— When Dennis Mascari lost his father last year, he frequently visited the mausoleum where his remains are interred.
”Every time I went, I felt I was surrounded by a granite jungle,” Mascari
said. “I thought, ‘This is no way to honor a person who lived 93 years.’ ”
Spurred by the grim setting, Mascari decided to create a cremation area that would bring smiles to both the soon-to-be deceased and, eventually, to their visiting descendants. In a few weeks, his brainstorm will open – Beyond the Vines, a Wrigley Field-like setting at Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago.
For years, having one’s ashes spread on college and pro sports fields has been a dying wish of fans. Ashes were liberally spread for years at Boston’s Fenway Park until “the demand became so great that we could no longer accommodate the number of requests,” noted Red Sox spokeswoman Susan Goodenow.
The Dallas Cowboys – like many pro teams — are not fans of the practice. “These things have a way of turning into elaborate ceremonies and we don't want a stream of hearses pulling up to the stadium,” Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple told the Associated Press.
Three years ago in Philadelphia, one fan took the matter into his own hands; he ran across Lincoln Financial Field during a game and dropped his mother’s ashes along the way. He was charged with trespassing.
Of course, one problem exists for those remains resting at the 40-yard line or within infield grass — it’s not eternal. Those whose ashes have been spread at Wrigley Field — including singer Steve Goodman, who penned “Go Cubs Go,” the song that emits from Wrigley’s loudspeakers after each win — were removed when the franchise installed new turf before this season.
In New York, the ashes of deceased fans of the Mets and Yankees will more likely be pounded by a wrecking ball than brushed by an infielder’s glove when Shea and the old Yankee Stadium are razed.
But Beyond the Vines promises eternal rest amid the charms of a faux Wrigley (the real ballpark is a few miles away). The unliving will be surrounded by a replica of the brick outfield wall, which will be adorned with ivy. A stained glass window will be graced with the phrase “Cubs Fan Forever.”
Of course, there’s a price — packages are as low as $1,295 (about the cost of a box seat for 20 games) or as much as $4,495 (about as much as Carlos Zambrano makes per pitch). The latter version includes a brass nameplate and urn, both bearing the Cubs’ logo (those are made by Eternal Image, which has a license with Major League Baseball.) On the nameplate, there’s a line available to input the name of the deceased’s favorite Cubs’ player, jot down Harry Caray’s “Cubs’ win!” phrase or fit anything else to remind one of his or her favorite team.
Mascari said so far more than a dozen people have paid deposits for the 288 available spots (no burials; just urns) and others have signed up to be contacted once the project — the first sports-themed cremation area in the United States, according to Mascari — is completed.
”I get calls from people saying, ‘God must have heard my prayers. My father was a Cubs’ fan,’ ”Mascari said. “They still have their fathers’ ashes waiting in Tupperware jars.”
Mascari — whose project is not affiliated with the Cubs — said he’s in talks with cemeteries in other cities where passionate baseball fans reside, such as St. Louis, Boston, Philadelphia and New York.
And when Mascari’s time comes — hopefully after the lifelong Cub fan has enjoyed a long-awaited World Series title — he plans to send half his remains to his mother country Sicily and place the other half in the Vines.
”I’m trying to change the nature of the gloominess of the death business,” he said. “But this won’t be an environment like the Wrigley left-field bleachers during a game. It will be dignified.”