From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Signing Gaetti
Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. 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.
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 sixth part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
8/19/98 — Acquiring veteran Gary Gaetti
Veteran infielder Gary Gaetti made two All-Star appearances with Minnesota and amassed more than 2,000 hits in his career, but no one really knew what the 40-year-old had left in the tank when he was released by the Cardinals on Aug. 14, 2008. The answer: quite a bit.
Though the Cubs were initially unsure where they were going to insert Gaetti after they signed him as a free agent five days after he was released, they quickly found an everyday spot for him, and he delivered in a big way. The rejuvenated veteran hit .391/.467/.688 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 25 hits in his first 19 games with the North Siders during a vital second-half stretch.
“I’ve enjoyed it. I really have,” Gaetti told the Chicago Tribune in early September 1998. “It’s always different when you change teams, but coming to Wrigley and seeing how the guys interact in the clubhouse and how they go about their business on the field, it’s like old-time baseball.”
Gaetti recorded many timely hits, including a big two-run double to break an eighth-inning, one-all deadlock against the Astros in the final series of the season. His signature at-bat may be his key two-run home run in Game 163 that sparked the Cubs to a 5-3, playoff-clinching victory.