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So When Was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?

February 9, 2011

Those who know me well are acutely aware that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is my hands down favorite movie. The wildly popular movie, which finds its way on television on a fairly regular basis, has been back in the news this week thanks to the work of a fellow baseball blogger, Larry Granillo. The former Wezen Ball writer who began writing for Baseball Prospectus recently, decided it was time to do some research in order to determine what game Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane attended at Wrigley Field on their eventful day off.

From Larry’s original article:

As movie-viewers, we don’t learn anything about the Wrigley Field trip until we see Principal Rooney in the greasy pizza joint. As he wipes off the soda that was just thrown into his face, Rooney walks up to the restaurant’s counter where the game is being shown on television. There, we get a good glimpse at what is going on in the game, including some play-by-play from, I believe, Harry Caray.

On the screen we see Chicago first baseman #10 holding on an Atlanta Braves player wearing #18. The announcer pipes in: “Runner on first base, nobody out. That’s the first hit they’ve had since the fifth inning, and only the fourth hit in the game … 0-2 the count.”

Chicago pitcher #46 throws the pitch to a left handed Atlanta hitter with a two digit number ending in 5 and what appears to be a long last name. The batter swings at the pitch and hits a long fly ball to left. “That’s a drive! Left field … twisting … and into foul territory.”

The Chicago left fielder races for the ball but it screams foul, into Ferris’ hand. The announcer continues with a train of thought we must have missed: “Boy, I’m really surprised they didn’t go for it in that inning. Lee Smith …”

This is the point where Principal Rooney has his brief conversation with the pizza maker. In the background, we hear one of the announcers say something about playing “a very shallow third”. We then hear “There’s the ball bunted foul back to the screen. Boy, I don’t know …”.

We see a few scenes with the gang sitting in the stands. One view even gives us a glimpse of the field from their perspective and we can see the Cubs in the field and their opposition wearing baby blue uniforms. This tells us that the scenes were filmed at an actual game, not just a recreation staged for filming. Since the movie was first released on June 11, 1986 we can safely determine that the scene was either filmed very early that season or sometime during the 1985 season. Pouring through the game logs, easily accessible at Baseball Reference, we find a total of four games during which Smith (#46 for the Cubs at the time) faced the Braves at Wrigley Field. Of those four, one he held the Braves hitless so we can easily rule that one out. Thanks to the announcer recordings used in the movie, Larry was able to narrow it down even further and concluded that Ferris and his pals attended the game on June 5, 1985.

Larry’s work earned him attention across the country. Bloggers everywhere linked to his article, Twitter was abuzz with the revelation of when the game was played, and even ESPN’s Around The Horn made mention of it. WGN TV in Chicago took notice, and poured through their archives to find the game tape. But something about the timeline didn’t quite fit. According to the movie’s shooting schedule, filming did not begin until September 1985 so they could not have been at Wrigley Field the previous June. In fact, we know the parade scenes were filmed the week of September 28th based on what time of year the parade took place. So Larry did some more digging, and determined that the baby blue uniforms we see on screen must have been either from the Braves or the Montreal Expos – the only two teams to wear such a shade of color during the 1985 season. Looking at the Cubs’ schedule that season, they played a home series against those Expos the week before the parade.

Then, one of the assistant directors of the film, Ken Collins, sent Larry an email which clarified how the scenes were filmed, so naturally Larry published it in a follow up article. It reads:

I was the second assistant director on the film. That’s me sitting in front of Ferris and Cameron wearing Raybans and a Cubs hat. I put myself into the scene as an extra. Being an L.A. guy, I wanted to wear a Dodgers hat but John Hughes said no way! Our shooting schedule in Chicago started on September 9. We definitely shot in Wrigley on a game day. We got there about 10 AM and started filming actor dialogue and closeups with our extras in a specially designated area of the bleachers. When the game started, we got a couple of shots over the actors to the field action and then we pulled out and moved a couple of blocks up the street to continue filming another scene. We left a camera behind to pick up some miscellaneous shots. We were close enough to hear the roars from the stadium and a lot of us continued to listen to Harry call the game on radio. The day got colder and windier and the game degenerated into a typical Wrigley slugfest and there were over 30 runs scored. I can’t be 100% certain, but I’m pretty sure the game was played on September 24th against the Expos and the Cubs lost 15-17. I think that we filmed the Ferris’ famous “Danke Shoen – Twist & Shout” scene at the Von Steuben’s Day parade the following Saturday. It’s been a long time since this happened, but I think this is right.

So, it would seem as though the game during which those scenes were actually filmed was September 24, 1985. However, considering the clips used on television while Principal Rooney was at the pizza place were from the June 5, 1985 game, it would appear the moment was set in early June. Considering Ferris and Cameron are concerned about their upcoming graduation in June, the timeline would seem to fit.

Thanks to Larry’s hard work, we have now have one heck of a movie and baseball trivia question.

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