On a spring day in the 1980s, a high school senior named Ferris Bueller faked being sick to get out of going to school. The charming truant then convinced his girlfriend, Sloane Peterson, and best friend, Cameron Frye, to join him on an adventure through downtown Chicago.
Such is the basic plot for the '80s classic "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." But after screenwriter and director John Hughes turned these fictional events into the hooky-celebrating movie, a mystery remained: What actual day did Bueller take off?
Hughes never explicitly revealed the date in the movie. But sportswriter Larry Granillo wanted to figure it out. So he looked into the Chicago Cubs' 1985 season trying to decipher the specific baseball game the teens attend in the movie in hopes of solving the decades-long mystery. And he did.
Ferris Bueller's day off, Granillo believes, was June 5, 1985, almost exactly a year before the movie debuted on June 11, 1986. Here's how Granillo figured it out.
Granillo was able to use the few details Hughes reveals about the game to pinpoint the exact date.
"I was watching the movie one Saturday and it occurred to me that the Cubs footage they showed on the TV screen, combined with the audio, had to have come from a real game," Granillo told The Huffington Post over email. "I pulled up Baseball Reference (still the greatest gift the internet ever created), and with a little digging into the game logs of the players mentioned on screen, I found the game."
The Cubs lost to the Atlanta Braves on June 5, 1985, 4-2, but the movie doesn't show the school-skipping friends staying until the end anyway, so the loss shouldn't have soured their "we're young and anything is possible" mood. And even if he did stay at the game, as a resident of the Chicago suburbs, Bueller should already have been used to the Cubs losing. I say this with regret as a Cubs fan, but c'mon, the team hasn't won a World Series championship since 1908 -- back when the Ottoman Empire was still around.
According to Granillo's research, Bueller and his friends then had to rush to see the other stops on their impromptu tour of Chicago.
In the movie, Bueller steals a lunch reservation for noon. Since the Cubs game started around 1:25 p.m. (CDT), the group at least should have had ample time to make it to the Cubs' Wrigley Field. But after that, Bueller's day gets a bit busier.
While at the game, Bueller catches a foul ball, which Granillo places sometime after 4 p.m., given details from the box score. As Granillo wrote in his original analysis, "That leaves, at the most, one hour and forty-five minutes for their trips to the museum, Sears Tower, the lake, and Sloane's house, while squeezing in two musical numbers during the parade before racing home at 5:55 p.m. Seems a bit tough to squeeze all of that in for most normal people."
But Bueller isn't a normal person. As the character says in the movie, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." With this enlightened sense of time, Bueller seems to have a special gift for experiencing more than most can in a short period.
Although June 5, 1985, is the most definitive date, a few details poke holes in the theory.
The actors and film crew did not film at the June 5 game and instead shot the movie's Wrigley Field scene in September. During this game, the Cubs played against the Montreal Expos, not the Braves.
Still, the Braves were the only other baseball team to have the away-team uniform colors as the Expos at the time, according to Granillo. Hughes may have gone out of his way to match his shots to the spring-game audio he planned to use. The movie never makes it clear who the Cubs are playing.
Also, throughout the movie, Bueller and principal Ed Rooney make contradicting statements about how much time is left in the school year. Bueller refers to graduation being a few months away and claims he has to graduate in June. Meanwhile, the principal says he won't let Bueller "coast this last month" meaning the school year is already almost over. As principal Rooney probably has a better grasp on the school year than Bueller, his statement coupled with Bueller's claim about June seems to allow for the June 5 date.
And then there are two other issues with the idea that Bueller ditched on a specific Chicago day: (1) Hughes has said he wrote the basic outline for the movie on Feb. 25, 1975, which is more than three months before the June 5 date Granillo zeroed in on, and (2) the Von Steuben Parade, which Bueller and his friends crash in the movie, takes place on an autumn Saturday every year, which is not a school day.
Still, the Cubs' June 5 game against the Braves occurred on a Wednesday and plausibly happened near the end of Bueller's senior year, which matches with the details given in the movie. Paramount has also celebrated June 5 as the definitive marker. As such, Granillo's baseball theory remains the most airtight marker of Bueller's day off.
So with the Cubs now leading the standings of the MLB, any Chicago high schooler that still has a few more classes left before summer currently has a far better chance of seeing their home team win a game than Bueller did.
With this in mind, why not take a lesson from Bueller and take a day for yourself?
If your preferred way to spend a vacation is more the vicarious sort, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is currently available on Digital HD.
UPDATE: Added more explanation on how characters refer to what time of year the events take place.