The Chicago Cubs are a professional baseball franchise based in Chicago, Illinois. They are members and currently the back-to-back champions of the Central Division of Major League Baseball's National League. They are one of two Major League clubs based in Chicago, (the other being the White Sox) and they are one of the two remaining charter members of N.L. (the other being the Atlanta Braves). The franchise's 100-year title drought is the longest of any major North American professional sports teams.
The Cubs are often referred as "The North Siders" because Wrigley Field, where they have played their home games since 1916, is located in Chicago's north side Lakeview community, and simply as "The Cubbies." They are also often called The Boys in Blue noting the team's primary uniform color, which is often itself referred to as ''Cubbie Blue."
Chicago's manager is currently Lou Piniella, and their general manager is Jim Hendry. In December 2007, Sam Zell completed his purchase of the club's parent organization, Tribune Company, and announced his intention to sell the team.
Early franchise history
1870-1875: Chicago Base Ball Club
The success and fame of the Cincinnati Red Stockings
(c. 1869), baseball's first openly all-professional
team, led to a minor explosion of other openly professional teams, each with the singular goal of defeating the Red Stockings. On April 29, 1870, the Chicago Base Ball Club
played their first game, an exhibition, against the St. Louis
Unions, defeating them 47-1. The White Stockings, who played home games on Chicago's west side at the Union Base-Ball Grounds
, joined the nation's principle amateur league National Association of Base Ball Players
, when the league began to allow professional teams. The NABBP
was previously dominated by the Brooklyn Atlantics
, who had won three straight titles, but Chicago won the National Association championship in its final year of operation.
The now all professional Chicago White Stockings, financed by a businessman named William Hulbert, became a charter member of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, the nation's first all professional league, in 1871. The White Stockings were close contenders all season, despite the fact that the Great Chicago Fire had destroyed the team's home field and most of their equipment. The White Stockings finished the season in second place, but ultimately were forced to drop out of the league during the city's recovery period, finally returning to National Association play in 1874. Over the next couple seasons, The Boston Red Stockings dominated the league and hoarded many of the game's best players, even those who were under contract with other teams. After Davy Force signed with Chicago, and then breached his contract to play in Boston, Hulbert became discouraged by the "contract jumping" as well as the overall disorganization of the N.A., and thus spearheaded the movement to form a stronger organization. The end result of his efforts was the formation a much more "ethical" league, which became known as the National Base Ball League.
1876 - 1902: Chicago White Stockings/Colts/Orphans
Hulbert, retaining his position as Chicago's club president, signed multiple star players, such as pitcher Albert Spalding
, and infielders Ross Barnes
, Deacon White
and Adrian Anson
to join the team prior to the N.L.'s inaugural season of 1876
. The Chicago franchise, playing its home games at West Side Grounds
, quickly established themselves as one of the new league's top teams. Spalding won 47 games and Barnes led the league in hitting at .429 as Chicago won the first ever National League pennant
, which at the time was the game's top prize.
After back to back pennants in 1880 and '81, Hulbert passed away, and Al Spalding, who had retired to start Spalding sporting goods, assumed ownership of the club. The White Stockings, with Anson acting as player/manager, won yet another pennant in 1882, and "Cap" Anson established himself as one of the game's first true superstars. In 1885 and 1886, the after winning N.L. pennants, The White Stockings met the short-lived American Association champion in that era's version of the World Series. Both seasons resulted in matchups with the St. Louis Brown Stockings, with the clubs tying in '85 and with St. Louis winning in '86. This was the genesis of what would eventually become one of the greatest rivalrys in sports. In all, the Anson-led Chicago Base Ball Club won six National League pennants between 1876 and 1886. As a result, the Chicago National League Ball Club saw it's nickname transition, and by 1890 they had become known as the Chicago Colts, or sometimes "Anson's Colts," referring to Cap's influence within the club. Anson was the first player in history to collect 3,000 hits, and when he left the team in 1898, the loss of his leadership resulted in the team becoming known as the Chicago Orphans (or Remnants) and a few forgettable seasons. After the 1900 season, the American Base-Ball League formed as a rival professional league, and incidentally the club's old White Stockings nickname would be adopted by a new A.L. neighbor to the south.
1902–1920: A Cub dynasty
In 1902, Spalding, who by this time had revamped the roster to boast what would soon be one of the best teams of the early century, sold the club to John Hart, and the franchise ultimately became known as the Chicago Cubs.
During this period, which has become known as baseball's dead ball era
, three Cub infielders
; Joe Tinker
, Johnny Evers
, and Frank Chance
were made famous as a double-play combination by Franklin P. Adams
' poem Baseball's Sad Lexicon
. The poem first appeared in the July 18, 1910, edition of the New York Evening Mail
. Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown
, Jack Taylor
, Ed Reulbach
, Jack Pfiester
and Orval Overall
were several key pitchers for the Cubs during this time period. With Chance acting as player-manager from 1903 to 1912 the Cubs won four pennants and two World Series titles over a five-year span. Although they fell to the White Sox in the 1906 World Series
, The Cubs recorded a record 116 victories and the best winning percentage
(.763) of the modern era. With mostly the same roster, Chicago won back to back World Series championships in 1907
. The next season, veteran catcher Johnny Kling
left the team to become a professional pocket billiards
player. Some historians think Kling's absence was significant enough to prevent the Cubs from also winning a third straight title in 1909, as they finished 6 games out of first place. When Kling returned the next year, the Cubs won the pennant
again, but lost to the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1910 World Series
In 1914, advertising executive Albert Lasker obtained a large block of shares by 1916 had assumed majority ownership of the franchise. Lasker quickly acquired the services of astute baseball man William Veeck, Sr. to run his new team, and brought in a wealthy partner, Charles Weeghman. Weeghman was the proprietor of a popular chain of lunch counters who had previously owned the Chicago Whales of the short-lived Federal League. As principal owners, the pair moved the club from the West Side Grounds to the much newer Weeghman Park, formerly the home of the Whales, for the 1916 season. The club responded by winning a pennant in the war-shortened season of 1918, where they played a part in another team's curse. The Red Sox defeated Grover Cleveland Alexander's Cubs 4 games to 2 in the 1918 World Series, and afterward Boston sold its star pitcher, Babe Ruth, to the New York Yankees, starting a tale of futility which would last 86 years, known as The Curse of the Bambino.
The Wrigley years (1921–1981)
Double-Bills take over
During what is often called the "Golden age of baseball,"
one of Cubs's minority owners, William Wrigley Jr.
, who also happened to be the owner of Wrigley Company
, a Chicago-based maker of chewing gum, would begin to increase his share of ownership. The Chicago Cubs have played continuously in one city longer than any other franchise. In 1921 Wrigley bought Weeghman's shares and in 1925 had acquired most of Lakser's shares as well. The home park name was changed to its current name, Wrigley Field during this time. Additionally, the area around the ballpark came to be known as "Wrigleyville". With his vast monetary resources and Veeck's front-office savvy, the "double-Bills" soon had the Cubs back in business in the National League, building a team that would put numerous future Hall of Famers in Cub uniforms. Some of the most notable of these players were Hack Wilson
, Gabby Hartnett
, and Rogers Hornsby
. Chicago remained strong contenders for the next decade.
1929–1938: Every 3 years
During the end of the first decade of the double-Bill's guidance, The Cubs won the NL pennant in 1929 and then achieved the unusual accomplishment of winning a pennant every three years - winning the NL in 1932
. Unfortunately, their success did not extend to the Fall Classic
, as they fell to their AL
rivals each time. The '32 series featured Babe Ruth's "called shot
." There were some historic moments for the Cubs as well - they won the '35 pennant in thrilling fashion, winning a record 21 games in a row in September. The '38 club saw Dizzy Dean
lead the team's pitching staff and provided a historic moment when they won a late-season game with a "walk-off" homer by Gabby Hartnett, which became known in baseball lore
as "The Homer in the Gloamin'
". By 1939, the "double-Bills" (Wrigley and Veeck) had both died, and the front office, now under P.K. Wrigley
, found itself unable to rekindle the kind of success that P.K.'s father had created, and so the team slipped into a few years of mediocrity.
1945: The Curse
The Cubs enjoyed one more pennant at the close of World War II
. Due to the wartime
travel restrictions, the first three games were played in Detroit
, where the Cubs won two games, including a one-hitter by Claude Passeau
, and the final four
were played at Wrigley. In game 4 of the 1945 World Series
, the Curse of the Billy Goat
was allegedly laid upon the Cubs when P.K. Wrigley ejected Billy Sianis
, who had come to game 4 with two box seat tickets, one for him and one for his goat. They paraded around for a few innings, but Wrigley demanded the goat leave the park due to its unpleasant odor. Upon his ejection, Mr. Sianis uttered, "the Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more."
The Cubs lost game 4, lost the 1945 World Series
, and have not been back since. It has also been said by many that Sianis put a "curse" on the Cubs, apparently preventing the team from making it back to (but not actually winning) the World Series. After losing the 1945 World Series, the Cubs finished with winning seasons the next two years, but those teams did not enter post-season play.
In the following two decades after Sianis' ill will, the Cubs played mostly forgettable baseball, where Chicago was one of the worst teams in the National League on an almost annual basis. Longtime infielder/manager Phil Cavarretta, who had been a key player during the '45 season, was fired during spring training in '54 after admitting the team was unlikely to finish above fifth place. Although SS Ernie Banks would become one of the star players in the league during the next decade, finding help for Banks, proved a difficult task, as quality players such as Hank Sauer were few and far between, and poor ownership decisions, such as the College of Coaches.
1969: The fall of '69
The mid-1960s brought the hope of a renaissance with the emergence of third baseman Ron Santo, pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, and outfielder Billy Williams joining Banks. The Boys in Blue brought home consecutive winning records in '67 and '68. This was the first time a Cub team had accomplished that feat in over two decades.
In 1969 the Cubs, managed by Leo Durocher, had built a substantial lead in the newly created National League Eastern Division by mid-August. Ken Holtzman pitched a no-hitter on August 19, and the division lead grew to 8½ games over the St. Louis Cardinals and by 9½ games over the New York Mets, but ultimately the Cubs wilted under pressure. Although the Cubs had their best season in decades at 92-70, they had lost key games against the Mets and finished the season a disappointing 8 games out of first place. Many superstitious fans attribute this collapse to an incident at Shea Stadium when a fan released a black cat onto the field, further cursing the club, although the "Amazin' Mets" ended the season at a torrid pace; finishing with a remarkable 100 wins.
1977–1979: The June Swoon
Following the '69 season, the club posted winning records for the next few seasons, but no playoff action. After the core players of those teams started to move on, the 70's got worse for the team, and they became known as "The Loveable Losers." In 1977, the team found some life, but ultimately experienced one of its biggest collapses. The Cubs hit a high-water mark on June 28th at 47-22, boasting an 8 1/2 game NL East lead, as they were led by Bobby Murcer (27 Hr/89 RBI), and Rick Reuschel (20-10). However, the Philadelphia Phillies cut the lead to two by the All-star break, as the Cubs sat 19 games over .500, but they swooned late in the season, going 20-40 after July 31st. The Northsiders finished in 4th place at 81-81, while Philadelphia surged, finishing with 103 wins. Ironically, the following two seasons also saw the Cubbies get off to a fast start, as the team rallied to over 10 games above .500 well into both seasons, only to again wear down and play poorly later on, and ultimately settling back to mediocrity. This trait became known as the "June Swoon." Again, the Northsiders unusually high number of day games is often pointed to as one reason for the team's inconsistent late season play.
1981–2007: The Tribune Era
After over a dozen more subpar seasons, GM Dallas Green made a midseason deal to acquire ace pitcher Rick Sutcliffe from Cleveland, who joined Scott Sanderson, Dennis Eckersley, Ron Cey and NL MVP Ryne Sandberg on a squad that ultimately tallied an NL best 96 victories, winning the NL East. In the NLCS skipper Jim Frey's Cubbies won the first two games at Wrigley Field against the San Diego Padres. The Cubs needed to win only one game of the next three in San Diego to make it back to the World Series. After being beaten in game 3, the Cubs lost game 4 when dependable closer Lee Smith allowed a game-winning home run to Steve Garvey in the bottom of the 9th inning. In Game 5 the Cubs took a 3–0 lead to the 6th inning, and a 3–2 lead into the 7th with Sutcliffe (who won the Cy Young Award that year) still on the mound. Then Leon Durham watched a routine grounder go through his legs. This critical error helped the Padres win the game and keep Chicago out of the 1984 World Series.
The following season hopes were high after the signing of Dennis Eckersley. The club started out well, going 35–19 through mid-June, but injuries to the pitching staff and a 13 game losing streak pushed the Cubs out of contention.
1989: NL East champions
In 1989, the first full season with night baseball at Wrigley Field, Don Zimmer
's Cubs were led by a core group of veterans in Sandberg, Sutcliffe and Andre Dawson
, who were boosted by a crop of youngsters such as Mark Grace
, Shawon Dunston
, Greg Maddux
and Rookie of the Year Jerome Walton
. The Cubbies won the NL East once again that season winning 93 games. This time the Northsiders met the San Francisco Giants
in the NLCS
. After splitting the first two games at home, the Cubs headed to the Bay Area, where despite holding a lead at some point in each of the next three games, bullpen meltdowns and managerial blunders ultimately led to three straight losses. The Giants lost to "The Bash Brothers
" and the Oakland A's
in the famous "Earthquake Series
1998: Wild card race & home run chase
The '98 season would begin on a somber note with the death of broadcaster Harry Caray, and after the retirement of Sandberg and the trading of Dunston, the Cubs needed to look elsewhere for help, signing Henry Rodriguez to bat cleanup and provide protection for Sammy Sosa in the lineup. Mark Grace turned in one of his best seasons the club got a Rookie of the Year effort from pitcher Kerry Wood, which included a one-hit, 20 strikeout performance versus Houston. "H-Rod" payed immediate dividends by slugging 31 round-trippers, and Sosa earned the N.L.'s MVP award with 66 home run season. The club won a down-to-the-wire Wild Card chase with San Francisco, culminating with the Cubs beating the Giants in a one game playoff at Wrigley in which Gary Gaetti hit the game winning homer and propelled the Cubs into the postseason once again, with a 90–73 tally. Unfortunately, the bats went cold in October, as manager Jim Riggleman's club batted .183 and scored only four runs en route to being swept by Atlanta. On a positive note, the home run chase between Sosa, Mark McGwire and Ken Griffey, Jr. generated a great deal of media coverage, and helped to bring in a new crop of fans as well as bringing back some fans who had been disillusioned by the 1994 strike. Sadly, the Cubs retained many players who experienced career years in '98, and after a fast start in 1999, they collapsed again and finished in the bottom of the division for the next two seasons
2001: Playoff push
Despite losing fan favorite Grace to free agency, and the lack of production from newcomer Todd Hundley
, skipper Don Baylor
's Cubbies put together good season in 2001. The season started with Mack Newton being brought in to preach "positive thinking." One of the biggest stories of the season transpired as the club made a midseason deal for Fred McGriff
, which was drawn out for nearly a month as McGriff debated waiving his no-trade clause
, as the Northsiders led the wild card race by 2.5 games in early September. That run died when Preston Wilson
hit a three run walk off homer off of closer Tom "Flash" Gordon
, which halted the team's momentum. The team was unable to make another serious charge, and finished at 88-74, only five games behind both Houston and St. Louis, who tied for first. Sosa had perhaps his finest season with 64 homers and Jon Lieber
led the staff with a 20 win season.
2003: 5 more outs
The Cubs had high expectations in 2002, but the squad played poorly, and the club responded by hiring Dusty Baker
and by making some major moves in '03. Most notably, they traded with the Pittsburgh Pirates
for Kenny Lofton
and Aramis Ramirez
(with the latter finally filling a gaping hole at third base), and rode dominant pitching as the Northsiders led the division down the stretch. Chicago halted St. Louis' run by taking 4 of 5 games from the Redbirds in early September and ultimately won their first division title in 14 years. In what was a dramatic five game series, their NLDS
victory over the Atlanta Braves
was the franchise's first postseason series win since they won the World Series in 1908. After dropping an extra-inning affair in Game 1, the Northsiders rallied and took a 3 games to 1 lead over the Wild Card Florida Marlins
in the NLCS. Florida shut the Cubbies out in Game 5, but young pitcher Mark Prior
led the Cubs in Game 6 as they took a 3–0 lead into the 8th inning and it was at this point when a now-infamous incident took place. A fan, Steve Bartman
, attempted to catch a foul ball off the bat of Luis Castillo
, disrupting a potential catch for the second out by Moisés Alou
. Interference was not called on the play, as the ball was ruled to be on the spectator side of the wall. Neither Alou nor Bartman were able to make the catch. Two batters later, and to the horror of the packed stadium, Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez
misplayed a potential inning ending double play, loading the bases and leading to eight Florida runs and a Marlin victory. Despite sending Kerry Wood
to the mound and holding a lead twice, the Cubs ultimately dropped Game 7, and failed to reach the World Series
In 2004, despite the return of Greg Maddux
and a midseason deal for Nomar Garciaparra
, misfortune struck the Cubs again. They led the Wild Card by 1.5 games over San Francisco and Houston on September 25, and both of those teams lost that day, giving the Northsiders a chance at increasing the lead to a commanding 2.5 games with only eight games remaining in the season, but reliever LaTroy Hawkins
blew a save to the Mets, and the Cubs lost the game in extra innings, a defeat that seemingly deflated the team, as they proceeded to drop 6 of their last 8 games as the Astros won the Wild Card. Despite the fact that the Cubs had won 89 games, this fallout was decidedly unlovable, as the Cubs traded superstar Sammy Sosa
after he had left the season's final game early and then lied about it publicly. Already a controversial figure in the clubhouse after his corked-bat incident
, Sammy alienated much of his fan base, the few teammates still on good terms with him, and possibly tarnished his place in Cubs' lore for years to come. The disappointing season also saw fans start to become frustrated with the constant injuries to ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Additionally, the '04 season led to the departure of popular commentator Steve Stone
, who had become increasingly critical of management during broadcasts and was verbally attacked by reliever Kent Mercker
. Things were no better in 2005, as despite the acquisition of Derrek Lee
and the emergence of closer Ryan Dempster
, the club struggled and suffered more key injuries, only managing to win 79 games after being picked by many to be a serious contender for the N.L. pennant.
2007 - 2008: Back to back
After finishing last in the N.L. Central with 66 wins in 2006, the Northsiders re-tooled and went from "worst to first" in 2007. In the offseason they inked Alfonso Soriano to the richest contract in Cubs history, and replaced unpopular skipper Dusty Baker with fiery veteran manager Lou Piniella. After a rough start, which included a brawl between Michael Barrett and Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs overcame the Milwaukee Brewers, who had led the division for most of the season, with winning streaks in June and July, coupled with a pair of dramatic, late-inning wins against the Reds, and ultimately clinched the NL Central with a record of 85-77. They met Arizona in the NLDS, but controversy followed as Piniella, in a move that has since come under scrutiny, pulled Carlos Zambrano after the sixth inning of a pitchers duel with D-Backs ace Brandon Webb, to "....save Zambrano for (a potential) Game 4." The Cubs, however, were unable to come through, losing the first game and eventually stranding over 30 baserunners in a 3-game Arizona sweep.
The Cubs successfully defended their National League Central title in 2008, going to the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 1906-1908. The offseason was dominated by three months of unsuccessful trade talks with the Orioles involving 2B Brian Roberts, as well as the signing of Chunichi Dragons star Kosuke Fukudome. The team recorded their 10,000th win in April, while establishing an early division lead. Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds were added early on and Rich Harden was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in early July. The Cubs headed into the All-Star break with the N.L.'s best record, and tied the league record with eight representatives to the All-Star game. "The Boys in Blue" took control of the division by sweeping a four game series in Milwaukee, then equaled their '07 win total by the end of August. On September 14, in a game moved to Miller Park due to Hurricane Ike, Zambrano pitched a no-hitter against the Astros, and six days later the team clinched by beating St. Louis at Wrigley. The club ended the season with a 97-64 record. and met Los Angeles in the NLDS. The heavily favored Cubs took an early lead in Game 1, but James Loney's grand slam off Ryan Dempster changed the series' momentum, and the Cubs were thoroughly embarrassed in the series. Chicago committed numerous critical errors and were outscored 20-6 in a Dodger sweep, which provided yet another sudden and stunning ending to what had once been looked at as a season of destiny.
The Chicago Cubs retired numbers are commemorated on pinstriped flags flying from the foul poles at Wrigley Field, with the exception of Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers player whose number was retired for all clubs:
- Upon signing with the Cubs prior to the 2007 season, Ted Lilly agreed to wear uniform number 30 rather than his usual 31 due to its imminent retirement. It has not been announced if 31 would be retired in the name of Ferguson Jenkins, Greg Maddux, or both.
- There is also a movement to retire the uniform shirt of Gabby Hartnett. The Cubs first wore numbers on their shirts in 1932, and Hartnett wore three different numbers. Number 7 was initially assigned to Hartnett, but he was switched to number 9 the next year. In 1937 he was switched to number 2, which he retained through his last season with the Cubs, 1940.
Tribune Company, whose main arm is the Chicago Tribune, has owned the club since 1981, when they purchased it from the Wrigley Family for $20,000,000. The Wrigley family, who also ownes Wrigley's Chewing Gum
had owned the team and the ballpark since buying it from Albert Lasker
and Charles Weeghman
almost 6 decades earlier. Al Spalding, who also owned Spalding sporting goods, played for the team for two seasons under club founder William Hulbert, and then owned the club for twenty one years. In December of 2007, Tribune Company was purchased by businessman Sam Zell
, who has listed the team and Wrigley Field for sale.
In 2008, while the team excelled on the field, Sam Zell and the Tribune continued their search for buyer. In late July, they narrowed down their original list of ten prospective investors to three, all of whom offered over $1 billion for both the Cubs and Wrigley Field. The presumptive fan favorite of these three is outspoken Dallas Mavericks
owner Mark Cuban
. That list grew to five by August as other leading bidders including private equity investor and Brewers minority owner John Canning, Jr.
. When owner Sam Zell originally trimmed the candidates down, Canning Jr. was eliminated from consideration because his bid was too low, but commissioner Bud Selig
has apparently picked Canning Jr. as a favorite of the fraternity of MLB owners. Others among the five remaining bidders for the Cubs includes Ameritrade
founder Joe Ricketts
, who has reportedly submitted the highest bid to date. However, during a Chicago Bulls
-Dallas Mavericks telecast on October 9th, 2008, Cuban, in a courtside interview with Comcast Sports Net, claimed he had made the highest bid and although he did not know where he stood, noted that the state of the economy as well as the poor playoff performance by the team would likely affect the timeframe of the eventual sale.
The Cubs' flagship radio station is WGN-AM, 720 AM. With the recent end of the Pittsburgh Pirates' run on KDKA, this may now be the longest team-to-station relationship in MLB. Pat Hughes does the play-by-play along with color commentator Ron Santo and pre- and post-game host Cory Provus. Hughes did play by play for the Minnesota Twins prior to coming to Chicago, and Santo, a former Cubs star and a devout fan of the team, (Hughes introduces Santo as "Cub legend Ron Santo" on a daily basis), is known for his emotional highs and lows during games. One example of a "low" was his "Noooo! Noooo!" when Brant Brown dropped a fly ball in a key game in 1998. A "high" for Santo was upon the retirement of his number on the last day of the 2003 season, in which he declared his #10 flag to be "my Hall of Fame." Santo is a diabetic and has lost both his legs to the disease. Most sponsors of the radio program center their promotions around the JDRF and other diabetes-based charities. The Chicago Cubs Radio Network consists of 45 stations and covers at least eleven states. WGN Radio is owned and operated by Tribune Company.
Cubs telecasts are split three ways: WGN (both the local station
and the superstation
(a local independent station
), and CSN Chicago
(with some games, often Wednesday night contests, aired on the supplemental channel CSN+). Len Kasper
is the play-by-play announcer, and Bob Brenly
, a former major league catcher and Arizona Diamondbacks
manager, is the color commentator
for the games. WGN also produces the games shown on WCIU; for those games, the score bug changes the "WGN" logo to "CubsNet." WCIU games additionally air over MyNetworkTV
(Channel 69) in the South Bend, Indiana
market. WGN and CSN Chicago generally show an even number of Cubs games, while WCIU averages about 8 games per season.
In addition to The Chicago Tribune
itself, the club also produces its own print media; the Cubs' official magazine Vineline
, which has eight annual issues, is in its third decade, and spotlights players and events involving the club.
Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray
Two broadcasters in particular have made their mark on the team. Jack Brickhouse manned the Cubs radio and especially the TV booth for parts of five decades, covering the games with a level of enthusiasm that often seemed unjustified by the team's poor performance on the field for many of those years. His trademark call "Hey Hey!" usually followed a home run or other spectacular play. That expression is spelled out in large letters vertically on both foul pole screens at Wrigley Field. "Whoo-boy!" and "Wheeee!" and "Oh, brother!" were among his other pet expressions. When he approached retirement age, he personally recommended his successor.
Harry Caray's stamp on the team is perhaps even deeper than that of Brickhouse, though his tenure was half as long. First, Caray had already become a well-known Chicago figure by broadcasting White Sox games for a decade, after having been a Cardinals icon for 25 years. Caray also had the benefit of being in the booth during the NL East title run in 1984, which was widely seen due to WGN's status as a cable-TV superstation. His trademark call of "Holy Cow!" and his enthusiastic singing of "Take me out to the ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch (as he had done with the White Sox) made Caray a fan favorite both locally and nationally. Harry occasionally had problems pronouncing names, to comic effect, such as his attempt at saying "Hector Villanueva" which was captured on WGN's memorial CD to Harry. He also continued his long-standing bit (dating back to the Cardinals years) of pronouncing names backwards. Caray had lively discussions with commentator Steve Stone, who was hand-picked by Harry himself, and producer Arne Harris. Caray often playfully quarreled with Stone over Stone's cigar and why Stone was single, while Stone would counter with poking fun at Harry being "under the influence." Stone disclosed in his book "Where's Harry" that most of this "arguing" was staged, and usually a ploy developed by Harry himself to add flavor to the broadcast. Additionally, Harry once did a commercial for Budweiser, dressed as a "Blues Brother" and parodying "Soul Man", singing "I'm a Cub fan, I'm a Bud man," while dancing with models dressed as Cubs ballgirls.
The Cubs still have a live singer, usually a celebrity, during the 7th inning stretch to honor Caray's memory. The quality of their renditions varies widely. Chicago icons often return annually, such as former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, who tends to sing the song very fast and possibly on key. Caray is also honored with a statue located at the corner of Sheffield and Addison streets, and during the 1998 season, a patch with Caray's caricature and Brickhouse's trademark "Hey Hey" were worn on the players sleeves to honor the passing of both commentators within a span of a few months. Harry's popularity also led to his grandson Chip Caray joining the broadcast team in winter of 1997, shortly before Harry's death. Chip Caray worked the Cubs games alongside Stone until events that unfolded in 2004, when Stone became increasingly critical of management and players toward season's end. At one point, reliever Kent Mercker phoned the booth during a game and told Stone to "keep out of team business." Stone left the team, taking a position with Chicago-based WSCR. Chip Caray also left, joining his father Skip Caray on TBS, providing play-by-play for the Atlanta Braves.
Memorable events and records
On September 23, 1908, the Cubs and New York Giants
were involved in a tight pennant race. The two clubs were tied in the bottom of the ninth inning at the Polo Grounds
, and N.Y. had runners of first and third and two outs when Al Bridwell
singled, scoring Moose McCormick
from third with the Giants' apparent winning run, but the runner on first base, rookie Fred Merkle
, went half way to second and then sprinted to the clubhouse after McCormick touched home plate. As fans swarmed the field, Cub infielder Johnny Evers
retrieved the ball and touched second. Since there were 2 outs, a forceout was called at second base, ending the inning and the game. Because of the tie the Giants and Cubs ended up tied for first place. The Giants lost the 1-game playoff and the Cubs went on to the World Series.
The Homer in the Gloamin
On September 28, 1938, with the Cubs and Pirates tied at 5, Gabby Hartnett
stepped to the plate in a lightless Wrigley Field that was gradually being overcome by darkness and visibility was becoming difficult. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the umpires ready to end the game, Hartnett launched Pirate hurler Mace Brown
's offering into the gloom and haze. This would be remembered as his "Homer in the Gloamin.
Rick Monday and the U.S. Flag
On April 25, 1976, at Dodger Stadium, two protestors ran into the outfield and tried to set fire to a U.S. Flag
. When Cub outfielder Rick Monday
noticed the flag on the ground and the men fumbling with matches and lighter fluid, he dashed over and snatched the flag to thunderous applause. When he came up to bat in the next half-inning, he got a standing ovation from the crowd and the stadium titantron flashed the message, "RICK MONDAY... YOU MADE A GREAT PLAY..." Monday later said, "If you're going to burn the flag, don't do it around me. I've been to too many veterans' hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it."
In an afternoon game on May 17, 1979 at Wrigley Field against the Philadelphia Phillies, 45 runs were scored, in a 23–22 Phillies win. This fell just a few short of the Major League record, set by the Cubs and Phillies on August 25, 1922, when the Cubs outlasted the Phillies 26–23 at Wrigley Field.
The Sandberg game
On June 23, 1984, Chicago trailed St. Louis 9-8 in the bottom of the ninth on NBC
's Game of the Week when Ryne Sandberg, known mostly for his glove, slugged a game-tying home run off ace closer Bruce Sutter
. Despite this, the Cardinals scored two runs in the top of the tenth. Sandberg came up again facing Sutter with one man on base, and hit yet another game tying home run, and Ryno
became a household name. The Cubs won what has become known as "The Sandberg Game
" in the 11th inning.
On April 23, 2008, against the Colorado Rockies
, the Cubs recorded the 10,000th regular-season win in their franchise's history dating back to the beginning of the National League in 1876. The Cubs reached the milestone with an overall National League record of 10,000 wins and 9,465 losses. Chicago is only the second club in Major League Baseball history to attain this milestone, the first having been the San Francisco Giants
in mid-season 2005. The Cubs, however, hold the mark for victories for a team in a single city. The Philadelphia Phillies are the only team with 10,000 losses. The Chicago club's 77–77 record in the National Association (1871, 1874–1875) are not included in MLB record keeping. Post-season series are also not included in the totals. To honor the milestone, the Cubs flew an extra white flag displaying "10,000" in blue, along with the customary "W" flag.
Tape-measure home runs
On May 11, 2000, Glenallen Hill
facing Brewers starter Steve Woodard
, became the first, and thus far only player, to hit a pitched ball onto the roof of a five-story residential building across Waveland Ave, beyond Wrigley Field's left field wall. The shot was estimated at well over , but the Cubs fell to Milwaukee 12–8.
No batted ball has ever hit the center field scoreboard in Wrigley Field, although the original "Slammin' Sammy", golfer Sam Snead, hit it with a golf ball in an exhibition in the 1950s. In 1948 Bill Nicholson barely missed the scoreboard when he launched a home run ball onto Sheffield Avenue and in 1959 Roberto Clemente came even closer with a home run ball hit onto Waveland Avenue. In 2001 a Sammy Sosa homer landed across Waveland and bounced a block down Kenmore Avenue. Dave Kingman hit a shot in 1978 to the third porch roof on the east side of Kenmore, which was estimated at , and is regarded as the longest home run in Wrigley Field history.
The official Cub mascot is a young bear cub, which has gone through various transformations through the years. The Cubs have no official physical mascot, though a man in a 'polar bear' looking outfit, called "The Beeman" (or Bearman, B-man), which was not very popular with the fans, was employed by the club briefly in the early 1990s. However, the Cubs' unofficial mascot is a formerly homeless man named Ronnie Wickers, who goes by the nickname of "Ronnie Woo Woo
. Wickers is not employed by the team, but is seen daily at games and outside the park, dressed in full uniform, usually with a hula hoop or jump rope. Wickers is the second fan to reach this status, the first being "Gary The Drunk" in the 1980s through mid 90s, and was featured in Steve Stone's book "Where's Harry?"
(Gary was featured in 2008, after having exchanged gloves with Luis Gonzalez
for 13 seasons. He was also kicked out of Wrigley for 3 years after attacking a fan with a knife). Wickers, however, is much more popular. He is known for his trademark yelling, for example "Mark.... Wooo! Grace.... Wooo!,"
and has been adopted by fans as a part of the culture at Wrigley Field. Wickers has gained national fame, and has appeared on the Howard Stern
radio programs after the two paid for him to get his teeth fixed.
"White flag time at Wrigley!"
The term "White flag time at Wrigley!"
means the Cubs have won.
Beginning in the days of P.K. Wrigley and the 1937 bleacher/scoreboard reconstruction, and prior to modern media saturation, a flag with either a "W" or an "L" has flown from atop the scoreboard masthead, indicating the day's result(s) when baseball was played at Wrigley. In case of a doubleheader that results in a split, both the "win" and "loss" flags are flown.
Past Cubs media guides show that originally the flags were blue with a white "W" and white with a blue "L", the latter coincidentally suggesting "surrender". In 1978, consistent with the dominant colors of the flags, blue and white lights were mounted atop the scoreboard, denoting "win" and "loss" respectively for the benefit of nighttime passers-by.
The flags were replaced by 1990, the first year in which the Cubs media guide reports the switch to the now familiar colors of the flags: White with blue "W" and blue with white "L". In addition to needing to replace the worn-out flags, by then the retired numbers of Banks and Williams were flying on the foul poles, as white with blue numbers; so the "good" flag was switched to match that scheme.
This long-established tradition has evolved to fans carrying the white-with-blue-W flags to both home and away games, and displaying them after a Cub win. The flags have become more and more popular each season since 1998, and are now even sold at the ballpark.
Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville
The Boys in Blue have played their home games at Wrigley Field, also known as "The Friendly Confines" since 1916. It was built in 1914 as Weeghman Park for the Chicago Whales, a Federal League baseball team. The Cubs also shared the park with the Chicago Bears of the NFL for 50 years. The ballpark includes a manual scoreboard, ivy-covered brick walls, and relatively small dimensions.
Located in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, Wrigley Field sits on an irregular block bounded by Clark and Addison Streets and Waveland and Sheffield Avenues. The area surrounding the ballpark is typically referred to as Wrigleyville. There is a dense collection of bars and nightclubs in the area, most with baseball inspired themes, including Harry Caray's, Murphy's Bleachers, and Sluggers. On game days, many residents rent out their yards and driveways during games to people looking for a parking spot. Though many Wrigleyville homeowners have seen their property values skyrocket, most, along with Mayor Richard M. Daley (a die-hard White Sox fan), still oppose the team's quest to play more night games and stadium expansion. Average attendance at games has also skyrocketed, as annual ticket sales have more than doubled, with attendance rising from 1.4 million in 1983 to nearly 3.2 million in 2004.
The "Bleacher Bums
" is a name given to fans, many of whom spend much of the day heckling, who sit in the bleacher section at Wrigley Field. Initially, the group was called "bums" because it referred to a group of fans who were at most games, and since those games were all day games, it was assumed they did not work. Many of those fans were, and are still, students at Chicago colleges, such as DePaul University
, and Illinois-Chicago
. A Broadway play,
starring Joe Mantegna
, Dennis Farina
, Dennis Franz
, and Jim Belushi
ran for years and was based on a group of Cub fans who frequented the club's games. The group was started in 1967 by dedicated fan Ron Grousl and "mad bugler" Mike Murphy
, who is currently a sports radio host mid days on Chicago-based WSCR
AM 670 "The Score". Murphy alleges that Grousl started the Wrigley tradition of throwing back opposing teams' home run balls. The current group is headed by Derek Schaul. More recently, the bleachers have had the stereotype of being populated by attractive and lightly dressed women. Prior to the 2005 season, they were updated, with new shops and private bar (The Batter's Eye) being added, and Bud Light
bought naming rights to the bleacher section, dubbing them the Bud Light Bleachers
. Bleachers at Wrigley are general admission.
The song Go, Cubs, Go!
by Steve Goodman
is often played over the loudspeakers when the Cubs win a game at Wrigley Field
. The song was recorded early in the 1984 season, and was heard frequently during that season. Goodman died in September of that year, five days before the Cubs clinched the National League Eastern Division title, their first title in 39 years. Since 1984, the song has been played from time to time at Wrigley. Since 2007, the song has been played over the loudspeakers at Wrigley Field following victories by the home squad.
In 2008, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder composed a song dedicated to the team called All the Way. Vedder, a Chicago native, composed the song at the request of Ernie Banks.
The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series championship since 1908 and have not appeared in the Fall Classic since 1945. They have only made the post-season five times since their last appearance in the World Series. It is the longest title drought in all four of the major American professional sports leagues, which includes the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL, as well as, of course, Major League Baseball. In fact, the Cubs' last World Series title occurred before those other three leagues even existed, and even the Cubs' last World Series appearance predates the founding of the NBA. The Cubs 3-2 series victory over the Atlanta Braves in the 2003 NLDS was the franchise's first postseason series win since the 1908 championship.
Playful theories try to blame the team's futility on alleged supernatural intervention, such as the Curse of the Billy Goat from 1945, citing the Leon Durham error of 1984 and the Bartman incident in 2003 as "evidence" of a curse. More practical theories include the too-cozy dimensions of Wrigley Field; the physical toll from the summer heat discussed in the 1977 book Stuck on the Cubs; and evidenced by the plentiful late season collapses, most notably '69 and 2004, as well as 1977, 1979, 1985, and 1999, among others. Finally, the most obvious candidate for this happenstance is the club's poor front office decisions.
The 2008 season marks the 100th anniversary of the last World Series title for the Cubs.
Minor league affiliations
Spring training history
The Cubs spring training facility is located in Mesa, Arizona
, where they play in the Cactus League
. The club plays its games at HoHoKam Park
, the name of which is literally translated from Native American as "those who vanished." The park seats just under 13,567, and the Cubs annually sell out most of their games both at home and on the road. The Northsiders have called Mesa their spring home for most seasons since 1952. In addition to Mesa, the club has held spring training in Champaign, Illinois
(1901–02, 1906); Los Angeles (1903–04, 1948–1949), Santa Monica, California
(1905); New Orleans (1907, 1911–1912); Vicksburg, Miss. (1908); Hot Springs, Arkansas
(1909–1910); Tampa (1913–1916); Pasadena, Cal. (1917–1921); Santa Catalina Island, California
(1922–1942, 1946–1947, 1950–1951); French Lick, Indiana
(1943–1945); Mesa (1952–1965, 1979–present); Long Beach, California
(1966); and Scottsdale, Arizona
The curious location on Catalina Island stems from Cubs owner William Wrigley Jr.'s then-majority interest in the island in 1919. Wrigley constructed a ballpark on the island to house the Cubs in spring training: it was built to the same dimensions as Wrigley Field. (The ballpark is long gone, but a clubhouse built by Wrigley to house the Cubs exists as the Catalina County Club.) However by 1951 the team chose to leave Catalina Island and spring training was shifted to Mesa, Arizona.
The current location in Mesa is actually the second HoHoKam Park; the first was built in 1976 at Fitch Park as the spring-training home of the Athletics who left the park in 1979. The new complex provides of team facilities, including major league clubhouse, four practice fields, one practice infield, enclosed batting tunnels, batting cages, a maintenance facility, and administrative offices for the Cubs.
The practice of teams traveling for organized spring training practice games and drills is almost as old as baseball itself. One of the earliest recorded spring training camps took place in 1870, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs) held organized baseball camps in New Orleans.
References and notes
- Murphy, Cait (2007). "Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History." New York, NY: Smithsonian Books. ISBN 978-0-06-088937-1
- Wright, Marshall (2000). The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-0779-4
- Lund, John (2008). "1908 A Look At The World Champion 1908 Chicago Cubs". Scotts Valley, CA ISBN 1438250185.