

“There’s a hu­man el­e­ment up here,” Wash­ing­ton said, sit­ting in a chair in the score­board while the Cubs were in Los An­ge­les this week for the NL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries. “I mean no­body’s per­fect, and they’ll scream up here and try to point out some­thing to me if they be­lieve it’s a mis­take.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.