Five minutes with Jeff Garlin
On July 11, comedian and actor Jeff Garlin visited the WGN-TV booth fresh off the heels of his new, critically acclaimed animated film, Wall-E, to lead a subdued Friday afternoon crowd in “Take Me Out To the Ball Game.” In his subsequent interview with broadcasters Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, Garlin boldly guaranteed a Cubs win that day, though the team was not winning at the time. Luckily for him, Aramis Ramirez came through with a walk-off home run that sent the Wrigley crowd into a frenzied celebration. Jeff also took the time to sit down with us to talk about his deep passion for the Cubs and how he keeps tabs on the team.
— Jennifer Dedes Nowak
Vine Line: What brings you to Chicago?
Jeff Garlin: Two things bring me to Chicago. Obviously, to sing today which is always an honor, and my sister-in-law is getting married tomorrow to her Cub fan fiancée. They are lovely and wonderful.
VL: What’s your baseball background?
JG: When I was growing up, I played baseball. I was a huge Cub fan. I lived in Morton Grove [Ill.]. I pretended to be Billy Williams when I was batting and Ron Santo and Bobby Tolan and also Willie Stargell and Joe Morgan because they had very distinct batting styles. I didn’t play Little League until I was older, but I played with my friends every day after school.
VL: What’s the scouting report on you?
JG: Power-hitting first baseman with a high batting average but a weak arm. There you go.
VL: You have sung “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” a few times at Wrigley now. Is it something you get nervous about performing?
JG: No, no at all, zero. I was looking at ESPN and the list of all the people that sang before, and I think I am the record holder for singing it the most times of any actor or performer. Ernie Banks has sung it every year, and I looked at the other categories, but in terms of the actor categories I believe this is No. 5 for me, and I would be No. 1. I’m going to brag about that for a long time.
VL: How do you feel about your singing voice?
JG: I feel good about it. I don’t think it’s something that people should buy an album of, but I do a good job. I sing on key, and I take my time. I’ve actually been taking voice lessons, not for this. I have a nodule on my throat, so I do have to work on improving that.
VL: How often are you able to keep up with the Cubs?
JG: Are you ready for this? I don’t miss a game between Direct TV and XM satellite radio. I listen to or watch every single Cubs game.
VL: You lived in Chicago before, what other places have you lived in?
JG: I was born in the city of Chicago, and I lived in Morton Grove. Then my family moved to Plantation, Flo., which is by Ft. Lauderdale. Then I moved back to Chicago, to New York, back to Chicago, and now Los Angeles, and I’ve been there for 14 years.
VL: What’s the best part about coming back to Chicago?
JG: That it’s still here, that’s the best part. You would hate to come back and, like the Pretenders sang, “My City is Gone.” Chicago actually gets better every year. Mayor [Richard] Daley makes the city better. He does a good job. I make phone calls, requests, and he just listens to what I say.