CHICAGO (CBS) — You could say Rocco Caputo grew up at Wrigley Field.
“When I was a little kid, he used to take me to the games and I would watch the games,” Caputo said. “I met most of the vendors, all the old timers.”
His father, a union boss and vendor, worked at Wrigley Field for 60 years. In fact, his whole family has worked at the North Side ballpark for generations.
“Brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles,” he said. “With all of us, yeah, at least 100 years.”
Caputo, 47, started out selling soda when he was 16, where he recalls witnessing the now famous Ryne Sandberg game in June of 1984, then became a beer vendor in 1988.
“Basically, it was $2.75 for a beer. Now it’s $8.75. A lot has changed over the years,” he laughed.
His section: behind home plate, where everyone knows his name.
“‘Hey Rocco!’ Hey guys, be over there in a minute,” he says as he rushes to section eight where today some of his long-time customers have been relocated because this particular Monday is a make-up game.
“This is Connie and Frank,” he says, introducing most of his customers as he passes by. The Sydors have had season tickets for nearly 30 years.
“We’ve known him so long, he takes care of us,” said Connie Sydor, from Wheaton. “We’ve known Rocco for many years. He’s the only person we buy beer from.”
Caputo says some of his favorite memories over more than three decades include that Sandberg game, the 1989 and 2003 teams and talking with some of the game’s greatest players on a daily basis.
“Milt Pappas comes and sees me and calls me by name,” Caputo says. “Pappas gives me a baseball every time he sees me. I liked Ryne Sandberg, Dempster when he was here, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo. Santo would stop and talk to me every day because I had my beer stand at the top of the ramp, and Ronnie would sit and talk to me every day about baseball.”
But vending at Wrigley Field is something in which you have to battle the elements. A typical baseball season in Chicago can be a mixed bag. There can be rain, sleet, even snow in April and then the scorching hot sun in August. Caputo says it’s hard work but something he loves.
“It’s not rocket science, but it is an art to walk stairs,” he says. “It can be hard on the knees. I have strong legs and calves but as I get older, I can feel it in my knees.”
Caputo is a celebrity in his own right, with his strong Chicago accent, big smile and friendly demeanor. People yell his name as he walks through the stands. He appeared in CBS’s “Undercover Boss” in 2010, has thrown out the first pitch and even sang the seventh-inning stretch before — but he says the real joy of the job is the tradition he carries on for his family, his father in particular.
“His spirit is still here so it makes me happy just to have my father, Cappy, everyone calls him Cappy, keeps me alive,” he says.
He’s been serving Cub fans for 32 years and counting and says he has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“I will be here as long as I can,” Caputo says. “I smile and talk to everyone. This is my playground, it’s fun.”