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The History of the Chicago Cubs

Updated on March 23, 2019
James A Watkins profile image

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with three non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

A Young Cubs Fan

I have heard my Dad tell this story a hundred times to his friends. I don't know why he likes it so much. He came home from work to find me, maybe eight years old, crying. He thought I must have hurt myself and said, "What's wrong, son?" "What happened to you?" I answered, "We lost, Dad, we lost!" He didn't understand, so he said, "Who lost, son? Who lost?" Through my tears I cried, "The Cubs!"

Such was my emotional attachment to the ebbs and flows of the Chicago Cubs; and of my love for Baseball.

I was a pretty good baseball player myself, in Little League and Babe Ruth. I remember one of my managers saying, "That kid knocks the cover off the ball!" At one time or another, I played every position on the diamond, including catcher and pitcher (I had velocity but was too wild. Scared a lot of guys, though.)

I settled in as an outstanding Center Fielder. I was very fast and could throw the baseball from the fence to home plate on the fly. By the time I was sixteen I had to choose between two dreams: Baseball or Music. I chose music. I tell this story to establish that I not only understand the game of baseball from a fan's perspective; I played the game. I continued to play in softball leagues for many years afterwards.

SAMMY SOSA
SAMMY SOSA

Chicago Cubs History: The 1990s

The Chicago Cubs history in the 1990s were nothing to brag about. Only twice in ten years did Cubs fans witness a winning record. The best year undoubtedly, for the Chicago Cubs, was that incredibly exciting year of 1998.

The Chicago Cubs made the playoffs in 1998 for the first time in nine years. I wish the iconic Harry Carey could have witnessed it, but he died before the season began, after 16 years as the Chicago Cubs play-by-play announcer. Though this truly was a team effort, and excellent performances were turned in by many players, the stars were Sammy Sosa, Mark Grace and Kerry Wood.

Sammy Sosa, the Chicago Cubs Right fielder, was the best baseball player to ever don the Chicago Cubs uniform. He played for the Chicago Cubs for 13 seasons. He won the Most Valuable Player Award in 1998 when he posted these astounding statistics: 66 home runs; 134 runs scored; 158 runs batted in; 416 total bases. This represents one of the top performances during a baseball season in the history of the game. Besides that, he was an outstanding defensive player to boot. He was the first major league baseball player to ever hit 65 home runs in a season. His 412 total bases in 1998 was the most for any hitter in 50 years. He also hit over 60 home runs in 3 seasons—becoming the first hitter to ever do so.

Mark Grace was our First Baseman. Today, he stands 40th all time for doubles hit in the history of baseball. He is not far out of the top 100 for career batting average, on base percentage, and hits. And Mark Grace was a remarkable defensive player and team leader.

Kerry Wood burst on the scene in 1998 to win the Rookie of the year award. He struck out 20 hitters in one game in May of that year, which still stands tied for the all time major league record. For the season Kerry Wood struck out an unbelievable 233 batters in only 167 innings—at the time more per inning than any pitcher in history.

Naturally, the Chicago Cubs being the Chicago Cubs, in the playoffs to get to the World Series they lost four straight games and were eliminated—despite a magnificent array of talent. Many tears were shed.

SLAMMIN' SAMMY
SLAMMIN' SAMMY

The Making of a Cubs Fan

I plead guilty (misery loves company) to having turned many of my friends into loyal Cubs fans over the years, including one of my best friends who was born blind. He would listen as I watched the games on WGN and I explained everything that was going on. To this day, he rarely misses listening to the Chicago Cubs when they play, and we go the ballpark together at least once a year.

For a couple decades I have also had a tradition of taking my son and daughter to Wrigley once or twice a year (I have lived in Florida most of this time). These are precious shared memories. But I never would have become one of the knowledgeable Cubs fans I am today had it not been for Lou Boudreau and Steve Stone.

Most Cub fans are more familiar with the careers of longtime broadcasters Jack Brickhouse and Harry Carey. Lou Boudreau, in the Hall of Fame as a player, was the analyst for WGN radio from 1961 through 1987, and possessed unparalleled insight into baseball. As I entered the work force, I could no longer watch day games but I had a job with the freedom to listen to the the Chicago Cubs games on the radio.

Lou Boudreau had a great ability for teaching fans the game-within-the-game—what was really going on, what strategies were being employed. I hear casual observers mention that baseball seems so slow and boring. For me, it has a perfect pace and it is exciting—if you understand what is going on, which is mostly thinking and reaction.

Through Lou Boudreau, I was enabled to understand what was taking place, which took the game to a whole new level in my mental imagery. Lou Boudreau was an awesome guy and a rare individual. He managed the Cubs one year. But he was famous for what he did in 1948, when Lou Boudreau was not only the Most Valuable Player in the American league as a Shortstop; and led the Cleveland Indians to a World Championship—he managed the team at the same time at 31 years of age!

Steve Stone was the color commentator for the Cub games on WGN television for 19 seasons, the last being 2004. 15 of those years he worked with Harry Carey. Steve Stone is an eloquent teacher of the game to Cubs fans. He was also famous for uncannily predicting what was going to happen next as a game unfolded.

Steve Stone had previously been a fine pitcher who won the Cy Young Award (for best pitcher in league) in 1980. Lou Boudreau and Steve Stone: they taught me what baseball was all about, and they are vital parts of Chicago Cubs History.

MARK GRACE
MARK GRACE

Comments

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    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      CMerritt— I have surely enjoyed your comments on my Hubs and reading your Hubs. Now I find out you are a Cubs fan too!!

      Ryno may become the new Cubs manager next year. Wouldn't that be interesting? I may have watched every game in 1984. It was one of my favorite seasons. By the way, I wrote about those years in this other Hub:

      https://hubpages.com/sports/Chicago-Cubs-Baseball

      I am old enough to also have watched Ernie, Billy, Fergie, and Ronnie back in the day, though I was a boy.

      Thank you very much for your support, readership, and fine comments. And you are welcome. :D

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 

      8 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      James, I too, grew up as a Cub fan. Though it was not until the eighties when I finally got some real bragging rights with all of my buddies who happened to be Cinncinatti Reds fans. My all time favorite ws Ryne Sandberg, Ryno was a nine time Golden Glove winner and 10 time All-star. He won the MVP in 1984, when he batted a 314 with 200 hits, 114 runs, 36 doubles, 19 homers and triples, and 84 RBI’s AND was the first one to win the MVP since Ernie Banks did it back in 54. He nearly became only the third player to collect 20 doubles, triples, home runs, and stolen bases in the same season and is one of only six cubbies to have their number retired, along with Santo, Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddox.

      Those was the glory years for me, I had a lot of fun times watching Harry call some great games.

      Thanks again for your Hub, it was fun thinking about those days again.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      GBeckhamfan— You are welcome. No worries. I root for the White Sox unless they are playing the Cubbies.

      Even marginal baseball players have incredible talent. Thank you for the laudations. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!

    • profile image

      GBeckhamfan 

      9 years ago

      As you can probably tell from my username, I am a die hard White Sox fan. I grew up the same as you, took every loss very personally, played since I was 5 years old (I am 23 now), and love the game more than anything. This is an outstanding hub, it made me go back to what I felt like in the 90's going to games and just being in awe of what these players could do. Thank you!!!

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Abe Normal— Isn't that a fine description of a perfect day —providing that "W" flag is flying on your way home. I enjoyed your poetic words here, bro'. Thanks.

    • Abe Normal profile image

      Abe Normal 

      9 years ago from Gigantic Ocean Seaboard

      Take the Chicago-Northwestern train from Palatine to Irving Park Road, onto the CTA bus to Clark, walk about 10 blocks to Addison & Waveland Avenues; partied hardy in Summers; "Nuts on Clark," residential memorabilia, green grass, blue sky, "Hey, peanuts! Beer here, Programs!" fun.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      shayne sherby jr.— I hear you. Thank you for visiting and commenting. I appreciate it.

      James

    • profile image

      shayne sherby jr. 

      9 years ago

      of course you chose the worst team but their best players ever

      (shayne)

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      10 years ago from Chicago

      Madame X— I liked Dusty but now Lou has them on the right track. I go to Wrigley at least once a year and it is as beautiful as it seems. A Cub fan, eh? Did you ever live in Chicago?

      Either way, thanks for reading and comenting. I look forward to reading your first Hubs.

    • profile image

      Madame X 

      10 years ago

      The Cubs signed Dusty Baker away from the Giants in 2002 and he brought them to the playoffs at least, but it went downhill from there. He left the Giants because he and Bonds could never get on, but Bonds was outrageous even by California standards.

      I always wanted to see a Cubs game at Wrigley - truly the most beautiful stadium of them all. But every time I'm in Chicago it seems I don't get the chance. The Cubs are one of my favs. I have a love/hate relationship with the Giants, but then, most people do.

      As for color guys, these days I turn the sound off when they start their drivel. Ah, the good old days. . . 

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      10 years ago from Chicago

      Kushal Poddar— It is kind of you to say so. Thank you!

    • Kushal Poddar profile image

      Kushal Poddar 

      10 years ago from Kolkata,India

      The writing is wonderfully dynamic like the game.

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