From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Part I

Even the biggest baseball fans can understand why outsiders occasionally find the game a little slow. Viewers have to love the chess match between pitcher and hitter, because the game moves at its own pace, runs without any sort of clock and even allows for pitchers who enter as reserves to warm up on the event’s time.

But 15 years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer—and not just in Chicago. Viewers around the country tuned in to WGN every day to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history.

Of course, Sosa’s historic assault on the record books probably had a lot to do with that. He and Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire blasted bombs at a dizzying pace all season long, which kept the nation’s eyes focused squarely on the NL Central. But while Sosa may have been the headliner on the North Side, the Cubs were an entertaining bunch from top to bottom.

Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.

The 1998 season brought an array of emotions to the Wrigley faithful: the sorrow of broadcasting legends lost, the frustration of late-season opportunities that slipped out of the team’s hands—or gloves—and the excitement of the postseason run. Plus, it was the coming out party for a 6-foot-5 “kid” from Texas who struck out 20 opposing batters in only his fifth major league start—and did it against one of the most prolific offenses in the NL. You just can’t make this stuff up.

To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the first part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

9-21-07-PIRATES@CUBS1676

(Photo by Stephen Green)

4/3/98—Dutchie Caray honors her late husband

It was an uplifting year at the Friendly Confines, despite the loss of two of the most legendary voices in Cubs history. On Feb. 11, 1998, broadcasting icon Harry Caray died of cardiac arrest. Then Jack Brickhouse, who did play-by-play for the Cubs from 1948–81, passed away six months later on Aug. 6.

The Cubs honored the late Caray during the home opener on April 3 by having his wife, Dutchie, sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch, just as her husband had done countless times. Before the top of the seventh ended and prior to Dutchie taking the mic, the crowd broke out in a chant of, “Harry! Harry!”

“It was unbelievable. The people just took over for me,” said Dutchie Caray at the time. “These fans are so crazy about Harry. I don’t know if they’ll ever forget him.”

Dutchie wrapped up the touching tribute by hugging Harry’s grandson Chip, who had taken over in the broadcast booth, while blue and white balloons were released to the strains of “Amazing Grace.”

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