Talking Baseball: Wrigley Field 100th anniversary

Those lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the friendly confines of Wrigley Field today. Wrigley Field is one of only two “cathedrals of baseball” still remaining, the other being Fenway Park in Boston.

The Chicago White Stockings officially became the Chicago Cubs in 1907. They played in three consecutive World Series, losing to their South-side rivals the Chicago White Sox in 1906, but winning two consecutive titles as the Cubs by beating the Detroit Tigers in 1907 and 1908.

The Cubs have not won a World Series title since — and never at their Wrigley Field home — the longest drought of any major North American professional sports team. The Cubs played in but lost seven World Series between their title in 1908 and their last World Series appearance in 1945.

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The Chicago Tribune, once an owner of the Cubs, reports today, Bears and Cubs alike celebrate Wrigley’s 100th birthday:

Cubs and Bears legends were greeted like royalty Wednesday as the Cubs celebrated the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field.

Perhaps the loudest cheers were reserved for former Bears linebacker Dick Butkus and running back Gale Sayers, the first athletes to be introduced during pre-game ceremonies.

Former Cubs players on hand included former Cubs Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Glen Beckert,  Gary “Sarge” Matthews, Milt Pappas, Andre Dawson, Lee Smith and Ryan Dempster. Two of Ron Santo’s grandchildren represented the Santo family.

Beforehand, Butkus and Sayers reminisced about Sayers’ six-touchdown game against the 49ers on Dec. 12, 1965, one of the greatest days in the ballpark’s history.

Would even Butkus have had a shot at stopping Sayers that day?

“I don’t think so,” Butkus replied.  “And the worst thing was that (the field) was wet, so you’d be grabbing air. You know what the funny thing is, though. (Coach George) Halas took him out at the one or two-yard line and put in Jon Arnett, because Gale would have the tendency to get the big head and everything. If he had scored seven touchdowns, you never would’ve heard the end of it.”

Sayers laughed at the comment of his old friend.

“I probably could’ve scored 10 touchdowns that day,” he said. “It was just a day that was a once in a lifetime experience.”

A large weekday crowd greeted the players on a chilly afternoon. Cupcakes and Federals jerseys were giveaways, and the Cubs wore uniforms of the Feds, the original tenants of the ballpark.

The Cubs have never won a championship at Wrigley Field, but have drawn well in spite of themselves.

Do Cubs fans just love the pain?

 “I’ve been part of that pain, back in ’84,” Matthews said. “Yeah, they want them to win, but the whole atmosphere here… and for me, to be on the field Babe Ruth played on and so many great players… being in the same outfield where Billy Williiams played, those are things you don’t take lightly.

“As long as you went out and gave 100 percent, that’s all anyone could ask for.  Yeah, we wanted to win it. The longer (the championship drought) goes on, that one (Game 5 playoff loss) in ’84 sticks out more and more. I said to one of my really good friends, Ryne Sandberg,   ‘Hey man, how often do you think of that 1984 mess-up?’

“He said ‘Every day.’” It never leaves you, when you care the way we did, and we were one game away from really making history.”

You and me both, Ryne. 1984, Arrrgh! And then there was the “fan interference” in 2003 that cost the Cubs their last chance to go to the World Series.

The Cubs began the day 7-12, 5th in the NL Central Division. But they are beating the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 100th Anniversary game, so there!

UPDATE: Aaaand there it is, game tied 5-5 in the 9th. Arrrgh! Cubs lose 7-5. Some things never change.

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