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100 Things Cubs Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
By Jimmy Greenfield
Triumph Books LLCCopyright © 2016 Jimmy Greenfield
All rights reserved.
Watch the Cubs Win the World Series
At the risk of making the rest of this book seem unimportant (don't worry, it's not), let me clearly say up front that it can be broken down into one thing followed by 99 things.
If you're a true Cubs fan, there's winning the World Series and then there's everything else. And everything else doesn't even come close. Other fans dream about winning the World Series in the same way they dream about a nice vacation, getting into a good college, or finally being able to move away from St. Louis.
When Cubs fans dream about winning the World Series, they risk falling into a coma. It's that deep, that intense, and unless you've spent your life being told it can never happen, will never happen, and won't happen, you can't possibly know the depths of a Cubs fan's hopes and dreams.
This is why those who cheer for the Cubs are alone in the baseball universe and will be until that one day when the final out is recorded or the final run scores to clinch the first World Series title since — do I even have to say the year?
It's 1908. But of course you knew that. If you love the Cubs, you knew it because it's been drop-kicked into your skull from the moment you first realized there was something unique about your team. If you don't love the Cubs you knew it for the same reason you know what year the Civil War started and can name the presidents carved on Mt. Rushmore. It's part of Americana.
The Cubs' failure to win the World Series has been the butt of jokes for decades. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if they hadn't made it there so often and lost, as they did five times between 1929 and 1945. The Philadelphia Phillies lost the only two World Series they were in between 1903 and 1979, but their failures never captured the imagination of the public like those of the Cubs.
It's such a part of the public zeitgeist now that Hollywood writers know they can get a reliable laugh out of the Cubs, like in Back to the Future II when the filmmakers suggested the Cubs had actually won the World Series. Have you ever seen the movie Taking Care of Business with Jim Belushi? He plays a Cubs fan who breaks out of prison with 48 hours left in his sentence just so he can watch the Cubs win the World Series. It's a perfectly awful movie, but Mark Grace makes a cameo appearance so it's not all bad.
At the end of the film, the Cubs end up winning and while sitting in a car in the stadium's parking lot, Belushi's character calmly turns off the radio. No cheering, no screams, no nothing. Just a contented smile. This is why it's called fiction.
When the Cubs win the World Series — and they will win it one day, though I'm not at liberty to tell you when — nobody will be calm. There will be crying and shaking and TV reporters will try to ruin much of it by sticking their microphones in the faces of crazed fans who will only want to hug their friends or call their mom or visit their grandpa at his grave to tell him what just happened.
And I can tell you this, as well: The Cubs players who eventually win the World Series will be remembered as gods. They will be gods because they will have the power to make Cubs fans, if not forget the past, at least change the way in which they remember it.CHAPTER 2
25 Things to Know About Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field isn't going anywhere — the $575 million in renovations is seeing to that — so while you need to see a game there before you die don't worry that it'll disappear before you do. The Cubs moving to another ballpark is as unthinkable as the first family moving out of the White House. It's just not going to happen. Without Wrigley Field, the Cubs wouldn't be the Cubs, they'd be the White Sox, and that's an alternate reality too sad to comprehend.
All you really need to enjoy Wrigley is a ticket to sit anywhere in the ballpark and at least one of your five senses. It might help just a little bit to know these 25 things:
1. The land Wrigley Field was built on was previously occupied by a seminary. The park was commissioned by Charles Weeghman for his Federal League team, the Chicago ChiFeds, also known as the Chicago Whales.
2. When you go, don't pay for parking. If you're driving to the game, park on the street near Irving Park Road and take the Red Line to the game. It's cheaper, faster, and is perfectly safe.
3. Wrigley Field was designed by architect Zachary T. Davis, who also designed the original Comiskey Park.
4. The Cubs offer several different types of tours of Wrigley Field, ranging from $25 per person tours that will take you to see the clubhouse, press box, and possibly a chance to step on the field to $50,000 per group mega-events that include the chance to take batting practice.
5. It took 50 days to build Wrigley Field. Ground was broken on March 4, 1914, in a public ceremony, and the first game was played on April 23, 1914. The ChiFeds beat Kansas City 9–1.
6. With the addition of Ron Santo's statue, there are four statues of important figures in Cubs history surrounding the park. Although they have been relocated during Wrigley's renovations, Santo's is usually at the corner of Addison and Sheffield, as is Billy Williams' statue. Ernie Banks has a statue on Clark Street near the main ticket window, and Harry Caray's statue is at Sheffield and Waveland after initially being a block south.
7. The ballpark was named Weeghman Park until 1920 when it was renamed Cubs Park following the sale of the club to William Wrigley. In 1926, it became known as Wrigley Field.
8. The original seating capacity was 14,000, although contemporary newspaper reports indicated more than 21,000 fans attended the first game.
9. The original dimensions were 310' to left field, 440' to center, and 345' to right.
10. Weeghman bought the Cubs in 1916 after the Whales folded and moved the team from the West Side Grounds to Weeghman Park. The Cubs played their first game at Wrigley Field on April 20, 1916, defeating Cincinnati 7–6 in 11 innings.
11. The first no-hitter at Wrigley Field was thrown on May 2, 1917, by Cincinnati's Fred Toney. This was the famous game where the Cubs' Hippo Vaughn also didn't allow a hit for nine innings before faltering in the 10th.
12. Wrigley Field has hosted three All-Star games — 1947, 1962, and 1990. The American League won all three games. Andy Pafko and Ernie Banks are the only Cubs to get a hit in an All-Star Game played at Wrigley Field. Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, and Shawon Dunston went a combined 0-for-7 in 1990. Milt Pappas saved the 1962 game, but he did it for the AL as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.
13. The Cubs have a record of 2–11 in World Series games played at Wrigley Field. They won Game 5 of the 1935 World Series and Game 6 of the 1945 Fall Classic.
14. Despite making it to the 1918 World Series, the Cubs didn't play their home games at Wrigley Field. The series was moved to Comiskey Park to take advantage of their larger seating capacity.
15. Wrigley Field was home to the Chicago Bears from 1921 until 1970. Only Giants Stadium, due to the New York Giants and New York Jets double occupancy, and Green Bay's Lambeau Field have hosted more NFL games.
16. The highest attendance ever was on June 27, 1930, when 51,556 fans packed Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play the Brooklyn Dodgers. At least 30,476 women entered free for Ladies Day.
17. 3,300,200 fans came out in 2008, the highest single-season attendance at Wrigley Field. They surpassed 2 million for the first time in 1984 when attendance reached 2,107,655.
18. The first major renovation took place prior to the 1923 season when the single-deck grandstand was rebuilt and seats were added to the bleachers. Capacity increased to around 30,000.
19. In 1925 the left-field line was 319', resulting in a ton of home runs being hit. In response to public outcry, the Cubs took out roughly 1,500 ground-level bleachers to increase the home-run distance to 370'.
20. The Cubs started construction on an upper deck for the grandstand following the 1926 season, but only the third-base side was ready by Opening Day 1927. Still, the new capacity of around 40,000 enabled Wrigley Field to draw 1,159,168 fans, the first time a National League team surpassed 1 million in attendance.
21. For the first 46 years of its existence, the Cubs clubhouse was located on the mezzanine level on the third-base side. In 1960, a new bi-level clubhouse was built with an entryway in the left-field corner. This lasted until 1983 when the current clubhouse connected to the dugout was constructed.
22. The basket hanging over the front of the bleachers was installed in 1970 to prevent fans from jumping out and onto the field. The first game with the basket was played on May 7, 1970.
23. Alcohol wasn't served at Wrigley Field until 1933, following the end of prohibition. The first beer was actually low-alcohol beer commonly called "3.2" beer.
24. It's a staple for ballparks to have an organ these days, but it wasn't until April 26, 1941, that the first one was installed in a major league ballpark — at Wrigley Field. The current organist is Gary Pressey, a job he's held since 1987.
25. To learn 1,000 more things about the ballpark, do yourself a favor and get a copy of Wrigley Field: The Unauthorized Biography. It's a fantastic book with wonderful anecdotes, stories, and fascinating tidbits uncovered by author Stuart Shea.CHAPTER 3
There's a running gag in the classic Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein in which every time the name "Blücher" is spoken, a team of horses lets out a loud, terrified whinny. It's very funny.
The same can be said of Cubs fans whenever the year 1969 is mentioned, although there's absolutely nothing funny about that. There is a visceral, even primal reaction to this most famous and disturbing of Cubs seasons, which has defined the team for generations and still haunts every player, coach, executive, fan, vendor, and usher who witnessed the team's epic collapse. Even the ivy can't forget.
The only thing that could beat the despair of 1969 out of Cubdom would be a World Series ring, and as Durocher, Santo, Banks, Williams, Hundley, Jenkins, Beckert, Kessinger, and the rest of the boys learned that's not an easy thing to do when you've got decades of losing to face down. It also doesn't help that black cats occasionally dart out in front of you.
There was a great deal of excitement and hope when the 1969 season got underway. The Cubs had posted consecutive seasons above .500 for the first time since 1945–46, and fans, media, and the players were convinced next year was here. And on Opening Day it sure seemed like it was.
A Wrigley Field crowd of 40,796, including 27,000 who started lining up at dawn to buy tickets that day, saw Willie Smith's dramatic two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th inning give the Cubs a 7–6 win over Philadelphia.
Smith's homer touched off an insane scene on the field, in the stands, and inside the clubhouse that set the tone for what became an insane season. Years later, in Rick Talley's essential book The Cubs of '69, legendary Cubs third baseman Ron Santo recalled that moment. "We knew right there," Santo said, "that this was the season we were going to win."
And for five glorious months, they did win. A lot. The record book shows the Cubs were above .500 in each of the first five months of 1969 and began September with a 4½-game lead over the New York Mets. The season ended with a historic collapse, but there was far more to it than that. The Cubs seemed to pack more fun, intrigue, and controversy into the 1969 season than the previous 25 years combined.
Smith's Opening Day homer kicked off an 11–1 start and they were still well above .500 in late April when they made their first visit to Shea Stadium to face the New York Mets — a franchise even more hapless during their brief eight-year history than the Cubs — for a four-game series.
The Cubs took the first three but lost the finale — the second game of a doubleheader — 3–0 on Cleon Jones' three-run ninth-inning homer. It was no big deal, the Cubs were still 14–6 and the Mets were a lowly 7–11. Their paths would cross again.
Back at home, a group calling themselves Bleacher Bums were starting to garner some attention. They were a motley crew of kids and old-timers who began and ended their day at Ray's Bleachers at the corner of Waveland and Sheffield but spent the rest of their time sitting in the bleachers tormenting opposing outfielders.
While the Bums made waves, the players started to cash in on their fame by making paid personal appearances, endorsing anything they could affix their signature to and — 17 years before "The Super Bowl Shuffle" — recorded an album called Cubs Power. They became, literally, rock stars. Ernie Banks even started writing a regular column for the Chicago Tribune.
They kept on winning, but signs of their fate started to show by midsummer. On June 30 in Montreal, Banks hit an apparent home run that umpire Tony Venzon ruled went through a hole in the fence. Durocher, of course, went berserk. Years later, Expos outfielder Rusty Staub confirmed the ball had cleared the fence. The Cubs lost the game 5–2.
By the time they went to Shea Stadium for a three-game series in early July, the Mets were the only other team above .500 in the National League East. In the opener on July 8 an incident occurred that would mar Ron Santo's reputation for years.
Don Young, who was 23 at the time, probably shouldn't have been in the majors. He was a year removed from Class A ball and only with the big league club because Durocher had no better option in center field. Still, Young was a good fielder and that's why he was in center field in the ninth inning with the Cubs leading the Mets 3–1.
Ken Boswell led off with a pop fly to center, but Young got a bad start and what looked like a catchable ball turned into a double. One out later, Young got his glove on a fly ball over his head but dropped it. The Mets still trailed by a pair of runs but after a double, intentional walk, and a ground out, Ed Kranepool hit a two-out walk-off single to beat the stunned Cubs 4–3.
Back in the clubhouse, Durocher ripped into Young, calling him a "disgrace" and saying his "three-year-old could have caught those balls." Santo wasn't as harsh but no less forgiving, telling Jerome Holtzman of the Sun-Times, "He was thinking of himself, not the team ... when he hits it's a dividend, but when he fails on defense he's lost — and today he took us down with him."
Managers will do that, and everyone expected that kind of talk from Durocher. But Santo was the team captain, and it was unheard of to throw teammates under the bus. The reaction was swift, and early the next day Santo apologized publicly and personally to Young.
The Cubs went 18–11 in August but the Mets had started to soar, and when the teams met on September 8 in New York the Cubs had lost four straight, and their lead — which had been as high as nine games on August 16 — was down to 21/2.
The first pitch from Cubs starter Bill Hands went right at Tommie Agee's head. It was a purpose pitch, Hands would later say, but it only gave purpose to the Mets. Jerry Koosman retaliated by plunking Santo in the second inning, and the Cubs responded by doing nothing. "That's when we should have gotten into a fight," relief pitcher Hank Aguirre told Talley years later. "It really hurt me deeply that Santo just walked to first base, and nobody did anything ... Leo or Santo or somebody from the dugout should have started a fight."
Things got worse. In what was probably the biggest play of the year, Agee scored the go-ahead run in the sixth when umpire Satch Davidson ruled Hundley missed a sweeping tag. The run held up for a Mets victory, and the following day they won again to cut the lead to a half-game. It was on this day that a black cat was dropped onto the Shea Stadium field and it raced around in front of the Cubs' dugout.
From September 3 to September 15, the Cubs lost 11-of-12 games, including eight in a row at one point, and the team went from being five games up on the Mets to 41/2 games back. It was over, and the slow pain from that epic collapse started to sink in. It's still ingrained in the DNA of many Cubs fans.
There are a million theories about why the team folded, but Ernie Banks, who never played in a World Series, may have said it best. "Well, a lot people say we needed more rest, the bench, the black cat in New York, all of that stuff," Banks told Talley. "But it wasn't pressure or outside activities or anything like that. It was fear. When you haven't won, it's scary, and that's life. Dealing with the uncertainties, the unknown. It's fearful when you get there, facing the unknown.
"And that's what I think happened to us in 1969."
Before the Superstation
The Cubs have been such a marketing juggernaut for more than three decades, it's hard to believe it wasn't always that way. Attendance at Wrigley Field didn't top 1 million for 15 straight seasons from 1953 through 1967, and in 1969 not even all the games were televised.
A blurb in the July 1 edition of the Chicago Tribune, while the Cubs were on a road trip to Montreal, reported that fans could only listen to Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau on WGN Radio.
"[WGN] has a contract to televise only 144 of the Cubs' 162 games," the Tribune reported. "And today's contest along with Thursday's afternoon game between the same two teams is among the 18 games which will not be shown."
Excerpted from 100 Things Cubs Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Jimmy Greenfield. Copyright © 2016 Jimmy Greenfield. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
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