On Wednesday night, guests gathered at Union Station to show their support for Cubs Charities at the fifth annual Bricks and Ivy Ball. The evening featured the 2015 Chicago Cubs team and coaching staff mingling with more than 700 guests in attendance and collected more than $1.35 million to support Cubs Charities’ programs.
“Each year, we look forward to our Bricks and Ivy Ball as a way to celebrate the impact Cubs Charities is making in communities all across Chicago,” said Cubs Charities Board Chair Laura Ricketts. “We are proud of the success of this event over the last five years. The support from our fans, corporate Chicago, and our coaches, players and front office help to fuel our community outreach and charitable giving. Together, we are creating a brighter future for Chicago’s next generation of all-stars.”
Cubs Charities sponsors three ongoing Signature Programs to further its mission to increase access to sports opportunities and target improvements in health, fitness and education for those at risk. The Cubs on the Move Fitness Program promotes a fitness plan and healthy eating campaign while encouraging kids to “Play Every Day.” The Cubs Charities Diamond Project expands opportunities for children to play baseball by creating or preserving green space and baseball facilities. Finally, the Cubs Scholars program offers quality scholarship and financial contributions for Chicago area high school students, coupled with a program that promotes academic achievement and encourages post-secondary educational advancement.
Last year, the Cubs and Cubs Charities combined to support donations of more than $4.5 million in addition to giving thousands of autographed items, experiences and tickets to deserving nonprofit organizations. For more information, please visit www.cubscharities.org.
After a short three-game set in Colorado, the Cubs return home for the second homestand of the year at Wrigley Field. From April 13-19, the Cubs welcome the division-rival Reds and the rebuilt and reloaded Padres squad. They’ll also welcome the cast of the Book of Mormon and The Second City Mainstage.
Here are the other guests and promotions you’ll find at the Friendly Confines during the six-game set.
Homestand Recap, April 13-19
Monday, April 13, Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:05 p.m.
- Broadcast: CSN+, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
- National Anthem and first pitch: Book of Mormon star David Larsen (Elder Price)
- Seventh-inning stretch: Book of Mormon stars David Larsen and Cody Jamison Strand (Elder Cunningham)
Tuesday, April 14, Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:05 p.m.
- First pitch: WNBA Chicago Sky guard Cappie Pondexter
- Broadcast: CSN, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Wednesday, April 15, Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:05 p.m.
- Pregame ceremony and seventh-inning stretch: Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars
- Broadcast: WPWR-TV, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Friday, April 17, Chicago Cubs vs. San Diego Padres, 1:20 p.m.
- Promotion: Cubs Winter Aviator Hat presented by Pepsi (first 10,000 fans)
- Broadcast: WLS-TV, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Saturday, April 18, Chicago Cubs vs. San Diego Padres, 1:20 p.m.
- Broadcast: CSN, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
Sunday, April 19, Chicago Cubs vs. San Diego Padres, 1:20 p.m.
- Seventh-inning stretch: Cast members from The Second City Mainstage
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WBBM 780-AM, Cubs.com
- Kids Run the Bases postgame (first 1,000 kids 13 and under)
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs return to Wrigley Field to host the Reds and Padres for their second homestand of the season, which will stretch from April 13-19.
On Wednesday, April 15, the Cubs will join all of Major League Baseball when they host Jackie Robinson Day at Wrigley Field. Jackie Robinson’s legacy is memorialized each year on April 15 to recognize the anniversary of the Hall of Famer breaking baseball’s color barrier.
Uniformed players and personnel at each major league ballpark will wear Jackie Robinson’s retired No. 42 on their jerseys that day. The bases used at Wrigley Field will feature a commemorative Jackie Robinson Day base jewel, and these game-used bases and No. 42 jerseys will be available through Cubs Authentics to benefit Cubs Charities.
A pregame ceremony will include a video highlighting Jackie Robinson’s career and legacy. The team will also present the ninth-annual Jackie Robinson Most Valuable Diverse Business Partner Award, which recognizes diverse business partners who continue the legacy of Jackie Robinson. Finally, several Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars will be recognized on the field, and these students will have the honor of leading the evening’s seventh-inning stretch.
This homestand, the Decade Diner—located in the right field concourse—will serve a Loaded Grilled Cheese with Smoked Brisket special, featuring two grilled cheese sandwiches, gourmet mac and cheese and smoked brisket. The Caprese Flatbread special features grilled flatbread, light tomato sauce, fresh ovalini mozzarella and fresh basil.
Tickets remain available for the upcoming homestand at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).
The Chicago Cubs today placed right-handed pitcher Justin Grimm on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to April 2) with right foreman inflammation and recalled right-handed pitcher Brian Schlitter from Triple-A Iowa.
Schlitter will be available for the Cubs Friday afternoon when they play the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
The 29-year-old Schlitter went 2-3 with a 4.15 ERA (26 ER/56.1 IP) in 61 appearances for the Cubs last season, his first big league action since the 2010 campaign. He turned in a 2.98 ERA in 43 appearances prior to the All-Star Break before being slowed by right shoulder inflammation that led to a stint on the disabled list in August. Overall, he allowed one earned run or less in 54 of his 61 appearances, including 48 scoreless outings.
Schlitter was originally selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 16th round of the 2007 Draft and was acquired by the Cubs the next season for left-hander Scott Eyre. Schlitter made his big league debut in 2010 with seven relief appearances. He is a native of Oak Park in suburban Chicago.
Grimm, 26, has yet to appear in a game for the Cubs this season. He went 5-2 with a 3.78 ERA (29 ER/69.0 IP) in 73 relief appearances for the Cubs last season.
Cubs vs. Rockies – Coors Field
First Pitch: 3:10 CST
Cubs Starter: Travis Wood, LHP
Cardinals Starter: Tyler Matzek, LHP
Broadcast: WGN-TV (local), Listen Live at WBBM 780
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jorge Soler, RF
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Starlin Castro, SS
5. Mike Olt, 3B
6. Matt Szczur, LF
7. Welington Castillo, C
8. Travis Wood, P
9. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B
(Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs)
As most people certainly know by now, historic Wrigley Field is undergoing a massive facelift as the 1060 Project restoration continues. And while the upgrades promise to make the ballpark experience even better down the line, fans should understand that—like with anything new—some of the kinks are still being worked out.
On Wednesday afternoon, Kristian Bush of the country group Sugarland faced some backlash after performing what sounded like a rather out-of-tune rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The Cubs would like to clarify that the tough performance was of no fault of the singer’s, but rather a sound system issue.
While some fans guessed Bush may have celebrated his appearance a little too much before taking the mic, rest assured, he had only hot dogs and Diet Pepsi at the game. The tough performance was the result of different timing between the organ and the music being played over the loudspeakers on the new sound system.
The Cubs say they are working out the details for future singers so the stretch goes back to being a pleasant break in the action for everyone.
Jake Arrieta makes his 2015 debut against the Cardinals. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs vs. Cardinals – Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 1:20 CST
Cubs Starter: Jake Arrieta, RHP
Cardinals Starter: Lance Lynn, RHP
Broadcast: ABC 7, Listen Live at WBBM 780
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jorge Soler, RF
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Starlin Castro, SS
5. Chris Coghlan, LF
6. Miguel Montero, C
7. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B
8. Jake Arrieta, RHP
9. Tommy La Stella, 3B
There’s nothing like Opening Day (or Night) to get you excited for the season. The North Siders are coming off a huge offseason, and this was many fans’ first opportunity to see new manager Joe Maddon, prized free-agent lefty Jon Lester, leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler and the rest of the team in person. Plus, the Cubs were the nationally televised, ESPN2 Opening Night affair—the only game on the major league slate—and debuted the new 3,990-square-foot video board in left field. To make things even better, the Cardinals were in town, and it was Lester toeing the slab versus St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright. The house was packed, and it felt like a playoff atmosphere. If you couldn’t be at Wrigley Field Sunday night, Vine Line was there to give you a look at all the Opening Night festivities.
As the Cubs embark on a new relationship with CBS Radio WBBM-AM 780 this season, we look back at the team’s unique role in baseball’s earliest broadcasts and how a few forward-thinking executives helped change the way the game reaches out to fans. The following can be found in the April issue of Vine Line.
A spin of the knob and a static-filled turn through the radio dial in 1920 didn’t offer much in the way of compelling entertainment. One might catch a farm report, the sounds of a pianist playing at Chicago’s Drake Hotel or some healthy-lunged soul reading the newspaper from cover to cover. Radio was largely staid, uneventful and untapped.
But in 1921, considered the year commercial radio was born, listeners could tune into something much more exciting for the first time—professional baseball.
The first crude broadcast trickled out of a Pittsburgh-based station to little fanfare, but just three years later, the power of baseball hit the airwaves in Chicago, where an intrepid ballclub owner and his savvy marketing counterparts used it to spur a revolution in sports. With owner William Wrigley Jr.’s foresight, the Cubs created a model of publicity, fandom and team ubiquity that reached people well beyond city limits. While many owners still feared airing games would be bad for the sport (and their bottom line), the Cubs became a pioneering force that helped revolutionize how the game has been consumed by the public ever since.
“It was definitely the Cubs who acknowledged this was a medium, a way, for not taking away from attendance, but for making better fans,” said Cubs historian Ed Hartig. “[With radio], the Cubs went from the middle of the road to leading the National League in attendance year after year.”
In 2015, for the first time in nearly six decades, Cubs baseball will be broadcast exclusively on CBS affiliate WBBM-AM 780, after a much-talked-about changing of the guard from longtime partner WGN. Even with television’s high-definition visuals and the Internet vying for fans’ attention, radio remains a local media force, especially among serious fans hungry for information about their beloved club. While comparatively quaint, listening to a game on the radio can still be sublime.
“It’s a local jewel, an iconic brand,” said Rod Zimmerman, senior vice president at CBS Radio Chicago. “We believe in what they’re doing on the North Side.”
Implausibly, there once was baseball without broadcasts. No game calls, no player interviews, no commercials, no lucrative rights deals. At the turn of the 20th century, people who could afford to attend games were the only sure revenue stream upon which a team owner could rely, and fans were courted in now unfathomably low-tech ways.
“You became a baseball fan by playing it or by watching your local team contest against the adjoining community,” said John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian and the author of the Our Game blog. “And there were the sporting papers.”
Written accounts of major and minor league games courted baseball’s relatively small fan base, but actually attending a tilt in person was prohibitively expensive. A 50-cent ticket in the late 1800s was not far off, inflation-wise, from what seats fetch today. Plus, stadiums didn’t yet have lights. Mid-afternoon game times catered to bankers and brokers, and, of course, city dwellers who could easily access the ballpark, Thorn said.
In Chicago, the game crowd was often inebriated, always rowdy, and generally inhospitable to women and children. In short, it took some effort to be a fan.
But Harold Arlin, engineer for Pittsburgh’s KDKA, the first commercial radio station in the country, changed all that at an otherwise uneventful game between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on Aug. 5, 1921. As the teams battled it out on the field, Arlin rested his jury-rigged equipment and a homemade microphone on a wooden plank on the arms of his seat and, over the drone of the crowd and occasional equipment failures, broadcast the first radio game in Major League Baseball history.
While there is no recording of this initial broadcast, Hartig’s research found it was far from smooth. Arlin didn’t know much about baseball, and the frequent dead air and lifeless call made for some uninspiring listening. But the essential concept worked. The following fall KDKA became the first station to broadcast a World Series game and, later, a college football game.
Radio in those days was fledgling, and stations such as the newly established WGN in Chicago did not discriminate as to what they were willing to put on the air.
“They were sort of desperate for content,” Hartig said.
Airing the occasional big-ticket sporting event worked well enough that in 1924, WGN tapped A.W. Kaney to broadcast the opening game of the Cubs-White Sox City Series from the roof of what is now known as Wrigley Field.
“We go back 90 years with the Chicago Cubs on WGN,” said Jack Rosenberg, WGN sports editor from 1945-99. “To the very beginning of radio.”
Wrigley, team owner and head of a chewing gum empire, was a big—if not the biggest—player in creating the baseball-on-the-radio phenomenon. He and Cubs stockholder Albert Lasker, known as the “father of modern marketing,” recognized there was something to be gained from broadcasting games.
A handful of local stations, such as the Chicago Daily News-backed WMAQ and the Chicago Tribune’s WGN, began covering the Cubs with Wrigley’s encouragement. Typically WGN would air weekend and holiday games, while WMAQ carried midweek affairs. The head of WMAQ, Judith Waller, pressed Wrigley for exclusive rights to the games in 1925—a prescient move in those experimental times—but the Cubs owner, according to Hartig, figured more outlets would serve his club better, so he invited all local stations to cover the team.
“Back in the 1930s, research showed that at one point, there were as many as five stations airing Cubs baseball. Eventually, this created new fans,” Rosenberg said. “It was phenomenal. It changed the game.”
So did charismatic broadcasters such as WGN’s Quin Ryan, who opened the 1925 season with a pregame show before the Cubs hosted the Pirates. Ryan knew baseball and delivered the call with enthusiasm and insight. But owners outside of Chicago still saw this new on-air alternative as a potential scourge to the bottom line.
“Radio was slow to take hold in local markets because baseball owners thought it would cannibalize attendance,” Thorn said. “But my thoughts are radio never hurt anybody, anytime, anyhow.”
The conflict between radio backers and detractors divided largely on geographic lines. The rural expanse of the West allowed teams such as Chicago and St. Louis to draw from not only their big-city markets, but from far-distant regions as well.
“As you get from the early 1920s to the late 1920s, there’s essentially a split among owners,” said James R. Walker, author of Crack of the Bat: A History of Baseball on the Radio. “Those hinterland fans were given a taste of the Cubs on the radio. In the East, they were pretty much hemmed in.”
The Yankees’ fan base butted against that of the New York Giants, which tickled the edge of Philadelphia Athletics country, which essentially sat atop Pirates territory. The owners feared radio broadcasts would poach fans from across those already-tensile borders. Philadelphia, however, tended to embrace radio, Hartig said. Another exception was Boston, whose broadcasts could pull fans from western Massachusetts and northern New England, effectively leading to the establishment of what we now know as Red Sox Nation.
But owners still feared easily accessible baseball broadcasts and competition with nearby markets would depress attendance. World Series seats were coveted enough that broadcasting those games was of little concern. But a midsummer snoozer? That could be a problem. In the era of minimal rights fees, teams were making next to nothing on radio broadcasts. It simply wasn’t worth the gamble.
“They weren’t dimwitted. They weren’t Luddites,” Walker said. “They were trying to make a reasoned decision regarding the situation they were in.”
In 1926, American League President Ban Johnson even went so far as to forbid AL teams from broadcasting games, according to Hartig. New York clubs refused to air any games, home or away, until 1939, and the Cardinals were blacked out in 1934 (until attendance nosedived and management reconsidered). The teams that did embrace radio often broadcast only home games, seeing those as a good advertisement for a day at the ballpark.
Wrigley, on the other hand, believed radio was something more and that the Cubs could reach a new breed of fans who were unable to attend games—those at work, mothers at home with kids, etc. Radio would entice these listeners to want to experience the games for themselves and actually be a boon to attendance. Thanks to Wrigley’s well-informed hunch, Cubs business was booming. Attendance-wise, that is. The team itself struggled.
Chicago finished the 1925 season in last place with a 68-86 record. Yet over the next two years, attendance increased 86 percent from more than 620,000 in 1925 to nearly 1.2 million in 1927. Even during the Great Depression, as clubs saw their attendance drop off by up to 75 percent, the Cubs only suffered a 20 percent loss, Hartig said.
While these spikes in popularity were partly traceable to radio, the growth also coincided with team President Bill Veeck Sr.’s leadership and the sweeping improvements he made to the team’s ballpark, roster and marketing efforts. It was a good time to be affiliated with the Cubs, especially as the dismal seasons gave way to pennants in 1929, 1932, 1935 and 1938.
With multiple outlets covering the team, stations thrived on the backs of their broadcasters. WGN’s illustrious history alone includes Quin Ryan and Bob Elson, Jack Quinlan and Lou Boudreau, Harry Caray (briefly), Pat Hughes and Ron Santo, and the list of local legends goes on.
“The announcers, in effect, became part of the family,” Rosenberg said. “[Fans] knew they were going to be there.”
By 1949, Hartig said, 29 stations in 10 states were broadcasting Cubs games, and those broadcasts reached up to 2.7 million homes.
In 1948, the newly minted WGN-TV station broadcast its first Cubs game with future Hall of Famer Jack Brickhouse at the mic. While this didn’t displace radio, televised games changed the profile of the audience. Radio became the preferred option of purists and romantics, or those at work during games, driving in their cars or sitting outside in the yard. Television brought baseball to life, introducing fans to the sights in addition to the sounds of beautiful Wrigley Field. That had a seismic impact on how the action was conveyed and on the ways the league could make money.
But while TV and the Internet are huge drivers for Major League Baseball, anyone spinning the dial to WBBM this season will tell you that radio still matters.
“You use your imagination,” Walker said. “It becomes a much richer experience than watching a television program.”
Baseball on the radio is about nostalgia, simplicity and romance. And in any new relationship—the Cubs and WBBM’s included—it all starts with a little romance.
“It’s the idea of catching a ballgame while swatting away mosquitos and drinking a beer,” Thorn said. “And isn’t that great?”
—By Kerry Trotter
The Chicago Cubs today announced net proceeds from all MLB-authenticated, game-used and autographed Cubs memorabilia sold through Cubs Authentics will be donated to Cubs Charities. These funds will help support Cubs Charities’ mission to harness the passion of Cubs fans to improve the lives of children and families across Chicago.
“Part of the Cubs’ mission is to support our community and be good neighbors. Cubs Charities is very excited to partner with Cubs Authentics to help improve the lives of children and families across Chicago and beyond,” said Connie Falcone, vice president of development for Cubs Charities. “We hope our fans are just as excited to build their collection of authenticated Cubs memorabilia while supporting great causes through Cubs Charities.”
Cubs Authentics, which launched at the beginning of the 2012 season, is the premier outlet for MLB-authenticated Cubs memorabilia, including game-used jerseys and baseballs, autographed items and one-of-a-kind Wrigley Field Collection items.
Fans and collectors interested in supporting Cubs Charities through the purchase of Cubs Authentics memorabilia can find autographed baseballs, bats and jerseys from new and returning players at www.cubs.com/authentics. You can also pre-purchase game-used bases from Opening Night featuring a commemorative base jewel honoring Ernie Banks; bases from the team’s April home series vs. the Cardinals, Padres and Pirates with specialty matchup base jewels; plus a Jackie Robinson Day base jewel from April 15 vs. the Reds.
Shortly after the Cubs opening series vs. the Cardinals, fans will be able to bid online on a variety of rare merchandise collected by Cubs Authentics, including game-used baseballs, bases, bats, jerseys, nameplates and lineup cards. Cubs Authentics will host an online auction with items collected during Spring Training as well, featuring Spring Training locker room nameplates and game-used hats—including green St. Patrick’s Day hats.