Photo by Stephen Green
Thirty-one years ago today, Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg had arguably the most memorable game of his career. “The Sandberg Game” not only put the second baseman on the baseball map, it gave the 1984 Cubs the spark they needed to reach the postseason.
Impressive single-game performances by unproven players should generally be taken with a grain of salt. Over a long season, even the most below-average hitter or spottiest of spot starters occasionally has his day. Mario Mendoza, whose name is synonymous with offensive mediocrity, had one four-hit game in his major league career.
Sometimes, though, there is a perfect storm of circumstances that make a single-game performance stand out above the 162-game grind—a performance that launches a Hall of Fame career and helps define a player’s legacy.
On June 23, 1984, Ryne Sandberg had such a performance. His 5-for-6, seven-RBI outburst certainly looks impressive on paper, but his day was about much more than the stat sheet.
Start with the fact that he took the game’s elite closer deep twice, tying the game in both the ninth and 10th innings. Throw in the setting (a beautiful Saturday at Wrigley Field) and the matchup (an afternoon showdown against the NL East rival Cardinals). Consider the game’s viewership as NBC’s nationally televised Game of the Week. Finally, pile on the fame it brought Sandberg, the playoff boost it gave a struggling organization, and the sustained steady bump in attendance at Wrigley Field, and the Sandberg Game was a seminal moment in both his career and in the enduring popularity of the Chicago Cubs.
* * * *
“While the performance was great, the reason it resonates was that the context was so different,” said broadcaster Bob Costas, who was in his third year on NBC’s baseball broadcast team when he called the Sandberg Game in 1984.
The broadcast landscape was dramatically different in the mid-1980s. Sports on TV were not the 24-hour, 365-day-a-year industry they are today, and cable had not yet taken hold, so most viewers had limited options when it came to what they watched. The National Game of the Week on NBC was a big deal to both baseball and its fans. Every Saturday, the network arranged a premier game to be broadcast in an afternoon time slot, which meant it was often the only matchup going, as most clubs played their weekend games at night.
“The Game of the Week really was the Game of the Week then,” said Costas, who admitted the Sandberg Game was his favorite regular season broadcast of his illustrious career. “No matter how well a game is telecast today, there’s no one game outside of the postseason that rivets everyone’s attention.”
This combination of factors lent Wrigley Field a Monday Night Football-type atmosphere, with a huge audience tuning in and ratings reaching as high as 10, a number today’s postseason games struggle to match. Even with the WGN Superstation broadcasting Cubs games to viewers across the country, there was still reason to get excited about the weekly NBC tilt.
“There’s only one National Game of the Week on Saturday,” said former Cubs catcher Jody Davis, who started behind the plate that day. “Of course, you didn’t get to play in many every year, so you’re lucky to get into one.”
Sandberg shared similar sentiments and said he relished the idea of the national spotlight shining on him and his teammates for an afternoon.
“Every game on television was a big deal to me,” Sandberg said. “I knew that everybody back home was watching. That really got me fired up to play every game. It brought the most out of my abilities.”
* * * *
This particular Saturday was one of those picturesque afternoons that happen only a few times a summer. With temperatures in the low 80s and a slight breeze off the lake, Wrigley Field was made-for-TV perfection.
A series of roster moves—including the addition of right-hander Rick Sutcliffe just 10 days prior—was doing wonders for a team that hadn’t exactly lit up the decade. On the morning of June 23, 1984, the Cubs sat 1.5 games out of first place and were in striking distance of their first postseason berth in 39 years, further raising expectations for the 38,000 fans in attendance and the millions of people tuning in across the nation. It didn’t hurt that the rival Cardinals, the 1982 world champs, were in town.
Steve Trout toed the rubber for the Cubs, but it wasn’t one of his better outings. The right-hander lasted just 1.1 innings and was on the hook for seven earned runs, spotting St. Louis an early six-run lead.
“You mean to tell me that because of me, [Sandberg] became [a key] in one of the most famous games ever,” Trout said with a laugh, reflecting on his start that afternoon.
Momentum temporarily shifted when the Cubs got two runs in the bottom of the fifth, but they promptly gave them both back in the top of the sixth. Trailing 9-3 entering the bottom of the inning, the North Siders injected some much-needed excitement into the stadium when they plated five behind a run-scoring single from Richie Hebner, a two-run double from Bobby Dernier and a two-run single from Sandberg.
Leading 9-8 with two outs in the seventh, St. Louis called out the big guns, enlisting lockdown closer Bruce Sutter to carry them the rest of the way. The eventual Hall of Famer, who would amass 300 saves in his stellar career, was the elite back-end arm of his generation, earning a Cy Young Award for his efforts in 1979 as a member of the Cubs. Sutter relied heavily on a split-finger fastball, a devastating pitch that was still new to players at the time.
“It was just a pitch that nobody had seen before,” Davis said of the splitter. “He brought [it] out, and nobody knew what it did. And he was the best at it. It was just really tough facing him, and he was a true competitor.”
Sutter fanned Gary Matthews to wrap up the seventh and set the Cubs down 1-2-3 in the eighth, putting an apparent damper on any comeback hopes. The outcome seemed a foregone conclusion as Sandberg stepped into the box to start the bottom of the ninth inning with the first and third basemen guarding the lines and the infield shifted slightly to the left side.
Sandberg was having a great season in 1984 and was already 3-for-4 on the day with four RBI. After two-plus major league years, he was seen as a good player with a solid glove at second, having claimed his first Gold Glove Award in 1983, but few had him pegged as an eventual Hall of Famer.
“Though he had already emerged as a very good player, he was still early in his career,” Costas said. “That one just propelled him onto the national stage.”
The first pitch came in low and away for ball one. Sandberg took the second pitch on the outside corner for a strike. But the third pitch was on the inner third of the plate, and Sandberg didn’t miss it, sending the ball screaming into the last row of the left-center-field bleachers.
Tie game. Extra innings.
“I said, ‘You know what this is, Tony? It’s a telephone game,’” Costas said, referring to his broadcast partner, Tony Kubek. “It’s the kind of game where as a baseball fan, you pick up the phone and call your baseball buddy, and you go, ‘Are you watching this? Put on NBC.’”
Cards outfielder Willie McGee was having quite a day himself, with a homer, triple and single to his credit. He’d already compiled five RBI and two runs heading into extra innings. The eventual 1985 NL MVP would complete the cycle with a run-scoring double in the top of the 10th and score two batters later, giving the Cards a two-run lead and shifting momentum back into the visitors’ dugout.
After two quick outs in the bottom of the 10th, Dernier took all six pitches he saw to record a full-count walk. As Costas and Kubek thanked the sponsors and crew for their day’s work, up stepped Ryno.
On the third pitch of the sequence, Costas bellowed: “He hits it to deep left-center. Look out! Do you believe it? It’s gone!”
With Sandberg’s bomb, Wrigley Field was up for grabs. The broadcast duo went silent for nearly a full minute to capture the jubilation of the ecstatic crowd.
“I’m sure there was a lengthy period where I called it as ‘gone,’ and we went quiet because the crowd and the pictures said everything,” Costas said. “We had just seen something that almost defied words. And I think the way the second home run was called, it was not just excitement, but amazement.”
* * * *
Just like that, Sandberg became a household name. Few remember that Dave Owen drove in the winning run an inning later on a bases-loaded single to complete the comeback and give the Cubs a 12-11 win.
“I went inside [the clubhouse], and I could barely get to my locker because there were so many people to talk to,” Sandberg said in the book Banks to Sandberg to Grace. “That was the start of my first experience with the media. It was pretty cool.”
With his talent on full display for the nation to see, Sandberg soon became a marquee attraction in Major League Baseball. The first example of his enhanced reputation came with the 1984 All-Star voting. In a matter of days, Ryno surpassed Steve Sax, who had been the leading vote-getter at the keystone position.
“That game really told me that I could do that,” Sandberg said. “It was really a different mind-set that game gave me, and it’s something I wanted to live up to—not only the rest of that year … but it also brought new standards for me each and every year, as far as winning a Gold Glove, a silver bat and an MVP.”
When the ’84 campaign came to a close, Sandberg was a nearly unanimous choice for National League MVP, capturing 22 of 24 first-place votes. According to FanGraphs, he compiled a Wins Above Replacement rating of 8.0, hitting .314/.367/.520 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 19 homers and a league-best 114 runs, all while playing a key middle-infield position at an elite level.
* * * *
The dramatic win didn’t benefit just the Cubs’ now-star second baseman. The team was showing signs of ending a 39-year postseason drought and used the comeback as a rallying cry for the season.
“That was kind of our exclamation point,” Davis said. “It was still early enough in the season. We were off to a good start, [and we were] in the pennant race, which fans weren’t too used to [us] being. The excitement was starting to build, and that day made all of the fans start to believe that we did have a chance.”
The team went 59-34 the rest of the way, including an 18-10 record in July and a 20-10 mark in August. They finished 31-24 in one-run ballgames and won 11 games in walk-off fashion en route to an NL-best 96 wins. The North Siders were fun to watch, and, for the first time in a long while, Wrigley Field became the hottest ticket in town, as more and more fans flocked to the North Side to see the miracle Cubs and their soon-to-be MVP second baseman.
“In ’84, the fans came alive, and you saw the first fans on the rooftops,” Sandberg said. “Just to see that whole transformation and see it be a tough ticket here for the rest of my career [was exciting].”
According to Baseball-Reference, the Cubs hit the 2 million mark in attendance for the first time ever that season. Individual game sales were up nearly 8,000 from the previous year and nearly 11,000 from 1982. At least 2 million people have attended games at Wrigley Field in all but three seasons since.
In that single game, a future Hall of Famer emerged from the shadows into full-fledged stardom, a dormant franchise was catapulted to its first postseason berth in nearly four decades, and the fan base was energized for decades to come.
Comedian Tom Dreesen throws out the first pitch at Wrigley Field. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs will make a brief return trip home to host the Dodgers from June 22-25.
The Cubs 2015 Special Group Nights kick off Tuesday, June 23, as teachers and their family members are invited to celebrate the start of summer during the fifth annual Teacher Appreciation Night at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are offering $30 tickets in the Terrace Reserved Outfield to teachers and their family members to watch the Cubs take on the Dodgers at 7:05 p.m. Participants will receive a commemorative messenger bag.
The fun continues Wednesday, June 24, as youth baseball and softball teams are invited to catch a game together at the Friendly Confines during this year’s Youth Baseball and Softball Appreciation Night. The Cubs are offering $24 tickets in the Terrace Reserved Outfield for youth baseball and softball teams and their families. Participants will receive a Cubs rope twist necklace. To learn more about the Cubs 2015 Special Group Nights and to purchase tickets, visit cubs.com/specialevents.
In addition, the Cubs will help raise awareness for autism spectrum disorders with a special group promotion June 24. Tickets for this promotion can be purchased online. A portion of the proceeds from each ticket purchased for this promotion will be donated to Autism Speaks.
The Cubs and Cubs Charities continue this year’s “Let’s Give” charitable campaign during the homestand. On Wednesday, June 24, the Cubs leadership team and front office associates will host a signing ceremony for the incoming 2015 Cubs Scholars class and celebrate the college selections of the 2014 graduate class in Wrigley Field’s Audi Club. The Cubs Scholars program, launched in 2013, offers Chicago inner-city high school students financial contributions and a team-sponsored mentorship program designed to promote academic achievement and post-secondary educational advancement.
Also, the Hornitos Hacienda—formerly the Left-Field Well—will make its debut during the homestand as Hornitos becomes the Official Tequila of the Chicago Cubs and naming rights partner of the recently launched left-field group space.
The Hornitos Hacienda features space close to the field in the first two rows above the left-field wall with designated standing room and limited seating for groups of approximately 15-50 fans. This space offers guests the best view in the Budweiser Bleachers to catch all the action and is perfect for bachelor/bachelorette parties and special events. The Hornitos Hacienda is available for group reservations by calling 773-404-4242.
As part of the partnership, Hornitos will have a branding presence at Wrigley Field, including signage on the left-field wall and in-game promotion on the left-field video board.
Hornitos Tequila, which has been available in the enhanced Budweiser Bleachers since their reopening in May, will continue to be available for fans in the bleachers. Premium cocktails featuring Hornitos Tequila also will be available at various locations throughout the ballpark.
Tickets remain available for the upcoming homestand at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827). Highlights of the homestand follow.
Guests and Entertainment:
On Monday, June 22, University of Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly will throw a first pitch and lead the seventh-inning stretch.
On Tuesday, June 23, former Chicago Bears tight end Tim Wrightman will throw a first pitch.
Comedian and Chicago native Tom Dreesen will throw a first pitch and lead the seventh-inning stretch Thursday, June 25.
This homestand, the Decade Diner located in the right-field concourse will serve an Asian Pork Burger featuring a pork burger patty glazed with sweet chili sauce and Asian slaw on a toasted Hawaiian bun. The Salmon Burger homestand special features a grilled salmon burger, candied red onions, avocado, arugula and herb aioli.
Homestand Recap, June 22-25:
Monday, June 22 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 7:05 p.m.
- The newly named Hornitos Hacienda will make its debut
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: University of Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly
- Broadcast: WGN, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Tuesday, June 23 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 7:05 p.m.
- Special Group Night: Fifth Annual Teacher Appreciation Night
- First pitch: Former Chicago Bears tight end Tim Wrightman
- Broadcast: CSN, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Wednesday, June 24 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 7:05 p.m.
- Special Group Night: Youth Baseball and Softball Appreciation Night
- Broadcast: CSN, ESPN2, WBBM 780-AM, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
Thursday, June 25 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 1:20 p.m.
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Comedian and Chicago native Tom Dreesen
- Broadcast: WLS, MLBN, WBBM 780-AM, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
The Cubs return to Wrigley Field to host a pair of Ohio teams in their next homestand as the Reds visit June 11-14 and the Indians start up an Interleague series June 15-16. The right-field section of the Budweiser Bleachers returns June 11 as well, completing the full complement of seating for the restored and expanded Budweiser Bleachers. Work will continue through early July to finalize additional amenities and concessions, including Platform 14—a new outdoor concession area located behind the historic center-field scoreboard.
Budweiser Bleacher Fridays continue this homestand with Country Day, June 12, where each fan in the bleachers 21-and-older will receive a Country Cap presented by Budweiser. Country Day includes country music, décor and entertainment, including bag toss games available in the new Right Field Porch before first pitch. One set of fans will be awarded an entry into the Jason Motte Foundation’s Chicago Cornhole Challenge Sept. 19.
This Friday also marks the return of the team’s #BudFridays social media contest. Fans 21-and-older in the Budweiser Bleachers are encouraged to wear their favorite country attire Friday and share photos on Twitter and Instagram using the #BudFridays hashtag. One creative winner will be selected from all eligible entries to receive four tickets to the next Budweiser Bleacher Friday event (Red, White and Brew, July 3). Official rules, prize value and details are available at the team’s #BudFridays contest page.
Fans will also have the opportunity to help their community while meeting Cubs players, wives and alumni during several events this homestand. On Saturday, June 13, at 10 a.m., Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta presents Catch in the Confines, where he will host a meet-and-greet with participants, take photos and sign autographs. Families, friends and fans of all ages will have the opportunity to spend 50 minutes playing catch in the outfield, visiting the batting cage and chatting in the dugout. Proceeds will benefit the Cubs Scholars program, which offers scholarships and mentoring to deserving students in need. Tickets make for a great Father’s Day gift and are available at cubs.com/catch.
During Saturday evening’s game, from 5 p.m. through the second inning, Cubs wives will sell autographed mystery baseballs on the concourse near Gate F. Proceeds will benefit Cubs Charities.
Following the homestand on Thursday, June 18, the Wood Family Foundation will join Cubs Charities to host the Kerry and Friends Battle of the Bats Home Run Derby. Kerry Wood and other Cubs alumni will coach players to swing for the fences while competing for the ultimate title of Home Run Derby Champion. Fundraising will benefit underserved youth in Chicago through Cubs Charities and the Wood Family Foundation. Roster spots are nearly sold out, so interested participants should register soon at cubs.com/derby.
Ticket availability is limited for Friday and Saturday’s games. Fans may check availability for each game this homestand at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827). Highlights of the homestand follow.
Budweiser Bleacher Fridays continue at Wrigley Field with Country Day, June 12, as all Budweiser Bleacher guests 21-and-older receive a Country Cap presented by Budweiser. Country Day includes special entertainment, music and promotions.
The first 10,000 fans at the game Saturday, June 13, will receive a Joe Maddon Cubs Debut Bobblehead presented by Pepsi.
Kids Sundays continue June 14, when the first 5,000 children 13-and-younger will receive a Joe Maddon OYO Dugout Set.
Guests and Entertainment
On Thursday, June 11, USA Swimming Men’s National Team members Conor Dwyer and Cullen Jones will throw ceremonial first pitches and lead the seventh-inning stretch. Professional golfer Fuzzy Zoeller will throw a first pitch as well.
On Friday, June 12, Chicago Bears 2015 first-round draft choice wide receiver Kevin White will throw a ceremonial first pitch. US 99.5 FM Country Music hosts Lisa Dent and Ramblin’ Ray will lead the seventh-inning stretch to coincide with Country Day in the Budweiser Bleachers.
University of Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey will throw a first pitch and lead the stretch Saturday, June 13.
Chicago Bears safety Ryan Mundy will throw a first pitch Sunday, June 14.
Solo artist and lead singer of The Killers, Brandon Flowers, will lead the stretch Monday, June 15.
Bradley University director of athletics Dr. Chris Reynolds will throw a first pitch Tuesday, June 16, while former Cubs outfielder Bob Dernier will lead the stretch.
The Decade Diner, located in the right-field concourse, will serve a Footlong Chili Cheese Dog, which features a footlong Vienna Beef hot dog served with traditional Cincinnati chili, diced onions, cheddar cheese and yellow mustard. A Blackened Tilapia Po’boy also will be available, featuring Cajun-spiced tilapia, shredded crisp lettuce, sliced tomatoes and Cajun aioli on a toasted hoagie roll.
Homestand Recap, June 11-16
Thursday, June 11 vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:05 p.m.
- Reopening of the right field Budweiser Bleachers
- First pitch: Professional golfer Fuzzy Zoeller
- First pitches and seventh-inning stretch: USA Swimming Men’s National Team members Conor Dwyer and Cullen Jones
- Broadcast: CSN, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Friday, June 12 vs. Cincinnati Reds, 3:05 p.m.
- Budweiser Bleacher Fridays: Country Day
- Country Cap presented by Budweiser (all Budweiser Bleacher guests 21-and-older)
- First pitch: Chicago Bears 2015 first-round draft choice, wide receiver Kevin White
- Seventh-inning stretch: US 99.5 FM Country Music hosts Lisa Dent and Ramblin’ Ray
- Broadcast: WGN, WBBM 780-AM, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
- Postgame press conference: Joe Maddon’s “Respect Community” charity T-shirt initiative, Cubs Care Girls Fast Pitch RBI Softball
Saturday, June 13 vs. Cincinnati Reds, 6:15 p.m.
- Promotion: Joe Maddon Cubs Debut Bobblehead presented by Pepsi (first 10,000 fans)
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: University of Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey
- Broadcast: FOX, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Sunday, June 14 vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:08 p.m.
- Promotion: Joe Maddon OYO Dugout Set (first 5,000 children 13-and-younger)
- First pitch: Chicago Bears safety Ryan Mundy
- Broadcast: ESPN (Baseball Tonight filming live pregame), ESPN Radio, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Monday, June 15 vs. Cleveland Indians, 7:05 p.m.
- Seventh-inning stretch: Solo artist and lead singer of The Killers, Brandon Flowers
- Broadcast: WPWR, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Tuesday, June 16 vs. Cleveland Indians, 7:05 p.m.
- First pitch: Bradley University director of athletics Dr. Chris Reynolds
- Seventh-inning stretch: Former Cubs outfielder Bob Dernier
- Broadcast: CSN+, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
The Cubs announced that the Sunday, June 14, game versus the Reds at Wrigley Field is scheduled to begin at 7:08 p.m. CST and will be aired nationally on ESPN. The game was previously listed as “TBD.”
Additionally, the Sunday, June 28 game against the Cardinals in St. Louis has been selected for an exclusive national telecast by ESPN and is scheduled to begin at 7:08 p.m. CST. This game was originally scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m.
The start times for the remaining “TBD” games on the Cubs schedule will be determined at a later date.
University of Illinois basketball coach John Groce returns to Wrigley Field on May 30. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs return home on Memorial Day to host the Nationals from May 25-27 and the Royals from May 29-31. The homestand features several promotional giveaways, including a Cubs hat presented by the Conquer Cancer Foundation, a Chicago Whales replica throwback jersey presented by Benjamin Moore, a Clark W Flag bobblehead presented by Jewel-Osco and summer sunglasses presented by Budweiser during the debut of the team’s Budweiser Bleacher Fridays.
Budweiser Bleacher Fridays kick off in true summer style with a Beach Bash on May 29. Each guest in the Budweiser Bleachers will receive a pair of summer sunglasses for the game, as well as free Blue Lizard Sunscreen, while enjoying special entertainment, music and a beach-themed postgame party in Wrigleyville. Fans in the Budweiser Bleachers are encouraged to wear their favorite beach attire for the event and share photos on Twitter and Instagram using the #BudFridays hashtag. One creative winner will be selected to take home four tickets to the following Budweiser Bleacher Friday (Country Day, June 12 vs. the Cincinnati Reds).
May 29 also marks Jersey Day in Chicago and at Wrigley Field. Majestic Athletic, makers of the official on-field uniform of Major League Baseball, created Jersey Day in partnership with MLB and its 30 clubs to encourage baseball fans to celebrate their teams by donning their official jerseys to work, school, games and all over town. Cubs fans can stake their claim as the best fans in baseball by posting the #JerseyDayCHC hashtag on Twitter or Instagram, with votes being gathered at MajesticJerseyDay.com. Majestic is running a Superfan Sweepstakes on the microsite as well.
The following day, May 30, marks 100 years to the date of when the Federal League-champion Chicago Whales hosted the Kansas City Packers at then-Weeghman Park. The Cubs will wear throwback Chicago Whales uniforms that day, and the first 10,000 fans at the game will receive a Chicago Whales replica throwback jersey presented by Benjamin Moore. The Royals will wear throwback Kansas City Federal League uniforms, while the bases used during the game will feature Weeghman Park commemorative base jewels.
Following the game on Friday, May 29, Cubs manager Joe Maddon will continue his “Respect Community” charity T-shirt initiative by representing the USO of Illinois Discovery Kids Program during his postgame press conference. The program helps lift the spirits of children whose parents are training or deployed through year-round educational, recreational and cultural events and programs.
Tickets remain available for the upcoming homestand at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827). Highlights of the homestand follow.
The first 10,000 fans at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, May 27, will receive a Cubs hat presented by the Conquer Cancer Foundation. The Conquer Cancer Foundation, established by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), is a charitable organization that supports clinical research in the field of oncology, patient education and patient advocacy programs.
Each guest in the Budweiser Bleachers on Friday, May 29, will receive a pair of summer sunglasses, as well as free Blue Lizard Sunscreen, during the first Budweiser Bleacher Friday of the season. The Beach Bash also will include special entertainment, music and a beach-themed postgame party in Wrigleyville. Invitations to the postgame party will be shared on-site.
On Saturday, May 30, the first 10,000 fans will receive a Chicago Whales replica throwback jersey presented by Benjamin Moore. The Cubs will wear throwback Chicago Whales uniforms on the field to mark 100 years to the date of when the Federal League-champion Whales hosted the Kansas City Packers at then-Weeghman Park.
The homestand concludes on Sunday, May 31, when the first 5,000 children age 13 and younger will receive a Clark W Flag bobblehead presented by Jewel-Osco. The first 1,000 kids in the ballpark can run the bases postgame, weather permitting, as part of the team’s ongoing Kids Sundays.
This homestand, the Decade Diner located in the right-field concourse will serve a Beef Kabob Gyro, featuring juicy grilled skewered beef, pickled sweet onions, fresh cucumbers, vine ripe tomatoes and garlic yogurt aioli served with warm pita bread. In addition, the Classic Tuna Melt will feature Levy Restaurants’ signature tuna salad and cheddar cheese on toasted caraway rye bread.
Homestand Recap, May 25-31:
Monday, May 25 (Memorial Day) vs. Washington Nationals, 1:20 p.m.
- First pitches: Principal cast members of Broadway Chicago’s On Your Feet!, Ana Villafañe and Josh Segarra
- Seventh-inning stretch: Country music artist, to be announced leading up to their upcoming surprise concert in Wrigleyville
- Broadcast: WGN, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Tuesday, May 26 vs. Washington Nationals, 6:05 p.m.
- Broadcast: CSN, ESPN, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Wednesday, May 27 vs. Washington Nationals, 7:05 p.m.
- Promotion: Cubs hat presented by the Conquer Cancer Foundation (first 10,000 fans)
- First pitch: Host of TLC’s Overhaulin, Chris Jacobs
- Seventh-inning stretch: Star of CNBC’s reality series The Profit, Marcus Lemonis
- Broadcast: CSN+, MLB Network, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Friday, May 29 vs. Kansas City Royals, 3:05 p.m.
- Budweiser Bleacher Fridays Beach Bash: Summer sunglasses presented by Budweiser, all Budweiser Bleacher guests 21 and older
- First pitch: United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus
- Broadcast: CSN, WBBM 780-AM, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
Saturday, May 30 vs. Kansas City Royals, 6:15 p.m.
- Promotion: Chicago Whales replica throwback jersey presented by Benjamin Moore (first 10,000 fans)
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: University of Illinois men’s basketball coach John Groce
- Broadcast: FOX, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Sunday, May 31 vs. Kansas City Royals, 1:20 p.m.
- Promotion: Clark W Flag bobblehead presented by Jewel-Osco (first 5,000 children age 13 and younger)
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Actor and Chicago native Joe Mantegna
- Broadcast: ABC 7, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
- Kids Run the Bases postgame (first 1,000 children 13 and under)
When the long winter hit Huntley, Illinois, a quaint farm town about 50 miles northwest of Chicago, the Donahue kids would take to a nearby sledding hill. Margaret, the oldest of seven, was routinely elected to head down the hill first to test the run. She was, after all, the de facto leader and therefore the one tasked with carving that first swath through the snow so her kin could follow safely.
And what a fitting allegory that would turn out to be.
In 1919, not long after those sledding days were finished and with very little formal schooling under her belt, Donahue blazed a new trail into baseball history as a pioneer for women in professional sports.
“She was the first [female] executive who actually worked her way up into the position throughout all of Major League Baseball,” said Cubs historian Ed Hartig.
Hired as a stenographer by then-team Vice President Bill Veeck Sr., Donahue was quickly elected club secretary by vote of the Cubs stockholders at a board of directors meeting. She held that role for a quarter century, until she was elevated to team vice president in 1950, becoming the first woman in the game to hold such a lofty position. But Donahue was much more than just a token female executive.
“The things she did helped change the way people appreciate baseball,” Hartig said.
Donahue is considered a vital part of the team’s storied history, gender notwithstanding. She is largely credited with championing the concept of season tickets, helping usher in record-setting attendance, and attracting generations of fans through her projects and promotions. Upon her retirement on Feb. 1, 1958, the Cubs board of directors gave her an ornately calligraphed farewell letter expressing, among other sentiments, that she “provided valuable service to the club as a capable and conscientious corporate officer, and as a nationally acknowledged authority on the intricacies of baseball rules and regulations.”
In June, a half-acre park in the Lakeview neighborhood, just a few blocks southwest of Wrigley Field, will be dedicated to Donahue’s memory, an honor her family, the Cubs and the city of Chicago worked together to bring to fruition.
“What a fitting tribute to a woman who was a great part of our history,” said Mike Lufrano, executive vice president of community affairs for the Cubs.
Donahue’s work and the elevated position she held, coupled with the era in which she held it, are incomparable, if not widely known. The Cubs won five National League pennants under her watch, and attendance hit the 1 million mark for the first time in any NL ballpark. Wrigley Field doubled in size, and the Cubs brand became synonymous with radio and television broadcasts.
Closing in on a century after she was first hired, women are still underrepresented in executive positions in sports. But Donahue more than did her part for gender equality.
In the tidy living room of a Victorian home a block away from small-town Huntley’s Main Street, three sisters spoke of their beloved, warmhearted, hat-loving aunt.
“Work did not scare her away,” said Barbara Ernesti, 87, the eldest of Mabel Donahue Emmer’s three daughters and Margaret Donahue’s only nieces. “She just got in there and did it.”
Ernesti was perched near her sisters, Mary Beth Manning, who turns 84 this month, and Margaret Manning, 77, (their husbands are unrelated) at the latter’s home on a warm mid-March day. Dozens of Donahue-related newspaper clippings, photos and mementos the sisters had collected over the years were spread atop the dining table.
“She was a great manager,” Mary Beth Manning said.
That talent, she surmised, may have been honed early in life.
Donahue was born on a Huntley farm on Dec. 13, 1892. Six other children swiftly followed. She had an older brother by one year, Daniel, but he died at age 7 when diphtheria swept through the town.
When Donahue was young, the family rented out the farm and moved into town so the kids would be closer to school. After graduating eighth grade, Donahue logged just one year of high school and a year at a business college in nearby Elgin, Illinois, before heading out into the workforce.
And that meant big-city Chicago.
Living with her aunt on the South Side, Donahue landed a job in 1919 at a chemical company that manufactured soap and laundry supplies. It was a brief employment, according to Margaret Manning, as Donahue lost her job to a veteran returning from the trenches of World War I.
She then decided to place an ad in the Chicago Tribune seeking a position as a secretary or stenographer. Bill Veeck, vice president and treasurer of the Chicago Cubs, spotted her ad and phoned her home while she was away at Sunday Mass. Her father took the call and told Veeck she’d be happy to meet with him.
But there was one problem: Donahue didn’t want the interview. She wanted a job in the Loop, where she had received other offers, not way out on the North Side. Her father persisted, and she met with Veeck on June 22, 1919. The following day, she reported to work at then-Cubs Park for the first time.
Donahue was a force of nature. She handled season tickets, press passes, stock transfers for the Cubs and all Wrigley Field events, Hartig said. She was the keeper of receipts and paid the players and umpires after the games, forking over cash out on the field before depositing the remainder in a downtown vault, her nieces said.
The only other woman in the small Cubs front office was the bookkeeper, who retired in 1920. Donahue assumed those duties too “temporarily” until they could hire someone new—which happened almost a decade later in 1929.
“Today you’d almost need a law degree to do all that,” Hartig said, adding that Donahue even advised her boss on the occasional trade.
Being an industrious sort (the office motto was “longevity, loyalty, versatility”), Donahue also took on some payroll duties for the Bears when they moved to Cubs Park in 1921. Two years later, she was promoted to Cubs assistant club secretary and would serve as acting secretary while John Seys, the man who held the position, was on the road. In late 1926, at the same board meeting that saw Cubs Park become Wrigley Field, she assumed Seys’ role as club secretary when he was advanced to second vice president of the team, according to Hartig.
“Baseball changed a lot in those 25 years she was secretary,” Hartig said. “It wasn’t the same job.”
In just a few short decades, the Cubs franchise experienced the advent of radio and television, integration, war, multiple World Series bids and the Great Depression, among other things.
What Donahue did would require the work of an entire office staff today. It seems almost any task fell within her domain, including the aforementioned handling of payroll and receipts, with which she was famously fastidious; drafting contracts and waivers; assisting injured players on the field; entertaining kids lost in the ballpark; and even washing the shirt of a fan who had an unfortunate run-in with some falling wet plaster.
“She was good at it,” Ernesti said. “She could keep her finger on a lot of things.”
Donahue is credited with popularizing and standardizing the practice of seat-specific season tickets, encouraging special pricing for children, and following through with the concept of Ladies Day, which had foundered at Wrigley Field and at other parks.
“For Margaret,” Hartig said, “it went gangbusters.”
The Cubs brass had a cautiously optimistic approach to Ladies Day, even though it hadn’t been successful in previous attempts. Before the Veeck-Seys-Donahue tenure, Cubs Park was a madhouse. Attendees were rowdy, often drunk and hardly polite—not the most hospitable environment for a mother and her children looking to have some wholesome fun. Veeck, who became team president shortly after Donahue was hired, spearheaded cleaning up the park, with uniformed ushers as well as improved concessions and trash pick-up. He then handed the weekly Ladies Day reins over to the executive secretary.
“She tried to make the games more family-oriented,” Ernesti said.
On Aug. 6, 1929, an otherwise unspectacular game against the Dodgers drew close to 50,000 fans, nearly 30,000 of whom were women looking to see the game for free. The Cubs had to turn roughly 10,000 people away at the gate.
The Cubs would continue with a Ladies Day promotion in some form until 1990, and eventually had to cap the number of free tickets at 20,000 per game due to its popularity. The team’s model under Donahue was considered the most effective promotion in Major League Baseball.
Of course, being a pioneering woman in professional sports did have its drawbacks. When Veeck died in 1933, Donahue supporters thought she could easily have been promoted, Mary Beth Manning said.
“If she had been a man,” Ernesti said, “she would have been the one to move up.”
Donahue made a healthy living, especially during the Great Depression, but she wasn’t without her detractors—some of whom were presumably uncomfortable taking orders from a woman.
“She had a couple of tough years,” Mary Beth Manning said, referring to occasional run-ins with management.
Upon her promotion to executive secretary, people were shocked, Hartig said. But the stockholders voted her in year after year, a feat her family called amazing.
A 1941 Chicago Tribune article about women executives in baseball titled “Men Beware! Women Prove They Can Run a Team” mentions Donahue as “helping run the club, in one capacity or another, since 1919.” Donahue was also a fan of the game and had played a bit as a teenager. She was a novelty back home, her nieces said, where she would hold conversational court with women and men at family gatherings.
“She would always be very much talked to by the men, about baseball and so forth,” Ernesti said.
While taking in a game for fun was a rarity—she usually gave her box seats away—Donahue worked a lot and was often the first one in and last one out of the office each day. She never married, but she shared a Rogers Park apartment with, at times, upward of three siblings. She also played hostess to two of her nieces for years. She sent money home to care for her parents and took one vacation per year every February, often inviting a relative to join her. Sundays were reserved for church.
In 1950, she was elected team vice president, a position she held while continuing as executive secretary. She retired in 1958 at age 65 with close to 40 years as part of the Cubs front office under her belt. At that point, she lived in Evanston with siblings but eventually moved back home to Huntley, where she died in 1978.
“It’s quite amazing what she did,” said Mary Beth Manning, her eyes falling to the table heaped with the archives of her aunt’s life and work. “It really is.”
Other than her gravesite, there is no public marker in Donahue’s hometown commemorating her achievements. But the city of Chicago, the Cubs and her nieces are seeing to it that her life will be remembered near the place where she lived so much of it.
The large public park in her name has been designed to attract folks across ages and interests in the hopes of beautifying the community as well as providing a teachable moment about its namesake.
“We realize that so many of our fans are women,” Lufrano said. “Margaret was a part of making that happen.”
Fans supported last year’s Pink Out event in the bleachers. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Budweiser Bleacher seating option will return to Cubs fans for the first time in 2015 as the North Siders host the Mets from May 11-14 and the Pirates from May 15-17. The bleachers in left field and center field open for occupancy starting May 11.
The homestand opener coincides with Cubs Charities’ “Pink Out” presented by Advocate Health Care on the first Cubs home game following Mother’s Day. Each guest in the Budweiser Bleachers will receive a “Pink Out” T-shirt to promote breast cancer prevention awareness while celebrating moms and women everywhere who are survivors. Fans who aren’t sitting in the bleachers but would still like to participate may visit Gate F, where wives of Cubs players and coaches will accept donations in exchange for a “Pink Out” shirt. These donations will help provide mammograms for under- and uninsured women through Cubs Charities and Advocate Charitable Foundation.
In support of the event, Cubs players will wear pink batting practice jerseys that will later be available by auction through Cubs Authentics, with proceeds also funding mammograms for under- and uninsured women. The bases used on the field—also available through Cubs Authentics—will feature commemorative #PinkOut base jewels, and guests are encouraged to share pictures from the evening using the hashtag to promote breast cancer prevention awareness.
Ginny Cooper, a 10-year survivor, will serve as MLB’s Honorary Bat Girl and deliver the game’s lineup card. She was selected based on her story about “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer.” She will be joined by other breast cancer survivors and volunteers who will throw the game’s ceremonial first pitch, sing the National Anthem and lead the seventh-inning stretch. Overall, Advocate will bring more than 50 survivors to enjoy the game in the stands.
In addition to Monday’s “Pink Out,” Cubs Charities will continue this year’s Let’s Give campaign by supporting the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation’s Third Annual Cook-Off for Cancer on May 14. The event will feature upscale versions of ballpark food prepared by notable Chicago chefs and served by Cubs players at Revel Downtown. Tips and event net proceeds will benefit pediatric cancer research as well as provide support to children and their families battling the disease. For more information, visit cubs.com/cook.
On Friday, May 15, Cubs manager Joe Maddon will continue his Respect Community charity T-shirt initiative by representing Cubs Rookie League Baseball during his postgame press conference.
Tickets remain available for the upcoming homestand at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827). Highlights of the homestand follow:
The homestand will begin May 11 with all fans in the Budweiser Bleachers receiving a Cubs Charities “Pink Out” T-shirt presented by Advocate Health Care. On Saturday, May 16, the first 20,000 fans will receive a Cubs Reusable Tote Bag presented by MLB Network. The first 1,000 kids 13-and-under can run the bases postgame Sunday, May 17.
This homestand, the Decade Diner located in the right-field concourse will serve a Turkey Club Sandwich—a triple decker with toasted bread, sliced turkey, bacon, sliced tomatoes, crisp lettuce and mayo—as well as the Reuben Sandwich with warm pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Louie dressing on toasted marble rye bread.
Homestand Recap and Guests, May 11-17
Monday, May 11 vs. New York Mets, 7:05 p.m.
- Promotion: Cubs Charities “Pink Out” T-shirt presented by Advocate Health Care, all Budweiser Bleacher fans
- First pitches and seventh-inning stretch: Breast cancer survivors
- MLB Honorary Bat Girl: Ginny Cooper, 10-year breast cancer survivor
- Broadcast: CSN, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Tuesday, May 12 vs. New York Mets, 7:05 p.m.
- First pitch: WNBA Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley
- Broadcast: CSN+, MLB Network, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Wednesday, May 13 vs. New York Mets, 7:05 p.m.
- First pitch: Chicago Bears defensive end David Bass
- Broadcast: WGN, ESPN, WBBM 780-AM, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
Thursday, May 14 vs. New York Mets, 1:20 p.m.
- Seventh-inning stretch: DePaul Men’s Basketball Coach Dave Leitao
- Broadcast: CSN, WBBM 780-AM, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com
- Postgame: Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation’s Third Annual Cook-Off for Cancer
Friday, May 15 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 1:20 p.m.
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: UIC Men’s Basketball Coach Steve McClain
- Broadcast: CSN, MLB Network, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Saturday, May 16 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 3:05 p.m.
- Promotion: Cubs Reusable Tote Bag presented by MLB Network, first 20,000 fans
- Seventh-inning stretch: Former Cubs infielder Bill Madlock
- Broadcast: WLS-TV, FS1, WBBM 780-AM, ESPN Radio, Cubs.com
Sunday, May 17 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 1:20 p.m.
- Broadcast: WGN, MLBN, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
- Kids Run the Bases post-game, first 1,000 kids 13-and-under
The April 7 game between the Cubs and Cardinals that was postponed due to weather is scheduled to be made up on Tuesday, July 7, as the first game of a split doubleheader at Wrigley Field. The makeup game will be played at 12:20 p.m. and will be followed by the regularly scheduled game at 7:05 p.m.
Tickets to the April 7 game at Wrigley Field will be honored for the 12:20 p.m. July 7 game. No ticket exchange is necessary.
Separate tickets are required for each game, and gates will reopen approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
Tickets for both July 7 games are available for sale at cubs.com, by phone at 1-800-THE-CUBS or at the Wrigley Field ticket windows.
Wrigley Field’s Budweiser Bleachers will have a new look and feel this season as the Chicago Cubs reopen the bleachers in phases with new group spaces, improved concessions and additional room for fans to socialize and watch the game.
The bleachers in left and center field remain on track to open for occupancy May 11, which will coincide with Cubs Charities’ Pink Out presented by Advocate Health Care on the first home game following Mother’s Day. Each guest in the Budweiser Bleachers that day will receive a “Pink Out” T-shirt to promote breast cancer prevention awareness and celebrate moms and women everywhere who are survivors. The right-field bleachers will open for occupancy as planned June 11. Work will continue throughout May and June as the team finishes the new spaces and additional amenities, including new concessions and food offerings. The overall enhanced Budweiser Bleachers will be completed in early July. The team will host a celebratory event for guests in the Budweiser Bleachers on Friday, July 3.
“There’s no experience quite like sitting in the Budweiser Bleachers for a Cubs game,” said Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney. “With new group spaces, wider concourses and expanded concession service, we are excited to open the Budweiser Bleachers for our next homestand and celebrate the relaunch of one of the most popular seats in sports with our legacy partner, Anheuser-Busch.”
A combination of portable and fixed concessions and vendors will be available in the Budweiser Bleachers beginning May 11. The new Platform 14, an outdoor concession area located behind the historic scoreboard, is scheduled to open in early July. Platform 14 will offer expanded food preparation spaces and a larger variety of freshly prepared food items. When the Budweiser Bleacher expansion is completed, fans will enjoy shorter wait times with additional points of sale and a wider variety of food and beverage offerings.
The new Budweiser Bleachers also include new video boards and signage that feature a mix of game and player stats, video replays, historical Cubs footage and behind-the-scenes interviews with the team, as well as baseball content from around the league.
In addition to the expanded spaces and amenities, the Cubs and Budweiser have teamed up to present new Budweiser Bleacher Fridays on select dates throughout the 2015 season. Budweiser Bleacher Fridays will feature pre- or postgame entertainment, exclusive giveaway items, special food and beverages, and more. This year’s schedule is headlined by a postgame Extra Innings Show for all game attendees featuring Fitz & The Tantrums on Friday, July 10. Budweiser Bleacher guests will receive an Extra Innings Concert Koozie. Other Budweiser Bleacher Friday themes include a Beach Bash (May 29), Country Day (June 12), Red, White and Brew (July 3), ‘90s Day (Aug. 21), and Singles and Doubles Day (Sept. 18).
In addition to general admission seating in the Budweiser Bleachers, several new and enhanced spaces are available that provide a fun atmosphere, additional amenities and space for groups of various sizes.
Budweiser Bleacher Group Spaces:
Budweiser Patio: The Budweiser Patio offers standing room and reserved seating below the new video board in right field with all-inclusive food and beverage. This space is perfect for large groups of 50-150 fans. Beginning this season, the Budweiser Patio will feature an expanded footprint and additional concessions options. The Budweiser Patio will open June 11.
Budweiser Bleacher Suite: The enclosed Budweiser Bleacher Suite offers a premier gameday experience for groups of 50-100 guests. Located in center field, guests in the Budweiser Bleacher Suite will enjoy a food and beverage package and easy access to the Budweiser Bleachers. This is a great space for corporate gatherings or large group events. The Budweiser Bleacher Suite will open May 11.
Left-Field Porch: This large group space offers a mix of standing-room and bleacher seating options beneath the new left-field video board for groups of up to 100 people. Featuring an all-inclusive beverage package, the Left-Field Porch is a great space for corporate employee engagement events or large group gatherings. The Left Field Porch will open May 11.
Right-Field Porch: Similar to the Left-Field Porch, this large group space offers a mix of standing-room and bleacher seating options for groups of up to 100 people. Featuring an all-inclusive beverage package, the Right-Field Porch is a great space for corporate employee engagement events or large group gatherings. The Right-Field Porch will be open to all Budweiser Bleacher guests on select dates this season. The Right-Field Porch will open June 11.
Left-Field Well: The new Left-Field Well features space close to the action in the first two rows above the left-field wall with designated standing-room and limited seating for groups of 15 to 50 fans. The Left-Field Well offers guests the best view in the bleachers to catch all the action on the field and is perfect for bachelor/bachelorette parties and special events. The Left-Field Well will open May 11.
“With new offerings to complement the bleacher experience fans already know and love, we are thrilled to open the enhanced Budweiser Bleachers and welcome back our fans in the coming weeks,” said Vice President of Sales and Partnerships Colin Faulkner. “Guests can begin booking these new spaces today to ensure they are part of an exciting season of Cubs baseball.”
Budweiser Bleacher tickets are available for sale now at www.cubs.com/bleachers, by phone at 1-800-THE-CUBS or at the Wrigley Field Ticket Windows. Fans can find more information about each Budweiser Bleacher group space and directions for booking at www.cubs.com/bleachers.
This season, the Cubs will debut a new twist on an old tradition. After each Cubs win at Wrigley Field, the team will keep the Wintrust “W” lit above the new video board once the ballpark lights turn off.
Though the left-field video board is definitely new, the concept of keeping a blue light shining after Cubs wins is not. During the major renovation of 1937, when the team constructed the modern-style bleachers and scoreboard and planted the ivy, the idea came about to install two lights atop the scoreboard along with the W and L flags. That way, commuters on the El would still be able to tell if the Cubs won or lost even after it got dark and it was no longer possible to see the flags.
The Cubs installed a blue light on the third-base side of the scoreboard to be lit following wins and a white light on first-base side for losses. More than 75 years later, those lights were still being used.
To continue to preserve this history while utilizing Wrigley Field’s newest assets to their best effect, the Cubs will have a new tradition following Cubs wins. Long after “Go, Cubs, Go” has finished playing and the crowds have poured back out into Wrigleyville, the blue W in the Wintrust logo atop the video board will keep fans and commuters posted on the fate of their beloved Cubs. Watch for it all season at the Friendly Confines.