All six minor league affiliates wrapped up their regular seasons this weekend, with Daytona, Kane County and Boise all qualifying for postseason play. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (74-70)
T-2nd Place (-2.5)
Iowa finished the season with a five-game winning streak, routing Oklahoma City at home yesterday, 11-1.
- RHP Dae-Eun Rhee finished the season by extending his scoreless innings streak to 13.1 innings in his second-straight win, and tying a career-high with 11 strikeouts (also done Aug. 19, 2011, with Daytona).
- RF Ryan Kalish (.251) tied a career high with four hits (last done June 9, 2012, with Pawtucket of the International League), scoring twice, doubling (14) and driving in two (37).
- C Eli Whiteside (.214) went 3-for-5 with two doubles (13) and a season-high three RBI (21).
- SS Elliot Soto (.241) also went 3-for-5 with a double (4).
- CF Jae-Hoon Ha (.286) singled twice.
- DH Kris Bryant (.295) singled and drove in his 52nd run since joining Iowa. He finished the season with a .325 average, a minor-league best 43 home runs, and 110 RBI between Tennessee and Iowa.
Tennessee Smokies (33-37)
2nd Place (-3.0)
The Smokies wrapped up the season with a 5-1 loss to host Chattanooga.
- SS Addison Russell (.294) recorded his 18th multihit game, including his 11th double.
- LF Pin-Chieh Chen (.232) singled twice from the leadoff spot.
- C Charles Cutler (.310) tallied his 14th double and walked twice.
- The Smokies were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and left 11 runners on base.
Daytona Cubs (41-27)
1st Place (+3.5)
After finishing the regular season on Sunday, the Cubs had a day off before Game 1 of the FSL North Championship tonight vs. Dunedin.
Kane County Cougars (45-27)
1st Place (+3.5)
Kane County dropped a 12-inning contest, 6-5, at home against Peoria. The Cougars finished with a franchise-best 91-49 record on the season.
- C Mark Zagunis (.280) went 2-for-4 with two walks, a double (6) and a stolen base (5) from the leadoff spot.
- Three other Cougars—DH Chesny Young (.324), RF Yasiel Balaguert (.252) and 1B Cael Brockmeyer (.297)—had two hits apiece. Balaguert finished with a seven-game hitting streak (.393/11-for-28).
- RHP Michael Wagner (3.23) allowed three runs (two earned) over two innings to suffer his second blown save.
- RHP Jasvir Rakkar (3-1, 0.87) allowed just his second earned run of the season (20.2 IP) in 2.1 frames, ending up with his first loss.
Boise Hawks (19-19)
3rd Place (-7.0)
Boise overcame a three-run deficit in the ninth, topping Salem-Keizer, 6-5, on a walk-off single from 2B Jason Vosler.
- SS Gleyber Torres (.393) went 3-for-5 with a run, a double (2), a triple (3) and two RBI (4). He has 11 hits, two doubles and three triples in seven games since joining Boise.
- 1B Alex Tomasovich (.311) singled twice and scored a run.
- PH Justin Marra (.279) doubled to improve to 4-for-5 as a pinch-hitter.
- RF-LHP Charlie White (2-0, 2.25) earned his second win in as many career appearances as a pitcher, allowing one earned run in the ninth before helping the offense with a walk in the bottom of the frame.
Mesa Cubs (9-19)
5th Place (-11.0)
Mesa finished the regular season with a 22-34 overall record.
Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West All-Stars, who claimed the U.S. Little League title and played in the Little League World Series against South Korea, joined the Cubs for Monday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Little League team enjoyed a day at Wrigley Field with teammates, coaches and their families. Before the game, Cubs players celebrated JRW’s accomplishments by wearing the Little League team’s home jerseys and ball caps during pregame routines.
JRW had a meet-and-greet with Cubs players, toured the clubhouse, was recognized in the pregame ceremony—which included the team’s coach, Darold Butler, throwing out the game’s ceremonial first pitch—and led the crowd in “Take me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.
The Cubs-worn JRW jerseys and ball caps, along with two jerseys signed by the entire JRW team, will be up for auction through Cubs Charities at www.Cubs.com/auction. Bids for jerseys will start at $100, and hats will start at $45. All proceeds will benefit Jackie Robinson West Little League.
Mark Prior and the Cubs celebrating after they clinched the 2003 NL Central Division. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The 2000s saw three first place finishes at Wrigley Field and dazzling performances from players like Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Starting Monday, Sept. 1, the Cubs welcome the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates to town for a 2000s-themed celebration. Fans can relive the decade along with Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt, Jon Lovitz and many more. And on Labor Day, the Cubs will celebrate the U.S. Little League Champion Jackie Robinson West All-Stars.
Here are the other guests and promotions you’ll find at the Friendly Confines during the six-game set.
2000s Homestand Recap, Sept. 1-7
Monday, Sept. 1 (Labor Day), Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 1:20 p.m.
- Special Event: Salute to Armed Forces Day
- Pregame recognition, first pitch, seventh-inning stretch: U.S. Little League Champion Jackie Robinson West All-Stars
- Pregame ceremony: Salute to Armed Forces Day guests
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Tuesday, Sept. 2, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m.
- Promotion: Gatorade Protein Bars (postgame distribution to 5,000 fans)
- Seventh-inning stretch: Jimy Sohns, lead singer of Chicago-native rock band The Shadows of Knight
- Broadcast: CSN-TV+, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
Wednesday, Sept. 3, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m.
- Special Event: Oktoberfest Celebration
- Pregame performance: Jesse White Tumblers
- First pitches: Actor Chris Pratt from Parks and Recreation; Vicki Santo and Logan Burke, guest of Ron and Vicki Santo Diabetic Alert Dog Foundation
- Seventh-inning stretch: TBD
- Broadcast: CSN-TV+, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
Friday, Sept. 5, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 1:20 p.m.
- Promotion: Greg Maddux 3000th Strikeout Bobblehead presented by Bank of America (first 10,000 fans)
- Seventh-inning stretch: Cast members from the NightBlue Theatre show Clemente: The Legend of 21
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Saturday, Sept. 6, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 3:05 p.m.
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: John Lovitz, actor and comedian
- Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Sunday, Sept. 7, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 1:20 p.m.
- Throwback uniforms: 2008 home uniform
- Promotion: 2000s Clark Build-a-Bear presented by Bank of America (first 5,000 children)
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: TBD
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
For more information on Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday celebration, please visit www.wrigleyfield100.com.
Greg Maddux during the 2006 season. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs have excited baseball fans with their recent youth movement, but no youngsters wowed America quite like the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars. The Chicago South Side Little League team captivated the country last week, claiming the U.S. Little League title. The team will be on hand Monday to throw out the first pitch and sing the seventh-inning stretch on Labor Day as the Cubs kick off a six-game homestand against division rivals Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.
All of those players on the JRW squad were born in the 2000s, the decade being celebrated on this homestand, as the Cubs continue to honor 100 years of Wrigley Field with decade-themed promotional giveaways, specialty food and beverage offerings, and entertainment. On Friday, Sept. 5, Hall of Famer Greg Maddux will be recognized with a 3000th Strikeout bobblehead for the first 10,000 fans. On Sunday, Sept. 7, the first 5,000 kids 13-and-under will receive a Clark the Cub Build-a-Bear Doll, and the first 1,000 kids can run the bases postgame.
The team will host two special events, which offer fans a chance to attend a game with others who share the same interests along with an exclusive promotional item and fan experience. Salute to Armed Forces Day is on Monday, Sept. 1, while the Cubs Oktoberfest Celebration is Wednesday, Sept. 3. A Special Event ticket is required to participate in each event.
Fans coming to the ballpark Monday through Wednesday also can take home a Hall of Famer’s autograph for a charitable cause. Fergie Jenkins will sign autographs from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Cubs Store across from Wrigley Field on Monday, Sept. 1, and inside Clark’s Clubhouse on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 2-3, from 6 p.m. until the sixth inning to raise money for the Ron and Vicki Santo Diabetic Alert Dog Foundation. Vicki Santo and Logan Burke, the first recipient of an alert dog from the foundation, will throw ceremonial first pitches on Sept. 3.
Special Event tickets for Salute to Armed Forces Day and Oktoberfest can be purchased at cubs.com/specialevents. General tickets for the Brewers and Pirates series remain available at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827). Highlights of the upcoming homestand include:
On Sunday, Sept. 7, the Cubs will wear a modern uniform from 2008, when the team won the National League Central Division with an NL-best 97-64 record.
The 2000s-themed homestand marks the final decade of this season’s Wrigley Field 100 Bobblehead Fridays and Retro Toy Sundays. On Friday, Sept. 5, Hall of Famer Greg Maddux will be recognized with a 3000th Strikeout bobblehead for the first 10,000 fans. On Sunday, Sept. 7, the first 5,000 kids 13-and-under will receive a Clark the Cubs Build-a-Bear Doll, and the first 1,000 kids can run the bases postgame as part of the team’s ongoing Kids Sundays. In addition to these promotions, Gatorade will offer free Gatorade Protein Bars to 5,000 fans following Tuesday’s game.
The Cubs are proud to salute the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. As part of the Salute to Armed Forces Day ticket package for Monday, Sept. 1, fans will receive a commemorative Cubs military coin and can help honor veterans and members of the military in a special pregame ceremony.
Fans can grab their lederhosen and head to Wrigley Field to celebrate Oktoberfest in the Budweiser Bleachers on Wednesday, Sept. 3. Each Special Event Budweiser Bleacher ticket can be redeemed postgame for a special-edition Chicago Cubs Oktoberfest Boot Shaped Glass Mug.
To receive Special Event giveaway items, fans must purchase tickets through the dedicated cubs.com/specialevents page.
Specialty Food Offerings:
Levy Restaurants continues its decade-inspired menu at the Decade Diner, located inside Gate D near Section 142. The 2000s homestand features a Kraft Grilled Flatbread with Spanish chorizo, peppers and shredded Kraft Cheese, as well as an Asian Pork Burger topped with Asian slaw and served on a toasted Hawaiian bun.
The Decade Dogs stand near Section 123 is serving the most popular dog from the season’s previous homestands, which was the 1950s TV Dinner Dog with a Vienna Beef hot dog, mashed potatoes, gravy and corn on a hot dog bun.
Adults 21-and-over can enjoy a 2000s Playoff Punch cocktail on the main concourse at Section 109 and on the bleacher patio in left field. This Cosmopolitan-inspired punch is made with Smirnoff Orange Vodka, Monin Tiki Blend, cranberry and lime juice.
The Chicago Cubs made three playoff appearances during the 2000s (2003, 2007-08) and recognized several of the team’s most important alumni, including Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux and Ron Santo.
On Sept. 27, 2003, the Cubs swept the Pirates in a doubleheader to clinch the NL Central. The team retired the No. 10 jersey in honor of Ron Santo the next day. In his speech, Santo said, “This is my Hall of Fame.” He would later be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously.
On July 26, 2005, Greg Maddux struck out Omar Vizquel for his 3,000th career strikeout. The No. 31 jersey number he shared with Fergie Jenkins was retired May 3, 2009, in their honor.
During Labor Day weekend in 2005, Jimmy Buffett turned the Friendly Confines into Margaritaville, selling out two shows inside the ballpark.
On March 31, 2008, the Cubs unveiled a statue of Hall of Fame infielder Ernie Banks at the corner of Clark and Addison streets. The Cubs also returned to the postseason for the second-straight year, clinching the division title by defeating the rival Cardinals 5-4 on Sept. 20 in Chicago. Wrigley Field established an attendance record in 2008, as 3,300,200 fans attended 81 regular season home games.
On July 29, 2008, The “Road to Wrigley” Game featured the Cubs’ Class-A Peoria Chiefs, managed by Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, vs. the Kane County Cougars. The game drew 32,103 fans.
On New Year’s Day of 2009, for the first time in park history, professional hockey came to Wrigley Field, as the Chicago Blackhawks hosted the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL Winter Classic.
On Oct. 28, 2009, the Ricketts family completed its purchase of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field from the Tribune Company.
To learn more about these historic moments and others, visit wrigleyfield100.com.
The Cougars racked up another win, but Tennessee was no-hit, Boise lost in extras, and Mesa couldn’t overcome an early deficit Thursday. Iowa and Daytona both had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Tennesee Smokies (32-34)
2nd Place (-1.0)
Chattanooga pitcher Andres Santiago tossed a nine-inning no-hitter and struck out 12 to beat the visiting Smokies, 1-0.
- RHP Felix Pena gave up one earned run over five innings, striking out four.
- 3B Christian Villanueva (.235) was the only Tennessee player to reach base when he drew an eighth-inning walk with one out.
- LHP Jeff Lorick (3.90) struck out four while tossing 2.2 scoreless innings of relief.
- The no-hitter was the first thrown against Tennessee since Sept. 7, 2007, when the Smokies played the Huntsville Stars during postseason play. It was also the first regular season no-hitter against the Smokies since May 22, 2002.
- Santiago’s no-no was the first nine-inning no-hitter thrown by a Lookouts pitcher since Travis Buckley accomplished the feat on June 1, 1996.
Kane County Cougars (44-22)
1st Place (+3.0)
The Cougars set a single-season franchise record for total regular season wins with a 3-2 victory over host Cedar Rapids. Kane County’s 89 victories this season lead both Major League and Minor League Baseball.
- LHP Tyler Ihrig gave up one earned run over six innings to pick up the win.
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.256) went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
- DH Cael Brockmeyer (.301) went 2-for-3 with a walk and two doubles (14).
- RHP Jasvir Rakkar (0.49) allowed a run in 1.1 innings of relief to earn his first save of the year.
Boise Hawks (17-17)
3rd Place (-5.0)
Visiting Everett scored five runs in the 10th inning to beat Boise, 13-8. The four-hour, 19-minute game was the longest at Memorial Stadium since 2004.
- C Daniel Canela (.288) went 3-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored.
- 1B Alex Tomasovich (.316) went 3-for-5 with a double (6) and three RBI (18). He has seven RBI over his last two games.
- SS Gleyber Torres (.417) went 4-for-5 with a triple (2) in just his third game with Boise this season.
Mesa Cubs (9-18)
5th Place (-10.0)
The Athletics scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning to beat visiting Mesa, 6-3.
- SS Varonex Cuevas (.325) went 2-for-4 with a first-inning, solo home run.
- CF Kevonte Mitchell (.293) went 2-for-4 with a run scored, a double (2) and two stolen bases (19).
- RHP Jeferson Mejia (2.48) struck out five while allowing a run over 4.1 innings of relief.
Jake Arrieta has been in this position before. Call it being the ace of the pitching staff. Call it being the Opening Day starter. Call it being the team leader. He was all that a couple of years ago with the Baltimore Orioles. And he’s all that again now with the Chicago Cubs.
A lot has happened in the intervening time, of course, including a trade from Baltimore to Chicago and some time in the minor leagues, as Arrieta attempted to add a little more polish and command to his outstanding pure stuff. It’s all led to a dramatic career renaissance that once again has Arrieta acting as the No. 1 starter on a big league pitching staff.
We sat down with Arrieta to talk about his career path and what’s changed this season. Pick up the September issue of Vine Line for the full cover story on Arrieta’s development.
Jorge Soler will make his first major league start Wednesday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs recalled outfielder Jorge Soler and infielder Logan Watkins from Triple-A Iowa Wednesday afternoon, placing outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney on the 15-day disabled list with left ankle inflammation and a left hamstring strain, respectively.
Soler, 22, was the organization’s No. 5 preseason prospect, according to Baseball America and ranked the No. 49 prospect in all of baseball prior to the season. The right-handed batter and thrower combined to hit .340/.432/.700 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 23 doubles, 15 home runs and 57 RBI in 200 at-bats over 62 games this season across three minor league levels.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound player started the 2014 season at Double-A Tennessee, where, despite being slowed by hamstring injuries, he batted .415/.494/.862 in 65 at-bats over 22 games to earn a promotion to Triple-A Iowa on July 24. In just more than a month with Iowa, Soler batted .282/.378/.618 with eight homers and 29 RBI in 32 games.
Soler originally signed a nine-year major league deal with the Cubs in June of 2012 out of Cuba. He entered the 2013 campaign ranked by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in the organization and batted .281 (59-for-210) with 13 doubles, eight homers and 35 RBI after being limited to 55 games with Single-A Daytona due to a left shin fracture. He was named to the World Team in the Futures Game that year (though he did not play due to injury) and recovered to participate in the Arizona Fall League with the Mesa Solar Sox, playing in 20 games.
Overall in 151 career minor league games, Soler has batted .307 (167-for-544) with 300 total bases, 108 runs scored, 43 doubles, three triples, 28 home runs, 117 RBI, a .383 on-base percentage, a .551 slugging percentage and a .934 OPS.
Watkins, who turns 25 on Friday, returns to the Cubs for his second stint this season. He hit .300 (3-for-10) with a double and three RBI in four games with the Cubs last week before being optioned back to Iowa after the game on Sunday. At Triple-A this season, he is batting .256 (83-for-324) with 21 doubles, four home runs and 38 RBI in 103 games. He was the organization’s 2012 Minor League Player of the Year.
Ruggiano, 32, is batting .281 (63-for-224) with 13 doubles, six home runs and 28 RBI in 81 games with the Cubs this season.
Sweeney, 29, is batting .251 (52-for-207) with nine doubles, three home runs and 20 RBI in 77 games.
Daytona battled back to secure a win, and Kane County set a franchise mark with its 88th victory Tuesday. The other four teams were in action, but each lost. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league games:
Iowa Cubs (69-70)
3rd Place (-4.0)
Iowa allowed five runs on 13 hits in a 5-3 loss to their host, the Tacoma Rainiers.
- LF Junior Lake (.318) finished 2-for-3 with two runs, a walk, a double (2), a homer, two RBI (6) and a stolen base from the leadoff spot. His two hits extended his hitting streak to eight games (.350/14-for-40).
- 3B Kris Bryant (.301) singled Lake in to put Iowa on the board in the first. His 109 RBI on the season (51 with Iowa) rank third in the minor leagues.
Tennessee Smokies (32-33)
T-1st Place (–)
Tennessee dropped its sixth-straight contest, a 6-5 comeback loss to visiting Jacksonville, to fall into a tie for first place.
- CF Albert Almora (.256) doubled (7) and tripled (2) in his second game with multiple extra-base hits in the last four.
- Five Smokies doubled in yesterday’s contest—Almora, SS-2B Anthony Giansanti (.237, 6 2B), 1B Lars Anderson (.330, 10 2B), C Charles Cutler (.313, 13 2B) and RF Rubi Silva (.257, 13 2B).
- RHP Blake Cooper (1.49, 5 H) and LHP Hunter Cervenka (3.90, 14 H) each recorded a hold before RHP Frank Batista (4-2, 1.70) allowed three runs (two earned) in the ninth, suffering his second blown save and second loss.
Daytona Cubs (38-26)
1st Place (+2.0)
The D-Cubs maintained their first-place lead with a comeback 6-5 win at Dunedin.
- RF Bijan Rademacher (.281) recorded all three Cubs extra-base hits, homering for the second-straight night, knocking two doubles (21) and driving in one (53).
- 3B Wes Darvill (.251) singled twice in his first multihit game since July 29 vs. Bradenton.
- SS Marco Hernandez (.270) also tallied two singles and knocked in two (51).
- RHP Stephen Perakslis (5-0, 4.03) earned his fifth win with 2.1 scoreless innings of relief.
- Perakslis was followed by RHP Zack Godley (3.69), who allowed one run over 1.2 frames for his seventh save.
Kane County Cougars (43-21)
1st Place (+3.0)
The Cougars tied a franchise record with their 88th win of the season, a 6-1 victory over host Burlington.
- RHP Duane Underwood pitched 5.1 innings, giving up one earned run, walking none and striking out four.
- DH Chesny Young (.337) recorded the lone multihit game for the Cougars, which included his sixth double.
- Each player in the Cougars’ starting nine recorded at least one hit. Five Cougars recorded a double—Young, 1B Jacob Rogers (.267, 26 2B), CF Trey Martin (.243, 15 2B), 3B Jeimer Candelario (.252, 18 2B) and LF Shawon Dunston (.272, 16 2B). Dunston drove in a team-high two runs (35).
- LHP Michael Heesch (2.43) and RHP Michael Wagner (2.68) combined for 3.2 innings of scoreless relief, striking out a combined five Bees.
Boise Hawks (16-16)
3rd Place (-5.0)
Everett overcame a 2-1 deficit with a three-run ninth in Boise, topping the Hawks, 4-2.
- DH Kevin Brown (.269) finished 2-for-4 with his second triple of the season and both Boise runs.
- RHP Joshua Conway did not factor into the decision, throwing three perfect innings before exiting the game.
- In relief, LHP Sam Wilson (5-1, 3.82) suffered the loss, recording three earned runs over two innings of work.
- RHP Daniel Lewis (0.90) allowed three inherited runners to score, suffering his first blown save despite a line of one scoreless inning.
Mesa Cubs (8-16)
5th Place (-8.5)
Mesa scored first, but surrendered a two-run lead to lose at the AZL Dodgers, 8-3.
- 2B Varonex Cuevas (.329) hit his third triple (3) in four games, adding a single and driving in one (5).
- CF Kevonte Mitchell (.292) also recorded his third triple, scoring one of Mesa’s three runs.
- RF Eloy Jimenez (.225, 3 SB) and SS Ho-young Son (.254, 12 SB) each stole a base despite both going hitless.
The following can be found in the August issue of Vine Line.
Playing football at Wrigley Field always presented its fair share of challenges. First, there were the shorter-than-regulation end zones and the wooden boards covering the Cubs’ dugout entrances. Add in the tilted field, mercilessly beaten-up turf, tiny locker rooms and other quirks, and the gameday experience was far from perfect.
But that didn’t stop the Chicago Bears, one of the most storied franchises in football history, from calling the Friendly Confines home for a half century. Legendary players, from Dick Butkus to Mike Ditka to Gale Sayers, all graced the field, and the Bears brought the beloved stadium its most recent championship in 1963. If anything, the now-100-year-old ballpark’s quirks only added to the lore.
Of course, the substandard field conditions didn’t faze Butkus. The rough and rugged Hall of Fame linebacker said he enjoyed playing at Wrigley Field more than at Soldier Field, where the Bears moved on a permanent basis in 1971, during the latter stages of his career.
The Bears legend recalled an episode during his rookie season in which he was sitting in the crowded clubhouse awaiting instructions on the next day’s opponent, but couldn’t hear a word coach George Halas was saying.
“I don’t know what the deal was, but all the veterans would bring their dogs to practice and have them in the room there,” Butkus said. “The old man’s trying to talk, and the dogs are barking, and I’m thinking, ‘Jesus.’ One had a pit bull. [Ed O’Bradovich] had a Great Dane. But to me, that was the pros.”
Welcome to football at Wrigley Field. It might not have been the ideal situation, but it was never dull.
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Back when football was first played at Weeghman Park—as the stadium on Clark and Addison was known at the time—it wasn’t really done with the fans in mind. Getting spectators into the stadium was obviously a priority, but the new sport was primarily concerned with finding its footing in the muddy ground of expansionism. Football games were played at Weeghman simply because teams needed a venue, and the park’s owners felt it would be a good way to make a little extra cash. The stadium was sitting dormant for half the year anyway.
But the baseball-first facility presented a number of challenges when it came to laying out a 100-yard football pitch without risking player safety—especially after the renovation that added an outfield wall and reshaped the bleachers in 1937.
The field ran north and south from left field to behind home plate. The north end zone ended just 18 inches in front of the solid brick left-field wall, while the southeast corner of the south end zone extended into the first-base dugout. To even out the surface, the grounds crew filled the dugout steps with sand. This also meant that corner of the end zone was smaller than the regulation 10 yards.
These hazards might sound ridiculous given the way the modern game is played, but according to Cubs historian Ed Hartig, there were hardly gifted wide receivers, let alone fade routes leading players into the corners of the end zones, during that era.
“Back then, it was supposed to be a running game,” Hartig said. “You didn’t run to the back of the end zone to make a catch. This is a time when the goalposts were still on the goal line.”
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In the ballpark’s early football days, it mainly drew high school, military and semipro squads. Sometimes as many as four games per day were scheduled on the field. Starting in 1919, independent teams like the Hammond All-Star Football Club, which signed a six-game lease, wanted to test the sport’s popularity in the city.
With a roster that included players like Olympic great Jim Thorpe and Northwestern standout Paddy Driscoll, the Hammond squad managed to draw upward of 10,000 fans at some games that season. The potential of the new sport sparked the interest of a few more Chicago-based teams and quickly led the Decatur Staleys to the city’s North Side.
In 1920, former University of Illinois standout George Halas was put in charge of a company football team funded by food starch conglomerate owner A.E. Staley. In his inaugural season at the helm, Halas came up from Decatur to play a few neutral-site games and then led his Staleys to a de facto championship game at Cubs Park, where the team battled the Akron Steel to a 0-0 tie in front of 12,000 fans.
Halas believed the game might have an audience in Chicago, and, coincidentally, Staley was looking for an out.
“After a couple years, Mr. Staley said, ‘We’re a starch company. We’re not a sports team,’” Hartig said. “‘I can’t keep supporting [the team]. I will for one more year, if you can get an opportunity to find your own supporters.’”
With the temporary backing of Staley, Halas took the team from central Illinois to the big city in 1921 and quickly found a home—albeit one with a field that fell a few yards shy of regulation. Halas reached out to Cubs President and Treasurer Bill Veeck Sr. about using Cubs Park.
The two sides reached a handshake one-year agreement in just minutes. The Cubs received 15 percent of the gate (20 percent when the receipts exceeded $10,000) and the concessions, while the Staleys retained all rights to the game programs. According to the coach’s autobiography, Halas by Halas, the deal would remain unchanged for the remainder of the partnership.
“The deal they got at Wrigley in terms of concessions and that type of stuff was very, very favorable to the team,” Hartig said. “The Wrigleys weren’t looking to make a big amount of money off the Bears.”
In conjunction with the move, the team was renamed the Chicago Staleys. One year later, with the contractual obligation completed between Staley and Halas, the new owner changed the moniker to the Chicago Bears, noting that his football players were larger than the Cubs baseball players with whom they shared the stadium.
The Bears would call Wrigley Field home for the next 50 years, enjoying seven NFL titles, franchise-defining superstars and incredible individual performances. The field conditions were rarely pristine due to the team’s heavy practice load—the grass was usually gone so the team would paint the playing surface green—but some former players wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Even though it was a baseball field, I just felt it was great playing there because that was the essence of being a pro,” said Butkus, who called Wrigley home from 1965-70. “A pro should be able to play at a prairie on the South Side if need be.”
Off the field, the locker rooms were also far from ideal. The Cubs clubhouse back then was a smaller version of the cramped quarters the North Siders call home today. But imagine that room with more people, bigger pads and larger human beings. Butkus joked the rooms were probably too small for a basketball team. Still, he believed it was a better situation than what the visiting teams had to deal with.
“I don’t think they were too happy with the field when they played here,” Butkus said. “I really don’t think the opposing team liked walking down from their locker room, with those screens there [and] with everybody yelling and throwing [stuff] at them.”
That’s home-field advantage at its Chicago best.
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Despite the stadium’s shortcomings, there was no shortage of great play on the field. One of the best individual performances in NFL history occurred at the Friendly Confines on Dec. 12, 1965, when Bears Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers tied an NFL record with six touchdowns in a single game. All day long, he wove in and out of a hapless 49ers defense that had a difficult time keeping its footing in the heavy mud.
“It was my game, it’s as simple as that,” Sayers said. “I’ve always said, and I’ll continue to say, ‘God gave me a gift to go out there and run with the football,’ and that’s what I did. I probably could have scored 10 touchdowns that day, but, hey, the time ran out. It’s just a day that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Another notable performance on the Wrigley Field turf occurred in December 1963, when the Bears—led by quarterback Billy Wade and standout tight end Mike Ditka—wrapped up the NFL championship with a 14-10 win over the Giants. It marked the last time a Chicago team claimed a title at Wrigley Field.
Eventually, as the game grew, football became too big for the cozy confines of a baseball stadium. Attendance continued to soar, and the small ballpark was unable to expand to meet demand. In 1970, it was announced that the next fall’s season would be the last at the facility. While Wrigley Field generally held slightly less than 37,000 fans for baseball, the Bears drew at least 40,000 to each of their final 56 games there, a stretch that began on Dec. 16, 1962.
“There are a couple of reasons why they left,” Hartig explained. “The NFL wanted bigger stadiums, and the park just couldn’t do it. In addition, the NFL … got more into television coverage. They wanted cameras in the end zone, and there wasn’t really room for it [at Wrigley Field]. And the end zone was dangerous.”
On May 13, 1971, the Bears announced Soldier Field would become the organization’s new home. The bigger stadium held 52,000 fans—8,000 more than Wrigley held at capacity—and was much more prepared for the NFL’s massive growth. Despite the new venue, it wasn’t a hit with all the players.
“I really enjoyed playing [at Wrigley Field]. I thought it was better than going to Soldier Field the first couple years,” said Butkus, who spent three seasons at the Bears’ current home. “They put in the damn Astroturf, and in the locker room over there, you can see the beams holding up the stadium. It was ready to cave in at any moment, it looked like.”
The Bears have long had a reputation as a gritty, smashmouth football team. And while Soldier Field is packed with its own history, much of the dirt and grit that defined the organization’s early years first manifested at the corner of Clark and Addison.
“I enjoyed playing here at Wrigley Field,” Sayers said. “I’ve always said it was 50 yards wide and 100 yards long, and that’s all I needed.”
Iowa pitching set a franchise record for shutouts in a win, Kane County got back on track, and Boise posted a shutout Monday. Tennessee and Daytona both lost, while Mesa had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (69-69)
3rd Place (-3.0)
Iowa pitching set a franchise record with its league-best 14th shutout in an 8-0 win over host Tacoma.
- RF Jorge Soler (.282) homered for the second time in as many games, a three-run shot in the third inning. Soler is 11-for-20 (.550) with 10 RBI over his five-game hitting streak, including 9-for-12 (.750) the last three games.
- 1B Jonathan Mota (.248) went 2-for-3 with his second homer of the season and first since April 26.
- DH Junior Lake (.293) singled twice and doubled (1) to extend his hitting streak to seven games (.324/12-for-37), dating back to his second game with Iowa on August 19.
- RHP Alberto Cabrera (4-2, 3.39) provided 4.2 scoreless innings of relief for his fourth win.
- Prior to the game, three 2014 Iowa Cubs were named to the All-PCL team: 2B Arismendy Alcantara, LHP Tsuyoshi Wada, and RHP Blake Parker.
Tennessee Smokies (32-32)
1st Place (+1.0)
Tennessee dropped its fifth-straight contest, a 2-1 home loss to Jacksonville.
- RHP C.J. Edwards fanned eight over five innings, giving up one earned run.
- LF Pin-Chieh Chen (.242) came off the bench to record the only Tennessee multihit game, his second such game in a row. Chen has hit safely in his last five games (.429/9-for-21).
- SS Anthony Giansanti (.230) tallied his 16th RBI despite going hitless for the second-straight game. It was the third time he has knocked in a run in a hitless effort.
- LHP Andrew McKirahan (0-3, 2.96) suffered his third loss, pitching two frames of relief and allowing the winning run.
Daytona Cubs (37-26)
1st Place (+2.0)
Daytona could not keep a five-game winning streak alive as the Cubs fell to host Dunedin, 8-7—after trailing 7-1 after five.
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (.275) tied a season high with seven total bases, blasting a solo homer in the fourth, adding his third triple of the year and knocking in two (35).
- LF Kyle Schwarber (.312) extended his hitting streak to 13 games (.440/22-for-50), going 1-for-4 with an RBI (28).
- LF Bijan Rademacher (.276) led off the ninth with a solo shot, finishing 2-for-4 with two RBI (52).
Kane County Cougars (42-21)
1st Place (+3.0)
Kane County took the lead in the top of the seventh with back-to-back blasts from DH Yasiel Balaguert and RF Jeffrey Baez, topping Burlington 8-3 on the road.
- Balaguert (.243) went 2-for-4 with two runs, a double (16) and two RBI (48). Baez (.276) finished with just the one hit, driving in his 14th run.
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.252) tallied three singles in his fourth multihit effort in the last six games.
- 1B Jacob Rogers (.266) went 2-for-4 with his team-leading 25th double and two RBI (67).
- RHP James Pugliese (4-0, 1.81) allowed an unearned run in the sixth, suffering a blown save (2) but earning his fourth win when the Cougars went ahead in the seventh.
- RHP Jasvir Rakkar (0.00) earned his first hold and extended his scoreless streak to 17.0 innings in 10 outings.
- Prior to the game, Cougars Manager Mark Johnson was named the 2014 Midwest League Manager of the Year.
Boise Hawks (16-15)
3rd Place (-5.0)
Boise shut out visiting Everett, winning 3-0 despite being outhit by the AquaSox, 8-5.
- RHP Trevor Clifton earned the win in his fourth quality start, delivering a season-high seven scoreless innings.
- The shutout was completed by RHP Ryan McNeil (9.64), who earned his first hold, and RHP Corbin Hoffner (1.35), who recorded the final four outs for his second save.
- 3B Jesse Hodges (.263) singled and doubled (11) for the only Boise multihit game. Four of the five Hawks hits were doubles—from Hodges, CF Rashad Crawford (.266, 12 2B), 1B Danny Canela (.282, 15 2B) and C Mark Malave (.273, 7 2B).