A Two-Day Game and a Cubs Victory!

San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs – August 19, 2014 | MLB.com CHC Recap.

ChicagoCubsPicAdd another strange Cubs’ game to the history of Wrigley Field (100 years old this year). How about a game that starts on Tuesday and ends on Thursday? Yes, the same game! With a rain delay, a tarp malfunction, an unplayable field, a protest from the opposing team, a restart and another rain delay in between!

Sound almost too bad to believe? Believe it. It happens to the Cubs. But – here’s the good news – how about a Cubs victory over the Giants after two days?! Good pitching beats lousy hitting every time! :)

Here’s the story as reported by MLB.com:

CHICAGO — Anthony Rizzo’s home run Tuesday night held up Thursday.

After more than six hours of rain delays, a full day, a protest and a ruling, Rizzo’s two-run home run in the first inning Tuesday was enough to give the Cubs a 2-1 victory over the Giants in a game completed Thursday.

Let’s go back to the beginning. The Cubs and Giants played 4 1/2 innings Tuesday when a sudden downpour stopped play. The Wrigley Field grounds crew had difficulty putting the tarp on, and the infield was soaked. When the rain did stop, the crew tried to repair the damage, but the field was determined unplayable, and the game was called after a four-hour, 34-minute delay.

The Cubs led, 2-0, after 4 1/2 innings but the Giants protested, and Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that the game would resume in the bottom of the fifth. MLB cited Rule 4.12 (a)(3), blaming a “malfunction of a mechanical device under control of the home club.”

The start of Thursday’s game was scheduled for 4:05 p.m. CT but that was delayed 1:57 by rain, so the official delay time was 6:31. There were no tarp problems Thursday.

Published in: on August 22, 2014 at 12:54 PM  Leave a Comment  
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The Story of the Wrigley Field Ivy (2)

LittlePlaceonNorthSide-GFWillLast week we began to relate the story of how the ivy came to be placed on the walls of beloved Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. That story is told by George F. Will in his great book marking the 100th anniversary of Wrigley this year: A Nice Little Place on the North Side (Crown Archetype, 2014).

The first part of that history involved trees. Trees in the bleachers. Trees which didn’t last very long.

The second part involved bittersweet – and ivy. Let’s allow Will to tell us how it came to be:

Veeck had planned to plant the ivy after the season (1937 -cjt). However, the day before the team returned from a long road trip to end the season with a short home stand, Wrigley told Veeck he had invited some friends to the next day’s game to see the ivy. But Veeck had not yet bought it. A specialist at a nursery was consulted. He said ivy could not be deployed in one night. Veeck asked what could be. The specialist answered with one word: ‘Bittersweet.’ He was not a philosophic merchant commenting on the human condition; neither was he summing up the experience of being a Cub fan. Rather, he was recommending a plant with that name. So that night Veeck and Wrigley Field’s groundskeeper strung light bulbs along the outfield wall to illuminate their work, and by morning the wall was entirely covered with bittersweet. In its midst they planted ivy, which eventually took over the wall.

And with that bittersweet-ivy idea went a few accolades, including one from a local writer:

On September 17, 1937, the Chicago Tribune carried a story with this headline: ‘New Wrigley Field Blooms in Scenic Beauty – and Scoffers Rush to Apologize.’ One of those scoffers was the author of the story, Edward Burns, who had written a series of grumpy reports about changes under way at the field, including enlargement of the bleachers. Now, however, he was prepared to ‘emboss an apologetic scroll to P.K.Wrigley, owner of the most artistic ballpark in the majors.’ Burns estimated that the park was valued at $3 million (pp.88-89).

The Story of the Wrigley Field Ivy (1)

LittlePlaceonNorthSide-GFWillAs I make my way through George F.Will’s great book on the history of Wrigley Field (A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred, Crown Archetype, 2014), I recently read the section on how Wrigley Field came to receive its well-known ivy on the outfield walls. That section begins, by the way, with this quote from Frank Lloyd Wright: “A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.”

That story involves owner William Wrigley and William Veeck, Sr., who served as president of the team for sixteen years. To help draw fans into the ballpark when the team was not doing well (which was often!), Wrigley decided to make Wrigley a beautiful place. Veeck had an idea, which Wrigley liked but to which he promptly added his own – trees in the bleachers.

This is were we pick up the story in Will’s book – one to which we will return next week:

Pursuant to Wrigley’s plan to have a beautiful setting for ugly baseball, Veeck suggested that they borrow an idea from Perry Stadium, in Indianapolis, where ivy adorned the outfield walls. Wrigley responded enthusiastically, ‘And we can put trees or something in the back.’

Except he did not want trees outside the park; he wanted them in the bleachers. And although Wrigley seems to have had too much patience when trying, sort of, to grow a good team, he did not want to wait for saplings to grow big enough to shade the steps leading up to the scoreboard.

So tree boxes large enough for full-grown trees were built on each step. These required concrete footings, which, in turn, required new steel supports for the bleachers, to withstand the weight. The trees were planted and, Veeck recalled, ‘a week after we were finished the bleachers looked like the Russian steppes during a hard, cold winter. Nothing but cement and bark.’

The wind off Lake Michigan had stripped the leaves from the trees. So new trees were planted. And the wind again denuded them. The forestation of the Wrigley Field bleachers was eventually abandoned. The footings for the trees had cost $200,000. That year, 1937, the Cubs’ team payroll was about $250,000 (pp.87-88).

One can only smile at the folly. But Cubs’ fans smile through anything. Well, most anything. There is more to this story of the ivy – and it doesn’t involve holly. Just bittersweet. Yes, the plant. That will wait until next time. :)

The Five Strangest Rules in Baseball – WSJ

The Five Strangest Rules in Baseball – WSJ.

It’s Friday and one of our “fun” items this week is about baseball, that great American pasttime – and a personal favorite, as you know!

This article appeared this past week (July 29, 2014) in the Wall Street Journal of all places, but it is a great summary of a few of MLB’s most bizarre – and abscure! – rules. And wouldn’t you know it, one even references Wrigley Field!

So, if you are interested in this great summer pasttime, and appreciate the odd things in sports, then this post is for you!

Here’s one of the rules (for which the commentator mentions Wrigley Field) – find the other four at the link above.

Rule 3.13: Make Up Your Own Rules

The concept of ground rules appears to be straightforward. Every ballpark has its own set of rules defining which balls are home runs, which balls are in play and what happens on balls affected by certain obstructions, such as Wrigley Field’s outfield ivy.

But Rule 3.13 gives the home manager a way to essentially make up his own ground rules, assuming the visiting manager agrees. If there is “an overflow of spectators on the playing field,” the home manager can propose “any ground rules he thinks necessary.”

It is hard to conceive of such a scenario in an era when fans on the field are subject to arrest. But in the 1903 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Americans, hordes of fans occupied parts of the outfield. According to baseball historian David Nemec, the two managers agreed to rule any fair ball hit into an overflow crowd a ground-rule triple. The rule helped Boston slug 16 triples in the series, which it won in eight games, a World Series record that still stands.

And if that doesn’t grab you, perhaps this little baseball note and picture will. This past Wednesday night we attended a Whitecaps baseball game (local Detroit Tigers affiliate team) and after the centerfielder for the ‘Caps caught a ball, he turned around to throw the ball to a fan. I must have yelled the loudest, for the ball ended up in my hands. Later, when the ‘Caps mascot came by, I asked “Crash” to sign the ball, which prompted this photo op.  Good times at another ball park.

Crash and I with baseball-July 2014

Published in: on August 1, 2014 at 8:58 AM  Comments (3)  

Wrigley Field – Cubs vs. Braves – Today!

Wrigley Field -100th-1Yes, my wife and I plan to make a little trip to Chicago today. And Wrigley Field is on the agenda!

Our main goal is to pick up our newly married son, Thad, and his bride, Sarala, on Saturday afternoon. They will be returning from their two-month honeymoon in India, where they took a train-tour of the entire country, visiting the land of Sarala’s origin.

But when we knew we would be making this trip, we checked the Cubs’ schedule, and sure enough, there was a game scheduled at Wrigley the day before. And now that day is here. 3:05 p.m. this afternoon. Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves. On a sun-splashed, 100-year-old baseball field. With ivy on the walls. And cheering fans. Smells of hot dogs and popcorn. Sounds of popping gloves and cracking bats.

No matter that the Cubs are in last place, thirteen games under .500. Or that they recently lost their ten thousandth game in the course of their history. These are the Cubs! The “lovable losers”! And loyal fans support their team regardless! And the experience of going to Wrigley to see these young fellas play America’s game (No, it’s not soccer! That’s so European!)? Well, that is priceless!

So, off we go, to enjoy a special couple of days. Go Cubbies! Yes, I do have my Cubs shirt on already :)

LittlePlaceonNorthSide-GFWillAnd to give you another taste of the history of this marvelous game and of this special team and place, we take another piece from George F.Wills’ new book on Wrigley and the Cubs – A Nice Little Place on the North Side (Crown Archetype, 2014). As I make my way through this wonderful book this summer, this is what I found the other night:

One Cub’s career conformed to the sentimentality that surrounds Wrigley Field because he was practically a boy from the neighborhood. He is also the answer to a nifty trivia question: Who is the only player who was in the major leagues when Babe Ruth hit his last home run, in 1935, and when Henry Aaron hit his first, in 1954? Phil Cavarretta. He graduated in 1934 from Lane Technical High School, which then was 4.7 miles from Wrigley Field. At Lane, as he would with the Cubs, he played first base and outfield, but he also pitched eight one-hitters, and his final game was a no-hitter. He signed with the Cubs before he graduated, at seventeen. The Cubs then sent him to their Peoria farm club, where he slugged a home run in his first at bat as a professional, in a game in which he hit for the cycle. He was eighteen when, on September 16, he joined the Cubs in Brooklyn. On September 25, he hit a home run in his first Wrigley Field at bat to win a 1-0 game. He played in the Cubs’ last three World Series: 1935, 1938, and 1945, the year he was named the National League’s most valuable player. He played for the Cubs for twenty years, a team record, and was a player-manager in the last three, beginning in 1951.

But wait – it gets better!

On March 29, 1954, at a spring training meeting with Philip K. Wrigley, Cavarretta annoyed his employer by saying the Cubs would not compete for the pennant, that they were a ‘second division team.’ Cavarretta promptly acquired the distinction of being the first manager ever fired during spring training. He was, of course, right about the team. The Cubs’ 64-90 record – their fourth season with 90 or more losses since 1948 – landed them in the seventh place (pp.77-78).

Such is the history of the Cubs. And of baseball. Unmatched.

P.S. – A little post-script is in order, since we enjoyed such a great day and an amazing game, even with a little rain thrown in at the end of the game. In a see-saw game that saw the Braves tie the Cubs twice (2-2 and 4-4), including in the top of the ninth (arghhhh!), the Cubs won it in the bottom of the ninth on a double and a two-out single from two of their young stars.  Pandemonium at Wrigley! And then we sang away with the organ and the crowd, “Go, Cubs, go!” at the top of our lungs.

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I did my usual walk around the stadium and took lots of pictures, including some nice ones from the top deck looking down on the field. Because this is the 100th anniversary of the park, there are special emblems everywhere, including behind home plate.

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And yes, I did get my souvenir – from the Wrigleyville Sports store across the street: a little pennant with the 100th anniversary theme to hang below my Wrigley Field picture in my home office.

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All in all, it was a great day to be a Cubs fan.

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“Remarkable Oddities” from Cubs Baseball History – G.F.Will

LittlePlaceonNorthSide-GFWillOn this last Friday of May, with the baseball season well under way and the Cubs already mired in last place in their division (NL Central), we gather some “remarkable oddities” from their history found in George F. Will’s new baseball book on the history of Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs. Written for the occasion of  Wrigley’s 100th anniversary this year, A Nice Little Place on the North Side is a mine of gold for baseball fans, and particularly for those who follow the hapless and seemingly hopeless Cubs.

But their history sure is exciting and interesting, as attested by these “remarkable  oddities” (Will’s term):

The Cubs have been beaten by the Pirates 15-0 (1929) and 22-0 (1975), the latter being the most lopsided shutout in major league history, until matched by the Indians 22-0 defeat of the Yankees on August 31, 2004 (Couldn’t happen to a better team! -cjt). Although the Cubs won the pennant in 1938, their pitcher Larry French managed to lose nineteen games – almost a third of the team’s sixty-three losses. Lou ‘the Mad Russian’ Novikoff, who played for the wartime Cubs from 1941 through 1944, once tried to steal third with the bases loaded because ‘I got such a good jump on the pitcher.’ On September 13, 1942, shortstop Lennie Merullo committed four errors in one inning. A son was born to him that day, and he named him Boots (I love that one! -cjt). Two Cubs catchers, George Mitterwald in 1974 and Barry Foote in 1980, each had a game in which they drove in eight runs. And each ended their respective seasons with just twenty-eight RBIs. On September 1, 1961, another Cubs catcher, Cuno Barragan, hit a home run in his first major league at bat. He never hit another. In one period of eleven years, the Cubs had no twenty-game winners but three twenty-game losers (Bob Rush in 1950, Sam Jones in 1955, and Glen Hobbie in 1960), 27-28.

O, and there’s more to come! Good baseball stuff! And you are worried about the Tigers?! We Cubs’ fans have a lifetime of trauma! :)

Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs – George F. Will

LittlePlaceonNorthSide-GFWillWe promised you some excerpts from George F. Wills new baseball book on the history of Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs. Written for the occasion of Wrigley’s 100th anniversary this year (last month actually), A Nice Little Place on the North Side is a well-penned feast for baseball aficionados and especially for Cubs fan. Here’s a bit from his opening section:

The 1948 Cubs may have been the worst squad in the history of the franchise, finishing in eighth place – which in those days wa slast place – and 27 1/2 games out of first. The dreadful team inspired a Norman Rockwell cover on the September 4 Saturday Evening Post. Titled The Dugout, it featured a dejected and embarrassed Cubs dugout, behind which fans jeered. Their well-named manager was Charlie Grimm. He was, however, known as ‘Jolly Cholly’ Grimm because he was so cheerful. Why was he?

On August 30, 1948, the Cubs’ owner, Philip K. Wrigley, ran an ad in the Tribune, which thirty-three years later would buy the Cubs from Wrigley’s estate, to apologize for the team. The ad told the unvarnished truth” ‘This year’s rebuilding job has been a flop.’ You might say that. The last-place Cubs’ record was 64-90. The 1940s, my first decade, was the first losing decade the Cubs ever had. Since then, the Cubs have not had a winning decade. Since May 4, 1941, and through the 2013 season, they have lost 693 more games than they have won. What could compensate Cubs fans for such a performance on the field? The field. Wrigley Field. This little book is about a little space. It is not, regardless of what some unhinged enthusiasts say, a sacred space. Wrigley Field’s footprint on a city block is a tad smaller than that of St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The enthusiasts think the ballpark is a kind of cathedral, and that Wrigley Field is to baseball what Rome is, or was once said to be, to religion: All roads lead there, or should (12-13)

Cubs go all out to celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary

Cubs go all out to celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary | cubs.com: News.

Wrigley Field -100th-1This past Wednesday, April 23, was the date of the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, the home of baseball’s Chicago Cubs. And they threw quite a party!

MLB.com captured the anniversary moments in video and story, to which I link you here. If you care at all about motherhood and apple pie, then you care about baseball, that great American pasttime. And even if the Cubs are not your team, they are one of the originals and Wrigley Field is one of few remaining ballparks from the original era of baseball.

At Wrigley the game is still played the way it was meant to be played, with fans close to the field, ivy on the walls, afternoon games, and a hand-turned scoreboard.

I made it home from work Wednesday in time to see the final outs of a classic game – the two teams in throwback uniforms – the Chicago Federals (Cubs) and the Kansas City Packers (Arizona Diamondbacks) – and the Cubs with yet another meltdown! Leading 5-2 going into the ninth inning, they gave up five runs and lost 7-5. Just another day at Wrigley. But, O, what a day it was!

Here is the the story as told by MLB.com’s Joe Popely. Be sure and read it all and watch the video. This is U.S. history too; you don’t want to miss it! :)

 

 CHICAGO — Talk to former players, regardless of sport, about Wrigley Field and they’ll tell you the same thing: Let’s do another 100 years.

Perhaps Hall of Famer and Cubs legend Billy Williams summed it up the best by noting the field’s significance beyond baseball. It’s as much about life and culture in Chicago as it is about the Cubs.

“They built this ballpark to host baseball. … But it has been the background for so many adventurous times,” Williams said. “The history. Everything that happened here — you had some great ballplayers that passed through here, and the history they made here at Wrigley Field is still housed here and this old ballpark.”

From prime boxing matchups to NFL championship teams, Paul McCartney and the Wings to Cubs pennant chases, conventions to a six-touchdown game, Wrigley Field has seen it all. The Cubs pulled out all the stops Wednesday for one of baseball’s most beloved and cherished ballparks. It truly is the Party of the Century at the iconic stadium, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of its first Major League game between the Chicago Federals — who called Wrigley home for two years before the Cubs moved in — and the Kansas City Packers.

Chicago Celebrates A Century Of Baseball At Wrigley Field : NPR

Chicago Celebrates A Century Of Baseball At Wrigley Field : NPR.

Now that the basketball season (college) is over, it is time to shift gears and focus on another sure sign of Spring – the start of the baseball season! That actually came well over a week ago already (March 31), and the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs are well on their way to meeting in the World Series!

I didn’t say this year, for while the Tigers might make it, the Cubs are once again striving for baseball mediocrity. But who cares?! The season is underway and excitement is in the air!

WrigleyFieldOf special significance this year for Chicago Cubs’ fans and baseball history buffs is the 100th anniversary of that storied stadium, Wrigley Field. May news outlets are carrying special reports on this historic event this month. I picked NPR’s story (see the link above), in part because of the great slide show they have. And, yes, I do plan on visiting the park sometime this summer. :)

In that connection, author George F. Will has also written a book to mark the Wrigley centennial: A Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred (Crown Archetype, 2014), available at your favorite bookstore. And yes, I am purchasing this book – should be a great summer read! Here is part of the publisher’s blurb:

In A Nice Little Place on the North Side, leading columnist George Will returns to baseball with a deeply personal look at his hapless Chicago Cubs and their often beatified home, Wrigley Field, as it turns one hundred years old. Baseball, Will argues, is full of metaphors for life, religion, and happiness, and Wrigley is considered one of its sacred spaces. But what is its true, hyperbole-free history?
 
Winding beautifully like Wrigley’s iconic ivy, Will’s meditation on “The Friendly Confines” examines both the unforgettable stories that forged the field’s legend and the larger-than-life characters—from Wrigley and Ruth to Veeck, Durocher, and Banks—who brought it glory, heartbreak, and scandal. Drawing upon his trademark knowledge and inimitable sense of humor, Will also explores his childhood connections to the team, the Cubs’ future, and what keeps long-suffering fans rooting for the home team after so many years of futility. 

In the end, A Nice Little Place on the North Side is more than just the history of a ballpark. It is the story of Chicago, of baseball, and of America itself.

LittlePlaceonNorthSide-GFWillSo, on this Friday, we begin to mark the 2014 MLB season (including the Tigers’ affiliate, the Whitecaps, right here in Grand Rapids). Enjoy your own hometown (or adopted) team. And may the best teams rise and meet in the World Series. Go Cubs and Tigers!

Here is a part of the story that was published at NPR (audio is also available). Be sure and visit the slide show – a great summary of the history of Wrigley Field. O, and don’t neglect the part of the story that ties Wrigley to a Lutheran Seminary!

When the first pitch is thrown between the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, it will mark the start of the 100th professional baseball season at iconic Wrigley Field.

The ball park on Chicago’s North Side, known as the Friendly Confines, opened as the home of the Chicago Federals 100 years ago this month.

The Cubs moved there two years later, and in all that time the Cubs have never won a World Series. There hasn’t even been a World Series game played at Wrigley since the end of World War II.

A unique aspect of Wrigley Field is its location — tucked away in a North Side neighborhood, and not in some centrally located downtown area or an island in a sea of parking lots.

Waveland Avenue, just outside the ball park, is surrounded by bars and restaurants and souvenir shops, but it’s also surrounded by single-family homes and small apartment buildings. There’s an elementary school just a block and a half away, and right across the street is a very busy Chicago firehouse.

“We love it. It’s what makes this firehouse special. It’s why I like working here,” says Capt. John Giordano of the Chicago Fire Department’s Engine 78, a lifelong Cubs fan. “Fifty years — I used to walk to the ball park when I was a kid. I grew up in Lincoln Square.”

 

Published in: on April 11, 2014 at 6:58 AM  Leave a Comment  
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MLB — Strange But True in 2013 – ESPN

MLB — Strange But True in 2013 – ESPN.

MLB team logosDid you realize that we are only a few weeks from the start of Major League Baseball’s Grapefruit League season? Yes, Spring training will soon be here! And Cubs’ fan fever will start all over again! For hope springs eternal (That is not my line.)!

So, before the 2014 season is here we had better look back on the wild and wonderful 2013 season. Actually, ESPN has done that for us with the above-linked article. And they have highlighted all the “strange but true” items for us, including one that involves the Cubbies! When you read them, you won’t believe these things really happened. Or that you missed these amazing events. But that’s baseball. I can’t wait for the 2014 season!

Here’s the beginning of the article. Read on and have fun – Friday fun! Baseball fun! Go Cubs! :)

How wild and crazy was the thrill-a-minute baseball season of 2013?

So crazy that a guy actually stole FIRST BASE! . . . So insane that an Angels rookie had to hit the first homer of his career TWICE — both off the same pitcher, but against two different teams! . . . And so downright nuts that Mariano Rivera entered a game in a save situation, spun a one-two-three inning and then DIDN’T GET A SAVE!

And if all that could happen in one year, it tells you everything you need to know about what a wacky, wonky, Strange But True kind of season it was. So now, before you get swallowed up by bowl games, confetti and Korbel Brut (not necessarily in that order), let’s look back at the 2013 collection of the awesome Strange But True Feats of the Year.

Published in: on January 10, 2014 at 6:26 AM  Leave a Comment  
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