Results tagged ‘ From the Pages of Vine Line ’

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Playoff hosts

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. 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.

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 final part of the 10-part series.

Wood-98

(Photo by Stephen Green)

10/3/98 – The Postseason

Game 3 of the NLDS marked the end of a thrilling, roller-coaster season for the Cubs. The team returned to Wrigley Field in an 0-2 hole against the Braves in the best-of-five series, but the crowd was in a frenzy as rookie Kerry Wood squared off against future Hall of Famer and former Cub Greg Maddux in the Cubs’ first home playoff game since 1989.

The start was actually Wood’s first since Aug. 31, as he was sidelined with right elbow issues through the back half of the season.

“I rank that above the 20-strikeout game for me as far as that first year of my career,” Wood said. “It was a surreal moment for me to match up with a Hall of Famer. For me to match up, a rookie, a young kid, a 21-year-old kid at the time, matching up with Greg Maddux in the playoffs, [it was amazing].”

Though Wood’s pitch count mounted for the first few innings, he held his own, giving up three hits and one earned run on a passed ball. But as Kid K neared the 100-pitch mark after five innings, manager Jim Riggleman removed his young ace, and the Cubs couldn’t hold on, falling 6-2 to bring an end to the dramatic 1998 campaign.

From the Pages of Vine Line Remembering 1998 – Game 163

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. 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.

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 ninth part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

941-Wild-Card-092898C-win

(Photo by Stephen Green)

9/26/98 – Game 163

The home matchup with the Giants on Sept. 28 was more than just a game. It was a single-elimination, winner-take-all battle royale to determine who would claim the NL Wild Card and move on to face the waiting Braves in the Division Series. There was a nearly unprecedented buzz at Wrigley Field. It had been almost 10 years since postseason excitement had come to the Friendly Confines, and fans were primed for the occasion.

“From the moment [I showed] up at the ballpark late in the afternoon, [there was] just this electricity I had never really seen at Wrigley before,” said Trachsel, that night’s starter. “The excitement of what winning the game would mean for our team and the organization and the city—and the number of people out on the street—I had never really seen that before in my time there.”

Gary Gaetti got the offense going with a two-run bomb in the fifth, and Trachsel departed with a 4-0 lead after surrendering his first hit of the game in the top of the seventh. Though the Giants scored three in the ninth off Kevin Tapani and Terry Mulholland, Rod Beck came in to shut the door for the Cubs, who held on for a 5-3 victory and their first postseason appearance since 1989.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Beck’s 50

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. 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.

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 eighth part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

952-Wild-Card-092898A-Beck-R_CC

(Photo by Stephen Green)

9/26/98 — Rod Beck’s 50-save season

The stocky build. The chops. The mullet. Veteran closer Rod Beck spent only a year and a half on the North Side, but his time with the team was unforgettable.

In 81 appearances in 1998, “Shooter” became just the fifth player in major league history to accumulate 50 saves in a season. And none of them was more dramatic than his 51st, which he picked up in a 5-3 win over San Francisco in the Wild Card play-in game.

Beck, whose fastball rarely made it out of the high-80s, fanned 23.2 percent of the batters he faced and had a 9.1 K/9 ratio.

“It makes you realize it’s not about stuff,” Wood said. “Here I am, a kid who thinks he can throw it by everybody and break off these nasty sliders any time I want, and you hand the ball over to a guy who’s not throwing harder than 88 mph. But he’s just lights out. For me, that was the first little glimpse I got that it’s not about stuff, it’s about [knowing] how to pitch.”

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Signing Gaetti

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. 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.

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 sixth part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

940-Wild-Card-092898A-Gaetti

(Photo by Stephen Green)

8/19/98 — Acquiring veteran Gary Gaetti

Veteran infielder Gary Gaetti made two All-Star appearances with Minnesota and amassed more than 2,000 hits in his career, but no one really knew what the 40-year-old had left in the tank when he was released by the Cardinals on Aug. 14, 2008. The answer: quite a bit.

Though the Cubs were initially unsure where they were going to insert Gaetti after they signed him as a free agent five days after he was released, they quickly found an everyday spot for him, and he delivered in a big way. The rejuvenated veteran hit .391/.467/.688 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 25 hits in his first 19 games with the North Siders during a vital second-half stretch.

“I’ve enjoyed it. I really have,” Gaetti told the Chicago Tribune in early September 1998. “It’s always different when you change teams, but coming to Wrigley and seeing how the guys interact in the clubhouse and how they go about their business on the field, it’s like old-time baseball.”

Gaetti recorded many timely hits, including a big two-run double to break an eighth-inning, one-all deadlock against the Astros in the final series of the season. His signature at-bat may be his key two-run home run in Game 163 that sparked the Cubs to a 5-3, playoff-clinching victory.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Sosa’s 20-homer June

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. 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.

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 fifth part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

Sosa

(Photo by Stephen Green)

June, 1998 – Sammy Sosa’s 20-homer month

June was all about Sammy—and that wasn’t just on the North Side. Throughout baseball and all around the country, every time No. 21 stepped to the plate, it was appointment viewing. Sosa clubbed a pair of homers on June 1, one a day from June 5-8, three on June 15, two on June 19 and two more on June 20.

Sosa finished with a major league-record 20 home runs in the month, surpassing Rudy York’s previous record of 18 in a month—set in August 1937—with a blast on June 25.

“All I remember about June was that Sammy seemed to hit a home run every single day. It was just unreal,” said pitcher Steve Trachsel. “It was just going into games wondering, ‘OK, how many is he going to hit today?’”

Diamondbacks lefty Alan Embree was the victim of Sosa’s 20th bomb, which he hit at Wrigley Field on the final night of the month. The moment was so exciting a pair of fans crashed the playing field and waited to congratulate the surprised slugger as he neared third base.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Windy City walk-off

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. 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.

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 fourth part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

Brant-Brown

(Photo by Stephen Green)

6/5/98 – Crosstown Classic walk-off

When most people think of Brant Brown in 1998, they remember the dropped fly ball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game 159 that nearly cost the Cubs their playoff dreams. What many forget is that three months earlier, Brown played the hero in the first-ever regular season Crosstown Classic matchup at Wrigley Field.

In the June 5 affair, the Cubs were trailing 2-0 after the first inning, but bounced back to take a three-run lead by the fifth, thanks to a third-inning three-run double from Henry Rodriguez and a fifth-inning two-run bomb from Sosa. After the Sox tied things up in the top of the sixth, the game became a pitchers’ duel with both bullpens holding the opposition scoreless until the 12th.

Then Brown stepped into the box in the bottom of the frame and took a 1-0 pitch from Tony Castillo over the right-field fence for a dramatic ending to the crosstown showdown.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – The winning streaks

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. 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.

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 third part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

959-Wild-Card-092898C-win

(Photo by Stephen Green)

The dramatic winning streaks

All baseball teams go on winning streaks, especially ones that are good enough to make it to October. But these repeated runs were one of the things that made the ’98 team so entertaining.

The Cubs opened the season with an 8-2 stretch that included an April 2 game in which they erased a 6-0 deficit to top the Marlins. The team had a 14-5 stretch from April 30-May 20 that was highlighted by Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout gem and a 14-inning comeback victory on May 8. They then won 10 in a row in early June, sweeping Atlanta, Florida and the White Sox in the process.

They went 19-9 in July and 16-6 from Aug. 22-Sept. 17 to give the team the necessary cushion down the stretch.

“We were kind of streaky,” said former Cubs starter Steve Trachsel. “As far as wins, it seemed to be a different guy every day. It wasn’t always the superstars of the team coming up with the big hits or big plays.”

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Kid K’s coming out party

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. 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.

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 second part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

Wood

(Photo by Stephen Green)

5/6/98—Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game

Kerry Wood may have been inexperienced in 1998, but what he did on May 6 against the mighty Houston Astros can’t be taught. In only his fifth major league start, facing one of the most potent offenses in baseball, Kid K made history by striking out 20 batters. His final line: 9 IP, 1 H, 20 K, 1 HBP, 0 BB.

“Honestly, I’m thinking, ‘I haven’t walked anybody yet,’ because I never pitched a game at all—the whole minor leagues—[in which] I wasn’t told, ‘You’re walking too many guys, you’re walking too many guys, you’re walking too many guys,’” Wood said.

The opposing Astros, who eventually ran away with the NL Central crown, led the NL in runs scored per game and on-base percentage that season, and they were second in batting average. Their powerful lineup boasted a pair of 1998 All-Stars in Craig Biggio and Moises Alou, as well as slugger Jeff Bagwell.

Wood’s 20 strikeouts were the most ever for an NL pitcher, and they tied Roger Clemens’ major league record. The game is now widely considered the most dominant nine-inning performance in baseball history.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Part I

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.

9-21-07-PIRATES@CUBS1676

(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.”

From the Pages of Vine Line: Banks and Baker, Game Changers

Banks-Baker

(National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Every year, MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson’s 1947 breaking of the color barrier, but the Cubs organization made some history of its own six years later.

Sept. 22, 1953, marks the 60th anniversary of the day the North Siders fielded baseball’s first African-American double play combo: shortstop Ernie Banks and second baseman Gene Baker. Though Robinson and others had already integrated the game, racism was still rampant throughout the country, keeping many qualified African-American players out of the big leagues. The talented Baker, who played eight seasons for the Cubs and Pirates and made the 1955 NL All-Star team, was a victim of this prejudice.

Baker signed with the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1950, but despite three-plus successful seasons in the minors, owner P.K. Wrigley opted to wait to bring Baker up until the team acquired another major league-ready African-American player. Wrigley figured because the two could stay in the same hotel rooms and eat at the same places, it would reduce the pressure on them.

On Sept. 8, the Cubs purchased the contract of 22-year-old shortstop Banks from the Kansas City Monarchs. He made his major league debut on Sept. 17, and Baker made his three days later as a pinch-hitter. Then, on Sept. 22, the duo made big league history when Banks started at shortstop and Baker moved over to second base.

—Phil Barnes

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