Results tagged ‘ Wrigley Field ’

Now Playing: Get Real with Cubs Authentics

How do you know the game-used and autographed memorabilia you buy at Wrigley Field or online at cubs.com is the real deal? We went behind the scenes with the Cubs Authentics team to get an inside look at the most comprehensive authentication program in sports.

Now Playing: Stretching Out with Thomas Ian Nicholas

It has been 20 years since Thomas Ian Nicholas took the mound at Wrigley Field as a 12-year-old flamethrower named Henry Rowengartner in the baseball classic Rookie of the Year. Vine Line caught up with the actor and musician before he threw out the first pitch in early June to discuss filming at the Friendly Confines, getting referred to by his characters’ names and throwing his signature “floater.”

First Pitch/Seventh-Inning Stretch Lineup: 8/30-9/8

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The Cubs will celebrate Chicago Blackhawks Day on Monday, Sept. 2 at Wrigley Field. (Photo by Stephen Green)

On Friday afternoon, the Cubs welcome Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg back to Wrigley Field, as they kick off a nine-game homestand against the Phillies, Marlins and Brewers. It’s also your chance to see Hall of Famer Andre Dawson and the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. If you’re headed out to the Friendly Confines from Aug. 30-Sept. 8, here’s your first pitch and seventh-inning stretch lineup:

Friday – 8/30
First Pitch and Stretch: Jon Lovitz, actor and comedian

Saturday – 8/31
Stretch: Gary Matthews, former Cubs player, “Sarge”

Sunday – 9/1
Stretch: Chicago Sky players Swin Cash, Sylvia Fowles and Courtney Vandersloot

Monday – 9/2
First Pitch: Andre Dawson, Cubs Hall of Famer
Stretch: Chicago Blackhawks TBD
Special Event: Chicago Blackhawks Day at Wrigley Field

Tuesday – 9/3
Stretch: Big Ten Network football analysts Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith
Special Event: Salute to Big Ten Night

Wednesday – 9/4
Stretch: Andre Dawson, Cubs Hall of Famer

Friday – 9/6
Stretch: Scott Eyre, former Cubs pitcher

Saturday – 9/7
TBD

Sunday – 9/8
Stretch: Lee Smith, former Cubs closer

First Pitch/Seventh-Inning Stretch Lineup: 8/12-8/22

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ESPN basketball analyst Digger Phelps will be conducting the stretch on Saturday, Aug. 18. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Starting Monday, the Cubs are back at Wrigley Field for a 10-game homestand with the Reds, Cardinals and Nationals. If you’re headed out to the Friendly Confines from Aug. 12-22, here are your first pitch and seventh-inning stretch lineups:

Monday – 8/12
First Pitch: Aimee Garcia, actress, Dexter
Stretch: William Petersen, Chicago native and actor

Tuesday – 8/13
First Pitch: Colin Cowherd, ESPN
Stretch: Mike and Mike, ESPN

Wednesday – 8/14
First Pitch: Marquis Teague, Chicago Bulls
Stretch: Tom Skilling, WGN weatherman

Friday – 8/16
First Pitch: Lee Brice, country musician
Stretch: TBD

Saturday – 8/17
First Pitch: Umphrey’s McGee, Chicago band
Stretch: Digger Phelps, former Notre Dame basketball coach and current ESPN analyst

Sunday – 8/18
Stretch: Fergie Jenkins, Cubs Hall of Famer

Monday – 8/19
Stretch: Richard Lariviere, Field Museum president

Tuesday – 8/20
First Pitch: Steve Byrne, Chicago native and comedian, Sullivan & Sons
Stretch: TBD

Wednesday – 8/21
First Pitch: Social Media Night winner
Stretch: Darren Rovell, ESPN
Special Event: Social Media Night, broadcast from the Budweiser Patio

Thursday – 8/22
First Pitch and Stretch: Plain White T’s, Chicago band

From the Pages of Vine Line: Let there be lights

Today marks a monumental day in Chicago Cubs history. While 8-8-88 gets the proper hype for being the first game under the newly installed lights at Wrigley Field, a postponement due to rain actually pushed the first full game to the next day. Therefore, today actually marks the 25th anniversary of the first completed night game at Wrigley Field. The following feature can be found in the July issue of Vine Line. For stories like this and more all season long, be sure to subscribe today.

It’s not often you get that Opening Day or postseason feeling during a mid-August game. That time of year is usually reserved for the baseball doldrums. The All-Star break is over, and it’s a little too early to get excited about the divisional races—especially in 1988, when only four teams reached the postseason.

But Game 111 for the Chicago Cubs, set to be played on Aug. 8, 1988, was one for the ages at the Friendly Confines. An estimated crowd of 40,000 was on hand, a then-record 556 media credentials were issued, and 109 newspapers and magazines, 38 radio stations and 49 TV crews—including the Today show, Good Morning America and Entertainment Tonight—packed the venerable stadium. The announcers wore tuxedos (except for Harry Caray), and Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Billy Williams were on hand to toss out the first pitch.

At 6:06 p.m., the festivities came to a head when 91-year-old Harry Grossman, a Cubs fan since 1906 and the team’s oldest season ticket holder, stood on the field with ball girl Mariellen Kopp and Hall of Fame announcer Jack Brickhouse and bellowed the fateful words that propelled Wrigley Field into the modern era:
“Three … two … one. Let there be lights!”

Viewers from around the country watched in awe as Grossman flipped the switch and six banks of lights—three each on the left- and right-field rooftops—slowly glowed to life at Wrigley Field for the first time. The famed Chicago Symphony Orchestra, there to help mark the occasion, broke into the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“Witnessing the field lit for the first time was pretty cool, but also a little eerie to me because it was so different,” said Ben Hussman, a longtime Cubs fan and high school history teacher at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Ill., who traveled from Iowa to watch the game with a friend.

Though the lighting ceremony was high theater, there was also a game to be played, as Cubs ace Rick Sutcliffe was set to take the mound against a fifth-place Phillies squad under ominous clouds for the first home night game in franchise history.

Things got off to a fast start. After nearly being blinded by the simultaneous popping of about 40,000 flashbulbs, Sutcliffe surrendered a long home run over the left-field bleachers on the fourth pitch of the game to Phillies leadoff hitter Phil Bradley.

In the bottom of the inning, after Cubs outfielder Mitch Webster led off with a single, Morganna the Kissing Bandit—a fixture at many major sporting events in the 1970s and ’80s—ran onto the field to try to plant one on Cubs star Ryne Sandberg, but security was ready for her, and she never sealed the deal. Ryno, apparently motivated by his close encounter, then blasted a two-run home run off Kevin Gross to give the Cubs the lead. The North Siders added another run in the third inning when Rafael Palmeiro singled home Sandberg.

Only, as far as the record books are concerned, none of this ever happened.

Midway through the fourth inning at about 8:15 p.m., a torrential rainstorm washed into Chicago and washed out the game. After a two-hour-and-10-minute delay, home plate umpire Eric Gregg officially put an unceremonious end to the first night game that never was.

Apparently the excitement of the event was too much for some people. During the delay, as many as 13 Cubs fans ran out onto the field to slide on the tarp—one unlucky reveler was even taken to the hospital after running into the third-base wall. Around 9:30 p.m., the Cubs got into the act as well, as Jody Davis, Les Lancaster, Al Nipper and Greg Maddux all took their turns making a giant slip-and-slide of the infield tarp. The fans were arrested; the unrepentant Cubs players were merely fined.

Of course, countless jokes about God not wanting to have night baseball at Wrigley Field followed, but the Cubs proved the doubters (and the heavens) wrong when they played their first official night game at the stadium the following evening, a 6-4 victory over the Mets. Frank DiPino picked up the win in relief of starter Mike Bielecki, left fielder Palmeiro went 3-for-4 with a triple, and right fielder Andre Dawson drove in two runs.

To understand the importance of the lights going up, it’s essential to know the history behind the event. This was the first time a big league ballpark had added lights since Tiger Stadium (then called Briggs Stadium) in Detroit did so on June 15, 1948. It was also a deeply controversial decision that divided the city between supporters of modernization and traditionalists who believed day baseball at Wrigley Field should last forever.

But this wasn’t the first time lights were attempted at the Friendly Confines. A series of concerts, rodeos, circuses and a combined boxing/wrestling match were held at the stadium under portable lights in the early to mid-1900s.

Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley and treasurer Bill Veeck started looking into installing permanent lights at the stadium in the early 1940s. In the fall of 1941, Wrigley went so far as to order light standards for the park to be installed in early 1942. The material for the lights was stored under the Wrigley Field bleachers, but after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Wrigley donated the 165 tons of steel, 35,000 feet of copper wire and other equipment to the U.S. war effort.

“We felt that this material could be more useful in lighting flying fields, munitions plants or other war defense plants under construction,” Wrigley said.

Later, when President Franklin Roosevelt and Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis requested more night baseball games, the Cubs looked into using wooden poles and secondhand equipment to erect lighting for the 1942 season, but those plans were rejected by the War Production Board.

Throughout the 1940s, Wrigley tried to find a way to add lights to his stadium so more people could see the games after the workday was over, but to no avail. He even initiated talks with the White Sox about playing a limited number of night games at Comiskey Park, which had installed lights in 1939.

Although adding illumination to the Confines was always on the table, the organization didn’t resume serious talks about it until 1982, shortly after the Tribune Company purchased the team from the Wrigley family. In March of that year, General Manager Dallas Green publicly stated that lights needed to be installed at Wrigley Field “or we’ll have to think about playing in another ballpark.”

In August 1984, with the team making a surprising playoff push, MLB announced the Cubs would lose home-field advantage in the World Series if they got that far because they couldn’t play night games. Under the typical AL-NL rotation, the NL club was set to host Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 of the World Series. Without lights, however, network TV commitments would force Game 1 from Wrigley Field to the AL home park.

Baseball owners feared a $700,000 loss in television revenues per club as a result of World Series games played in the daytime. In subsequent years, the Cubs explored the possibility of playing night World Series games at Comiskey Park or St. Louis’ Busch Stadium.

Finally, on Feb. 25, 1988, after years of arguing, cajoling and negotiating, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance, 29 to 19, that allowed the Cubs to play night baseball at Wrigley Field—if they complied with a substantial list of terms. The deal permitted the Cubs to play eight night games in 1988 and 18 per year from 1989-2002.

On April 7, 1988, a helicopter lifted the first of three towers onto the roof along the third-base line, and crews began working every weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Most of the project was completed in June and July when the Cubs were on the road. When the team was at home, work had to stop at 10 a.m.

On June 20, 1988, the Cubs held a press conference at the park to announce a slate of seven night games for the current season, the first of which was to be held on Aug. 8. After commitments were met to season ticket holders, dignitaries, front office personnel and the like, there was only a limited number of available seats left for the night opener.

The team decided to hold a phone lottery on June 28 for the remaining 13,000 tickets to the historic contest. During the three-and-a-half-hour lottery, the Cubs ticket office fielded more than 1.5 million calls.

The lighting system was tested throughout July, leading up to a Cubs Care event on July 25 that debuted the $5 million system to the public. That night, the club held an informal workout for the team and a home run contest featuring Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg, with Ken Holtzman and Fergie Jenkins pitching. Approximately 3,000 fans, including then-National League President A. Bartlett Giamatti, were in attendance.

“I think the future of Wrigley Field is secure and assured because of the installation of this modern convenience,” Giamatti said.
The rest is Cubs history. Day baseball at Wrigley Field hasn’t gone away; it has just been augmented. Now the team can finish day games that stretch into the twilight, play nationally televised games on ESPN, host the All-Star Game (which it did in 1990) and maintain home-field advantage in the event of a postseason berth. Night baseball now feels normal, but a quarter of a century later, fans still remember what it was like to see the stadium lit up for the first time.

“[It was] a big relief, because I knew night baseball would help the Cubs be more competitive, and because it would be easier for more Cubs fans to go to more games during the week,” said Walt Denny, owner of an advertising and public relations firm in Hinsdale, Ill., and a season ticket holder since 1984.

Fans traveled from all over to attend the game and watched around the country on the WGN broadcast. The fact that the game was ultimately rained out didn’t dampen the spirits of the fans or the players who were there that night. And it didn’t erase the memories of what was one of the most important nights in modern Major League Baseball history.

“I remember thinking that the most beautiful place to watch day baseball was now the most beautiful place to watch night baseball,” Denny said.

Twenty-five years later, it still is.

—Gary Cohen

Series 34 Preview: Cubs vs. Brewers

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All-Star shortstop Jean Segura has been one of the few bright spots for the Brew Crew in 2013. (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty)

Not much has gone right for the Brewers this season, as Milwaukee continues its tumble from perennial contender to NL Central also-ran. The Brew Crew suffered a huge power outage in the early going thanks to a rash of injuries, starting with preseason surgeries to two first basemen—Corey Hart and Mat Gamel. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who had a terrific 2012 campaign, has played only 54 games because of knee issues. But as stagnant as the offense has been, the pitching has been even worse. Milwaukee’s pitchers own a combined 4.09 ERA, 11th in the NL, and their starters have a league worst 4.79 ERA. To add insult to injury, there’s the inescapable saga of former MVP Ryan Braun, who has drawn the ire of baseball pundits, players and teammates for his reported PED use and links to the Biogenesis Clinic in Florida. Braun’s suspension, which will keep him out of action for the remainder of the season, puts an exclamation point on an already disappointing year in Milwaukee.

HITTING: 3.9 Runs Scored/Game (10th in NL)
Despite their middle-of-the-road offense, the Brew Crew have profited from one of the top one-two punches in the game, with Norichika Aoki leading off and Jean Segura having a breakout season in the second slot. Aoki’s .360 on-base percentage is one of baseball’s best from the top of the order, while Segura has been doing it all. He leads the NL in hits, and is second in the league in triples and stolen bases. And Segura is not the only hitter who has developed In Milwaukee when given a chance to play every day. Center fielder Carlos Gomez has finally become the player many expected him to be when the speedster was a top prospect in Minnesota. On a less positive note, second baseman Rickie Weeks’ game continues to be in free fall, and the Brewers have yet to find a playable bat to man first base with Hart out for the season.

PITCHING: 4.6 Runs Allowed/Game (T-15th in NL)
The Brewers’ initial decision to go with a youth movement in the rotation was moderated by their late-spring signing of veteran free agent Kyle Lohse, who is having another solid season in the NL Central. But whatever Milwaukee’s master plan is—or was—none of it has worked in a rotation that ranks close to the bottom in quality starts. Expected ace Yovani Gallardo hasn’t been able to pitch reliably past the sixth inning, and not one other starter has truly been effective. Just three Milwaukee starters have made more than 20 starts on the season (Lohse, Gallardo and Wily Peralta). Other than those three, only Marco Estrada (12) has made as many as 10 starts. Matters aren’t much better in the bullpen, as John Axford pitched his way out of the closer’s role, and replacement Jim Henderson lost time due to injury. With the trade deadline nearing, the Brewers could be looking to deal experienced bullpen arms such as Mike Gonzalez.

Pearl Jam set to kick off summer concert series

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs are giving fans even more reasons to visit Clark and Addison. In addition to Cubs baseball, Wrigley Field will be hosting a pair of popular musical acts this weekend in front of the bricks and ivy.

On Friday, July 19, rock band and grunge icons Pearl Jam will grace the outfield stage, and country star Jason Aldean will headline a group of country musicians the following night. The Friendly Confines has been hosting summer concerts for some of the biggest names in music—including Roger Waters, The Police and Bruce Springsteen—since 2005.

“We’ve benefited over the last several years from really great, great artists who wanted to play at Wrigley Field,” said Julian Green, the Cubs’ vice president of communications and community affairs.

The Friday night show, titled “An Evening with Pearl Jam,” made news earlier this year for selling out in roughly 45 minutes—the fastest concert sellout in Wrigley Field history. The Grammy-winning group, which has been touring lightly in 2013 and recently announced they’ll be releasing a new studio album, Lightning Bolt, on Oct. 15, has always been extremely popular in Chicago. Though Pearl Jam was a seminal part of the Seattle grunge scene, frontman Eddie Vedder hails from nearby Evanston, Ill., and is a huge Cubs fan.

Country star and Grammy Award winner Aldean, who has been touring since mid-February, headlines the 2013 Night Train Tour, featuring American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, Jake Owen and Thomas Rhett.

“[The concerts] bring significant economic impact to both the city and the state,” Green said. “At the same time, it allows us to put more economic resources into the organization. The ability to have an additional two, three, four concerts a year works really well for us.”

1000 Words: Happy Fourth of July!

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Wishing you and your family a happy Fourth of July from Vine Line and the Chicago Cubs.

First Pitch/Seventh-Inning Stretch Lineup: 7/5-7/14

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Coach Joel Quenneville of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will be throwing out the first pitch and singing the seventh-inning stretch on Saturday, July 6—and he’ll be bringing the Cup with him. (Photo by Stephen Green)

After a long West Coast road trip, the Cubs finally head back to the Friendly Confines Friday for a nine-game homestand with the Pirates, Angels and Cardinals. If you’re headed out to Wrigley Field, of if you just want a chance to see the Stanley Cup in person, here are your first pitch and seventh-inning stretch lineups:

Friday — 7/5
Bryan Bickell, Patrick Sharp and Brandon Bollig (Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks)

Saturday — 7/6
First Pitch: Coach Joel Quenneville and the Stanley Cup (Chicago Blackhawks)
Stretch: Jim Cornelison (singer at Chicago Blackhawks games)

Sunday — 7/7
John Groce (University of Illinois head basketball coach)

Tuesday — 7/9
First Pitch: Neil Flynn (actor, Scrubs and The Middle)
Stretch: Cast of the Goodman Theatre’s The Jungle Book

Wednesday — 7/10
Jeff Garlin (actor, producer, comedian)

Thursday — 7/11
First Pitch: Jeff Larentowicz (Chicago Fire) and Bo Pelini (University of Nebraska head football coach)
Stretch: Jeff Larentowicz, Mike Magee and Gonzalo Segares (Chicago Fire)

Friday — 7/12
Jerrod Niemann (Country music artist)
Promo Item: Cubs cowboy hat

Saturday — 7/13
Dutchie Caray (Harry Caray’s wife)
Promo Item: Harry Caray statue

Sunday — 7/14
Gary Fencik (former Chicago Bears player)

Hot Off the Presses: The July All-Star Issue of Vine Line

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Quick … which catcher had the greatest statistical season in Cubs history?

I’ll give you a second to think about it.

What about Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett? He went to six All-Star Games, won the 1935 NL MVP and was generally considered the best catcher in NL history until Johnny Bench came along.

Maybe Randy Hundley. He went to an All-Star Game, won a Gold Glove and threw out a remarkable 50 percent of base stealers four times in his career.

Jody Davis? Johnny Kling? Keith Moreland even played some catcher.

What would you say if I told you it was Rick Wilkins? Yes, the same Rick Wilkins who was a 23rd-round pick out of Furman University. The same Rick Wilkins who played for eight different teams in his 11 big league seasons. The same Rick Wilkins who put up a career .244/.332/.410 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line. Not exactly the stuff of legend.

But then there was 1993—a year in which the peripatetic Cubs backstop hit .303 (he never again hit better than .270), slammed 30 home runs (he never again hit more than 14) and drove in 73 runs (he never again plated more than 59). That season, he compiled 6.6 wins above replacement (WAR), an advanced statistic meant to summarize a player’s value to his team in a single, all-encompassing number.

According to stats website Fangraphs, the source of these figures, anything above a 6.0 is considered an MVP-caliber season. The best Hartnett ever managed was a 5.6. Mind you, Hartnett’s career WAR was 53.4; Wilkins’ was only 14.0 (and, remember, almost half of that came from one season).

There’s no better way to get baseball fans riled up than starting a good, old-fashioned intergenerational debate. Stats geeks and old-school fans alike can spend countless hours arguing the merits of Aramis Ramirez over Ron Santo or Ryne Sandberg over Rogers Hornsby.

For our July All-Star issue, we set out to find the best-ever single season by a Cubs player at each position in the team’s more than 100-year history. Of course, it seems obvious Mark Grace would have had the best first-base season (he didn’t) or that Billy Williams was the top left fielder (he wasn’t).

There are a million ways to go about a task like this, and they’re all incredibly subjective. So we turned to a single advanced metric to help us figure things out. WAR is an all-inclusive stat that takes into account offense, defense and baserunning to determine how many wins a player is worth over a league-average replacement player.

We’re not saying the men on our list are necessarily the best players in Cubs history. Some of them are. Several of them decidedly are not. But they all had at least one spectacular season that set them apart statistically and can truly be considered the best ever by a Cub at their respective positions (as measured by this one metric).

We also take time this month to look down the chain at some of the other All-Star athletes throughout the organization. The Cubs are building a winner from the bottom up, and fans need to know which players are on the rise. That includes everyone from this year’s first-round draft pick (second overall) Kris Bryant to minor league mashers like Dustin Geiger and Rock Shoulders (whose name we try to work into every issue if we can).

Finally, to ensure the pipeline of young talent remains strong, the Cubs are investing heavily in their international scouting and player development. Outside of the U.S., more major league players hail from the Dominican Republic than from any other country. The Cubs crop includes big leaguers such as Starlin Castro and top minor league prospects like Junior Lake. While the restoration of Wrigley Field is getting the headlines on the facilities front, the Cubs recently opened a 50-acre baseball academy in the Dominican to find more top talent and diamonds in the rough. We give you a look inside the state-of-the-art facility.

We’ll be releasing our WAR All-Stars position by position here on the blog in the coming weeks. If you want to weigh in with your own opinions, email us at vineline@cubs.com or talk to us on Twitter at @cubsvineline.

Let the debate begin.

—Gary Cohen

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