Mark Grace led the 1990s in both hits and doubles. (Getty Images)
The 1990s at Wrigley Field featured some of the most memorable moments in franchise history. Mark Grace was a hit machine, Sammy Sosa bashed his way into MLB history, and the young Kerry Wood made his heralded rookie debut during the decade. The Cubs will celebrate the 1990s at Wrigley Field when they host a six-game homestand against the Giants and Orioles from August 19-24. The team’s throwback uniform, promotional giveaways, specialty concessions and entertainment will all mirror the sights and sounds of the 1990s as part of the season-long celebration of the ballpark’s 100th birthday.
The Cubs’ promotional schedule includes four giveaway items: a Cubs Floppy Hat, a Kerry Wood 20-Strikeout Bobblehead, a Wrigley Field Tote Bag and a ’90s Throwback Gracie the Swan Beanie Baby. The team will host two special events, offering fans a chance to attend a game with others who share the same interests along with an exclusive promotional item and fan experience. This homestand, the Cubs will host the team’s first ever Star Wars Night on Wednesday, Aug. 20, and their annual Social Media Night on Thursday, Aug. 21.
To help Wrigley Field continue its season-long centennial celebration, rock band O.A.R. will perform an Extra Innings Show as part of a free music event presented by Budweiser. The event will take place Saturday, Aug. 23, from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. in the Red and Purple Lots on the west side of Wrigley Field. O.A.R. will take the stage for a 90-minute postgame set immediately following the conclusion of the Cubs’ afternoon game against the Orioles. Other live entertainment will be available throughout the day. Vienna Beef hot dogs, snacks and Anheuser-Busch products, as well as O.A.R. merchandise, will be available for purchase during the event.
Special Event tickets for Star Wars Night and Social Media Night can be purchased at cubs.com/specialevents.
On Sunday, Aug. 24, the Cubs will wear a popular throwback alternate uniform from 1994 with “Cubs” written in red script across the front of the jersey. The visiting Orioles will wear a throwback road uniform from 1994 as well.
Fans coming to the ballpark will have the chance to collect promotional items throughout the homestand, beginning with a Cubs Floppy Hat, for the first 10,000 fans Tuesday, Aug. 19. On Friday, Aug. 22, the first 10,000 adults 21-and-over will receive a Kerry Wood 20-strikeout Bobblehead. On Saturday, Aug. 23, the first 10,000 fans will receive a Wrigley Field Tote Bag. On Sunday, Aug. 24, the first 5,000 children 13-and-under will receive a ’90s Throwback Gracie the Swan Beanie Baby.
The Cubs will host their first-ever Star Wars Night on Wednesday, Aug. 20. Fans can enjoy a night of baseball and intergalactic fun in the Budweiser Bleachers, Terrace Reserved Outfield or Upper Deck Box Outfield. Every ticket holder for this special event will receive an exclusive Jedi Rizzo bobblehead, with a portion of proceeds going to the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation.
On Thursday, Aug. 21, Social Media Night attendees will receive an exclusive #WrigleyField100 shirt and access to an interactive pregame filming of Comcast SportsNet’s Sports Talk Live at Wrigley Field’s Captain Morgan Club. One attendee will be selected to throw a first pitch before the night’s game (must be present for the drawing). Other exciting prizes, such as game-used and autographed memorabilia, merchandise and gift cards, will be available throughout the evening.
Additionally, during the night’s game, the team will rely exclusively on fan-generated images from selected Social Media Night attendees to populate the club’s social media channels, including photos and videos of the evening’s ceremonial first pitches, the seventh-inning stretch from the broadcast booth and other in-game content. Beginning Aug. 21 and continuing throughout the season, fans can submit images to a dedicated firstname.lastname@example.org email account or by using the #CubsSocial hashtag for publishing consideration on Cubs social media accounts. Fans submitting images via email can include their social media profiles in the note to receive a photo credit in the post.
Specialty Food Offerings:
Levy Restaurants continues its decade-inspired menu at the Decade Diner, located inside Gate D near Section 142. The 1990s homestand features Kraft beef tacos with rice and beans. The tacos are made with seasoned ground beef topped with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, shredded Kraft Cheese and sour cream. Fans can also try the Salmon Burger, which is a house made salmon burger on a toasted sesame bun served with avocado, candied red onion and herb aioli.
The Decade Dogs stand near Section 123 is serving the 1990s Bagel Dog—a Vienna Beef hot dog wrapped in a warm bagel with deli mustard.
Adults 21-and-over can enjoy a Home Run Hop. This Dominican-inspired cocktail is made with island flavors, including Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Meyers Silver Rum, pineapple juice and coconut water.
Wrigley Field witnessed several noteworthy events in the 1990s, including Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game, the unveiling of the Harry Caray statue and the addition of Jack Brickhouse’s “Hey, Hey” to the Wrigley Field foul poles.
On July 9, 1990, Ryne Sandberg won the Home Run Derby on a warm summer night at Wrigley Field. The next day, Wrigley Field hosted the All-Star Game for the third time as the American League defeated the National League, 2-0. That same year, after Greg Maddux had gone 13 starts without a win, manager Don Zimmer promised to swim across Lake Michigan if Maddux won his next game at Wrigley Field. Maddux delivered with a 4-2 victory over the Padres.
Though Zimmer showed up to the postgame news conference in a life jacket and sunglasses, he declined to make the 60-mile swim, claiming he “swims like a rock.”
On Opening Day in 1994, Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes hit home runs in three consecutive at-bats off the Mets’ Doc Gooden to become just the second player in major league history to hit three home runs on Opening Day.
On April 7, 1994, Michael Jordan made his Chicago baseball debut, playing for the White Sox and going 2-for-4 with two RBI in the Windy City Classic. The exhibition game ended in a 4-4 tie after 10 innings.
In 1997, Juniper bushes were added to the center field batter’s eye, replacing several rows of empty, deteriorating bleachers.
On May 6, 1998, in one of the most dominant pitching performances in big league history, 20-year-old Kerry Wood struck out 20 batters to tie a record and beat the Astros, 2-0, in his fifth start. Wood allowed just one hit—an infield single. That year, Wood earned the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
On June 5, 1998, the Cubs and White Sox played their first Interleague game at Wrigley Field. The Cubs won on a Brant Brown home run in extra innings and completed a sweep of the Sox two days later.
On June 30, 1998, Sammy Sosa hit his 20th home run of June against the Arizona Diamondbacks, earning Player of the Month honors and setting a major league record for home runs in a month.
In 1998, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire staged a memorable home run chase, culminating with Sosa earning the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
On Sept. 28, 1998, the Cubs went head to head with the San Francisco Giants in a Wild Card Tiebreaker Game. Steve Trachsel pitched a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and the Cubs beat the Giants 5-3 to claim the National League Wild Card spot on a Gary Gaetti home run.
On April 12, 1999, the Cubs unveiled a statue of Harry Caray at the corner of Sheffield and Addison and added Jack Brickhouse’s iconic “Hey, Hey” to the Wrigley Field foul poles.
Finally, On Sept. 25, 1999, the Cubs honored their All-Century team before a matchup against the Pirates. Twenty players and one manager were elected by fan balloting. That same year, Mark Grace went 2-for-4 in the final home game of 1999, finishing the decade as the major league leader in hits (1,754) and doubles (364).
O.A.R. performing during the 2006 MLB All-Star Game. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
To help Wrigley Field continue its season-long centennial celebration, the Cubs will host rock band O.A.R. for a postgame Extra Innings Show on Saturday, Aug. 23.
The free show will take place from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. in the Red and Purple Lots due west of Wrigley Field, with O.A.R. taking the stage immediately following the end of the Cubs’ afternoon matchup with the Orioles.
This summer, O.A.R released their eighth studio album, The Rockville LP, and recently played at the 2014 All-Star game in Minneapolis. They are known for hits including “Love and Memories,” “Lay Down” and a Friendly Confines favorite, “This Town,” a track played as the Cubs are introduced before every home game this season.
Fans will also have the chance to enjoy live entertainment starting at 11 a.m. until the beginning of the game, and after O.A.R.’s postgame set.
Available for purchase during the performance will be ballpark food and beverage options, including Vienna Beef hot dogs, snacks and Anheuser-Busch products, as well as O.A.R. merchandise.
The event is free to the general public and limited to a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, please visit cubs.com.
(Photo by Marilyn Indahl/Getty)
After making the postseason with a young and talented nucleus in 2013, the Rays got off to a terrible start this year before rebounding around the trade deadline. But even with their improved play of late, they still sit four games under .500 and 10 games back in the AL East entering the series with the Cubs. A combination of injuries, underperformance, and plain old bad luck has left Tampa Bay looking more like the team that was consistently among the worst in the game for a decade than the last few seasons’ perennial playoff contenders. However, unlike previous struggling Tampa teams, the 2014 Rays had actual assets to sell off at the deadline. The Rays rotation took a big hit last month when the team moved longtime ace and former Cy Young winner David Price to Detroit.
(3.9 RA/G, 5TH IN AL)
The Rays’ real strength this season lies on the mound. Things haven’t gone as expected, but with a core of former Cub, and Friday starter, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb (Saturday) and Jake Odorizzi (Sunday), the future of the pitching staff appears sound. Add to that a healthy Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and there is plenty of hope for the Rays to bounce back strong in 2015. Grant Balfour’s struggles in the closer role have just added to the list of things that haven’t gone right for Tampa Bay in 2014. Jake McGee has recently taken over that role.
(3.9 RS/G, 12TH IN AL)
Tampa Bay’s offense has never been a world beater, but this year it has been particularly poor. Wil Myers has been hurt, but even when healthy, he hasn’t lived up to the hype that accompanies being a reigning Rookie of the Year. And Desmond Jennings is in the same boat. For some reason, the Rays consistently struggle to develop their own hitters. Perennial MVP candidate Evan Longoria has proven to be the exception to that rule, but even he has been unspectacular this year. Ben Zobrist has provided his valuable versatility in the field along with a solid hit tool, and Matt Joyce has been one of the Rays’ best offensive weapons. James Loney continues to hit better with Tampa than he did with the Dodgers, but the Rays’ offense is still something less than formidable.
The first night game at Wrigley Field on Aug. 8, 1988. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The 1980s brought Ryno, Dawson, the Boys of Zim and the first night game at historic Wrigley Field. Starting Friday, Aug. 8, the Cubs welcome the Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers to town for a 1980s-themed celebration. Fans can relive the decade along with Jody Davis, Bill Bonham, Fergie Jenkins and many more.
Here are the other guests and promotions you’ll find at the Friendly Confines during the seven-game set.
1980s Homestand Recap, August 8-14
Friday, Aug. 8, Chicago Cubs vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 3:05 p.m.
- Promotion: First Night Game Bobblehead presented by Las Vegas (first 10,000 fans)
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Jody Davis, former Cubs catcher
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Saturday, Aug. 9, Chicago Cubs vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 3:05 p.m.
- Promotion: Cubs Retro Headphones presented by Athletico (first 10,000 fans)
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Digger Phelps, former Notre Dame men’s basketball coach and retired ESPN college basketball analyst
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Sunday, Aug. 10, Chicago Cubs vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 1:20 p.m.
- Promotion: ‘80s Throwback Cubs Rubik’s Cube presented by Comcast SportsNet (first 5,000 kids 13-and-under)
- First pitch: Bill Bonham, former Cubs pitcher
- Seventh-inning stretch: TBD
- Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Monday, Aug. 11, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m.
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Fergie Jenkins, Hall of Fame Cubs pitcher
- Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
Tuesday, Aug. 12, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m.
- Special Event: Cubs Scout Night
- First pitch: Willy Roy, two-time champion Chicago Sting coach
- Seventh-inning stretch: Members of the Chicago Sting 1981 championship team
- Military recognition: U.S. Navy Leap Frogs
- Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
Wednesday, Aug. 13, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m.
- Throwback uniforms: Retro 1988 home uniform
- Special Event: ‘80s Rock Night/Zubazpalooza 2
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Steve Trout, former Cubs pitcher
- Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
Thursday, Aug. 14, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 1:20 p.m.
- Promotion: Cubs Fathead presented by Pepsi (first 10,000 fans)
- First pitches: Miss Illinois, Marisa Buchheit, and actor Joel Murray
- Seventh-inning stretch: Joel Murray, actor
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
For more information on Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday celebration, please visit www.wrigleyfield100.com.
Ryne Sandberg was a staple for the Cubs in the 1980s. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The 1980s in Wrigleyville will be remembered for Ryne Sandberg’s elite play, the start of Greg Maddux’s Hall of Fame career, a pair of postseason appearances and, maybe most notably, the introduction of night games at Wrigley Field. During the upcoming seven-game homestand against Tampa Bay and Milwaukee, the Cubs will honor the ’80s with throwback uniforms, giveaways and promotional concessions as part of the season-long celebration of the ballpark’s 100th birthday.
The Cubs’ promotional schedule includes four giveaway items, including a light-up bobblehead commemorating Wrigley Field’s first night game, plus two special events that offer fans a chance to attend a game with others who share similar interests. The team will host Cubs Scout Night in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America Chicago Area Council, as well as ’80s Rock Night/Zubazpalooza 2 featuring Zubaz pants for guests and opportunities for prizes from iconic rock bands KISS and Def Leppard.
On Sunday, Aug. 10, the Cubs will wear a throwback uniform from 1988, which was the year the team first played under the lights at Wrigley Field. The visiting Rays have developed a retro-inspired road uniform to participate in the throwback day as well.
Fans coming to the ballpark will have the chance to collect unique promotional items throughout the homestand, beginning with an impressive First Night Game Bobblehead with working lights for the first 10,000 fans Friday, Aug. 8. On Saturday, Aug. 9, the first 10,000 fans will receive Cubs Retro Headphones. On Sunday, Aug. 10, the first 5,000 kids 13-and-under will receive an ’80s Throwback Cubs Rubik’s Cube. The first 10,000 fans in the park Thursday, Aug. 14, will receive a Cubs Fathead.
The Cubs have collaborated with the Boy Scouts of America Chicago Area Council to host Cubs Scout Night Tuesday, Aug. 12, for Scouts, family and friends. Attendees will receive a commemorative Cubs-themed Scout patch, and $3 per each ticket sold will be donated back to the Boy Scouts of America Chicago Area Council.
On Wednesday, Aug. 13, ’80s Rock Night/Zubazpalooza 2 attendees will receive a pair of Cubs Zubaz pants featuring Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday logo. Thanks to a collaboration with rock bands KISS and Def Leppard, up to 100 attendees can win a pair of tickets to one of two local shows—August 15 at Alpine Valley Music Theatre and August 16 at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre—if they attend the game wearing KISS makeup or Def Leppard branded clothing (spiked apparel not permitted). Attendees may also win one of dozens of prizes including KISS and Def Leppard CDs, MLB-licensed T-shirts or concert tickets. Tickets for both concerts are still available for purchase.
Specialty Food Offerings:
Levy Restaurants continues its decade-inspired menu at the Decade Diner, located inside Gate D near Section 142. The 1980s homestand features a Sloppy Joe topped with Kraft Cheese served on a toasted bun. Fans can also try the Blackened Tilapia Po’ Boy, which includes blackened tilapia seasoned with Cajun spices and served on a toasted hoagie roll with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and Cajun aioli.
The Decade Dogs stand near Section 123 is serving the 1980s Nacho Dog; a Vienna Beef hot dog topped with tortilla strips, nacho cheese, salsa and pickled jalapenos.
Adults 21-and-over can enjoy an Electric Ryno Margarita. The cocktail features Don Julio Tequila, Blue Curacao, lime juice and agave nectar, served with a light-up straw.
Wrigley Field witnessed several noteworthy baseball events during the 1980s, including the Tribune Company’s purchase of the team and Wrigley Field, the installation of lights and the retirement of two Hall of Famers’ uniform numbers.
In 1981, the Tribune Company announced the purchase of the team from William Wrigley and 800 stockholders for $20.5 million. Three months after the sale, the Tribune went on to purchase Wrigley Field for a reported $600,000.
That same year, the Chicago Sting of the North American Soccer League beat the Cosmos, 6-5, before 30,501 fans, the largest crowd at Wrigley Field that year aside from the Cubs’ home opener. Later that year, Jack Brickhouse made his final Wrigley Field broadcast as the regular play-by-play announcer.
On April 9, 1982, Harry Caray led the Wrigley Field faithful in his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the first time. Four months later, fans packed Wrigley Field as uniform No. 14 was retired in honor of Mr. Cub, Hall of Famer Ernie Banks.
On June 23, 1984, in what is now known as the Sandberg Game, Ryne Sandberg hit two game-tying home runs off Bruce Sutter as the Cubs beat St. Louis, 12-11, at Wrigley Field. Later that year, Wrigley Field hosted its first postseason game in 39 years as the Cubs beat San Diego, 13-0, in the first game of the National League Championship Series.
On Aug. 13, 1987, uniform No. 26 was retired in honor of Cubs Hall of Famer Sweet Swinging Billy Williams.
On Aug. 8, 1988, night baseball came to Wrigley Field for the first time as the Cubs played the Philadelphia Phillies under the lights. Rick Sutcliffe made the start for Chicago, but the game was called in the fourth inning due to rain, resulting in the first official game being played one day later (a 6-4 win over the Mets). In September of that same year, Ronald Reagan visited Harry Caray for an inning in the booth at Wrigley Field.
To learn more about these historic moments and others, visit wrigleyfield100.com.
General tickets for the Rays and Brewers series remain available at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).
Last month, the Cubs kicked off the annual trade deadline frenzy with some big Fourth of July fireworks, sending starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics for infielder Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, right-handed pitcher Dan Straily and a player to be named later.
In some ways, the trade was difficult for Cubs fans to stomach, as they lost two of the top pitchers from a team that was suddenly looking, dare I say, formidable. But it might also be the move that finally puts the team over the hump and on the path to sustained excellence at the big league level.
In exchange for a right-hander who was only under contract through 2014 (Hammel) and another under contract through 2015 and seemingly eager to test the free agent waters (Samardzija), the Cubs received the A’s top two prospects, including one of the best in the game, and an arm that could see time in the big league rotation this season.
No one likes trading proven talent, especially a longtime Cub like Samardzija. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein made it clear several times in his press conference following the blockbuster deal how hard it was to part ways with the Shark.
“Nothing would make us happier than being in the position Oakland is in, which is to aggressively add to the big league team and enhance the team’s chances of making the postseason and winning the World Series,” Epstein said. “Being sellers is not what we want to do, so if we’re going to do it, we need to make it count. And we need to get a player back who significantly impacts the organization, helps change the landscape, helps make our future a heck of a lot better.”
In the past, Epstein has said there are two great currencies in baseball: deep reserves of young talent and massive amounts of payroll flexibility. The Cubs now have both.
Admittedly, most of this talent is still percolating in the minor leagues, but it’s coming fast. A year ago, it was the Big Three: Albert Almora, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler. This year—thanks to strong trades, draft picks and development—the Cubs have a Magnificent Seven of gifted hitters, with Arismendy Alcantara, Kris Bryant, Russell and Kyle Schwarber added to that mix.
Since the end of the steroid era, the big league pendulum has swung back toward pitching dominance, and hitting is becoming a rarer commodity. In other words, the Cubs are stockpiling the most precious resource in baseball—and they’ve got more of it than almost anyone else. With this trade, the organization now owns the No. 2 (Bryant), No. 5 (Russell) and No. 7 (Baez) prospects in the game, as ranked in the Baseball America midseason top 50.
Let me repeat that—the Cubs now have three of the top seven prospects in the game—and Baez is making his big league debut tonight in Colorado. Of course, prospects have a nasty habit of not always panning out as expected. But it’s important to remember all of these minor leaguers are essentially funneling into eight everyday major league spots. Two of those spots are already filled by 2014 All-Stars Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, while Alcantara and Baez are auditioning for two more.
This month, we look at cornerstone major leaguer Rizzo, who is having a terrific season on both sides of the ball and has taken a huge developmental step forward this year. We also say goodbye to Don Zimmer, a man who left an indelible mark on Cubs—and baseball—history over his 66 years in the dugout. Finally, we move off the diamond to the gridiron to remember what the Chicago Bears accomplished in their 50 years at the Friendly Confines, including Wrigley Field’s most recent championship in 1963.
To keep track of Cubs history—including history in the making—subscribe to Vine Line today and follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline. With the way things are coming together for the team, the next championship season may not be far off.
Matt Adams has been the lone consistent bat for St. Louis this season. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
St. Louis got off to a slow start this season, but as every Cubs fan knows, you can’t count out the Cards just because of a few rough weeks. The Cubs’ closest NL Central foe put a .500 April behind them thanks to some dominant starting pitching and a resurgent offense that is climbing the ranks after an uncharacteristically sluggish start. First baseman Matt Adams has poured it on, and Jhonny Peralta has added some much-needed pop to a relatively low-power offense. The team suffered a major blow when cornerstone catcher Yadier Molina was put on the DL, potentially for the remainder of the season, after thumb surgery. Third-year manager Mike Matheny often gets criticized for his odd decisions, particularly his bullpen usage. But despite his alleged missteps, the Cardinals never seem to miss a beat, proving once again to be one of the stronger clubs in the game.
(3.6 RA/G, 4TH IN NL)
Outside of a pair of rough starts against the Cubs, Adam Wainwright has been downright unhittable this season. The Cardinals ace and projected Sunday starter has been as impressive as any arm in baseball and anchors a very strong rotation. Friday’s starter Joe Kelly has been tough in limited action, but he’s dealt with hamstring issues. Lance Lynn has been solid as well. Though inconsistent, Shelby Miller, who will start Saturday, has displayed flashes of the talent that made him one of the game’s top prospects. Michael Wacha was continuing to build upon his late-season breakout in 2013, but a stress reaction in his shoulder will keep him sidelined until at least September. The Cardinals do run into some issues in the bullpen, especially in the base on balls department. Trevor Rosenthal is racking up saves, but his walk rate is approaching uncomfortable levels for a closer. However, right-hander Pat Neshek has been one of the better stories of 2014, posting a 0.68 ERA over 40 innings and a 9.0 K/9 ratio in his first All-Star season. If Jason Motte can return to his 2012 form and fellow fireballer Carlos Martinez can lower his walk total, St. Louis has the arms to end games quickly.
(3.7 RS/G, 14TH IN NL)
With Molina potentially out for the year, the offense lacks the consistent bat that has driven the Cards for years. Adams is doing what he can offensively, and the always-producing and under-the-radar Matt Holliday has also bounced back from a slow start and is providing some power. But his season totals are hardly what’s to be expected from the six-time All Star. Peralta leads the team with 14 home runs, but is hitting just .256 (only he and Adams have double-digit home run totals). Prospect Oscar Taveras and offseason acquisition Peter Bourjos haven’t lived up to their hype this season, while second baseman Kolten Wong has also struggled to find his footing in the major leagues. It wouldn’t be a shock to see St. Louis add a much-needed bat before the trade deadline to continue their playoff push.
Mr. Cub and Mr. November. When it comes to playing shortstop in the major leagues, it’s hard to do better than Cubs legend Ernie Banks and all-time Yankees great Derek Jeter.
Between them, they have 28 All-Star appearances, two MVP Awards (with 10 top-10 finishes) and six Gold Gloves. They have also amassed nearly 6,000 hits and 800 home runs. Banks was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977. Assuming Jeter holds firm on his decision to retire after this season, he just needs the calendar to turn to 2019 for his certain enshrinement.
Both enjoyed long and distinguished careers with one organization; both spawned memorable moments and were the faces of their respective franchises; and both became great ambassadors for the game.
When Derek Jeter made a rare interleague appearance in Chicago this past May, Vine Line and Yankees Magazine couldn’t let the opportunity to get the two iconic players together slip away.
Yankees Magazine Editor-in-Chief Alfred Santasiere III spoke to the man affectionately known as Mr. Cub and the Yankees captain about playing a demanding defensive position, spending their entire careers with a single team, playing at the Friendly Confines and more.
For baseball fans, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Vine Line: First of all, it’s an honor to be here with two of the greatest shortstops the game has ever seen. Thank you both. Mr. Jeter, how did Mr. Banks, who is over 6 feet tall, impact the future of the position?
Derek Jeter: I’ve had the opportunity to meet Phil Rizzuto and Pee Wee Reese, who were two of the other great shortstops from Mr. Banks’ era. Those guys epitomized who played that position back then—shorter guys without a lot of power. Mr. Banks redefined the position, and he really paved the way for taller players like me to get the opportunity to play shortstop.
Ernie Banks: Who were the shortstops you watched when you were growing up?
DJ: I was a big Cal Ripken Jr. fan. He’s 6 foot 4, and he played the position as well as anyone I had seen. I also liked watching Barry Larkin, who played his college ball in my home state of Michigan. Alan Trammell played for the Detroit Tigers, and they were on TV a lot in my house when I was growing up, so I got to see him play frequently.
EB: Why didn’t they ever move you to third base?
DJ: I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure that out.
VL: Mr. Banks, what are your thoughts on Mr. Jeter’s ability to play such a demanding position so well for nearly two decades?
EB: Well, he’s a remarkable player, and that’s proven by the fact that he is still playing shortstop. We all slow down a little as we get older. I moved to first base after about 10 seasons at shortstop. But Derek has done what no one else has, and that’s remarkable.
VL: How much does it mean to each of you to have played for one team your entire careers—and to be synonymous with those teams?
DJ: Playing my entire career in New York has always been important to me. I’ve been fortunate because in this day and age, it’s more difficult to stay with one team than when Mr. Banks was playing. With free agency, there is so much player movement, and teams get rid of players when there are younger players available who can play the same position a little better. But I can’t imagine playing anywhere else.
EB: It means the world to me. We played all day games in Chicago back then because they didn’t have lights at Wrigley Field until 1988. That was something I got used to and really enjoyed. The only night games we played were when we were on the road. Like Derek said, I couldn’t have imagined what it would have been like to play for another team. If I had played for another team and I had to play most of the games at night, it would have felt like every game was an away game for me.
VL: How would each of you describe your respective fan bases?
EB: The fans here are loyal. When I was playing, I got to meet a lot of fans, and that was a lot of fun. I signed autographs for as many kids as I could because I thought that one day I might be asking one of those kids for a job. Cubs fans aren’t as loud as Yankees fans though. The first time I met Derek, I asked him what it’s like playing in New York. He looked at me and said, “When you win, it’s loud.”
DJ: That’s a great story. Yankees fans follow the team closely, and there’s a lot of energy in Yankee Stadium every time we take the field. The expectation level is high, but there’s no better place to win than in New York.
VL: The enthusiasm that both of you have for the game is well documented. What makes playing baseball for a living so enjoyable?
DJ: Every day is a new day. It’s kind of like life in that you wake up and you never know what’s going to happen when you get to the ballpark. Regardless of how you played the day before, you come to the ballpark with a clean slate the next day. I like that about baseball. I have enjoyed competing and being around my teammates as well. That’s why I have played the game for as long as I have.
EB: It was fun being out there every day. That’s why I said, “It’s a great day for baseball. Let’s play two.” I especially enjoyed playing the shortstop position. For me, making adjustments to where I was going to play in the field depending on who was on the mound and who was at the plate was part of the game I relished. I got as much fun out of the strategy of the game and making sure I was in the right place to turn double plays as I got out of hitting the ball out of the park.
VL: Mr. Banks, what were the most challenging aspects of going directly from the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues to the Cubs at a time when there were very few African-Americans in the majors?
EB: As far as being discriminated against, that’s all I knew since the time I was growing up. But the hardest thing about leaving the Monarchs for the Cubs was saying goodbye to my teammates in Kansas City. I liked being around those guys, and I didn’t want to leave them. They were like my family.
VL: How did you adjust to life in the big leagues?
EB: I played for [legendary Negro Leagues player and manager] Buck O’Neil in Kansas City, and I played alongside Gene Baker and Tony Taylor, who knew a lot about the game. I learned how to play the game from those guys. They taught me about the intricacies of the game and the shortstop position. That along with some God-given ability made it so I was prepared to play in the big leagues when I arrived in Chicago.
VL: Mr. Jeter, how was your career impacted by what Mr. Banks and others did in breaking the color barrier in the early 1950s?
DJ: It’s unimaginable for me. Mr. Banks is one of the players who paved the way for all African-Americans to play the game. I’m grateful to him for what he did on the field, and I also appreciate the way he has treated me since I was a young player.
VL: Mr. Banks, what stands out about Mr. Jeter’s accomplishments and the way he has represented himself and his team over the years?
EB: I really admire him. He’s accomplished so many great things. He’s knowledgeable about every aspect of playing the game. He studies the opposing pitchers, and he learned how to hit the ball to all fields at a young age. He’s an amazing young player. When he got his 3,000th hit on a home run, that was really special for me to watch. What was that like for you, Derek?
DJ: Well, I appreciate you referring to me as a young player. Hitting that home run felt great. More than anything, I was happy that it happened in front of our fans in New York.
EB: How did you do that?
DJ: I closed my eyes and swung the bat.
VL: Mr. Banks, what makes Wrigley Field such a special baseball destination?
EB: It’s special because it has been here for 100 years, and we’ve had some great teams. It’s a beautiful place, and so much history has taken place on this field. Babe Ruth stood a few feet from where we are sitting, pointed to the seats and then hit the ball out of the park. More than 80 years later, Derek Jeter will come up to the plate in the same place. That’s an amazing thing. Also, the fans are very close to the field, and that makes it an intimate setting for baseball. There’s no better place to watch a game.
VL: Mr. Jeter, how exciting is it to visit Wrigley Field in your final season—and during the stadium’s centennial?
DJ: I like being a part of history and tradition, and I’m thrilled to get one last chance to play here—especially since I was on the disabled list when we played here in 2011. I drove here with my class on my last day of high school, and that is a great memory. If I could have written a script for my career back then, I would have included a trip to Wrigley Field during my final season.
EB: You’re not really going to quit, are you?
DJ: After this season.
EB: You can’t do that.
DJ: Yes, I can.
EB: I wish guys like you never had to quit.
DJ: Well, let’s just say I’m moving on.
—Alfred Santasiere III
Some say throwing a baseball “like a girl” is a bad thing; Jeneane Lesko begs to differ. Vine Line caught up with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League president and former left-handed pitcher when the AAGPBL was being honored during the 1940s celebration at Wrigley Field in early June. It’s worth noting the 79-year-old southpaw toed the major league rubber for her ceremonial first pitch and fired a heater right into the catcher’s mitt.
To read the complete interview with Lesko, pick up the August issue of Vine Line.