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.


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.


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.


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



“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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Fall at the PR Seminary (plus Hebrew Jeopardy & a Huge P-P Tournament!)

As we have been progressing through the beautiful Fall season here at Seminary, I have been taking some pictures from time to time of the changing landscape, as well as of some very special scenes that God has created. It truly is a special time of year, and though I am biased, I believe we have some of the most beautiful scenery around the country – maybe even the world!  Today for our “Friday Fun” feature, I include a few of these outdoor shots.

But, if you should think this is not exciting enough, stay with me – there was a special USA vs. Singapore ping-pong tournament in the Seminary basement a week ago Friday. Some of those pictures are below as well. Of course the USA won! Go USA!! Keep practicing, dear Singaporeans :)  (Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.)

Curious wild turkey at backdoor - remember the  curious deer?1

Curious wild turkey at backdoor – remember the curious deer?!

A recent Fall sunrise

A recent Fall sunrise

Same sunrise looking to the west over the Seminary

Same sunrise looking to the west over the Seminary

Woods behind Seminary, taken this past Wednesday

Woods behind Seminary, taken this past Wednesday

Another shot of the woods behind Seminary

Another shot of the woods behind Seminary

Brad Gritters mowing the grass this week - final mow of the season? Probably not :)

Brad Gritters mowing the grass this week – final mow of the season? Probably not :)

Ever heard of Hebrew Jeopardy? I either, until these students did some group study of Hebrew!

Ever heard of Hebrew Jeopardy? I either, until these students did some group study of Hebrew!

The Singaporean Ping-Pong team: Ee Fong (Lim) and Aaron (Lim)

The Singaporean Ping-Pong team: Ee Fong (Lim) and Aaron (Lim)

The Singaporean P-P team doubles down!

The Singaporean P-P team doubles down!

The USA team swats to victory! Matt DeBoer and Ryan Barnhill

The USA team swats to victory! Matt DeBoer and Ryan Barnhill

Good sports! Victorious Team USA member, Ryan Barnhill receives his prize

Good sports! Victorious Team USA member, Ryan Barnhill receives his prize









New Thrift Store Books: A Famous Cat – and Even More Famous Cubs

deweydookIn the last few months I have picked up a few more Thrift store treats and treasures – personal books, that is – besides those I always find for the Seminary library and for the professors and students to purchase at a bargain. Today I will feature two of them.

The first is the story of a famous cat who lived in the library of Spencer, Iowa for 19 years. His name: Dewey Readmore Books. No, I am NOT kidding! Isn’t that a great name? And the story is even better, as told by the library director, Vicki Myron, who found him in the return bin of the Spencer Public Library one bitter cold Iowa winter morning. This is a story that will warm your hearts – for many reasons. It is a great Midwestern tale, true as the Iowa corn is tall. The copy I found is even signed by the author and Dewey. That’s what the signature says :) O, the title of the book is Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World (Grand Central, 2008). Here is the last part of Vicki’s introduction (“Welcome to Iowa”), which sets the stage for the rest of the story:

Around the corner from Sister’s Cafe, across a small parking lot and just a half a block off Grand Avenue, is a low gray concrete building: the Spencer Public Library. My name is Vicki Myron, and I’ve been working in that library for twenty-five years, the last twenty as director. I’ve overseen the arrival of the first computer and the addition of the reading room. I’ve watched children grow up and leave, only to walk back through the doors ten years later with their own children. The Spencer Public Library may not look like much, at least not at first, but it is the centerpiece, the middle ground, the heart of this heartland story. Everything I’m going to tell you abouut Spencer – and about the surrounding farms, the nearby lakes, the Catholic church in Hartley, the Moneta School, the box factory, and the wonderful old white Ferris wheel up at Arnold’s Park – all flows back eventually to this small gray building and to the cat who lived here for more than nineteen years.

How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library into a meeting place and tourist attraction, inspire a classic American town, bind together an entire region, and eventually become famous around the world? You can’t even begin to answer those questions until you hear the story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa (pp.4-5).

By the way, Dewey Readmore Books even has his own website. Check it out :)

LoveofCubsThe second book is a classic alphabet book – on the Chicago Cubs! Yes, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I went shopping at Gary Vander Schaaf’s downtown Grand Rapids store (Credo Books) for some theological books a few weeks ago. As I looked straight on at some Greek and Hebrew language books, there on an endcap staring at me, beckoning me, was For the Love of the Cubs: An A-Z Primer for Cubs Fans of All Ages (Frederick C.Klein; Illistrated by Mark Anderson, with forewords by Ernie Banks and Chip Caray; Triumph Books, 2003). What a fun book! The illustrations (cartoon-like) are hilarious, and the stories of famous Cubs are great!

But of course, I have begun to read it to my grandchildren! They need to learn the alphabet – and about the most lovable baseball team in America – the Cubs! Here’s “Mr. Cubs”, Ernie Banks’, foreword:

Every sports team has a history, but few can boast one as illustrious as that of my team, the Chicaho Cubs. Organized way back in the 1870s, they’ve represneted the same city in the major leagues longer than any other club. And while they haven’t won a pennant for a while, they won plenty of them in the old days – and they’ve had great players all along. The spirit and fan loyalty of the Cubs makes them the favorites of many people, a lot of whom don’t live in Chicago. I hope that reading this book will help both kids and adults understand what makes the team special.

Indeed! Maybe you can find this treasure too. Have a great Friday! And happy reading, whatever you find!

Baseball’s Wit & Wisdom

Wit&WisdomofBaseballFor our second “Friday Fun” feature today, let’s return to that classic work of literature The Wit and Wisdom of Baseball by Saul Wisnia and Dan Schlossberg (Publications International, 2007). From the last section of the book, “Diamond Gems” I have selected a few Chicago Cubs specials – and one great Detroit Tigers item. Read on – and keep rooting for your favorite team, whether it is in first place (Tigers) or last (Cubs – sigh :( .

When the Cubs beat the Phillies 26-23 on August 25, 1922, the two teams produced the most runs in a single game. The Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox share the record for most runs scored by a single team (29).

William Schriver, catcher for the Chicago Cubs, was the first player to catch a ball thrown from the top of the Washington Monument, on August 25, 1894 (How many teams can make that boast?! -cjt).

Phil Wrigley, owner of the Cubs, was angered when ‘Chicago Daily News’ sports editor Lloyd Lewis ran a midseason box asking fans to vote for a new manager. Wrigley had to be restrained from running a Cub-sponsored ad asking for readers to choose a new sports editor (It’s that kind of passion that drives Cubs’ fans. -cjt).

From 1961 through 1965, the Chicago Cubs operated without a manger. Decisions were made by a rotating board of ‘head coaches’ (Probably not one of the better decisions by Cubs managment. But, they saved some money, I’m sure! -cjt).

With his Chicago Cubs trailing by nine runs one afternoon, manager Charlie Grimm, coaching at third base, dug a hole and buried his lineup card (No doubt he also wanted to bury a few players! -cjt).

And for you Tigers fans, here’s a great one – I simply love this little anecdote!

Detroit first baseman Norm Cash, already a strikeout victim twice, tried to break up a Nolan Ryan no-hitter with a table leg in 1973. Cash came to the plate with the sawed-off leg of an old table in the clubhouse (If you ever saw Ryan pitch – especially his fastball – you will understand Cash’s desperation -cjt).

Published in: on August 30, 2013 at 6:39 AM  Leave a Comment  
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The Wit and Wisdom of Baseball (2)

Wit&WisdomofBaseballI am thoroughly enjoying one of my recent Thrift store pickups – The Wit and Wisdom of Baseball (Publications International, 2007)! Having introduced you to it last week, and to mark the start of the second half of the baseball season, we give you a few more selections from this very fun book. Enjoy!

I like to see Quentin practicing baseball. It gives me hope that one of my boys will not take after his father in this respect, and will prove able to play the national game. -Theodore Roosevelt

We owe a great deal to Base Ball…. It is one of the reasons why American soldiers are the best in the world – quick witted, swift to act, ready of judgment, capable of going into action without officers…. It is one of the reasons why as a nation we impress visitors as quick, alert, confident and trained for independent action. -Chicago American, 1906

I know, but I had a better year than Hoover. -Babe Ruth’s response when a reporter pointed out his 1930 salary demand of $80,000 topped that of the President’s $75,000 salary

Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. -Satchel Paige

I always turn to the sports section first. The sports section records people’s accomplishments; the front page nothing but man’s failures. – Earl Warren

You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it might rain. -Leo Durocher

Goodbye, boys, I am done with this kind of living. -Billy Sunday upon quitting baseball to go into preaching

God gave me an unusual arm. I’ve done well with it, and maybe I can keep doing well with it. I certainly don’t see anything to be angry about. -Sandy Koufax’s response when asked if he was bitter about having arthritis at age 28, “The Baseball Life of Sandy Koufax”


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