'W' flags popping up all over

Brent Glasgow

You've seen them on television, and it's likely you've seen them more and more around town - white flags with a big, blue "W," most commonly known as the Cubs win flag.

The flag's roots can be traced back to the late-1930s, but its mass availability to fans is a somewhat recent phenomenon.

"I was the person who told Rico (the manufacturer) to make them for purchase," said Trey Carlstrom, co-owner of Wrigleyville Sports, which is located across the street from Wrigley Field. "I kept on telling them to make it and they finally did (in 2004), and I'm sure it's the best-selling flag they ever did."

Carlstrom said "W" flag sales are at their highest after a Cubs victory or during an extended winning streak. Overall, he classified demand this season as "huge."

Over time, the flag's "W" has been emblazoned in new forms. In addition to three different large flag versions and a car variety, there are now T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats available.

The products are no longer limited to Chicago shops and online outlets. Dick's Sporting Goods in Peoria carries two large renderings and the car model.

The popularity of the flag apparently has caught the eye of bootleggers.

While the officially licensed versions range from around $25-40, cheap imitations can be found on eBay for $3.99 plus shipping, but buyer beware - the copycats only have the "W" on one side.

With the multiple flag versions come varying degrees of flying etiquette.

The flag has flown at Wrigley since 1938, the first full season of the current incarnation of the center field scoreboard. The tradition started so that passers by and El train riders could see the day's result. Raised at the immediate conclusion of a Cubs victory, it is lowered 4-5 hours after the game, according to Mike Huang of Vine Line, the Cubs' monthly magazine.

While some fans adhere to that or a similar policy, others have their flags flying 24/7 - both in Chicago and locally.

But to Cubs historian Ed Hartig, there is only one rule when flying the flag.

"The "W" flag can fly at night. In the rain," Hartig said. "It looks great whether it's flown from a flag pole, draped across bushes or tied to a tree. It even looks great when worn as a cape running through the streets celebrating a win.

"But it should never be displayed before the last out of a Cub victory."

Brent Glasgow can be reached

Cubs Win Flag

Tradition: The flag has flown above the Wrigley Field scoreboard since 1938, originally so that those unable to attend the game could see the day's result on their way home. It is raised immediately after a win and taken down 4-5 hours later.

Get your own: Various versions of the flag have been available to the public since 2004 and the "W" logo is now on T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats.

Where?: "W" merchandise can be found locally at Dick's Sporting Goods and all over the Internet, including and

The fakes: While cheaper flag versions can be found on eBay, the knock-offs only have printing on one side and reviews say the quality is substandard compared to the real thing.

Etiquette: It's up to you, but the superstitious type might want to stick with the Wrigley Field schedule.