Results tagged ‘ Wrigley 100 ’

10 Decades, 10 Legends: 1970s—Rick Reuschel

Reuschel

For our annual July All-Star issue, Vine Line set out to find the most valuable player from each 10-year span in Wrigley Field’s history to create a Cubs All-Star team for the ages. There are hundreds of ways to go about this, so we simplified things by using the baseball statistics website Fangraphs to find the player with the highest Wins Above Replacement total for each decade.

Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, takes all of a player’s statistics—both offensive and defensive—and outputs them into a single number designed to quantify that player’s total contributions to his team (though for pitchers, we used only their mound efforts and excluded offensive stats). For our purposes, a player received credit only for the numbers he posted in each individual decade and only for the years he was a member of the Cubs.

In the seventh installment of our 10 Decades, 10 Legends series, we look at towering right-hander Rick Reuschel, who was a consistent workhorse throughout the 1970s.

Previous Decades:
1910s – Hippo Vaughn
1920s – Grover Cleveland Alexander
1930s – Billy Herman
1940s – Bill Nicholson
1950 – Ernie Banks
1960s – Ron Santo

1970s – Rick Reuschel, 41.3 WAR

Seasons: 1972-79
AVG/OBP/SLG: 114-101
W-L: 284-274
G-GS: 284-274
IP: 1834.1
K: 1122
K/9: 5.50
ERA: 3.43

Unlike some of the other players on this list, Rick Reuschel’s numbers don’t jump off the page. He even led the league in losses in 1975 with 17, albeit with a 3.73 ERA. But while he didn’t earn a lot of attention for his efforts, Reuschel was definitely the standout performer for the Cubs during a down decade—a stretch that saw the team win between 75 and 85 games nine times.

The right-hander’s lofty WAR total can largely be attributed to a clean bill of health and a high level of consistency. He won at least 10 games from his big league debut in 1972 through the end of the decade. He also pitched no fewer than 234 innings a season from 1973-79, making at least 35 starts in each of those years. As a result, his WAR total ranks fifth among all pitchers in the 1970s.

The 1977 All-Star wasn’t one to strike out a ton of hitters—he averaged 5.1 K/9 for his career—but he used deception and a wide arsenal of pitches to get hitters out.

Big Daddy’s finest season came in 1977, when he went 20-10 with a 2.79 ERA, made his lone Cubs All-Star appearance and finished third in the Cy Young race. He ultimately pitched for 19 seasons and earned 214 major league victories.

 

10 Decades, 10 Legends: 1950s—Ernie Banks

Banks_10-10

For our annual July All-Star issue, Vine Line set out to find the most valuable player from each 10-year span in Wrigley Field’s history to create a Cubs All-Star team for the ages. There are hundreds of ways to go about this, so we simplified things by using the baseball statistics website Fangraphs to find the player with the highest Wins Above Replacement total for each decade.

Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, takes all of a player’s statistics—both offensive and defensive—and outputs them into a single number designed to quantify that player’s total contributions to his team (though for pitchers, we used only their mound efforts and excluded offensive stats). For our purposes, a player received credit only for the numbers he posted in each individual decade and only for the years he was a member of the Cubs.

In the fifth installment of our 10 Decades, 10 Legends series, it’s Mr. Cub Ernie Banks’ time in the spotlight. During the 1950s, he put together one of the best stretches for a shortstop ever.

Previous Decades:
1910s – Hippo Vaughn
1920s – Grover Cleveland Alexander
1930s – Billy Herman
1940s – Bill Nicholson

1950s – Ernie Banks, 39.6 WAR

Seasons: 1953-59
AVG/OBP/SLG: .295/.355/.558
PA: 3,954
HR: 228
R: 582
RBI: 661
SB: 35

Ernie Banks’ 1950s WAR total is the sixth best among NL offensive players for the decade. It’s even more impressive when you consider he was active for only six full seasons during that stretch.

With segregation still impacting professional baseball, Banks didn’t join the major leagues until September 1953, when he played 10 games with the Cubs just before the season ended.

But by the latter stages of the 1950s, Mr. Cub was striking fear into the hearts of NL pitchers. In 1958 and 1959, he put up two of the most productive seasons ever—no shortstop has put up a similar WAR total in a single season since.

In 1958, he claimed two-thirds of the Triple Crown, hitting 47 homers and driving in 129, all while batting a career-best .313. The following year he slammed 45 homers and had a league-leading 143 RBI. He claimed MVP awards in both years.

For the decade, Banks averaged 33 homers versus just 62 strikeouts per season—and this was at a time when very little offense was expected of middle infielders. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1954 and went to five All-Star Games in the 1950s, starting three.

Mr. Cub was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

 

Cubs set to honor the 1960s at Wrigley Field

BWilliams

It’s a shame the 1960s-themed homestand will only last only one weekend, especially considering the amount of success the home teams had at Wrigley Field during the decade. While the Cubs had a strong 10-year stretch, it was the NFL’s Chicago Bears that hoisted a championship trophy in 1963, winning the league behind players like Bobby Wade and Mike Ditka.

This weekend, Cubs will host a quick three-game, 1960s-themed series against the Atlanta Braves from July 11-13 leading into Major League Baseball’s All-Star break. The team’s throwback uniform, promotional giveaways, specialty food and beverage offerings, and entertainment will all mirror the sights and sounds of the 1960s at Wrigley Field as part of the season-long celebration of the ballpark’s 100th anniversary. Each game in the series includes a promotional giveaway, offering fans a chance to collect an item commemorating the ’60s decade at the ballpark.

On Friday, July 11, Cubs fans will be able to congratulate 2014 All-Star representative Starlin Castro as he receives his All-Star jersey from Majestic. The team and its fans are pushing for Anthony Rizzo to join the festivities in Minneapolis through MLB’s Final Vote campaign. Fans can vote for Rizzo at mlb.com/vote or by texting N4 to 89269 until this Thursday at 3 p.m. CDT.

On Saturday, July 12, Cubs Charities and Kraft will extend the good feelings with a donation ceremony benefiting programs focused on health, fitness, and education for at-risk youth and families. In June, Kraft committed to donating $100 to Cubs Charities for every opposing batter a Cubs pitcher struck out at Wrigley Field. The Cubs pitching staff delivered 138 strikeouts at home (en route to a National League-leading 247 strikeouts for the month), resulting in a donation of $13,800.

Throwback Uniforms:
On Sunday, July 13, the Cubs will wear a throwback uniform from 1969 to honor some of the team’s most popular players from the era. That squad featured Cubs Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Ron Santo and Billy Williams, as well as other Cubs legends. The visiting Atlanta Braves will wear a 1969 throwback uniform as well.

Promotional Giveaways:
Fans coming to the ballpark will have the chance to collect a unique promotional item at each game of the homestand, beginning with an exclusive Gale Sayers Bobblehead presented by Comcast SportsNet for the first 10,000 fans on Friday. On Saturday, the first 10,000 fans will receive a Billy Williams Retired Number Flag presented by Wrigley. On Sunday, the first 5,000 kids 13-and-under will receive a ’60s Throwback Cubs Etch-A-Sketch, and the first 1,000 kids in the park can run the bases postgame.

Specialty Food Offerings:
Levy Restaurants continues its decade-inspired menu at the Decade Diner, located inside Gate D near Section 142. The 1960s homestand features a Kraft BBQ Pork Sandwich with Kraft Cheese and fried onions served on a toasted onion roll. Fans can also try the Traditional Buffalo Wings homestand special. These classic wings are tossed with Buffalo sauce and served with carrot and celery sticks along with ranch dipping sauce.

The Decade Dogs stand near Section 123 is serving the 1960s Buffalo Wing Dog—a Vienna Beef hot dog topped with diced chicken, buffalo sauce, crumbled bleu cheese and chopped celery. The Buffalo Wing Dog is available all season.

Adults 21-and-over can enjoy an Alabama Ironman Cocktail. This modern twist on the Whiskey Sour, which pays homage to Billy Williams, is made with peach puree, lemon and lime juice.

Historic Moments:
Wrigley Field hosted many memorable baseball and non-baseball moments in the 1960s. The team also started an important tradition at the ballpark.

Wrigley Field hosted its final NFL Championship game in 1963 on a frigid, seven-degree day in December. The Bears beat the New York Giants 14-10 to take the title.

On Dec. 12, 1965, Gale Sayers tied an NFL record by scoring six touchdowns in a 61-20 rout of San Francisco on a muddy Wrigley Field.

In 1966, in his first game after being acquired by the Cubs, eventual Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins threw five scoreless innings in relief and belted a home run in a 2-0 victory over the visiting Dodgers.

In February 1967, the Cubs announced they would feature organ music and play the National Anthem before every home game. Before this, the National Anthem was only played on holidays and special occasions at Wrigley Field.

After completing a doubleheader sweep of the Cardinals on June 29, 1969, Billy Williams officially broke the National League record for consecutive games played with 896. His streak would eventually extend to 1,117 games. That same year, after tossing seven hitless innings against the Braves on Aug. 19, pitcher Ken Holtzman’s no-hitter looked lost as Hank Aaron connected on a deep fly ball. Luckily, a gust of wind knocked it down at the last second, and Billy Williams caught it on the warning track to preserve Holtzman’s career performance.

Tickets for the Braves series remain available at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

 

10 Decades, 10 Cubs Legends: 1910s—Hippo Vaughn

HippoVaughn

The following appears in the July issue of Vine Line.

The 100 Years of Wrigley Field celebration is in full swing on the North Side. Every time fans venture into the Friendly Confines this season, they’re not only treated to Cubs baseball, but they also come away with a bit of a history lesson.

In 2014, Wrigley-goers have gotten to see throwback uniforms, retro toys and a guest list that has included people with ties to the baseball cathedral’s storied past. All of this is part of the Cubs’ 10 Decades, 10 Homestands promotion, which celebrates a different decade at each of 10 home series.

For Vine Line‘s annual All-Star issue, we decided to piggyback on the decade-by-decade concept to create a Cubs All-Star team for the ages. Our goal was to find the most valuable player from each 10-year span in the stadium’s history. There are hundreds of ways to go about this, so we simplified things by using the baseball statistics website Fangraphs to find the player with the best Wins Above Replacement total for each decade.

Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, takes all of a player’s statistics—both offensive and defensive—and quantifies them into a single number designed to summarize that player’s total contributions to his team (though for pitchers, we used only their mound efforts and excluded offensive stats). According to Fangraphs, WAR basically asks the question, “If a player got injured and his team had to replace him with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would they be losing?” The final number is expressed as a win total, so if Ryne Sandberg earned a 7.4 WAR in 1992, that means he was worth 7.4 wins to the Cubs.

For our purposes, a player received credit only for the numbers he posted in each individual decade and only for the years he was a member of the Cubs.

Some players who made the cut didn’t receive a ton of recognition for their efforts in Cubbie blue, while a few Hall of Famers are noticeably absent. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out the decade leaders one by one.

We start off the 10-part series with a right-hander who dominated for the North Side squad in the 1910s.

1910s – Hippo Vaughn, 32.0 WAR

Seasons: 1913-19
Win-Loss: 129-78
Games-Games Started: 248-218
IP: 1806.0
K: 977
K/9: 4.90
ERA: 2.08

It takes just a glance at Hippo Vaughn’s numbers to see how thoroughly he dominated his era. From 1914-19, he won 21, 20, 17, 23, 22 and 21 games. Of course, wins aren’t the end-all, be-all of pitching stats, but 124 victories over six seasons is still rather impressive. The 1918 season was probably his best, as he led the league in wins, ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP. Vaughn’s most famous start was actually a game he lost in 1917, when he and Reds pitcher Fred Toney both had no-hitters going through nine innings. Over the course of the decade, the southpaw’s overall WAR total is second among all NL pitchers. Never one to surrender the long ball, Vaughn’s .09 home runs per nine innings is the decade’s lowest total for a pitcher who threw more than 700 innings.

1950s Homestand Promotions and Guests: 6/20/14-6/28/14

Ernie-Banks-Debut-Bobblehead
The upcoming homestand at Wrigley Field kicks off with an impressive list of guests this Friday, June 20, as the Cubs host the Pirates, Reds and Nationals for the 1950s-themed celebration. The Cubs will welcome in everyone from superfan Jeff Garlin to TV host Chelsea Handler to pop superstar Sting for the 10-game set.

Here are the other guests and promotions you’ll find at the Friendly Confines this week.

1950s Homestand Recap, June 20-28

Friday, June 20, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 3:05 p.m.

  • Promotion: Ernie Banks Debut Bobblehead presented by Giordano’s (first 10,000 fans)
  • First pitches: Aloe Blacc (singer/songwriter of top hits like “The Man” and “Wake Me Up”), Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and Wayne Newton for Las Vegas
  • Seventh-inning stretch: Ernie Banks and Tom Morello
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
  • Community Event: Hot Stove Cool Music

Saturday, June 21, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 6:15 p.m.

  • Promotion: Cubs T-shirt presented by Cooper Tires (first 10,000 fans)
  • First pitch: Comedian/television host Chelsea Handler
  • Seventh-inning stretch: Comedians Chelsea Handler and Josh Wolf
  • Broadcast: FOX-TV, WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
  • Community Event: Catch in the Confines presented by Advocate Children’s Hospital

Sunday, June 22, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 1:20 p.m.

  • Throwback uniforms: Retro 1953 Cubs and Pirates uniforms
  • Promotion: 1950s Throwback Cubs Mr. Potato Head Keychain (first 5,000 kids 13-and-under). First 1,000 kids 13-and-under run the bases postgame, weather permitting.
  • First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Former Cubs third baseman Kevin Orie
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Monday, June 23, Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:05 p.m.

  • Seventh-inning stretch: Sting
  • Broadcast: WCIU-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com

Tuesday, June 24, Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:05 p.m.

  • Special Event: Salute to Heroes Night
  • First pitches and seventh-inning stretch: Actors LaRoyce Hawkins and Jon Seda from NBC’s Chicago P.D., and Joe Minoso and Christian Stolte from Chicago Fire
  • Broadcast: Comcast SportsNet, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Wednesday, June 25, Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, 6:05 p.m.

  • Special Event: Halfway to the Holidays
  • First pitch: Chef Graham Elliot
  • Seventh-inning stretch: Jeff Garlin and Sean Giambrone from ABC’s The Goldbergs
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Thursday, June 26, Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals, 7:05 p.m.

  • Special Event: Teacher Appreciation Night
  • Seventh-inning stretch: Former Cubs outfielder Bobby Dernier
  • Broadcast: Comcast SportsNet, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com

Friday, June 27, Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals, 3:05 p.m.

  • Promotion: Wrigley Field 100 Tote Bag presented by MLB Network (first 20,000 fans)
  • First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Kristian Bush from the country group Sugarland
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
  • Community Event: Cubs Favorite Things basket auction by Cubs Wives

Saturday, June 28, Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals, Doubleheader, 12:05 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

12:05 p.m.

  • Promotion: American Girl Doll-sized Cubs Apparel (first 4,000 kids 13-and-under)
  • Seventh-inning stretch: Former Cubs outfielder George Altman
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

6:15 p.m.

  • First pitch and Seventh-inning stretch: TBD
  • Broadcast: FOX-TV, WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

For more information on Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday celebration, please visit www.wrigleyfield100.com.

 

 

 

The Party of the Century shifts to the 1950s

Banks_Ernie-1562-76_Bat_NBL

Ernie Banks made his major league debut in 1953 and claimed the NL MVP in 1958 and ’59. (Photo courtesy National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Wrigley Field will host this season’s lengthiest homestand to date, as the Cubs face the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals in a 10-game set from June 20-28 that concludes with a Saturday doubleheader against Washington (separate ticketing required). The team’s throwback uniform, promotional giveaways, specialty food and beverage offerings, and entertainment will mirror the sights and sounds of the 1950s at Wrigley Field as part of the season-long celebration of the ballpark’s 100th birthday.

Throwback Uniforms:
On Friday June 22, the Cubs will sport a throwback uniform from 1953 to honor Mr. Cub Ernie Banks. Banks made his Major League debut Sept. 17, 1953, vs. the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field. The 1953 uniform is the last of the zipper-front retro uniforms the team will wear this season. The visiting Pirates will wear a retro uniform from 1953 as well.

Promotional Giveaways:
Fans coming to the ballpark this homestand have the chance to collect a number of unique promotional items, beginning with an exclusive Ernie Banks Debut Bobblehead presented by Giordano’s for the first 10,000 fans attending the game Friday, June 20. On Saturday, June 21, the first 10,000 fans will receive a Cubs T-shirt presented by Cooper Tires. On Sunday, June 22, the first 5,000 kids 13-and-under will receive a ’50s Throwback Cubs Mr. Potato Head Keychain, and the first 1,000 kids in the park can run the bases postgame. On Friday, June 27, the first 20,000 fans in the ballpark will receive a Wrigley Field 100 Tote Bag presented by MLB Network. Finally, for the 12:05 p.m. game of the June 28 doubleheader, the first 4,000 kids 13-and-under will receive limited-edition American Girl Doll-sized Cubs apparel.

Cubs Special Events:
On Tuesday, June 24, Cubs fans can show their support of the men and women of our law enforcement and firefighting communities at the Salute to Heroes Night special event. Upon entering, fans can choose a blue Cubs-themed heroes shirt to support the men and women of law enforcement or a red Cubs-themed heroes shirt to support the men and women of the firefighting community. Some of Chicago’s bravest heroes will be honored during the evening’s pregame ceremony. Heroes Night tickets are available in the Budweiser Bleachers, Field Box Outfield or Terrace Reserved Outfield.

The team’s inaugural Halfway to the Holidays event in the Budweiser Bleachers is Wednesday, June 25. Each special event ticketholder will receive a Cubs Ugly Holiday T-shirt inspired by ugly holiday sweater designs.

Teacher Appreciation Night is Thursday, June 26. Teachers are invited to celebrate their hard work with a game ticket in the Budweiser Bleachers, Terrace Reserved Outfield or Upper Deck Reserved Outfield. Special event attendees will receive a Cubs Wall Clock and postgame walk on the warning track.

Tickets for all three special events may be purchased at cubs.com/specialevents.

Specialty Food Offerings:
Levy Restaurants continues its decade-inspired menu at the Decade Diner, located inside Gate D near Section 142. The 1950s homestand features a Kraft Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich served with Tomato Basil Bisque. The other homestand special is an Elvis “Nanner” Sandwich with peanut butter, banana and bacon. Kraft will continue to donate $100 to Cubs Charities for every opposing batter a Cubs pitcher strikes out at Wrigley Field in the month of June. Fans can pick up “K” cards inside the Decade Diner to help celebrate each strikeout.

The Decade Dogs stand near Section 123 is serving the 1950s TV Dinner Dog, which is a Vienna Beef hot dog topped with mashed potatoes, gravy and corn.

Adults 21-and-over can enjoy a Mr. Cub #14 Cocktail, served in a limited-edition souvenir glass on the main concourse at Section 109 and in the bleacher patio in left field. This Cubbie Blue cocktail features Smirnoff Vodka, Blue Curacao and lemonade, and is served with a slice of lemon and a cherry.

Community Events:
In addition to the team’s home games, fans can participate in three events benefiting charitable causes. On Friday, June 20, the third annual Hot Stove Cool Music Chicago concert combines music and baseball. Cubs president Theo Epstein, Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons and Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper will join an All-Star lineup of musicians and personalities at Metro in Wrigleyville to benefit Cubs Charities and Epstein’s Foundation To Be Named Later. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at metrochicago.com for $50 or fans can call 773-404-CUBS for more information.

The next day, June 21, fans can come to Wrigley Field before that evening’s game to take some swings in the batting cage, throw a ball in the outfield or sit in the team dugouts at Cubs Charities’ Catch in the Confines event presented by Advocate Children’s Hospital. Catch in the Confines tickets are $150 per person or $25 for guests and can be purchased online at cubscharities.org or by calling 773-404-CUBS. All proceeds benefit Cubs Charities.

Finally, on Friday, June 27, Cubs wives will auction off Cubs Favorite Things baskets filled with select gifts and memorabilia on the Wrigley Field concourse during the game. A similar auction will follow online at cubscharities.org June 29-July 6, with all proceeds benefiting Cubs Charities.

Historic Moments:
Wrigley Field hosted noteworthy baseball and non-baseball events in the 1950s, including the debut of Mr. Cub Ernie Banks against the Phillies on April 17, 1953.

In 1951, during the Korean War, Wrigley Field instituted a voluntary policy in which fans who caught a foul ball could return those balls so they could be shipped to servicemen overseas. Fans were asked to write their name and address on the ball so the servicemen would know who sent it.

That same year, on April 17, professional golfer Sam Snead did what no major league batter has ever done—he hit Wrigley Field’s center field scoreboard with a golf ball and also hit a ball over the scoreboard with his 2-iron for good measure.

On August 21, 1954, a basketball court and portable lights were installed at Wrigley Field for games featuring the Harlem Globetrotters against George Mikan’s U.S. Stars, and the House of David traveling team against the Boston Whirlwinds.

Interestingly, Wrigley Field in Chicago wasn’t the only Wrigley Field in operation heading into the 1950s. The Cubs played Spring Training games at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles until 1951, when the franchise moved its Spring Training home from Santa Catalina Island in California to Rendezvous Park in Mesa, Arizona. The team’s programs at both ballparks featured cover designs by artist Otis Shepard. Season Ticket Holders will notice a nod to the Cubs’ final years at Wrigley Field Los Angeles on their ticket designs for the June 21 and 22 games.

To learn more about these historic moments and others, visit wrigleyfield100.com.

Tickets for the Pirates, Reds and Nationals series remain available at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

From the Pages of Vine Line: Wrigley Field and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

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The following article appears in the June issue of Vine Line. The Cubs will salute the girls of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Friday at Wrigley Field.

With her glove in hand and her head on a swivel, a young woman from Cincinnati stood on hallowed baseball ground and awaited her big break in a steady rain.

Crack! A batter pummeled a fly ball that soared to her left, and the 22-year-old sprinted after it in the wet grass. Crack! Another ball sailed to her right, and she lunged. Crack! Yet another flew high over her head, and the gifted athlete took off once again.

“You had to run about a mile to get the ball,” said retired schoolteacher Betsy Jochum with a chuckle. “It was quite a thrill to try out on that field.”

That field, of course, was Wrigley Field, and those fundamental drills triggered a movement that would dispel the popular notion that girls were not cut out for sports. Jochum was among a group of women trying out for 60 spots in the newly formed All-American Girls Softball League, according to the Chicago Tribune.

It was 1943, and as big league baseball clubs ceded talent to the war effort, front offices scrambled to fill the void. Scouts were dispatched to the coasts, Midwestern cornfields and even Canada to mold a new league. The ballplayers—some still in their teens—came by train and were run ragged on the field. Dreams were made, hearts were broken, fans were entranced, and a rocketing 12-inch softball cracked the old boys’ club wide open.

“At the time, we were just having a lot of fun playing,” Jochum, now 93 years old, said in a telephone interview from her home in South Bend, Indiana. “Later on, they told us we were pioneers.”

* * * *
The plan was hatched for practical, decidedly unromantic reasons. Executives simply needed a way to fill stadium seats.

Chicago Cubs owner and team president Philip K. Wrigley, a business-minded numbers man, found himself staring at a deficit in 1942. The front lines of World War II were plucking MLB’s best and brightest from the rosters, and Wrigley knew that old-timers, nobodies, rookies and the 4-F would hardly excite his fan base. He worried postwar teams would be weaker or could possibly fold altogether, and large ballparks such as his, which stood empty for more than half the year anyway, would be history.

“[The league] came about not because he wanted to do the right thing,” said Cubs historian Ed Hartig. “Baseball shutting down was a very real fear.”

Organizations were just recovering from the Great Depression, and the war threatened to gut professional baseball so drastically there were fears it might never rebound.

As chief of a chewing gum empire, Wrigley had a knack for solving problems. Summer softball leagues, for men and women alike, were popular in Chicago, and the swelling interest in the sport got him thinking—why not start a pro league for women?

He and Ken Sells, assistant to the Cubs general manager and the new league’s future president, drummed up the idea of marrying softball with some of baseball’s rules. There would be nine players on the field rather than 10, and they would play a full nine innings instead of seven. But the league would also feature a shorter pitching distance, underhand pitching, a bigger ball and a shorter distance between bases. Wrigley pitched his idea to the other owners, but even with the dangling carrot of filling their parks, the idea went over like a lead rosin bag.

“The Wrigleys were a lot better off financially,” Hartig said. “They were a little more willing to experiment.”

With minimal support outside of his own office, Wrigley plowed ahead. He secured four cities that each agreed to pony up $22,500 in financing, which would be matched by Wrigley himself. In February 1943, the league’s formation was made public.

Based in Chicago, the All-American Girls Softball League—the name changed several times, eventually landing on All-American Girls Professional Baseball League—comprised four Midwestern teams and would do its own marketing, player recruiting, training, signing and allocating. The women were offered one-year contracts by the league, not their individual clubs.

Wrigley had never been short on cash, but his financial stake in the league was enough to send a tremor through even the deepest pockets. In addition to his initial investment, he ran the league as a nonprofit, redirecting all proceeds to the war effort. If any team was in the red, Wrigley made up the difference himself. Hartig noted that the Cubs owner spent between $135,000 and $200,000 on the venture by his tenure’s end.

“It was pretty much guaranteed not to be a moneymaker,” Hartig said. “But [Wrigley] was pleased with what he had done.”

* * * *
On that dreary mid-May day in 1943, Betsy Jochum and the other invited talent swung bats and shagged balls at Wrigley Field, trying to nab one of the 15 coveted spots on each club. Days were spent sweating on the field, while evenings found the women knee-deep in etiquette training, which was designed to teach them the finer points of being “ladies.” This included the art of walking in high heels, applying make-up and sitting in a proper, ladylike manner.

The women were chaperoned on any social outings, and they were forbidden from smoking and drinking hard liquor in public. They were to wear dresses outside of the ballpark (and inside the park, thanks to their fashion-forward belted tunic uniforms).

Tryouts wrapped up on May 25, and the season began just five days later. The Racine Belles, Kenosha Comets, Rockford Peaches and South Bend Blue Sox, where Jochum played for six seasons as an outfielder and pitcher, were officially playing professional ball.

Games drew about 2,000-3,000 fans initially, with one July 4 doubleheader in South Bend bringing in close to 10,000, Jochum recalled. Though the league was formed in part to fill major league ballparks, the women’s teams had their own fields and played in the big stadiums only for special events.

The Racine Belles clinched the ’43 title, and the 108-game season (54 games per team) wrapped with attendance reaching nearly 176,000 leaguewide, according to the AAGPBL.

Wartime games had an especially patriotic bent, with the women lining up in a V formation (for victory) before play began. Servicemen and -women were admitted free of charge, and exhibition games were often played to benefit the armed forces or the Red Cross.

Etiquette training was ongoing, as was extensive promotion of the women as ladylike girls next door. The average age of the players hovered around 21, and they earned between $45-85 per week, a decent living in those days. In the offseason, they were likely to stay in their team’s town, taking on a factory job or something similar, said Jeneane Lesko, a former player and the president of the AAGPBL Players Association.

Competition was intense, with rivalries almost guaranteed given how infrequently the teams were able to socialize with one another. Lesko recalled clearing both benches when she nearly beaned an opponent with a wild pitch, but the managers broke up the scrum before it got physical.

“Oh, it was major league,” said the 79-year-old Lesko. “The competitiveness was there.”

As the seasons progressed, the game looked less and less like softball. The pitching distances increased, the ball size decreased and overhand pitching was instituted. Certain players emerged as powerhouse fan favorites, and clubs even reported to Spring Training in Florida and Cuba. After Wrigley divested himself and Arthur Meyerhoff took over operations as the war drew to a close, the league expanded to 10 teams. In 1948, attendance reached 1 million.

“After they saw we really could play,” Jochum said of the fans, “they knew.”

* * * *
Over the run of the league, there were 15 different teams—the dismal Chicago Colleens even graced the Windy City for one season in ’48. But changes in leadership, the end of wartime rationing and the incursion of television sets into American households dealt the AAGPBL a fatal blow. The organization had been decentralized, and team owners were feeling the sting of dwindling attendance.

The league quietly folded after the ’54 season—so quietly, in fact, that by the following April, many players still assumed they would be on the field again in a month, Lesko said. As the teams disbanded, some women went back to their hometowns, some stayed in their affiliate towns, and others headed to college and pursued careers. Jochum quit after the ’48 season when she learned she had been traded, but opted to stay in South Bend.

Lesko, a southpaw, was still active when the AAGPBL dissolved and then joined a traveling league that played barnstorming games in the U.S. and Canada. She quit after two years, taught school overseas, and returned to the States to play in the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour. She eventually married, had three sons, worked in real estate and became involved in the AAGPBL Players Association. The Seattle resident is currently serving as the association’s president, and she is active in the organization, formation and promotion of women’s professional ball leagues. Up until this year, she was still playing softball.

“Our purpose is to promote the AAGPBL and to promote women’s baseball,” Lesko said. “To ensure our place in history, and to help other girls have an opportunity to play sports.”

Lesko has made the league’s legacy her mission, traveling around the world for tournaments, organizing AAGPBL yearly reunions and assisting with other high-profile gigs, such as the salute to the AAGPBL that will take place at Wrigley Field on June 6. Of the 600 women who played in the league, roughly 150 remain, and just a handful will head to Chicago to be honored before the Cubs take on the Brewers. “Sockem Jochum” has been asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on the field where her career began more than seven decades ago.

“Well, I’m going to attempt it,” Jochum said with a chuckle. “I’ll just bounce it into the catcher’s mitt.”

—Kerry Trotter

1940s Homestand Promotions and Guests: 6/3/14-6/8/14

AAGPBL-Bobblehead[1]

On June 6, the first 10,000 fans will receive an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League bobblehead.

An exciting collection of historical figures and celebrities will visit Wrigley Field for the 1940s-themed homestand. Actor Joe Mantegna kicks off the home slate by leading the seventh-inning stretch on Tuesday, June 3. This homestand also marks the beginning of the team’s Friday 3:05 p.m. summer start times. The Cubs will host a 6:05 p.m. game Thursday, June 5, vs. the Mets and 3:05 p.m. game Saturday, June 7, vs. the Marlins. Fans are advised to check the team’s schedule at cubs.com to ensure they arrive in time for first pitch.

Here are the other guests and promotions you’ll find at the Friendly Confines this week.

1940s Homestand Recap: June 3-8
Tuesday, June 3, Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets, 7:05 p.m.

  • Seventh-inning stretch: Actor Joe Mantegna
  • Broadcast: Comcast SportsNet, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com

Wednesday, June 4, Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets, 7:05 p.m.

  • Promotion: Cubs Cooler Bag Presented by Kraft Cheese (first 10,000 fans)
  • First pitches and seventh-inning stretch: Stan Hack’s sons, Stan Hack Jr. and Dave Hack
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Thursday, June 5, Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets, 6:05 p.m.

  • Promotion: Jersey Off Our Back presented by Majestic, Lucky Seat Winners
  • First pitches: Actress Nicola Peltz and actor Jack Reynor from Transformers: Age of Extinction
  • Seventh-inning stretch: TBD
  • Broadcast: Comcast SportsNet, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Friday, June 6, Chicago Cubs vs. Miami Marlins, 3:05 p.m.

  • Promotion: All-American Girls Bobblehead (first 10,000 fans)
  • First pitches: Betsy Jochum and Jeneane Lesko of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
  • Seventh-inning stretch: 10 former players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (Terry Donahue, Ginger Gascon, Marilyn Jenkins, Betsy Jochum, Dolly Konwinski, Jeneane Lesko, Joyce McCoy, Toni Palermo, Ferne Price and Terry Uselman)
  • Broadcast: Comcast SportsNet, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Saturday, June 7, Chicago Cubs vs. Miami Marlins, 3:05 p.m.

  • First pitch: Former Cub Lennie Merullo from the 1945 World Series team
  • Seventh-inning stretch: Lennie Merullo and members of his family
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Sunday, June 8, Chicago Cubs vs. Miami Marlins, 1:20 p.m.

  • Throwback uniforms: Retro 1942 Cubs uniform, 1940s-inspired Miami Sun Sox opponent uniform
  • Promotions: Andy Pafko OYO® Mini Figure (first 5,000 kids ages 6-13). First 1,000 kids 13 and under run the bases postgame (weather permitting).
  • Special Event: Little League Appreciation Day
  • First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Andy Pafko’s nephew, Mike Nedoba
  • Broadcast: Comcast SportsNet, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

For more information on Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday celebration, please visit www.wrigleyfield100.com.

 

From the Pages of Vine Line: Philip K. Wrigley’s lasting impact on the Cubs and Wrigley Field

Stadiums-Wrigley-Field-Chicago-1938_3119.99_CSU

In the emotional last throes of the chewing gum magnate’s life, while the Great Depression dug its claws deeper into Chicago’s big shoulders, William Wrigley Jr. made his only son promise him one thing.

Do not sell his beloved Chicago Cubs to pay the inheritance taxes.

The elder Wrigley’s illness and subsequent death at age 70 in 1932 were swift and unexpected, a wake-up call to his 37-year-old heir, Philip K. Wrigley, who did not have his father’s passion for baseball but shared his shrewd business sense.

Wrigley had already accepted the mantle of president of his father’s chewing gum company, and now, by death and default—and a sometimes-troublesome sense of loyalty—he was the Chicago Cubs’ majority stockholder and owner.

“He liked baseball. He was around baseball. He just didn’t view himself as a baseball person,” said Chicago Cubs historian Ed Hartig. “I think if P.K. had his way, he would have been an engineer.”

But he was first and foremost a Wrigley, and as a member of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, he had a duty to fulfill.

And that duty was to the Cubs.

* * * *
Simply put, Philip Knight Wrigley opened his eyes in the right crib. Born in 1894 at Chicago’s Plaza Hotel to a family of great wealth and influence, he never wanted for much.

“He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” Hartig said.

With that spoon came a secure job at the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company and leisure time to pursue his love of horses and boats, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. He was a low-level stockholder in his father’s baseball enterprise and stood to inherit Wrigley Field and the breathtaking Catalina Island off the Los Angeles coast. Even after the stock market crash of 1929 sunk the country’s economy, the Wrigleys fared well because they had avoided extensive dealings with banks, Hartig said.

Workers who lost their livelihoods in the meat, railroad and steel industries began to organize in the city, as hostility toward the wealthy swelled.

“Chicago was one of the major centers of left-wing agitation,” said Peter Alter, an archivist with the Chicago History Museum. “Socialists and communists were strong in Chicago.”

But the Wrigleys weren’t necessarily viewed as bad guys, Alter added. They were rich and powerful, but they still contributed to the city’s goodwill.

After all, the family had one of the few businesses that—though it did not necessarily flourish during the Depression—held on to its employees. The Wrigleys also owned the Cubs, a team that won pennants in 1929 and ’32 (and later in ’35 and ’38), often to half-capacity crowds thinned by hard times. But by 1933, the team and the company were under the direction of Philip K. Wrigley, a man who routinely veered from the trappings of coddled wealth.

“The way people viewed him was he was not your typical baseball owner,” Alter said. “He was not a Comiskey.”

Wrigley, despite his wealth, enjoyed a “normal” streak. He never went to college and eventually joined the military, where he became a mechanic. He got married, had three kids and plugged away at the family’s gum company, but he lacked pretense about his success. He was a loyal employer, even as competing businesses shuttered and sales slowed. He had a generous streak, giving great chunks of money to charities and interests and turning his father’s beloved Southern California island into a conservancy.

Wrigley’s father, William Wrigley Jr., wasn’t born a baseball fan but died the biggest Cubs booster around. He bought up shares of the team piecemeal until eventually he owned it outright. He also purchased the park, which the team leased from him.

As a sort of memorial to his father, Wrigley’s vow not to sell the team to pay inheritance taxes morphed into a blunt refusal to sell the team under any circumstances, despite some promising offers.

“He made a lot of decisions based on business principles,” Hartig said, “and not on sound baseball principles.”

Oftentimes that strategy worked; sometimes it didn’t.

* * * *

“Baseball is too much of a sport to be a business, and too much of a business to be a sport,” Philip K. Wrigley once said. This ambivalence showed in his leadership style and in how he kept the Cubs at emotional arm’s length.

When Wrigley started out as owner, he had the experienced Bill Veeck Sr. in his camp. Unfortunately, Veeck died only a year after Philip K. Wrigley took over, forcing the new owner to make his first big baseball decision—hiring a new president.

Wrigley chose longtime team investor and fishmonger William Walker, but it was a short and rocky arrangement. Though history looks back on Walker’s tenure more kindly, he sealed his fate with several questionable trades, for which he was vilified in the press. Wrigley bought him out, sent him packing and took over as president in 1934.

“God knows, I don’t want the job. If I could find another Bill Veeck, I’d put him in there in a minute, but he doesn’t seem to be available,” Wrigley said, according to an article published by the Society for American Baseball Research. “No matter who’s in there, if anything goes wrong, I’m going to get blamed for it, so I might as well take the job myself.”

While the team won three pennants in the ’30s, Wrigley was less occupied with Cubbie blue than ledger black.

“His father was at games a lot,” Hartig said. “P.K. very seldom went to games.”

This is ironic considering his marketing push early in his presidency, when he went to great lengths to sell “Beautiful Wrigley Field.”

Yes, there was Cubs baseball to see, but the park was also an experience to behold and to be sold, win or lose. Wrigley began purchasing ad space in Chicago newspapers in the middle of winter, a practice that was decried leaguewide. But he was planting the seeds for interest in games and getting on fans’ radar long before tickets went on sale.

While Wrigley was a bottom-line kind of guy, he was not miserly. He relished spending money for the sake of the park and fan comfort. Wrigley brought in bigger, more comfortable seats at the expense of capacity, had the bleachers rebuilt to improve sight lines and laid plans to “green” up the park, which eventually led to the addition of the iconic ivy.

Yet in the final days of pre-war baseball, Wrigley’s loyalty to commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis got the best of him, and it wound up costing the Cubs. Wrigley was the only owner to go along with a plan hatched by Landis to keep minor league teams from folding during the war by making them independent entities that could sell their players to the highest bidder. It didn’t work.

“P.K.’s decision to dismantle the farm system put him back 10 years,” Hartig said.

He also resisted adding night games to the schedule, partly because he felt they were a passing fad and partly because the born innovator hadn’t been the first person to come up with the idea. In 1941, he reluctantly purchased the most advanced lighting system in baseball, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he promptly donated the materials to the war effort. After that, the idea remained dormant for decades.

One feather in Wrigley’s innovation cap was the creation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II, tryouts for which were held at Wrigley Field in 1941. However, he was woefully behind on the matter of integration, taking a back seat while Jackie Robinson first donned a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform in 1947. The Cubs signed an African-American player to their Los Angeles farm team in 1949, but Chicago was still an all-white club until Ernie Banks took the field in 1953.

In the ’60s, Wrigley devised the curious College of Coaches experiment, in which the manager was replaced by a rotating roster of head coaches who would assume the lead every few weeks. The intent was to create good all-around players who had access to a number of intelligent voices, but it just wound up confusing the team and encouraging favoritism.

Ultimately, it was television that made Wrigley’s legacy.

After World War II, he began pushing the idea of televising games. Just as his father had pioneered radio broadcasts amid criticism, the younger Wrigley was convinced that seeing was believing when it came to his beautiful ballpark, and that broadcasting games on TV would cultivate fandom. It worked, and the team’s relationship with WGN, which went on to become a “superstation” transmitted around the country, birthed fans for both the team and the park far from the Lakeview neighborhood.

* * * *
The promise to his father, at once bold and uncertain, remained steadfast. Philip K. Wrigley did not sell William Wrigley Jr.’s beloved team, nor the gum empire he built, during his 60-plus years steering both ships. Even when the team entered a dark period of losses and mismanagement, he largely did right by his father. And the family business, where his true talents lay, thrived.

Not every decision Philip K. Wrigley made was sound. There were mistakes and missed opportunities. But he gave freely of his significant wealth, created Cubs fans nationwide and made Wrigley Field a destination for fans around the world.
In the end, he kept his word.

—Kerry Trotter

Cubs Charities announces Centennial Seats public art project on the Mag Mile

Ballpark-Seats

To commemorate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday and the many historical moments that have taken place at the park over the last century, Cubs Charities is honoring the Friendly Confines with a momentous philanthropic effort. Beginning May 30, Chicago’s Michigan Avenue lined with 50 custom-made pairs of ballpark seats.

The 100 seats each depict a special moment in time at Wrigley Field. Cubs Charities partnered with 47 Chicago-based nonprofits, celebrities and artists to paint the Centennial Seats, and they will be hosting an online auction where participants can place bids to purchase the seats. All proceeds from the nonprofit-designed chairs will be split between Cubs Charities and the respective partnering organization.

“This has been such a special year as we celebrate Wrigley Field and what the park has meant to Chicago over the past century,” said Laura Ricketts, Board Chair of Cubs Charities. “Cubs fans are truly the greatest in baseball, so we can’t wait to honor them by giving back to the community with this special Centennial Seats program.”

From Vince Vaughn and the Chicago Blackhawks, to the National Museum of Mexican Art and South Chicago Art Center, each organization or person has painted a scene that pays tribute to a specific moment in Wrigley Field history. Some of the memories include: Ernie Banks’ major league debut, the scoreboard installation, Babe Ruth’s “called shot” and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

The Centennial Seats will be on display along North Michigan Avenue throughout the summer. Participants can place bids for these one-of-a-kind chairs from May 30 through Aug. 10. The auction will be held online at cubs.com/chairs.

To help raise awareness and promote the auction, Cubs Charities is calling for Chicagoans and Cubs fans to get out their phones and tweet, post and Instagram photos of themselves with the Centennial Seats. Using the hashtags #WrigleyField100 and #CentennialSeats, passers-by will be able join the philanthropic effort and spread the word that all proceeds benefit a great local nonprofit. Additionally, a map has been created that pinpoints exactly where each nonprofit, celebrity or artist’s respective seat is located, making it easy to navigate the Centennial display. The Magnificent Mile Association partnered with the Cubs to make this public art project possible.

Sponsored by Magellan Corporation, the Centennial Seats will be installed the evening of May 29 for their morning debut Friday, May 30.

“We like to get involved with charitable projects that give back to our community—and this is possibly the most colorful and exciting one yet,” said Michael Minkus of Magellan Corporation. “We can’t wait to see the Centennial Seats set up on Michigan Avenue to kick off this charitable effort.”

The full list of participating nonprofits in the Centennial Seats program, as well as other information about Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday celebration, will be available beginning this Thursday at wrigleyfield100.com.

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