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Chicago Cubs Baseball Franchise
Baseball in Chicago
Every city has a deep and loyal passion for their home baseball team. With that being said some cities enthusiasm borders on the fanatical, in a good way of course, for the fans of the Cubs this certainly rings true.
The team hasn’t always had much success but the fans continue to show up and participate in the festivities at historic Wrigley Field.
I’m certainly no Cubs fan but when I got a chance to travel with my wife to a business meeting in Chicago I took her up on it and scored some great seats too. My seat was within a few rows of the visitor’s bullpen mound and they were amazing.
What really impressed me was the energy in the stadium. The game was in September and the Cubs weren’t in playoff contention but the fans that were there were still having a great time against a mediocre opponent from Houston. Being a baseball fan I was aware of the seventh inning stretch tradition of singing “Take me out to the Ballgame” started by the late and great Harry Carey. I wasn’t aware of the singing ritual after the Cubs recorded the final out of a victory. It was a great experience for a huge baseball fan to experience, even if my favorite team is one of their biggest rivals.
Favorite Baseball Team
Who is your favorite baseball team?
Fans are painfully aware of the century plus long championship drought for the franchise. It’s not like they haven’t been close the last couple of decades but that last hurdle seems to always trip them up right before they get a chance to cross the finish line and get to the World Series; their last trip was in 1945.
Currently the team has been on a poor streak even though they won their division three times in the 2000’s with the last one coming in 2008. The National League Central division has seen a few teams hop around the Cubs to win the division or become the wild card team. They haven’t been able to establish a club that can improve on what they had done the previous season for some reason. Fortunately the team now has a man in charge who has built championship caliber teams and that success was very recent.
Theo Epstein is in charge of the Cubs now and he brings his youth and enthusiasm to the club as well as his successes from Boston. Ironically he brought a World Series title to Beantown after a very lengthy drought so maybe he is the right man to bring that elusive title to The North Siders.
The immediate need for the team is to build up the talent they have in the system. The club has some solid pieces but it needs more help to become a contender in the National League again.
The team has definitely had its fair share of some of the biggest names in Major League Baseball. In fact one of the biggest characters the managerial ranks have ever seen presided over his final game when he was their skipper. Lou Piniella, best known for his eccentric style when arguing with umpires, called it a career mid-season in 2010 after previously announcing he was in his final season managing; his mother was in poor health and he made the wise choice to be with her instead of on the diamond.
A pitcher, with great ability, was with the team for many years before leaving the team prior to the start of the 2012 season. Carlos Zambrano had electric stuff and was a more than competent hitter but he couldn’t keep his emotions under control even resorting to fighting with his own teammates. The squad also had another less than positive teammate in Milton Bradley. After all of the years I have spent following baseball players like this can really cast a cloud of negativity on a team, especially if you aren’t winning a bunch of games. The right decision was made to cut ties with both of them.
The turn of the millennium led up to a fairly successful decade even though the team still couldn’t reach the big one. I will admit that their luck wasn’t always the best. Two young arms were forecasted to be perennial all-star players and men to build a dynamic rotation around but injuries sidetracked those plans.
Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were two right handed pitchers that made their impact very quickly on the club; Wood even tied the Major League Record for strikeouts by fanning twenty Astros in 1998. A variety of injuries hit both players very hard and Prior was never able to recover from them. Wood did but was never the same becoming a middle relief and occasional closer for probably the rest of his career.
Continuing their run of bad luck was when a fan named Steve Bartman interfered with a fly ball right along the left field wall. Left fielder Moises Alou looked like he had a chance to catch the ball, and put the Cubs four outs away from winning the league title and punching their ticket to the World Series, but Bartman missed his souvenir and prevented Alou from catching the ball too. Their opportunity missed the Marlins came back from a three games to one disadvantage to win the series.
Before their success in the 2000’s the team’s fortunes weren’t as positive. The 90’s produced one postseason trip, via the wildcard, in 1998. Ironically this year was the year that the nation was captivated by two players chasing history. Cubs’ outfielder Sammy Sosa and St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire were pushing each other to see if they could surpass the season record for home runs set by Roger Maris 1961 when he stroked sixty-one dingers.
Both of these men were very classy on the field and in front of a microphone so they made ideal participants in this historical endeavor. From a baseball standpoint the sport needed this because it was still stinging from the strike in 1994 that actually kept the World Series from being played at the end of the season. Sports Illustrated recognized what both of them did for the sport by naming them both their sportsmen of the year. For the record McGwire broke the record when he hit his sixty-second home run in a September game in St. Louis. Sosa eclipsed the record as well finishing with sixty-five home runs.
During the eighties two division crowns were won by the club but in both circumstances they were unable to make it to the World Series.
The 1984 squad saw two players established themselves in Cubs history as a couple of the great ones. Right handed pitcher Rick Sutcliffe pitched some of his best years with the team and had a phenomenal 1984 season; he was acquired mid-season when he was traded from Cleveland but ended up winning the Cy Young award at the end of the season. Maybe even more influential on the team than Sutcliffe was a second baseman named Ryan Sandberg. With his 1984 season scoring him the MVP award Sandberg contributed the numbers the team needed to help push them over the top to win the division.
In 1989 the team once again found itself winning the division behind some newer player by the names of Shawon Dunston, Mark Grace and pitcher Greg Maddux. Combined with some of the veterans from the 1984 team they were set for a lengthy postseason run but, even with Grace having a great series, were unable to get past the San Francisco Giants.
During the fifties and sixties the team didn’t make any postseason voyages and wasn’t much of a contender but they did have some winning seasons. Unfortunately the team just could find the right pieces to complement one of the greatest Cubs players of all time Ernie Banks. Later in the sixties the club was successful finding some good players, like Ron Santo, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
The forties were the last time the franchise made it to the World Series and it was certainly a series that you just wouldn’t see happen these days. A gentleman must have really loved his goat because he actually bought it a ticket to come and watch the game with him. Ownership didn’t approve of the animal being in the stadium and they were both removed but not before the man declared that the team wasn’t going to win anymore. This claim spawned talk that he cursed the team; they even named it the curse of the Billy Goat.
In the early nineteen hundreds the team was re-branded to the team we know and recognize today, this is when they became the Cubs; previous teams were nicknamed the White Stockings and Colts. This time frame also was the last time the team brought home a World Series title with back to back victories in the 1907 and 1908 campaigns.
Since this portion of Major League Baseball only had one league winning it was as far as you could go each season. The franchise won eleven league crowns during an approximately forty-five year span with a higher concentration occurring before the turn of the century when they won six of them in an eleven year span.
Kerry Wood Cubs
Since the club has been around for over a century they have accumulated a pretty large amount of wins and losses. In fact the Cubs are one of two Major League Teams that have won ten thousand games or more, the other being the San Francisco Giants.
Just to emphasize how many wins that is think about it comparing today’s game. With the regular season being one hundred and sixty two games long a team, winning every game, would take just over sixty-one years to surpass the ten thousand win plateau.
Best Baseball Players
When a team has been around for a substantial period of time it is a foregone conclusion that they will have a substantial list of great players as a part of the organization at one time or another.
Over forty different players that played for the club, at one time or another are honored in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Out of those men sixteen elected to enter the Hall as Cubs players.
I remember watching Sandberg playing but the other players were before my time. I know what Banks and Santo brought to the game and they earned every bit of admiration from the sport as well as from the passionate fans of the Cubs. I also vaguely remember hearing stories of pitcher Ferguson Jenkins played back in the sixties but I wasn’t around to actually see him throw.
The team has, and I sincerely hope, will always call Chicago home. Even though I am a fan of one of their rivals I cannot begin to comprehend baseball without the Cubs in Chicago.
Fortunately they have an incredibly strong and loyal fan base that should support the club for many more seasons.
Seating at Wrigley Field
As I mentioned earlier being at Wrigley for a game was amazing. The stadium is truly a piece of work that the modern stadiums of the last few years cannot duplicate. It is surrounded by very cool residences that you can now pay to catch a game from their rooftops and the ivy covered outfield wall is nothing short of iconic. I remember years ago the club having a beef with these homeowners because they were catching games for free. I’m glad they worked something out.
Another interesting piece of Wrigley history has to do with its lighting. For many years games had to be played during the daytime because the field didn’t have lights. It is something that we all take for granted, an outdoor sports facility having lights, but this wasn’t the case at Wrigley.
Prior to Wrigley being built the team had a few different places that they called home. West Side Park was their home field from 1885-1891 and again from 1893-1915 with South Side Park sandwiched in between for two seasons. Lakefront Park was home from 1878-1884 and the 23rd Street Grounds from 1875-1877. In 1874 the season was split between the 23rd Street Grounds and Ogden Park. Prior to that the team spent time playing at the Union Baseball Grounds and Dexter Park.
WrigleyvilleClick thumbnail to view full-size
Major League World Series
Unfortunately the club has only won the World Series twice and they were both over one hundred years ago in 1907 and 1908. With the Boston Red Sox ending their curse and long drought back in 2004 the odds are certainly in the Cubs favor, if they can get the right pieces on the field together at the correct time.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
In addition to Banks, Jenkins, Sandberg and Santo others sit proudly in Cooperstown. Cap Anson, Mordecai Brown, Franck Chance, Kiki Cuyler, Johnny Evers, Clark Griffith, Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, King Kelly, Joe Tinker, Billy Williams and Hack Wilson round out the Cubs presence in the Hall of Fame.