Archive for the ‘ Alumni ’ Category

Cubs Convention to celebrate Wrigley’s 100th

CUBS-CONVENTION-STARLIN

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Don’t miss your first chance to meet new manager Rick Renteria and celebrate Wrigley Field’s upcoming 100th birthday at the 2014 Cubs Convention, Jan. 17-19, at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. Featured guests include the current Cubs roster, the new coaching staff, alumni and many top prospects. The 29th Annual Cubs Convention will also feature more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities, new activities and traditional favorites.

The convention’s Opening Ceremony begins Friday, Jan. 17, at 6 p.m., and will feature player introductions on a red carpet runway with special VIP access for children 16 and under. Following the Opening Ceremony, guests can search for some of their favorite Cubs and young prospects throughout the hotel in an exciting Autograph Hunt Game. The event’s first day concludes with a special movie premiere of MLB Productions’ 100 Years of Wrigley Field, followed by a “Cheers to 100 Years” toast at Sheraton Chicago’s Chi Bar hosted by Budweiser.

Saturday’s program continues with fan favorites such as the return of Cubs Family Feud and Cubs Jeopardy, which will feature unique trivia based on Wrigley Field’s 100 years of history and the addition of fan guests on each team. Saturday will also be fans first chance to meet manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff at the much-anticipated Meet the New Skipper session. The evening will conclude with a special 100 Years of Wrigley Field session, at which fans will get a sneak peek at some of the promotions planned for the centennial season, and long-time Convention favorite Cubs Bingo, presented by Budweiser and led by Wayne Messmer.

Additional weekend sessions (subject to change) include: The Ricketts Family Forum, Meet Cubs Baseball Management, Scouting and Player Development, Rookie Development Group, For Kids Only Press Conference presented by Advocate Health Care, 30-Year Anniversary: 1984 Team, WGN Radio Sports Central, Meet Cubs Business Management and Down on the Farm.

In addition to the sessions highlighted above, the Convention includes many new and returning activities throughout the weekend for fans:

  • Beginning at Cubs Convention and continuing through Spring Training and at each regular season home game, the Cubs will unveil and pay tribute to 100 Great Times in Wrigley Field history presented by Budweiser. One will be unveiled each day at Cubs Convention, and fans will be able to follow these unveilings via social media.
  • A new autograph system will be integrated this year, which will include the opportunity for fans to have a meet-and-greet with marquee players through a donation to Cubs Charities.
  • Fans can visit a dedicated social media lounge, featuring giveaways, charging stations, an interactive screen and special guest Twitter takeovers throughout the weekend.
  • Walgreens Field is a miniature turf diamond that gives kids a fun place to play pick-up wiffle ball games or participate in professional instructional clinics as part of the Baseball Interactive Zone. Cubs players and coaches will pair up with Illinois Baseball Academy instructors to conduct a series of training opportunities for kids of all ages throughout the weekend.
  • Enhanced this year with a radar gun, MLB Network’s Strike Zone allows fans to test their arm speed and win prizes at an inflatable speed pitch.
  • A dedicated Kids’ Corner will host face painting, caricatures, balloon artists and a coloring station with a weekend-long coloring contest. Winners will be selected Sunday morning.
  • The Blue Bunny Bucket Toss gives kids a chance to win ice cream prizes in a fun bucket toss game.
  • The Cubbie Closet gives kids a chance to dress up like a big leaguer in complete, full-size uniforms for a fun photo opportunity.
  • A variety of Cubs memorabilia will be available for sale or auction from Cubs Authentics, Cubs Charities and a selection of third party vendors.

Room packages at the Sheraton Chicago and individual weekend passes for the 2014 Cubs Convention are still available. Cubs Convention room rates include passes at a discounted price of $20, or passes can be purchased individually for $60 per pass plus convenience fees at www.cubs.com/convention or 1-800-THE-CUBS. Guests can visit the Cubs Convention page for more information and the most up-to-date list of confirmed players, coaches and alumni.

Due to high demand of parking at the Sheraton Chicago during Cubs Convention weekend and the cost of parking downtown, a limited number of parking spots will be available at Wrigley Field for the duration of the weekend on a first-come, first-serve basis. These print-at-home parking vouchers are available at www.cubs.com/convention for $25 for the entire weekend, beginning Friday at 3 p.m. until Sunday at 3 p.m. Please note transportation from Wrigley Field to the Sheraton Chicago will be the responsibility of the attendee.

A percentage of the proceeds from the Cubs Convention benefits Cubs Charities. To date, the Cubs Convention has raised approximately $4 million for the Cubs’ charitable arm.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Banks and Baker, Game Changers

Banks-Baker

(National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Every year, MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson’s 1947 breaking of the color barrier, but the Cubs organization made some history of its own six years later.

Sept. 22, 1953, marks the 60th anniversary of the day the North Siders fielded baseball’s first African-American double play combo: shortstop Ernie Banks and second baseman Gene Baker. Though Robinson and others had already integrated the game, racism was still rampant throughout the country, keeping many qualified African-American players out of the big leagues. The talented Baker, who played eight seasons for the Cubs and Pirates and made the 1955 NL All-Star team, was a victim of this prejudice.

Baker signed with the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1950, but despite three-plus successful seasons in the minors, owner P.K. Wrigley opted to wait to bring Baker up until the team acquired another major league-ready African-American player. Wrigley figured because the two could stay in the same hotel rooms and eat at the same places, it would reduce the pressure on them.

On Sept. 8, the Cubs purchased the contract of 22-year-old shortstop Banks from the Kansas City Monarchs. He made his major league debut on Sept. 17, and Baker made his three days later as a pinch-hitter. Then, on Sept. 22, the duo made big league history when Banks started at shortstop and Baker moved over to second base.

—Phil Barnes

1000 Words: Ryno is coming home

Ryno

(Photo by Stephen Green)

The last time Ryne Sandberg was in the Wrigley Field dugout as a visitor was in 1981 when he was a rookie with the Philadelphia Phillies. On Friday afternoon, he’ll return as the Phillies’ manager, when the Cubs open a three-game set with Philadelphia on Friday. Sandberg spent 15 years in Cubbie blue during his Hall of Fame career. He went to 10 All-Star games, won nine Gold Gloves and was the 1984 NL MVP.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Q&A with Dave Otto

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Every month, Vine Line checks in with Cubs alumni in our Glory Days section. For the August issue, we caught up with former pitcher and broadcaster Dave Otto. The lanky left-hander, who pitched eight major league seasons, had the good fortune to finish his career playing for his hometown Cubs. The father of three grew up in Elk Grove, Ill., and now lives in the western Chicago suburbs. When his boyhood hero Ron Santo became ill and needed a day off from time to time, Otto was there to handle the mic as color commentator for WGN Radio. Though he’s out of baseball now, Otto hopes to get back into uniform someday as a coach.

CAREER ASPIRATIONS
“I work for Best Transportation Services, a small transportation company in Chicago, as director of sales and marketing. But there’s a point down the road where I’ll probably get back down on the field as a coach. I had a lot of great pitching coaches—Dave Duncan and Ray Miller. So I’d like to pass on some of that. The game gets in your blood.”

FAMILIAR CONFINES
“The first time I walked into Wrigley was probably 1968 or ’69. I have a vague memory of it, but the place is timeless. I used to go with my grandma for Ladies’ Day. As a player, there were times where I’d look out and remember where I used to sit as a kid. That was kind of cool.”

IDOL REFERENCES
“I was left-handed and I didn’t play third base, but Ron Santo was somebody I just loved to watch. He was such a bulldog. I tried to emulate Ken Holtzman. He had that big curveball and turned his back to the hitter. I tried to hide the ball real well like that.”

BULLPEN CRASHER
“I was in minor league camp during Spring Training after I signed with the Cubs. The big league team would call over a couple of extra pitchers just in case the guys scheduled to pitch couldn’t fill out their innings. A couple of times, I’d just go over to HoHoKam. Yosh [Kawano, the clubhouse manager] would give me a uniform, and I’d just show up to practice there. I remember one time manager Tom Trebelhorn said, ‘Hey, we don’t have you scheduled here.’ And I said, ‘Somebody over there told me you wanted me over here.’ And so I’d sit in the bullpen, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t get into the game. That happened twice!”

JORDAN RULES
“I started the year off in Triple-A. They flew me in for an exhibition game against the White Sox at Wrigley, and then I flew back to Des Moines. So I gave up a hit to Michael Jordan. He hit a fastball. I didn’t want to walk him. He also got a hit off of Chuck Crim, so I wasn’t the only one.”

WILD SEASON
“On my first day as a Cub, Trebelhorn was having a firehouse chat after the game with fans. A week after that, they showed up with a billy goat that they were walking around on the field. Then Ryne Sandberg retired in the middle of the season. We were getting on a flight to the West Coast while he was holding a press conference. And the whole O.J. Simpson thing was going down then too. Crazy year.”

Happy Birthday: Ernie Banks turns 82

Banks10

Hall of Famer Ernie Banks turned 82 years old Thursday. Mr. Cub played 19 seasons with the Cubs, accumulating MVP awards in 1958-59, racking up 11 All-Star trips and a Gold Glove in 1960. Banks was a career .274 hitter and was the ninth member to join the 500 home run club, finishing with 512. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, earning 83.8 percent of the votes on his first attempt.

Cubs Caravan is on the move

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Chicago Cubs have announced the Cubs On The Move 2013 Caravan Tour, which includes the winners of the 2013 Cubs Caravan Visits My School Contest. The annual tour will feature two buses of players, coaches and front office personnel.

This year’s Caravan theme, Cubs On The Move, reflects the Cubs’ and Chicago Cubs Charities’ focus on health and fitness.

The tour will visit six schools, four hospitals and the Chicago Public Library on January 16 and 17. New stops this year include the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine base, where Cubs players, coaches and front office staff will serve lunch to active duty military and veterans in partnership with the USO. The Caravan will also stop at the new Cubs Single-A affiliate Kane County Cougars’ ballpark and the Museum of Science and Industry.

Two lucky schools were selected as winners of the Cubs Caravan Visits My School Contest this year: Montini Catholic High School and DeWitt Clinton Elementary School. Montini Catholic (Lombard, Ill.) was selected as a contest winner for proudly displaying team memorabilia throughout the school. DeWitt Clinton Elementary School (Chicago) was selected for integrating Cubs baseball into their teaching curriculum and for their commitment to fitness initiatives.

Attendees (subject to change) include: David Bell, Joe Bohringer, Mike Borzello, Michael Bowden, Randy Bush, Shawn Camp, Tony Campana, Steve Clevenger, Rob Deer, David DeJesus, Jim Deshaies, Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Len Kasper, Andy Lane, Dave McKay, Jason McLeod, Keith Moreland, Jamie Quirk, Shiraz Rehman, Anthony Rizzo, James Rowson, James Russell, Dave Sappelt, Lester Strode and Dale Sveum.

CUBS ON THE MOVE 2013 CARAVAN ITINERARIES
TOUR ONE
January 16
9 a.m. – Montini Catholic High School – Lombard, IL
11 a.m. – 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, 3034 W. Foster Ave. – Chicago (Cubs Caravan Luncheon)
12:15 p.m. – Advocate Christ Medical Center – Oak Lawn, IL (Two players)
1 p.m. – DeWitt Clinton Elementary School – Chicago
2:15 p.m. – Museum of Science and Industry – Chicago

January 17
10 a.m. – Fox Chase Elementary School – Oswego, IL
11:15 a.m. – Kane County Cougars – Geneva, IL
2 p.m. – Advocate Lutheran General Hospital – Park Ridge, IL
4 p.m. – Urban Initiatives at Jahn World Language Elementary School – Chicago

TOUR TWO
January 16
9:15 a.m. – Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago – Chicago
11 a.m. – 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, 3034 W. Foster Ave. – Chicago (Cubs Caravan Luncheon)
2 p.m. – Battalion 9 Fire House – Chicago
3:45 p.m. – Chicago Public Library: Merlo Branch – Chicago

January 17
9:30 a.m. – Lake View High School – Chicago
11 a.m. – D’Agostino’s Pizza with Blaine Elementary School – Chicago
3 p.m. – John Spry Elementary School – Chicago
3:30 p.m. – Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago/Ronald McDonald House – Chicago

Former Cubs come up short on Hall of Fame ballot

SOSA S

(Photo by Stephen Green)

In a Hall of Fame vote filled with as much drama as checking off a name can produce, not one of the 37 eligible participants received enough votes to earn a Hall call. This is only the second time in four decades, and the first time since 1996, Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters failed to elect any candidates.

The 2013 ballot was headlined by controversial superstars—including baseball’s only seven-time MVP Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens—but it was former Astros catcher/second baseman Craig Biggio who led all candidates with 68.2 percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility. Players must receive at least 75 percent of the vote to earn enshrinement.

While nobody got into Cooperstown by this vote, there was no shortage of former Cubs on the ballot. Lee Smith spent eight seasons on the North Side from 1980-87, compiling 180 saves. In his 11th year of eligibility, he earned 47.8 percent of the vote. Fred McGriff, who spent time with the Cubs in 2001-02, earned 20.7 percent of the vote. And, most notably, former slugger Sammy Sosa, owner of 609 career home runs (545 with the Cubs), received just 12.5 percent of the vote in his first season of eligibility. Though the total is small, it’s well above the 5 percent necessary to remain on the ballot.

Below is a list of former Cubs and the percentage of votes they received on the 2013 BBWAA ballot:

Lee Smith — 272 votes, 47.8 percent, eleventh year on ballot
Fred McGriff — 118 votes, 18.6 percent, fourth year on ballot
Sammy Sosa — 71 votes, 12.5 percent, first year on ballot
Rafael Palmeiro — 50 votes, 8.8 percent, third year on ballot
Kenny Lofton — 18 votes, 3.2 percent, first year on ballot (did not receive enough votes for 2014 ballot)
Todd Walker — 0 votes, 0 percent, first year on ballot (did not receive enough votes for 2014 ballot)
Rondell White — 0 votes, 0 percent, first year on ballot (did not receive enough votes for 2014 ballot)

Woody’s Winter Warm-Up tickets on sale now

Woody's-Winter-Warm-Up

(Art by Jerry Neumann)

Kerry Wood has spent most of his adult life honing his craft as a major league pitcher. So excuse him if he’s not a world-class bartender.

On Jan. 18, you’ll get your chance to see him in action and critique his skills as he slings drinks at the second annual Woody’s Winter Warm-Up at Harry Caray’s Tavern on Navy Pier. Starting at 8:30 p.m., Wood will join former and current Cubs players, as well as local celebrities, behind the bar, where they will compete for tips with all proceeds benefitting the Wood Family Foundation. Wood said the event is a good time, and current players like Darwin Barney, Jeff Samardzija and James Russell are expected to attend.

“People want to give back and do it for a good cause,” Wood said. “Last year … people got really into it, and it was really cool.”

At the inaugural mixer in 2012, the Grammy-nominated band Plain White T’s performed. They even got a little help from former Cub Randy Wells and baseball president Theo Epstein on a few songs. The event raised more than $85,000, thanks to about 30 current and former players, who pitched in behind the bar or simply enjoyed the evening.

But don’t count on Wood to make you the best Old-Fashioned or dirty martini of your life, as he admits this probably won’t be a new career path.

“I’m really good at taking the tops of beers off with the opener,” Wood joked. “I pour a mean glass of wine, but I’m not a mixologist.”

Tickets are on sale now and in limited supply. For more information, visit woodfamilyfoundation.org.

On This Date in 2001: Moises Alou joins the Cubs

ALOU M

(Photo by Stephen Green)

On this date in 2001, the Cubs came to terms with corner outfielder Moises Alou on a three-year deal worth $27 million.

Alou had three solid seasons on the North Side, including a 2004 All-Star campaign, in which he hit .293/.361/.557 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 39 homers, 36 doubles and 106 driven in. The slugger’s 335 total bases were good for fourth in the NL that year, and he finished 14th in MVP voting.

In his three seasons with the Cubs, the veteran hit .283 with 76 homers, 258 RBI, 94 doubles and a .353 on-base percentage. In his first year with the organization, Alou had the highest fielding percentage among NL left fielders. He was granted free agency in November 2004 and signed with the Giants in January 2005.

Despite his success on the field, many best remember Alou for his involvement in the Steve Bartman incident. In Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, Bartman, a fan, reached over onto the field, preventing the left fielder from making the catch.

1000 Words: 25 years ago this month

What year is it? The October 1987 cover of Vine Line featured Cubs outfielder and eventual NL MVP Andre Dawson. In his first season with the Cubs, the Hawk hit .287/.328/.568 (AVG/OBP/SLG), and led the NL in home runs (49) and RBI (137). He also won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger.

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