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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Retired by MLB
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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