So why are Wrigley Field ushers so tough on fans who move seats?
The only rules I could find on the Cubs Web site related to fans and seating are from the "Guest Conduct" section of the "Ballpark A to Z Guide," also called the "Wrigley Field Fan Guide -- 2008":
"Customer Service is a major objective of the Chicago Cubs. The team strives to provide its Guests with the most positive baseball experience in the Major Leagues in a safe, comfortable environment. To help us achieve our goal of outstanding customer service, we ask for fan cooperation in the following areas:
- Dress appropriately for baseball. It is quite often cooler near the lake.
- Respect other guests' ability to enjoy the game. Loud or obnoxious fans could be asked to leave the ballpark if their behavior is deemed to be offensive to guests around them.
- Please do not bring balloons, beach balls, nets or laser pointers into Wrigley Field. These items are not permitted at any time.
- For the safety of all fans, do not interfere with the progress of the game or go onto the playing field. Any fan interfering with a ball in play or going onto the field will be removed from the park and could be subject to arrest.
- Please sit in your assigned seat and be prepared to show your ticket to an usher or ballpark supervisor upon request.
- There is no re-entry on a ticket stub."
That second-to-last directive--"sit in your assigned seat"--doesn't say you can't accept someone else's ticket and sit in his/her seat. As long as you're prepared to show your ticket for the seat you're sitting in, you're good, right?
Apparently not. I called the Cubs season ticket office, as a fan, after reading the "Season Tickets" category from the same online guide: "The Chicago Cubs offer a variety of packages for fans interested in the benefits of being a season ticket holder." Is one "benefit" the freedom to turn over your seat when you leave?
I asked a rep: Does Wrigley Field have a policy that covers letting another fan take over your seat? The rep suggested it would be up to the ushers, who are guided by the stadium operations office.
So I called stadium ops, again as a fan. The rep there said there's no policy, but added that a season ticket holder remains responsible for his seat regardless of who happens to occupy it. Another rep said ushers have to be careful because people moving forward to better seats might be trying to get onto the field.
But if a season ticket holder is responsible for the conduct of anyone sitting in his seat, then isn't it the season ticket holder's business, not the Cubs', whom he lets sit in it?
Finally, I spoke to a rep from the Cubs' media relations department. I identified myself as from the Reader, described my recent experience, and recounted what I'd heard so far from the season ticket and stadium ops offices.
He confirmed that indeed there is "nothing written down, nothing official that prevents someone from giving away a ticket." He conceded that Wrigley Field doesn't prohibit ticket holders from giving away tickets outside of the stadium, adding "there's not much we can do about it inside the park too."
But he said ushers are instructed "to make sure fans sit in the seat they have a ticket for when they enter the ball park" and are encouraged to enforce that seating "more stringently as you get closer to the field," noting the security concerns of fans throwing things on the field and going onto the field.
In all fairness, those are serious concerns -- in the past several years there have been multiple incidents of fans coming onto the field, some resulting in injury, as when a father and son made it onto the field at a White Sox game and assaulted Kansas City Royals first-base coach Tom Gamboa
Security issues aside, though, doesn't a ticket holder have a right to give away his ticket? "That's a tough question and a valid point," he said, "but security is the big issue. Once you're inside the ballpark we need to take steps to ensure safety, especially close to the field."
And taking those steps is within your rights, as you see it? "Yes, most definitely."