Results tagged ‘ Wrigley Field ’

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.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Stretching Out with George Will

George-Will

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author George Will is probably best known for his conservative political commentary. But the Champaign, Illinois, native is also a huge baseball fan who has written extensively on the game. His newest book, A Nice Little Place on the North Side, is a deeply personal look at the Chicago Cubs, the team he has rooted for since he was a boy, and their iconic home, Wrigley Field.

Vine Line: You’ve now done three books on baseball. What keeps you coming back to the game?

George Will: I really only write about politics to support my baseball habit. I was just thinking I’ve published 14 books now, three of them on baseball, and I’m sure those three will sell more than the others combined. Baseball is fun. It’s endlessly fascinating. It has such a long history, unlike every other American sport. It goes back well into the 19th century and beyond.

VL: You grew up downstate, so you had a choice between the Cardinals and Cubs. How did you become a Cubs fan?

GW: I’m not sure I remember how. The funny thing is I remember the Cardinals’ radio broadcaster annoyed me—some guy named Harry Caray, who left St. Louis, went to Oakland, went to the South Side of Chicago, and, of course, wound up being an iconic figure in Cubs history. What annoyed me when he was with the Cardinals was how much he supported the Cardinals. I didn’t mind him supporting the Cubs.

VL: From your book, I take it you’re a reluctant modernist. You like Wrigley Field the way it is, but you see the need for change.

GW: This ballpark is older than the Supreme Court Building, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Mt. Rushmore, Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge—it’s old. And like a lot of old things and people, it needs maintenance. So, first of all, you have to spend on maintenance. Second, every major league team’s ballpark is a revenue producer, and it helps them put a better product on the field. And third, the Cubs need certain things like weight rooms and video rooms and batting cages they can use during games. The modern athlete demands more and deserves more.

VL: What compelled you to devote a book to Wrigley?

GW: I just wanted to know all the interesting things and, frankly, the fun things that have happened. Not many Cubs fans know that Jack Ruby, the guy who shot Lee Harvey Oswald after Oswald shot Kennedy, was a vendor in Wrigley Field. Not many people know that Ray Kroc, before he founded McDonald’s, was selling plastic cups to the vendors here to serve soft drinks in. Not many people really know the story, sad and glorious at the same time, of Hack Wilson, who has one of the records that has resisted breaking more than almost any other—191 RBI in one season. So it’s an enormous amount of history just concentrated in this one little spot on the North Side.

1930s Homestand Promotions and Guests: 5/16/14-5/21/14

Cubs Viewmaster
On May 18, the first 5,000 kids 13 and under will receive a Cubs Viewmaster.

The Cubs will host the following promotions and guests in honor of the 1930s decade at Wrigley Field. As always, several first pitch and seventh-inning stretch conductors will be tied to the history of Wrigley Field.

1930s Homestand Recap: May 16-21
Friday, May 16, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 1:20 p.m.

  • Promotion: Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” Bobblehead (first 10,000 fans)
  • First pitches: Babe Ruth’s daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, musical group Haim
  • Seventh-inning stretch: Julia Ruth Stevens and her son, Tom Stevens
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com
  • Postgame Event: Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation’s Cook-Off for Cancer

Saturday, May 17, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 1:20 p.m.

  • Promotion: Cubs Umbrella presented by Morton Salt (first 10,000 fans)
  • First pitches: Morton Salt Girl, members of the U.S. Military
  • Seventh-inning stretch: Professional wrestler CM Punk
  • Broadcast: Comcast SportsNet, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Sunday, May 18, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 1:20 p.m.

  • Throwback uniforms: Retro 1937 Cubs and Brewers uniforms
  • Promotion: Cubs Viewmaster® (first 5,000 kids 13-and-under)
  • Special Event: Youth Baseball and Softball Appreciation Day
  • First pitch and Seventh-inning stretch: Northwestern University men’s basketball coach Chris Collins
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Tuesday, May 20, Chicago Cubs vs. New York Yankees, 7:05 p.m.

  • First pitch: Three-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon
  • Seventh-inning stretch: TBD
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Wednesday, May 21, Chicago Cubs vs. New York Yankees, 1:20 p.m.

  • First pitch: Jim Miller, Holabird & Root (architectural firm that designed Wrigley Field’s bleachers and hand-operated scoreboard)
  • Seventh-inning stretch: TBD
  • Broadcast: MLB Network, Comcast SportsNet, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

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

The Cubs marquee is going green to honor the 1930s

Babe Ruth Called Shot Bobblehead

The first 10,000 fans in attendance on May 16 will take home a Babe Ruth “Called Shot” Bobblehead.

While America was dealing with the Great Depression for much of the 1930s, Wrigley Field was bringing excitement and optimism to Chicago residents. That’s because the venerable ballpark housed a baseball team that won the National League pennant three times over the course of the decade.

This homestand, the Cubs will honor the success of those 1930s teams by giving Wrigley Field’s exterior a temporary makeover, sporting throwback uniforms and honoring one of the greatest ballplayers to ever play at the Friendly Confines.

Wrigley Field will mirror the sights and sounds of the 1930s as the Cubs host a decade-inspired homestand vs. the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Yankees. One familiar Chicago landmark will stand out in particular, as the famed Wrigley Field marquee will return to its green origins with gold trim from the mid-1930s. After the homestand, it will return to its modern red background with white trim.

On Wednesday morning, May 14, the Cubs will begin painting the marquee to match the color scheme following its installation in 1934. Benjamin Moore will provide limited-edition Cubs/Benjamin Moore T-shirts for up to 1,000 fans who wish to view the painting event Wednesday morning, and guests also are invited to contribute to painting a large-scale baseball bat-themed mural on-site.

Tickets for both the Brewers and Yankees series remain available at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827). Here’s what’s in store for the homestand.

Throwback Uniforms:
On Sunday, May 18, the Cubs will wear a throwback uniform from 1937, the year during which Wrigley Field’s iconic scoreboard was installed and the ivy was planted on the newly constructed bleacher wall. The 1937 jersey features a zip-up front, and the uniform marks the first year the team switched from a navy blue to a royal blue color on its uniforms.

The visiting Milwaukee Brewers will wear a 1937-inspired retro uniform as well.

Promotional Giveaways:
The 1930s Bobblehead Friday showcases one of the most debated moments in baseball and Wrigley Field history—Babe Ruth’s “called shot” off Charlie Root in the 1932 World Series. The first 10,000 fans in the gate will receive the bobblehead on Friday, May 16.

The following day, 10,000 fans will receive a Cubs Umbrella presented by Morton Salt. The company is celebrating the 100th birthday of its signature Morton Salt Girl.

On Throwback Sunday, May 18, the first 5,000 kids 13-and-under will receive a Cubs Viewmaster, and the first 1,000 kids can run the bases postgame (weather permitting).

Special Event:
On Sunday, May 18, Youth Baseball and Softball Appreciation Day features specially priced Terrace Reserved Outfield tickets with the opportunity for uniformed players ages 13-and-under to run the bases postgame (weather permitting). For group sales of 15 guests or more, $3 per each ticket sold will be donated back to the participating league. Each child that attends will receive an exclusive Cubs youth sports band.

Specialty Food Offerings:
Levy Restaurants continues its decade-inspired menu at the Decade Diner, located inside Gate D near Section 142. The 1930s homestand features a Kraft Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich with thinly-sliced seasoned beef cooked with onions and mixed with Kraft American and White American cheeses, served on a toasted torpedo roll. The other homestand special is a favorite from mom’s kitchen. The hearty Meatloaf with Gravy dish features meatloaf glazed with honey ketchup, served with mashed potatoes, peas and carrots.

The Decade Dogs stand near Section 123 is serving a Cheese Steak Dog to represent the 1930s, featuring a Vienna Beef hot dog, shaved ribeye steak, grilled onions, peppers and provolone cheese.

Adults 21-and-over can enjoy a 1930s Called Shot cocktail—a Manhattan made with fans’ choice of Bulleit Bourbon, Bulleit Rye, Crown Royal or Bushmills Irish Whiskey. The Called Shot is served in limited-edition souvenir glasses from May 16-21 on the main concourse at Section 109 and at the bleacher patio in left field.

Historic Moments:
Some of Wrigley Field’s most noteworthy baseball moments occurred in the 1930s, and the ballpark’s most beloved landmarks came into existence during the decade as well.

On Oct. 1, 1932, in Game 3 of the World Series, Babe Ruth hit his highly-debated and much-celebrated “called shot” off Charlie Root. Moments before the home run, Ruth made a series of gestures—but was he calling his shot or responding to the bench-jockeying from the Cubs dugout?

On Sept. 28, 1938, moments after umpires declared the game would end at the completion of the ninth inning due to darkness, Gabby Hartnett hit his famous “Homer in the Gloamin'” to give the Cubs a two-out, walk-off win and vault them into first place. They would clinch the National League pennant three days later.

In terms of ballpark additions, the iconic Wrigley Field Marquee was added at the corner of Clark and Addison in 1934. The Marquee was originally green with gold trim and welcomed fans to Wrigley Field, Home of “The Cubs.”

A few years later in 1937, the Wrigley Field bleachers and scoreboard were constructed when the outfield area was renovated to provide improved and expanded seating. The Friendly Confines’ famous ivy was planted with 350 Japanese Bittersweet plants and 200 Boston Ivy plants taking root at the base of the new brick outfield walls.

To learn more about these historic moments and others, such as Hack Wilson’s record-setting RBI total, visit www.wrigleyfield100.com.

 

Cubs continue decade-themed homestands by honoring 1920s

1929Flag

The Cubs will continue their celebration of 100 years of Wrigley Field by honoring the 1920s during the May 2-6 homestand against the Cardinals and White Sox. The team’s throwback uniform, promotional giveaways, specialty food and beverage offerings, and entertainment will mirror the sights and sounds of the 1920s at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs and Cardinals will face off on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball May 4 at 7:05 p.m. CST. ESPN Baseball Tonight’s Sunday Night Countdown will broadcast by the Cubs Store at the corner of Clark and Addison for the hour preceding the game.

Throwback Uniforms:
On Sunday, May 4, the Cubs will wear a throwback 1929 uniform to honor their National League championship team. That year was the first time a World Series was played at Wrigley Field. The visiting St. Louis Cardinals will wear a 1929-inspired retro uniform as well.

Promotional Giveaways:
On Friday, May 2, the Cubs’ historic bobblehead series will feature Red Grange, the University of Illinois running back who ran for three touchdowns as a sophomore in a 29-0 win over Northwestern University on Oct. 27, 1923. The following day, the first 10,000 adults 21-and-over to enter the ballpark will receive a Cubs Fedora Hat presented by Budweiser. On Sunday May 4, the first 5,000 kids 13-and-under will receive a Cubs Yo-Yo.

Special Event:
The 1920s homestand concludes on May 6 vs. the White Sox, when Cubs Charities will team up with Advocate Health Care to “Pink Out” the Budweiser Bleachers. On the last Cubs home game before Mother’s Day, each fan attending the game in the Budweiser Bleachers will receive a Cubs Charities “Save 2nd Base” T-shirt to promote breast cancer awareness and celebrate moms and women everywhere who are cancer survivors. T-shirts will be distributed at the gates by players’ and coaches’ wives.

Fans throughout the ballpark are encouraged to wear pink that day. The Cubs Store, located across from Wrigley Field at the corner of Clark and Addison streets, will display a “Pink Out” section with pink Cubs merchandise and a 10 percent discount on engraved pink bats for fans interested in participating.

All fans in attendance on May 6 are encouraged to participate in the Cubs Charities 50/50 Raffle, as proceeds will benefit mammograms for under- and uninsured women through Advocate Charitable Foundation. For tickets and information, visit cubs.com/pink.

Specialty Food Offerings:
Levy Restaurants will continue its decade-inspired menu at the Decade Diner, located inside Gate D near Section 142. The 1920s homestand specials feature a Kraft Italian Grinder Sandwich with sliced capiocola, salami, mortadella, ham and Kraft Provolone Cheese served on a garlic butter-toasted hoagie roll, as well as a Crispy Chicken Po Boy with crispy chicken tenders on a toasted hoagie roll with crisp shredded lettuce, tomato and Cajun aioli.

The Decade Dogs stand near Section 123 is serving decade-themed specialty hot dogs this season, with the classic Chicago Dog representing the 1920s. The Chicago Dog is available all season long and features a Vienna Beef hot dog, tomato wedges, pickle spears, sport peppers, diced onions, mustard, neon relish and celery salt, served on a poppyseed bun.

Adults 21-and-over can enjoy a 1920s Upper Deck Gin Rickey, a refreshing cocktail made with Tanqueray Gin, lime juice and basil-infused club soda, served in limited-edition souvenir glasses from May 2-6 on the main concourse at Section 109 and the bleacher patio in left field.

Tickets for both the Cardinals and White Sox series remain available at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

Historic Moments:
Wrigley Field hosted several milestone moments in the 1920s that will be recognized as some of Wrigley Field’s 100 Great Times presented by Budweiser. These include Oct. 10, 1920, when the Chicago Tigers played the Racine Cardinals for the first professional football game at then-Cubs Park. In 1921, the Chicago Staleys (now Bears) made Cubs Park their new home. Cubs Park would be renamed Wrigley Field in 1926 and would host its first World Series game in 1929. To learn more about the historic moments that took place at Wrigley Field, visit www.wrigleyfield100.com.

Now Playing: The Cubs and Vine Line celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field

It’s not every day people get to attend a 100th birthday party. On Wednesday, Vine Line was on hand with the rest of the Cubs faithful to celebrate Wrigley Field’s centennial and to be a part of the Party of the Century. The first 10,000 fans received cupcakes as they entered the stadium, and the first 30,000 took home a replica Chi-Feds jersey. The Cubs wore 1914 Chi-Feds throwback uniforms, while the Diamondbacks dressed as the Kansas City Packers (the Federal League club the home team faced 100 years prior).

The pregame ceremony included former Cubs players Ernie Banks, Glenn Beckert, Andre Dawson, Bobby Dernier, Ryan Dempster,  Fergie Jenkins, Gary Matthews, Milt Pappas and Billy Williams; Chicago Bears Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers; members of the Weeghman family; and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. During the fifth inning, fans sang “Happy Birthday” to the ballpark, and Dutchie Caray and a group of Cubs Hall of Famers led the seventh-inning stretch. If you missed the event, here’s our tribute to 100 years at the Friendly Confines.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Wrigley Field 100th birthday photo gallery

Wrigley Field Memories

Few people get to see Wrigley Field in all her glory. This is before the hot dogs are on the grill, before the distinctive sound of cowhide meeting hard maple rings through the park, before 40,000 cheering fans make their way into the belly of the Friendly Confines.

The best time to experience Wrigley Field is in the morning, when the sun is shining and the park is empty. That’s when you can see the venerable, 100-year-old ballpark for what she is—a beautiful, lush green oasis in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities on the planet.

Bereft of fans, players and noise, you also get a better sense of just how anachronistic Wrigley Field is—from the brick outfield wall, to the ivy, to the manual scoreboard, to the light standards. Wrigley is a shrine to baseball. Not a modern, Disney-meets-Dave & Buster’s amusement park, where a sporting event just happens to be played amidst other fanfare designed to keep modern, iPhone-obsessed fans occupied. Wrigley is all about the game.

And sitting solo in the grandstand, it’s easy to imagine what the stadium looked like and felt like when Andre Dawson roamed right field, or Ron Santo manned the Hot Corner, or Grover Cleveland Alexander toed the slab. The concourses and halls of the stadium are filled with memories, stretching back past Babe Ruth’s supposed called shot.

For 100 years, Wrigley Field has been the altar upon which North Side baseball is consecrated. And a century of sporting (and other) events calls for a little celebration.

Ultimately, what else can be said about one of the great, historic cathedrals of baseball? We decided to turn it over to the people who know the stadium best and let the images and quotes speak for themselves.

Happy 100th birthday Wrigley Field. Here’s to 100 more. (Click the images below to start the slideshow.)

1000 Words: Wrigley Field gets its own Cake Boss birthday cake

WrigleyCake

Wrigley Field will celebrate its 100th anniversary Wednesday. And like all birthdays, a cake will be present. Fans will be able to view an elaborate decorative cake from Carlo’s Bakery, the setting of the TLC show Cake Boss, near the Ernie Banks statue on Clark Street until the third inning. The first 10,000 fans at today’s game will also receive a birthday cupcake, compliments of Jewel-Osco.

From the Pages of Vine Line: The best home opener from every decade of Wrigley Field

WeeghmanPark

Wednesday marks 100 years of home openers at the stadium we now call Wrigley Field. The following can be found in the April issue of Vine Line.

For a century, it’s been the day when everything is new again. To mark the occasion, there have been fireworks and parades; tributes to legends and unforgettable, edge-of-your-seat wins; warm spring days and blustery, winter-like afternoons.

Opening Day at Wrigley Field has always been a time to remember what it feels like, sounds like and smells like to be a part of Cubs history. Since 1914, fans from across Chicago and around the world have made their way to the Friendly Confines to witness the start of a new season and pin their hopes on the lovable North Side nine.

Over the years, the park has evolved: Weeghman Park became Cubs Park became Wrigley Field; the Chi-Feds became the Whales and then gave way to the Cubs; and 14,000 seats grew to 41,000. But the game and the excitement of the fans remain the same, season after season.

To celebrate the Cubs’ home opener on April 4 and Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday on April 23, we’re taking a look back at the most memorable Opening Day from each of the Friendly Confines’ 10 decades. Because this is, by nature, a subjective exercise, we called on Cubs historian Ed Hartig to help choose the games.

Without further ado, here are Vine Line’s 10 most exciting Wrigley Field openers.

1910s
April 20, 1916: Cubs, meet Weeghman Park

The Cubs’ official debut at their new, North Side home was no small event.

The matchup with the Cincinnati Reds kicked off with fireworks, six brass bands, a 21-gun salute and an official flag-raising ceremony. Local dignitaries gave speeches—though it’s possible few in attendance actually heard them. The roar of the brass bands drowned out at least one address, given by a local judge.

Members of the 25th Ward Democratic Organization paraded around the park with a donkey. There was a car parade, and the team’s president was presented with flowers and a live bear cub. (The cub, Joa, was led to home plate, where he mugged for photographers.)

Outside of the park, hundreds of people gathered on rooftops and clustered around windows to catch a glimpse of the action. Workers even added extra seats to the outfield to accommodate the crowds.

“There was a newness and a curiosity to things,” Chicago Tribune writer James Crusinberry noted. “It was the first time many of the players and doubtless many of the fans had ever seen the North Side park. But they seemed to have no trouble finding it.”

After all the festivities, the Cubs didn’t let their fans down, topping the Reds 7-6 in 11 innings. Cy Williams doubled to reach base in the bottom of the 11th, and a Vic Saier single drove him in to score the winning run.

Reds left fielder John Beall recorded the game’s only home run­­­—which meant he should have earned a free suit from a local tailor named George Kelly. The tailor was offering suits to any player who hit a home run during the opener, but it’s unclear if Beall ever took Kelly up on the offer.

1920s
April 14, 1925: The Chicago Cubs are on the air

For the first time in Cubs history, fans tuned into the action at Wrigley Field without leaving the comfort of their homes.

The 1925 home opener was broadcast on WGN Radio, with announcer Quin Ryan calling the game from the grandstand roof. At the time, it was a revolutionary—and risky—concept. Other baseball clubs had held off on radio broadcasts, because they worried airing the games would deter fans from actually coming to the ballpark.

The Cubs faithful, however, still turned out in droves. The crowd was estimated at 40,000, a then-Opening Day record.

“That the North Side park—newly painted and looking as neat as a Dutch bakery—will be jammed today is a certainty,” Chicago Tribune writer Irving Vaughan noted the day before the game. “The advance sales of seats have been so heavy that the supply of reservations was exhausted early yesterday.”

WGN’s broadcasts were sporadic in the early days, but the practice caught on soon enough.

As for the game itself? On a particularly chilly April day, the Cubs topped the Pittsburgh Pirates, 8-2, thanks to the efforts of starting pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. The right-hander hit a home run, double and single, and pitched a complete game, surrendering just two runs, neither earned.

1930s
April 12, 1933: Prohibition is (almost) over—and Cubs fans know it

About two months after the 21st Amendment, which would repeal Prohibition, was proposed to Congress—but still three months before Illinois officially ratified it—beer was back at Wrigley Field for the first time in more than a decade.

After the game, two bars located under the grandstand reported that they sold more beer at the 1933 home opener than they had soft drinks at the same game in 1932.

Fans enjoying the affair with a cold one got to see the Cubs top the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-0. Gabby Hartnett had three hits in four at-bats, driving in two runs.

Cubs ace Lon Warneke, who had a few peculiar habits, took on the equally colorful Dizzy Dean.

“They called [Warneke] the Arkansas Hummingbird,” teammate Phil Cavarretta said at the time. “He’d be by his locker, and he had a little ole ukulele, and he’d play that and hum and sing, which was fine. As long as he kept winning ballgames, why complain?”

1940s
April 17, 1945: The start of something big

The story about 1945 wasn’t so much the home opener as the season it launched. The Cubs went 98-56 to capture their most recent NL pennant, beating out the Cardinals before falling to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

The campaign was bookended by a pair of series against St. Louis. Bill Nicholson hit a home run early in the opener and later scored the winning run on a ninth-inning single by Don Johnson.

Later in his life, Cavarretta would compare Johnson to another second baseman with a reputation for starting a rally.

“Don Johnson was our Ryne Sandberg,” he said.

The Cubs would finish 6-16 versus the Cards for the year, but they still outpaced the division by three games.

1950s
April 18, 1952: A spirited comeback

With the Cubs down 4-1 heading into the ninth inning against the Cardinals, it looked like the team was poised to start the season on a disappointing note.

But the Cubs knocked in four runs in the final frame against three Cardinals pitchers, who didn’t retire a single batter, to notch a 5-4 win. A pinch-hit double from Bill Serena with the bases loaded drove in Roy Smalley and Joe Hatten for the tying and winning runs.

“I never saw such spirit,” said Cavarretta, who was managing his first home opener and considered sending himself in as a pinch-hitter. “In that ninth inning, four or five guys were eager to hit while we were building up the rally. I was going to get into the act until they switched to a left-hander.”

1960s
April 8, 1969: Just when you think you’ve got it …

The 1969 home opener looked like a clear-cut win, as the Cubs headed into the ninth inning up by three runs. But then Philadelphia’s Don Money slammed a three-run homer off Fergie Jenkins, and fans were left on the edge of their seats.

The Phillies took the lead in the 11th, but the Cubs battled back. In the home half, Randy Hundley singled and scored on Willie Smith’s two-run, walk-off, pinch-hit home run. Ernie Banks also homered twice in the Cubs’ 7-6 victory.

“I was in the dugout trying to keep warm, and I wanted to give Willie a kiss for doing it because I was freezing,” said Cubs infielder Glenn Beckert.

Cubs pitcher Bill Hands was sitting next to manager Leo Durocher in the dugout as Smith stepped up to the plate.

“[Durocher] kept saying, ‘Just a dying quail over third, that’s all I want.’ And I said, ‘The hell with that, Skip, he’ll hit it out.’”

1970s
April 14, 1978: Climbing the wall to get in

Typically, the team would save about 22,000 tickets to sell on gameday, but they’d cut that number to just 12,000 prior to the season. Knowing they’d have to be quick to get a seat, eager fans started lining up outside of Wrigley Field at 3:30 a.m.

Ushers pushed back people trying to climb over the outfield wall to get in, and, for a while, vendors were worried there could be trouble—especially since they were going through more beer than they ever had before.

In the end, the park saw its largest Opening Day crowd (45,777), and Woodie Fryman took a no-hitter into the sixth before a fly ball by the Pirates’ Dave Parker fell in. Gene Clines should have caught the ball, but Clines turned the wrong way, and the ball fell to safety.

The Pirates rallied to tie the game, but the Cubs ultimately won, 5-4, on a walk-off home run from Larry Biittner.

“When he left the bench, honest to God, he told me he was going to hit one out of here,” manager Herman Franks said of Biittner.

“I never said that,” Biittner countered. “I’m not a home run hitter. You know that.”

1980s
April 4, 1989: “Ulcer city”

Mark Grace said he’d never been involved in a more nerve-racking or exciting game.

The situation: With the Cubs holding a slim 5-4 lead, the Phillies opened the ninth with three straight singles off closer Mitch Williams. Noted Cubs-killer Mike Schmidt, who had already knocked a home run in the game, was due up.

“When you have the bases loaded, no one out, and you’re 2-0 on Mike Schmidt, I can’t think of a worse situation to be in in all of baseball,” pitcher Rick Sutcliffe later said.

Luckily, Williams was up to the challenge. The quirky reliever rallied to fan the slugger and then struck out Chris James and Mark Ryal to preserve the win.

Williams’ former Texas teammate Paul Kilgus had given Cubs manager Don Zimmer some advice on how to survive watching Williams pitch in such a game.

“Ulcer city,” he said. “Drink a lot of milk, Zim.”

Sutcliffe picked up his third Wrigley Field opening win in five seasons, and Jerome Walton and Joe Girardi both made their major league debuts, each chipping in two hits.

1990s
April 3, 1998: Farewell to a legend

On an emotional day, the Cubs opened the 1998 season by paying tribute to Harry Caray, who had passed away in February.

The team unveiled a Caray caricature above the WGN-TV booth, and Caray’s wife, Dutchie, pinch-hit for her husband, leading the crowd in a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” When the song finished, a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace,” and 3,000 blue and white Harry Caray balloons were released from behind the left-field wall.

In the game itself, the Cubs beat Montreal, 6-2, for their third straight victory, but it was the spontaneous wave of emotion that swept the ballpark at the top of the seventh inning that was the talk of the team afterward.

With one out to go before the start of the seventh-inning stretch, virtually everyone in the stands was on their feet, and chants of “HAR-RY, HAR-RY” echoed across the El tracks.

“I was looking around thinking, ‘Oh, geez, what if a ball is hit to me right now?’” said third baseman Kevin Orie. “I was trying to pay attention, but, at the same time, I was trying to soak it all in. Everyone had goose bumps.”

At one point, Montreal’s Chris Widger sent a fly ball into the outfield. Right fielder Sammy Sosa and second baseman Mickey Morandini went running for it, but the crowd’s chanting was so loud they couldn’t hear each other. The ball bounced out of Sosa’s glove.

Starter Steve Trachsel did a little bit of everything, pitching 7.1 innings of two-run, four-hit ball, striking out seven and driving in three runs with a pair of singles.

2000s
April 13, 2009: Lilly’s near no-no

Rain nearly postponed the game, but after a 72-minute delay, the Cubs and the Rockies got things going on a miserable 36-degree day.

The Cubs featured a makeshift lineup, as they were missing projected starters Milton Bradley (groin), Geovany Soto (shoulder) and Aramis Ramirez (stiff back) due to injuries. Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez was his own worst enemy, lasting only 3.2 innings, walking six and hitting a batter. The Cubs finished the game with nine walks.

The weather was the story until Ted Lilly got on a hot streak. The lefty didn’t give up a hit until the seventh inning, when he allowed a single to Garrett Atkins. He followed that with a walk to end his day. Three relievers finished off the Cubs’ 4-0, one-hit win before 40,077 fans at Wrigley Field.

Would manager Lou Piniella have left Lilly, who had thrown 104 pitches through 6.2 innings, in the game if the no-hitter had still been intact?

“It would’ve been a tough decision, because it’s early in the season to let a pitcher go much more than what he pitched,” Piniella said. “You’re looking for problems.”

Lilly said he knew he was on a good run, but didn’t let it shake his concentration.

“I was still trying to focus on making quality pitches, and not so much, ‘How am I going to protect the no-hitter?’” he said. “I just wanted to make good pitches and felt if I did that, I like my chances.”

Home Series 3 Preview: Cubs vs. Reds

Billy-Hamilton

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty)

The Reds used a balanced attack to win 90 games and snag the second Wild Card spot in 2013. Even though it was their third playoff appearance in four seasons, manager Dusty Baker was let go, as his team failed to advance in any of their three postseason trips. The organization stayed within the family to find Baker’s replacement, promoting highly respected pitching coach Bryan Price to the top spot. Price could find himself with an even stronger rotation, despite losing Bronson Arroyo to the Diamondbacks, but he must hope rookie speedster Billy Hamilton can fill a giant-sized hole at the top of the lineup created by the departure of on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo. Still, led by perennial MVP candidate Joey Votto, there’s a ton of talent on this roster.

2014 HITTING
(11th in NL, 3.8 RS/G)
The Reds likely won’t be able to replace Choo and his .423 OBP in the leadoff spot, but rookie phenom Hamilton hopes to wreak havoc on the basepaths (though he has struggled with just a .220 on-base percentage thus far). His speed is so disruptive that if he finds his way to first, it’s likely he’ll be in scoring position within a pitch or two. Votto gets dinged for not driving in runs, but there’s no debating he’s one of the most productive offensive forces in the game, with a .446 OBP and the ability to consistently hit 25-plus home runs. Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier are both good complementary run producers, but Brandon Phillips is on the downside of his career and struggled with a .310 OBP and .706 OPS last season.

2014 PITCHING
(5th in NL, 3.4 RA/G)
Despite losing Arroyo, the Reds’ rotation actually has a chance to improve from last season. After making only 11 starts in 2013, ace Johnny Cueto appears to be healthy, and though Homer Bailey is having a rough start to 2014, the right-hander finally started living up to the high expectations that come with being a top prospect last aseaon. He posted career bests in ERA (3.49), IP (209), WHIP (1.12), K% (23.4 percent) and K/BB (3.69). Add Mike Leake, Tony Cingrani and Mat Latos when he returns from a DL stint, and Cincinnati’s rotation is one of the most impressive on paper entering 2014. The bullpen is also excellent, even with closer Aroldis Chapman still recovering from a comebacker to the face in Spring Training. Sam LeCure, Alfredo Simon and J.J. Hoover all posted sub-3.00 ERAs in more than 60 innings of work last season. And the Reds still have veteran arms in Jonathan Broxton and Manny Parra.

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