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Monday, May 14, 2012
Joe Mantegna talks Cubs, 'Bleacher Bums'

By Lynn Hoppes

The Chicago Cubs, mired in last place in the National League Central, play the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night and Tuesday.

Will the Cubs make it out of the cellar? And win the pennant and the World Series?

Joe Mantegna
Joe Mantegna, who wrote "Bleacher Bums", still has a soft spot for his Chicago Cubs.
That's probably some positive thinking.

But that's what happens in the famous play "Bleacher Bums," the 1977 play written by members of Chicago's Organic Theatre Company, from an idea by actor Joe Mantegna.

"Someone once asked me, 'What if the Cubs finally win a World Series? Would your play seem relevant then?'" said Mantegna, who went on to act in more than 50 movies and TV shows and now stars on the television series "Criminal Minds" on CBS. "I laughed and said, 'I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.'"

Mantegna never thought his play about fans in the bleachers would turn into a cult hit that has spawned countless productions around the country. But it has. And the real Cubs can't seem to get over the hump to win a World Series title.

"My goal was to make an interesting play and I always wondered what would drive fans to follow a sports team so closely," Mantegna said. "I don't really question the success. I feel, like acting, I'm going to keep doing this until someone stops me."

For Mantegna, Chicago is home. He was born there. He attended high school there and graduated from DePaul University with a degree in acting. He even played bass in a group that later formed into the band Chicago.

"You're talking about a city that I followed every team when I lived there," said Mantegna, who went to Broadway for "Hair" and settled in California for movies and TV. "I still love the city. And I'm still rooting for them to be successful."

Now, will the Cubs be able to at least beat the Cardinals?