Even the biggest baseball fans can understand why outsiders occasionally find the game a little slow. Viewers have to love the chess match between pitcher and hitter, because the game moves at its own pace, runs without any sort of clock and even allows for pitchers who enter as reserves to warm up on the event’s time.
But 15 years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer—and not just in Chicago. Viewers around the country tuned in to WGN every day to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history.
Of course, Sosa’s historic assault on the record books probably had a lot to do with that. He and Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire blasted bombs at a dizzying pace all season long, which kept the nation’s eyes focused squarely on the NL Central. But while Sosa may have been the headliner on the North Side, the Cubs were an entertaining bunch from top to bottom.
Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.
The 1998 season brought an array of emotions to the Wrigley faithful: the sorrow of broadcasting legends lost, the frustration of late-season opportunities that slipped out of the team’s hands—or gloves—and the excitement of the postseason run. Plus, it was the coming out party for a 6-foot-5 “kid” from Texas who struck out 20 opposing batters in only his fifth major league start—and did it against one of the most prolific offenses in the NL. You just can’t make this stuff up.
To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the first part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
4/3/98—Dutchie Caray honors her late husband
It was an uplifting year at the Friendly Confines, despite the loss of two of the most legendary voices in Cubs history. On Feb. 11, 1998, broadcasting icon Harry Caray died of cardiac arrest. Then Jack Brickhouse, who did play-by-play for the Cubs from 1948–81, passed away six months later on Aug. 6.
The Cubs honored the late Caray during the home opener on April 3 by having his wife, Dutchie, sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch, just as her husband had done countless times. Before the top of the seventh ended and prior to Dutchie taking the mic, the crowd broke out in a chant of, “Harry! Harry!”
“It was unbelievable. The people just took over for me,” said Dutchie Caray at the time. “These fans are so crazy about Harry. I don’t know if they’ll ever forget him.”
Dutchie wrapped up the touching tribute by hugging Harry’s grandson Chip, who had taken over in the broadcast booth, while blue and white balloons were released to the strains of “Amazing Grace.”
(Photo by Stephen Green)
As the Cubs held off the playoff-bound Pirates to claim a 4-2 win Wednesday afternoon, it marks the end of home games at Wrigley Field for 2013. Next season, the Cubs will start on the road at Pittsburgh before heading to the Friendly Confines, with the home opener slated for Friday, April 4 against Philadelphia. The 2014 season will mark Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary and will be celebrated all season long on the north side.
When the Cubs play their home opener on April 4, 2014, it will kick off the 100th season of baseball at Wrigley Field. Over the weekend, the team unveiled a new logo to commemorate 100 years at the venerable ballpark.
The logo was created by graphic designer Brandon Ort of New Bremen, Ohio, who’s design beat out more than 1,200 other submissions in the “Wrigley Field Turns 100″ logo contest, held earlier this year.
For his efforts, Ort was recognized during an on-field ceremony prior to Saturday afternoon’s game against the Braves. His logo will be featured as a patch on the team’s home uniform next year, as well as in a variety of promotional items, including memorabilia and commemorative baseballs.
“I am excited and completely honored to have my ‘Wrigley Field Turns 100’ logo design selected to represent this historic ballpark in its 100th year,” Ort said. “Creating the design that will be a part of Cubs and Wrigley Field history is incredibly humbling and serves as a benchmark in my career. What better way to celebrate than to watch a game at Wrigley Field today with close friends and family.”
Throughout the 2014 season, the Cubs will celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field with promotions, events and collectible memorabilia. Additional details will be revealed later this offseason, and attendees of the 2014 Cubs Convention will get a first look at many aspects of the planned celebration.
“We’re very excited to unveil our official logo celebrating 100 years of Wrigley Field and to kick off what will be a season-long celebration of the past century at this beautiful ballpark,” said Alison Miller, Cubs senior director of marketing. “Our fans will want to be here to remember and possibly re-experience many of the historic moments that occurred at Wrigley Field.”
Fans can now find official Wrigley Field 100th merchandise—such as hats, clothing, glassware, pins and pennants—at the Cubs store on Clark Street and at Wrigley Field gift shops. Chicago Cubs Charities has also introduced a limited-edition Wrigley Field 100th Anniversary ornament.
(Art by Jerry Neumann)
This piece originally ran in the September issue of Vine Line.
As members of the media walked down the stairs into the Wrigley Field home clubhouse prior to the first game of a July doubleheader against the Brewers, it was hard to ignore the mystery man in a Cubs Lucha Libre wrestling mask and a cowboy hat walking around the room.
All-Star pitcher Travis Wood wasn’t doing it for a promotional stunt, and he openly acknowledged he hadn’t lost a bet. He was simply the most recent Wrigley visitor to get his hands on some of the Cubs’ more in-demand promotional items.
All season long, the Cubs’ marketing and ticket sales teams have been dispensing a unique array of giveaway items, from Kentucky Derby hats, to Kerry Wood garden gnomes, to the aforementioned cowboy hats and Lucha Libre masks.
“You know you’ve had a good item when you’ve had a lot of requests from our beat writers, the broadcasters … and members of the front office have all asked for them for friends,” said Brian Garza, director of ticket sales and service for the Cubs. “It’s flattering because you know you did something good.”
Fans really gravitated toward the wrestling mask giveaway, so much so that Garza said there were bids reaching upward of $50 on eBay for the July 30 promotional item.
Another unique giveaway will take place on Monday, Sept. 23 when Zubazpalooza takes over the Budweiser Bleachers. Anyone with a bleacher ticket for that night’s game—and fond memories of the early 1990s—will receive a complimentary pair of Cubs Zubaz zebra-striped pants.
“It’s a retro item,” Garza said. “It represents terrible fashion, but sometimes those things make for a ton of fun.”
Cubs Minor League Player of the Year Javier Baez will be honored at Wrigley Field Saturday.
Prior to Saturday’s game, the Chicago Cubs will unveil the official logo to celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field in 2014 and recognize the winning designer who participated in the “Wrigley Field Turns 100” logo contest earlier this season. The team received more than 1,200 submissions, and fans selected the winning design from four finalists on cubs.com.
Immediately following the logo unveiling, infielder Javier Baez and right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks will be recognized for being named the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year. Baez and Hendricks received the honor last Friday, and both will be present at Wrigley Field for Saturday’s pregame ceremony.
Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins will be behind the mic on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Wrigley Field. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Starting Friday, the Cubs are back at Wrigley Field and looking to make an impact on the National League playoff race. The NL East-leading Braves come to town for a three-game series over the weekend, and the Wild Card-leading Pirates will invade the Friendly Confines for a three-game set on Monday. If you’re headed out to Wrigley Field for the final homestand of the 2013 season, here’s your seventh-inning stretch lineup:
Friday – 9/20
Dennis Miller, comedian and TV personality
Saturday – 9/21
Sunday – 9/22
Wayne Messmer, regular Cubs anthem performer
Monday – 9/23
Tom Dreesen, comedian
Tuesday – 9/24
Fergie Jenkins, Cubs Hall of Famer
Wednesday – 9/25
Grounds Crew (from the field)
How do you know the game-used and autographed memorabilia you buy at Wrigley Field or online at cubs.com is the real deal? We went behind the scenes with the Cubs Authentics team to get an inside look at the most comprehensive authentication program in sports.
It has been 20 years since Thomas Ian Nicholas took the mound at Wrigley Field as a 12-year-old flamethrower named Henry Rowengartner in the baseball classic Rookie of the Year. Vine Line caught up with the actor and musician before he threw out the first pitch in early June to discuss filming at the Friendly Confines, getting referred to by his characters’ names and throwing his signature “floater.”
The Cubs will celebrate Chicago Blackhawks Day on Monday, Sept. 2 at Wrigley Field. (Photo by Stephen Green)
On Friday afternoon, the Cubs welcome Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg back to Wrigley Field, as they kick off a nine-game homestand against the Phillies, Marlins and Brewers. It’s also your chance to see Hall of Famer Andre Dawson and the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. If you’re headed out to the Friendly Confines from Aug. 30-Sept. 8, here’s your first pitch and seventh-inning stretch lineup:
Friday – 8/30
First Pitch and Stretch: Jon Lovitz, actor and comedian
Saturday – 8/31
Stretch: Gary Matthews, former Cubs player, “Sarge”
Sunday – 9/1
Stretch: Chicago Sky players Swin Cash, Sylvia Fowles and Courtney Vandersloot
Monday – 9/2
First Pitch: Andre Dawson, Cubs Hall of Famer
Stretch: Chicago Blackhawks TBD
Special Event: Chicago Blackhawks Day at Wrigley Field
Tuesday – 9/3
Stretch: Big Ten Network football analysts Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith
Special Event: Salute to Big Ten Night
Wednesday – 9/4
Stretch: Andre Dawson, Cubs Hall of Famer
Friday – 9/6
Stretch: Scott Eyre, former Cubs pitcher
Saturday – 9/7
Sunday – 9/8
Stretch: Lee Smith, former Cubs closer