Results tagged ‘ Chicago Bears ’
Looking up at the scoreboard, where there normally would be a line score for a Cubs game, it read: NOVEMBER 20 2010.
Most of the men wearing suits had purple ties accompanying them. Northwestern University flags flew above the scoreboard along side the United States flag.
On either foul pole, purple mixed with yellow, as Northwestern flags flew where Billy, Ryno, Fergie/Greg, Ernie and Ron usually fly.
Even on the podium the Northwestern logo had supplanted the Cubs logo. In the center of the stage sat two Northwestern football helmets and a football. The flavor of the morning was unmistakable.
It was announced today at a press conference this morning that Northwestern football would host the University of Illinois at Wrigley Field on Nov. 20 at 11 am CST. It marks the first college game played at Wrigley Field since 1938.
Some dignitaries attending the event were the Bears’ matriarch Virginia McCaskey and her son, Brian, Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald, two Northwestern players–quarterback Dan Persa and lineman Corbin Bryant, as well as former Bears players Ronnie Bull and Mike Adamle. Northwestern football radio play-by-play man and longtime WGN sports director Dave Eanet emceed the event.
Down in the Cubs clubhouse, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts presented Virginia and Brian McCaskey with a framed print of Wrigley Field’s marquee welcoming back Virginia to the park where her Bears played so many games.
This will be the first time in more than 87 years that Northwestern and Illinois will play at Wrigley Field.
On Oct. 27, 1923, the Wildcats and the Illini squared off at the Friendly Confines (then called Cubs Park) in front of 32,000 fans.
Now I was having “Da Pork Chop” with Da Coach.
At his steakhouse “Ditka’s” just off the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago, Mike Ditka was kind enough to offer about an hour of his day and allow me to catch up with him.
He’s got his own line of cigars and a new line of gourmet wines, the restaurant chain and does color commentary for ESPN during football season. He’s been heavily involved with GridironGreats.com, a charitable group that helps disabled ex-NFL football players. And not surprisingly, he speaks just as fast as his schedule moves.
He’s a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame and also a former guest conductor of Wrigley Field’s own seventh-inning stretch. While the latter probably runs a distant third to the two other honors, Da Coach has fond memories of singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Vine Line: So Coach, when are we going to see you back in the press box helping us conduct the seventh-inning stretch? It’s been a while.
Mike Ditka: Aw, I’ve done it plenty of times, nobody wants to hear me sing anymore.
VL: I’m not so sure about that. C’mon you could just wear a shirt or a hat like Ernie Banks does and it’s right there on TV–your wines or your cigars…
MD: Hey, we got a clothing line, too, ya know.
VL: See? What do you say? We’d love to have you back.
MD: Well, let’s see. Have the Cubs call me and maybe. But the last time I did it, I nearly had a heart attack.
VL: That’s right! I remember that. What happened?
MD: We were late getting to the ballpark. I can’t remember if it was bad traffic or we were just coming back from something. I get to Wrigley, and it’s the top of the seventh already. So we
run up the ramps, darn near sprinting and by the time I get there, the organ’s already playing. I was running fast–and I don’t run anymore, you know–so I just kept singing fast. Some people said they didn’t like it, so what. I was out of breath.
VL: Does coming back to Wrigley Field bring back memories? What was it like to play football at Wrigley Field? [Editor's note: The Bears played at Wrigley Field from 1921-70.]
MD: It was great. Everything was so close. The field ran from the leftfield wall to the visitors dugout. Man, a lot of guys took a dive into that dugout after scoring touchdowns. They built these temporary bleachers in rightfield and man, it felt like people were right on top of you.
VL: What is your fondest memory?
MD: Winning the 1963 NFL Championship. We beat the New York Giants. They were a good team, but we were a good team, so it wasn’t a good game because we just cancelled each other out. But I loved winning that championship….Hey, you want some lunch?
VL: No, Coach, you don’t have to do that.
MD: Nah, you gotta eat, kid. Have Da Pork Chop. It’s great.
The story goes something like this:
George Halas, looking for a suitable name for his football club, the Staleys, saw that sportswriters were calling the Chicago National League Ball Club, the Cubs. Halas liked the name so much and wanting to keep some continuity to the city’s mascots, briefly decided he’d rename his Staleys the Cubs, as well. But then it occurred to him–if baseball players are Cubs, and his football players were significantly larger than baseball players, wouldn’t that make them Bears?
And the rest is history.
About a month ago, Cubs VP of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita (below) was in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, the annual evaluation of college football’s top players. It is here where NFL teams put into empircal data the skills and physical attributes of players into whom they
might be investing millions of dollars. It is also where Fleita saw first-hand the vast
disparity in just sheer size between his baseball players and these football players.
I guess Halas was right.
Fleita was there as a guest, a precursor visit to his real objective–the NFL pre-camp workouts. He was interested to perhaps glean some player development techniques, exercises or programs he could install into the Cubs farm system. With the NFL Draft on the near horizon, the Combine acts as a clearing house of scouting information and Fleita came away impressed.
Vine Line: I overheard at Spring Training that you had attended the NFL Scouting Combine. What was that like?
Oneri Fleita: Well, the first thing I was thinking was I wish we could get some of these great athletes out on the diamond to hit a round ball with a round bat squarely. These guys were really impressive athletes. Elite. We have to get more of these kind of guys playing baseball.
VL: What were the differences or similarities between scouting techniques used for baseball and those used for football?
OF: I’d probably compare the scouting methods comparble to what we do in the Dominican Republic in the sense that we really can’t go to see a lot of high school games or college games. It’s a lot more of open tryouts, physical tests like making guys run the 60 [yard dash]
and time them or put them through some agility drills like catching fly balls, ground balls, those kinds of things. Pitchers throwing a bullpen would be similar to what the Combine did with quarterbacks and having them throw to receivers running pass patterns or through targets.
VL: Are football scouting staffs smaller or larger in size than baseball scouting staffs?
OF: Well, baseball staffs are much larger. Football guys are scouting mainly at college games because for them, college is like their minor leagues. But there aren’t that many games in a season. What, maybe 14, 15 games? Our guys easily see over a hundred games between minor-leagues, high school, college and the majors. So I think the Combine allows
the NFL scouts to measure certain things using drills such as speed or strength. I mean, heck, we don’t ever have anyone see how many times they can bench 225 pounds! Seeing some of these guys who look like toothpicks fire it up and down was quite impressive. (Photos by NFL.com) But their scouting reports are very detailed. We don’t measure things like hand size or vertical leap. But they don’t do a lot of projecting like we do. Their guys have to go and step in and play, whereas we’ll try to project maybe a kid will develop a second or third pitch or he’ll get a little bigger. In the NFL, these guys often have to go straight from college to the NFL gridiron.
VL: I guess that’s the big difference between the sports, personnel-wise. The NFL teams don’t have that reserve of guys who have time to learn. Most have to be ready to play now?
OF: In just listening and observing and understanding what many of the teams have to contend with, things are very tight. They have a salary cap, so their numbers are very tight to where you just can’t carry a lot of guys who aren’t ready to step in and contribute to winning a game every Sunday.
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