1876–1902: A National League dynasty
The 1876 White Stockings won the N.L. Championship
William Hulbert, president of Chicago's club, the White Stockings, signed multiple star players, such as pitcher Albert Spalding, and infielders Ross Barnes, Deacon White and Adrian Anson to join the team prior to the N.L.'s inaugural season of 1876. The Chicago franchise, playing its home games at West Side Grounds, quickly established themselves as one of the new league's top teams. Spalding won 47 games and Barnes led the league in hitting at .429 as Chicago won the first ever National League pennant, which at the time was the game's top prize.
After back to back pennants in 1880 and '81, Hulbert dead, 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, captured their third consecutive pennant in 1882, and "Cap" Anson established himself as the game's first true superstar. In 1885 and '86, after winning N.L. pennants, The White Stockings met the short-lived American Association champion in that era's version of a 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 rivalries in sports. In all, the Anson-led Chicago Base Ball Club won six National League pennants between 1876 and 1886. As a result, Chicago's club nickname transitioned, 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 credited with collecting 3,000 career 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 American League neighbor to the south.
1902–1920: A Cub dynasty
Fast facts - The 1906 Cubs won a record 116 of 154 games. They then won back to back World Series titles in 1907–08
In 1902, Spalding, who by this time had revamped the roster to boast what would soon be one of the best teams of the early century, sold the club to Jim Hart, and the franchise became known as the Chicago Cubs. During this period, which has become known as baseball's dead-ball era, three Cub infielders; Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance were made famous as a double-play combination by Franklin P. Adams' poem Baseball's Sad Lexicon. The poem first appeared in the July 18, 1910 edition of the New York Evening Mail. Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown, Jack Taylor, Ed Reulbach, Jack Pfiester and Orval Overall were several key pitchers for the Cubs during this time period. With Chance acting as player-manager from 1905 to 1912 the Cubs won four pennants and two World Series titles over a five-year span. Although they fell to the White Sox in the 1906 World Series, The Cubs recorded a record 116 victories and the best winning percentage (.763) in Major League history. With mostly the same roster, Chicago won back to back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908. Their appearance in three consecutive World Series made the Cubs the first Major League Club to play three times in the Fall Classic. Likewise, their back-to-back World Series victories in 1907 and 1908 made them the first club to win two World Series.
The next season, veteran catcher Johnny Kling left the team to become a professional pocket billiards player. Some historians think Kling's absence was significant enough to prevent the Cubs from also winning a third straight title in 1909, as they finished 6 games out of first place. When Kling returned the next year, the Cubs won the pennant again, but lost to the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1910 World Series.
In 1914, advertising executive Albert Lasker obtained a large block of the club's shares and before the 1916 season assumed majority ownership of the franchise. Lasker brought in a wealthy partner, Charles Weeghman, 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, which had been constructed for the Whales only two years earlier. The Cubs responded by winning a pennant in the war-shortened season of 1918, where they played a part in another team's curse. The Boston Red Sox defeated Grover Cleveland Alexander's Cubs four games to two in the 1918 World Series. After the victory Boston's owner sold its star pitcher, Babe Ruth, to the New York Yankees to help funding of a Broadway play, and thus starting a tale of futility which would last 86 years, known as Curse of the Bambino.
The Wrigley years (1921–1981)
During what is often called baseball's "golden age", one of Cubs's minority owners, William Wrigley Jr., who also happened to be the owner of Wrigley Company, a Chicago-based maker of chewing gum, would begin to increase his share of ownership. Wrigley was responsible for the 1917 acquisition of astute baseball man William Veeck, Sr. to serve as Vice-President and Treasurer, and for later promoting Veeck to Club President in 1919. In 1921 Wrigley bought Weeghman's shares and by 1925 had acquired most of Lasker's shares as well. Wrigley then changed the name of Weeghman Park to its current name, Wrigley Field, in perhaps the earliest example of corporate naming rights. With Wrigley's vast monetary resources and Veeck's front-office savvy, the "double-Bills" soon had the Cubs back in business in the National League, building a team that would put numerous future Hall of Famers in Cub uniforms. Some of the most notable of these players were Hack Wilson, Gabby Hartnett, and Rogers Hornsby and thus Chicago remained strong contenders for the next decade.
1929–1938: Every three years
During the end of the first decade of the double-Bills' guidance, the Cubs won the NL pennant in 1929 and then achieved the unusual feat of winning a pennant every three years, following up the 1929 flag with league titles in 1932, 1935, and 1938. Unfortunately, their success did not extend to the Fall Classic, as they fell to their AL rivals each time. The '32 series against the Yankees featured Babe Ruth's "called shot" at Wrigley Field. There were some historic moments for the Cubs as well; they claimed the '35 pennant in thrilling fashion, winning a record 21 games in a row in September. The '38 club saw Dizzy Dean lead the team's pitching staff and provided a historic moment when they won a crucial late-season game at Wrigley Field over the Pittsburgh Pirates with a walk-off home run by Gabby Hartnett, which became known in baseball lore as "The Homer in the Gloamin'". By 1939, the "double-Bills" (Wrigley and Veeck) had both died, and the front office, now under P.K. Wrigley, found itself unable to rekindle the kind of success that P.K.'s father had created, and so the team slipped into a few years of mediocrity.
1945: The Curse
The Cubs enjoyed one more pennant at the close of World War II, finishing 98–56. Due to the wartime travel restrictions, the first three games of the 1945 World Series were played in Detroit, where the Cubs won two games, including a one-hitter by Claude Passeau, and the final four were played at Wrigley. In Game 4 of the Series, the Curse of the Billy Goat was allegedly laid upon the Cubs when P.K. Wrigley ejected Billy Sianis, who had come to Game 4 with two box seat tickets, one for him and one for his goat. They paraded around for a few innings, but Wrigley demanded the goat leave the park due to its unpleasant odor. Upon his ejection, Mr. Sianis uttered, "The Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more." The Cubs lost Game 4, lost the Series, and have not been back since. It has also been said by many that Sianis put a "curse" on the Cubs, apparently preventing the team from playing in the World Series. After losing the 1945 World Series to the Detroit Tigers, the Cubs finished with winning seasons the next two years, but those teams did not enter post-season play.
In the following two decades after Sianis' ill will, the Cubs played mostly forgettable baseball, finishing among 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 1954 after admitting the team was unlikely to finish above fifth place. Although shortstop Ernie Banks would become one of the star players in the league during the next decade, finding help for him proved a difficult task, as quality players such as Hank Sauer were few and far between. This, combined with poor ownership decisions (such as the College of Coaches), hampered on-field performance.
1969: The fall of '69
The late-1960s brought hope of a renaissance, with third baseman Ron Santo, pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, and outfielder Billy Williams joining Banks. After losing a dismal 103 games in 1966, the Cubs brought home consecutive winning records in '67 and '68, marking the first time a Cub team had accomplished that feat in over two decades.
In 1969 the Cubs, managed by Leo Durocher, 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 8 1⁄2 games over the St. Louis Cardinals and by 9 1⁄2 games over the New York Mets. Ultimately, however, the Cubs wilted under pressure. Although they had their best season in decades at 92–70, they lost key games against the Mets and finished the season a disappointing eight games out of first place while the Mets exploded past them by winning thirty-nine of their last fifty games. 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.
1977–1979: The June Swoon
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 70s 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 28 at 47–22, boasting an 8½ 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 31. The Cubs finished in 4th place at 81–81, while Philadelphia surged, finishing with 101 wins. Ironically, the following two seasons also saw the Cubs 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 Cubs' 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, in 1981 the Cubs hired GM Dallas Green from Philadelphia to turn around the franchise. Green had managed the 1980 Phillies to the World Series title. One of his early GM moves brought in a young Phillies minor-league 3rd baseman named Ryne Sandberg, along with Larry Bowa for Ivan Dejesus. The 1983 Cubs had finished 71–91 under Lee Elia, who was fired before the season ended by Green. Green continued the culture of change and overhauled the Cubs roster, front-office and coaching staff prior to 1984. Jim Frey was hired to manage the 1984 Cubs, with Don Zimmer coaching 3rd base and Billy Connors serving as pitching coach.
Green shored up the 1984 roster with a series of transactions. In December, 1983 Scott Sanderson was acquired from Montreal in a three-team deal with San Diego for Carmelo Martinez. Pinch hitter Richie Hebner (.333 BA in 1984) was signed as a free-agent. In spring training, moves continued: LF Gary Matthews and CF Bobby Dernier came from Philadelphia on March 26, for Bill Campbell and a minor leaguer. Reliever Tim Stoddard (10–6 3.82, 7 saves) was acquired the same day for a minor leaguer; veteran pitcher (and future Hall Of Famer) Ferguson Jenkins was released.
The team's commitment to contend was complete when Green made a midseason deal on June 13 to shore up the starting rotation due to injuries to Rick Reuschel (5–5) and Sanderson. The deal brought 1979 NL Rookie of the Year pitcher Rick Sutcliffe from the Cleveland Indians. Iowa Cub Joe Carter and CF Mel Hall were sent to Cleveland for Sutcliffe and back-up C Ron Hassey (.333 with Cubs in 1984). Sutcliffe (5–5 with the Indians) immediately joined Sanderson (8–5 3.14), Eckersley (10–8 3.03), Steve Trout (13–7 3.41) and Dick Ruthven (6–10 5.04) in the starting rotation. Sutcliffe proceeded to go 16–1 for Cubs and capture the Cy Young Award.
The Cubs 1984 starting lineup was very strong. It consisted of LF Matthews (.291 14–82 101 runs 17 SB), C Jody Davis (.256 19–94), RF Keith Moreland (.279 16–80), SS Larry Bowa (.223 10 SB), 1B Leon "Bull" Durham (.279 23–96 16SB), CF Dernier (.278 45 SB), 3B Ron Cey (.240 25–97), Closer Lee Smith(9–7 3.65 33 saves) and 1984 NL MVP and future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg (.314 19–84 114 runs, 19 triples,32 SB).
Reserve players Hebner, Thad Bosley, Henry Cotto, Hassey and Dave Owen produced exciting moments. The bullpen depth of Rich Bordi, George Frazier, Warren Brusstar and Dickie Noles did their job in getting the game to Smith or Stoddard.
At the top of the order, Dernier and Sandberg were exciting, aptly coined "the Daily Double" by Harry Caray. With strong defense – Dernier CF and Sandberg 2B, won the NL Gold Glove- solid pitching and clutch hitting, the Cubs were a well balanced team. Following the "Daily Double," Matthews, Durham, Cey, Moreland and Davis gave the Cubs an order with no gaps to pitch around. Sutcliffe anchored a strong top to bottom rotation and Smith was one of the top closers in the game.
The shift in the Cubs' fortunes were characterized June 23 on the "NBC Saturday Game of the Week" contest against the St. Louis Cardinals. it has since been dubbed simply "The Sandberg Game." With the nation watching and Wrigley Field packed, Sandberg emerged as a superstar with not one, but two game-tying home runs against Cardinals closer Bruce Sutter. With his shots in the 9th and 10th innings Wrigley Field erupted and Sandberg set the stage for a comeback win that cemented the Cubs as the team to beat in the East. No one would catch them.
In early August the Cubs swept the Mets in a 4-game home series that further distanced them from the pack. An infamous Keith Moreland-Ed Lynch fight erupted after Lynch hit Moreland with a pitch, perhaps forgetting Moreland was once a linebacker at the University of Texas. It was the second game of a double header and the Cubs had won the first game in part due to a three run home run by Moreland. After the bench-clearing fight the Cubs won the second game, and the sweep put the Cubs at 68–45.
When the Cubs clinched the Eastern Division with a Sutcliffe complete-game 2-hitter at Pittsburgh on September 23, the franchise had its first title of any kind since 1945. The celebrating crowd outside at Wrigley Field was enormous despite the fact the Cubs were on the road. The Cubs concluded the regular season with a 96–65 record, 6.5 games ahead of the 2nd place Mets.
In 1984, the two leagues, American and National, each had two divisions, East and West. The divisional winners met in a best-of-5 series to advance to the World Series, in a "2–3" format, first two games were played at the home of the team who did not have home field advantage. Then the last three games were played at the home of the team, with home field advantage. Thus the first two games were played at Wrigley Field and the next three at the home of their opponents, San Diego. A common and unfounded myth is that since Wrigley Field did not have lights at that time the National League decided to give the home field advantage to the winner of the NL West. In fact, home field advantage had rotated between the winners of the East and West since 1969 when the league expanded. In even numbered years, the NL West had home field advantage. In odd numbered years, the NL East had home field advantage. Since the NL East winners had had home field advantage in 1983, the NL West winners were entitled to it.
The confusion may stem from the fact that Major League Baseball did decide that, should the Cubs make it to the World Series, the American League winner would have home field advantage. At the time home field advantage was rotated between each league. Odd numbered years the AL had home field advantage. Even numbered years the NL had home field advantage. In the 1982 World Series the St. Louis Cardinals of the NL had home field advantage. In the 1983 World Series the Baltimore Orioles of the AL had home field advantage.
In the NLCS, the Cubs easily won the first two games at Wrigley Field against the San Diego Padres. The Padres were the winners of the Western Division with Steve Garvey, a young Future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Eric Show, future Hall of Famer Goose Gossage and Alan Wiggins. With wins of 13–0 and 4–2, the Cubs needed to win only one game of the next three in San Diego to make to the World Series. After being beaten in Game 3 7–1. The Cubs lost Game 4 when Smith, with the game tied 5–5, allowed a game-winning home run to Garvey in the bottom of the ninth inning. In Game 5 the Cubs took a 3–0 lead into the 6th inning, and a 3–2 lead into the seventh with Sutcliffe (who won the Cy Young Award that year) still on the mound. Then, Leon Durham had a sharp grounder go under his glove. This critical error helped the Padres win the game 6–3, with a 4-run 7th inning and keep Chicago out of the 1984 World Series against the Detroit Tigers. The loss ended a spectacular season for the Cubs, one that brought alive a slumbering franchise and made the Cubs relevant for a whole new generation of Cubs fans.
The Padres would be defeated by Sparky Anderson's Tigers in the World Series.
The 1985 season brought high hopes. The club started out well, going 35–19 through mid-June, but injuries to Sutcliffe and others in the pitching staff contributed to a 13 game losing streak that pushed the Cubs out of contention.
1989: NL East champions
In 1989, the first full season with night baseball at Wrigley Field, Don Zimmer's Cubs were led by a core group of veterans in Ryne Sandberg, Cy-Young runner-up Rick Sutcliffe and Andre Dawson, who were boosted by a crop of youngsters such as Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston, Greg Maddux, Rookie of the Year Jerome Walton, and Rookie of the Year Runner-Up Dwight Smith. The Cubs won the NL East once again that season winning 93 games. This time the Cubs met the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. After splitting the first two games at home, the Cubs headed to the Bay Area, where despite holding a lead at some point in each of the next three games, bullpen meltdowns and managerial blunders ultimately led to three straight losses. The Cubs couldn't overcome the efforts of Will Clark, whose home run off Maddux, just after a managerial visit to the mound, led Maddux to think Clark knew what pitch was coming. Afterward, Maddux would speak into his glove during any mound conversation, beginning what is a norm today. Mark Grace was 11–17 in the series with 8 RBI. Eventually, the Giants lost to "The Bash Brothers" and the Oakland A's in the famous "Earthquake Series."
1998: Wild card race & home run chase
The '98 season would begin on a somber note with the death of legendary broadcaster Harry Caray. After the retirement of Ryne Sandberg and the trade of Dunston, the Cubs needed pop and the signing Henry Rodriguez to bat cleanup provided protection for Sammy Sosa in the lineup. Mark Grace turned in one of his best seasons. Called up after beginning the year at Iowa, the club got a Rookie of the Year effort from pitcher Kerry Wood. Wood's signature performance was a one-hit, 20 strikeout performance versus the Houston Astros that established the flamethrower as an immediate star. "H-Rod" paid dividends by slugging 31 round-trippers, Rod Beck anchored a strong bullpen and Sosa earned the N.L.'s MVP award with a 66 home run season. The club and Sosa caught fire in June, with Sosa hitting 20 home runs in the month. Eventually, with all media attention on Sosa and Mark McGwire of the Cardinals with their home run totals rising, the Cubs ended the regular season tied in the down-to-the-wire Wild Card chase with the San Francisco Giants. This resulted with the Giants and Cubs squaring off in a one game playoff at Wrigley Field. Third baseman Gary Gaetti hit the eventual game winning homer and Beck got Joe Carter to pop up to kill a Giants rally in the 9th inning and the Cubs celebrated. The win propelled the Cubs into the postseason once again with a 90–73 regular season 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. The Cubs retained many players who experienced career years in '98, and after a fast start in 1999, they collapsed again (starting with being swept at the hands of the cross-town White Sox in mid-June) and finished in the bottom of the division for the next two seasons.
2001: Playoff push
Despite losing fan favorite Grace to free agency, and the lack of production from newcomer Todd Hundley, skipper Don Baylor's Cubs put together a good season in 2001. The season started with Mack Newton being brought in to preach "positive thinking." One of the biggest stories of the season transpired as the club made a midseason deal for Fred McGriff, which was drawn out for nearly a month as McGriff debated waiving his no-trade clause, as the Cubs led the wild card race by 2.5 games in early September. That run died when Preston Wilson hit a three run walk off homer off of closer Tom "Flash" Gordon, which halted the team's momentum. The team was unable to make another serious charge, and finished at 88–74, five games behind both Houston and St. Louis, who tied for first. Sosa had perhaps his finest season and Jon Lieber led the staff with a 20 win season.
2003: Five more outs
The Cubs had high expectations in 2002, but the squad played poorly, and the club responded by hiring Dusty Baker and by making some major moves in '03. Most notably, they traded with the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Kenny Lofton and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, and rode dominant pitching, led by Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, as the Cubs led the division down the stretch.
Chicago halted St. Louis' run to the playoffs by taking 4 of 5 games from the Cardinals at Wrigley Field in early September. The Cubs could easily have swept the series had it not been for a blown call in the third game, in which a line drive by Moisés Alou late in the game was called foul by the third base umpire. Replays clearly showed that the ball was indeed fair, which would have scored at least two runs had the correct call been made. This series ultimately led to the Cubs winning their first division title in 14 years.
In what was a dramatic five game series, their NLDS victory over the Atlanta Braves was the franchise's first postseason series win since they went to the World Series in 1908, when they beat the Detroit Tigers in five games. After losing an extra-inning game in Game 1, the Cubs rallied and took a 3 games to 1 lead over the Wild Card Florida Marlins in the NLCS. Florida shut the Cubs out in Game 5, but young pitcher Mark Prior led the Cubs in Game 6 as they took a 3–0 lead into the 8th inning and it was at this point when a now-infamous incident took place. Several spectators attempted to catch a foul ball off the bat of Luis Castillo. One of the fans, Steve Bartman, of Northbrook, IL, reached for the ball and deflected it away from the glove of Moisés Alou for the second out of the inning. Alou reacted angrily toward the stands, and after the game stated that he would have caught the ball. Alou at one point recanted, saying he would not have been able to make the play, but later said this was just an attempt to make Bartman feel better and believing the whole incident should be forgotten. Interference was not called on the play, as the ball was ruled to be on the spectator side of the wall. Castillo was eventually walked by Prior. Two batters later, and to the horror of the packed stadium, Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez misplayed a potential inning ending double play, loading the bases and leading to eight Florida runs and a Marlin victory. Despite sending Kerry Wood to the mound and holding a lead twice, the Cubs ultimately dropped Game 7, and failed to reach the World Series.
In 2004, despite the return of Greg Maddux and a midseason deal for Nomar Garciaparra, misfortune struck the Cubs again. They led the Wild Card by 1.5 games over San Francisco and Houston on September 25, and both of those teams lost that day, giving the Cubs a chance at increasing the lead to a commanding 2.5 games with only eight games remaining in the season, but reliever LaTroy Hawkins blew a save to the Mets, and the Cubs lost the game in extra innings, a defeat that seemingly deflated the team, as they proceeded to drop 6 of their last 8 games as the Astros won the Wild Card. Despite the fact that the Cubs had won 89 games, this fallout was decidedly unlovable, as the Cubs traded superstar Sammy Sosa after he had left the season's final game early and then lied about it publicly. Already a controversial figure in the clubhouse after his corked-bat incident, Sammy alienated much of his fan base, the few teammates still on good terms with him, and possibly tarnished his place in Cubs' lore for years to come. The disappointing season also saw fans start to become frustrated with the constant injuries to ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Additionally, the '04 season led to the departure of popular commentator Steve Stone, who had become increasingly critical of management during broadcasts and was verbally attacked by reliever Kent Mercker. Things were no better in 2005, despite a career year from Derrek Lee and the emergence of closer Ryan Dempster. The club struggled and suffered more key injuries, only managing to win 79 games after being picked by many to be a serious contender for the N.L. pennant. In 2006, the Cubs finished 66–96, last in the NL Central.
2007–2008: Back to back division titles
After finishing last in the N.L. Central with 66 wins in 2006, the Cubs re-tooled and went from "worst to first" in 2007. In the offseason they inked Alfonso Soriano to the richest contract in Cubs history, 8 years, $136 million, 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 pitcher's 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 1906–08. 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, including catcher Geovany Soto, who was named Rookie of the Year."The Boys in Blue" took control of the division by sweeping a four game series in Milwaukee. 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. 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.
2009–present: The Ricketts Era
Apparently handcuffed by Tribune's bankruptcy and the sale of the club to the Ricketts' family, the Cubs' quest for a NL Central 3-peat started with notice that there would be less invested into contracts than in previous years. Once again, however, trade speculation dominated the headlines at the winter meetings, this time surrounding Padres' ace Jake Peavy, which, much like the Brian Roberts talks a year earlier, resulted in nothing. Piniella blamed the '08 post season failure on the lack of left-handed hitters, and a bevy of high caliber outfielders fit the bill. Ultimately, the club settled on inking oft-troubled switch hitter Milton Bradley over Adam Dunn, Raúl Ibáñez, and Bobby Abreu. The bench and bullpen were also overhauled in a bevy of money saving moves, and fan favorites Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa both left for the Cleveland Indians. Kevin Gregg was acquired from the Marlins to replace Wood, and Aaron Miles was signed to replace DeRosa.
Led by the strong play of Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly and rookie pitcher Randy Wells, the club started well, but fell on hard times as injuries took their toll. Nearly every key player suffered injury and the Northsiders struggled into the All Star break with a disappointing .500 record. Carlos Mármol eventually replaced Gregg as closer and the team stayed in the race, but they were distracted by Bradley, whose poor hitting and even poorer attitude became a major issue as the season progressed. Bradley complained about being heckled, booed and "hated" by bleacher fans and expressed his overall unhappiness in Chicago, eventually leading to a season ending suspension. Despite this, Chicago engaged St. Louis in a see-saw battle for first place into August, but the Cardinals played to a torrid 20–6 pace that month, designating their rivals to battle in the Wild Card race, from which they were eliminated in the season's final week. On the bright side, the Boys in Blue posted a winning record (83–78) for the third consecutive season, the first time the club had done so since 1972, and a new era of ownership under the Ricketts' family was approved by MLB owners in early October.
2010: Lou Piniella retires
Milton Bradley was traded to Seattle in the off-season, and was replaced by Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady as Lou Piniella entered his fourth season with the team, who were expected to contend with St. Louis in the divisional race. Rookie Starlin Castro debuted in early May, as the starting shortstop. However, the club played poorly in the early season, finding themselves 10 games under .500 at the end of June. In addition, long-time ace Carlos Zambrano was pulled from a game against the White Sox on June 25 after a tirade and shoving match with Derrek Lee, and was suspended indefinitely by Jim Hendry, who called the conduct "unacceptable."
On July 20, Piniella announced his retirement, effective at the end of the 2010 season.
On August 2, The Cubs tied a club record for most allowed hits in a single game. Cubs pitchers gave up a total of 26 hits in their 18 to 1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. The last time Cubs pitchers allowed 26 hits was back on September 2, 1957 against the Milwaukee Braves. The Cubs only recorded 4 hits and were out hit by Prince Fielder alone who had five hits.
On August 22, Lou Piniella announced that he would leave the Cubs for the rest of the 2010 season to take care of his sick mother. Mike Quade took over as the interim manager for the final 37 games of the year. Despite being well out of playoff contention, during that 37 game stretch, the Cubs went 24–13 under Quade, posting the best record in baseball during that stretch. During these games, the Cubs got a chance to see what their roster would look like in 2011, by bringing up minor league players such as Darwin Barney, Brad Snyder, Bobby Scales, Welington Castillo, Jeff Samardzija, Micah Hoffpauir, Scott Maine, Marcos Mateo, and Thomas Diamond.
On October 19, Mike Quade was named the next Cubs manager. He has been given a two-year deal and a club option for 2013. On December 2, Cubs broadcaster and former third baseman, Ron Santo, died due to complications from bladder cancer and diabetes, he spent 13 seasons with the Cubs, and is regarded as one of the greatest players not in the Hall of Fame.
Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray
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, the 34-season span from 1948 to 1981. He covered 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!" always followed a home run. 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, although his 17-year tenure, from 1982 to 1997, 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 St Louis 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 ball girls.
The Cubs still have a "guest conductor," usually a celebrity, lead the crowd in singing "Take me out to the ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch to honor Caray's memory. The quality of their renditions and ability to sing in tune vary widely. Chicago icons often return annually, such as former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, who tends to sing the song very fast and worse than awful. Caray is also honored with a statue located at the corner of Sheffield and Addison street. During the 1998 season, a permanent window with Caray's caricature was installed in the Wrigley Field broadcast booth, and a patch with the same caricature along with 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, and is now an announcer for the south side team, the Chicago White Sox. Chip Caray also left, joining his father Skip Caray (who would die in 2008) on TBS, providing play-by-play for the Atlanta Braves.
Memorable events and records
On September 23, 1908, the Cubs and New York Giants were involved in a tight pennant race. The two clubs were tied in the bottom of the ninth inning at the Polo Grounds, and N.Y. had runners on first and third and two outs when Al Bridwell singled, scoring Moose McCormick from third with the Giants' apparent winning run, but the runner on first base, rookie Fred Merkle, went half way to second and then sprinted to the clubhouse after McCormick touched home plate. As fans swarmed the field, Cub infielder Johnny Evers retrieved the ball and touched second. Since there were 2 outs, a forceout was called at second base, ending the inning and the game. Because of the tie the Giants and Cubs ended up tied for first place. The Giants lost the ensuing one-game playoff and the Cubs went on to the World Series.
The Homer in the Gloamin'
On September 28, 1938, with the Cubs and Pirates tied at 5, Gabby Hartnett stepped to the plate in a lightless Wrigley Field that was gradually being overcome by darkness and visibility was becoming difficult. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the umpires ready to end the game, Hartnett launched Pirate hurler Mace Brown's offering into the gloom and haze. This would be remembered as his "Homer in the Gloamin."
Rick Monday and the U.S. flag
On April 25, 1976, at Dodger Stadium, two protestors ran into the outfield and tried to set fire to a U.S. flag. When Cubs outfielder Rick Monday noticed the flag on the ground and the men fumbling with matches and lighter fluid, he dashed over and snatched the flag to thunderous applause. When he came up to bat in the next half-inning, he got a standing ovation from the crowd and the stadium titantron flashed the message, "RICK MONDAY... YOU MADE A GREAT PLAY..." Monday later said, "If you're going to burn the flag, don't do it around me. I've been to too many veterans' hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it."
The Sandberg game
On June 23, 1984, Chicago trailed St. Louis 9–8 in the bottom of the ninth on NBC's Game of the Week when Ryne Sandberg, known mostly for his glove, slugged a game-tying home run off ace closer Bruce Sutter. Despite this, the Cardinals scored two runs in the top of the tenth. Sandberg came up again facing Bruce Sutter with one man on base, and hit yet another game tying home run, and Ryno became a household name. The Cubs won what has become known as "The Sandberg Game" in the 11th inning.
On April 23, 2008, against the Colorado Rockies, the Cubs recorded the 10,000th regular-season win in their franchise's history dating back to the beginning of the National League in 1876. The Cubs reached the milestone with an overall National League record of 10,000 wins and 9,465 losses. Chicago is only the second club in Major League Baseball history to attain this milestone, the first having been the San Francisco Giants in mid-season 2005. The Cubs, however, hold the mark for victories for a team in a single city. The Chicago club's 77–77 record in the National Association (1871, 1874–1875) is not included in MLB record keeping. Post-season series are also not included in the totals. To honor the milestone, the Cubs flew an extra white flag displaying "10,000" in blue, along with the customary "W" flag.
Tape-measure home runs
On May 11, 2000, Glenallen Hill, facing Brewers starter Steve Woodard, became the first, and thus far only player, to hit a pitched ball onto the roof of a five-story residential building across Waveland Ave, beyond Wrigley Field's left field wall. The shot was estimated at well over 500 feet (150 m), but the Cubs fell to Milwaukee 12–8.
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 that hit the third porch roof on the east side of Kenmore, which was estimated at 555 feet (169 m), and is regarded as the longest home run in Wrigley Field history.
"White flag time at Wrigley!"
The term "White flag time at Wrigley!", coined by former play-by-play broadcaster Chip Caray, means the Cubs have won.
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". 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 as T-shirts with the same layout. In 2009, the tradition spilled over to the NHL as Chicago Blackhawks fans adopted a red and black "W" flag of their own.
Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville
The Cubs 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. The area around the ballpark, originally known as "East Lake View" became known as "Wrigleyville" during the late 1980s as a real estate marketing term to attract yuppies from the Lincoln Park area. There is a dense collection of sportsbars and restaurants in the area, most with baseball inspired themes, including Harry Caray's, Murphy's Bleachers, and Sluggers. Many of the apartment buildings surround Wrigley have built bleachers on their roofs for fans to watch games from. 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, 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 "Bleacher Bums" is a name given to fans, many of whom spend much of the day heckling, who sit in the bleacher section at Wrigley Field. Initially, the group was called "bums" because it referred to a group of fans who were at most games, and since those games were all day games, it was assumed they did not work. Many of those fans were, and are still, students at Chicago area colleges, such as DePaul University, Loyola, Northwestern University, and Illinois-Chicago. A Broadway play, starring Joe Mantegna, Dennis Farina, Dennis Franz, and James Belushi ran for years and was based on a group of Cub fans who frequented the club's games. The group was started in 1967 by dedicated fan Ron Grousl and "mad bugler" Mike Murphy, who was a sports radio host during mid days on Chicago-based WSCR AM 670 "The Score". Murphy alleges that Grousl started the Wrigley tradition of throwing back opposing teams' home run balls. The current group is headed by Derek Schaul. More recently, the bleachers have had the stereotype of being populated by attractive and lightly dressed women. Prior to the 2006 season, they were updated, with new shops and private bar (The Batter's Eye) being added, and Bud Light bought naming rights to the bleacher section, dubbing them the Bud Light Bleachers. Bleachers at Wrigley are general admission.
During the summer of 1969, a Chicago studio group produced a single record called "Hey Hey! Holy Mackerel! (The Cubs Song)" whose title and lyrics incorporated the catch-phrases of the respective TV and radio announcers for the Cubs, Jack Brickhouse and Vince Lloyd. Several members of the Cubs recorded an album called Cub Power which contained a cover of the song. The song received a good deal of local airplay that summer, associating it very strongly with that bittersweet season. It was played much less frequently thereafter, although it remained an unofficial Cubs theme song for some years after.
For many years, Cubs radio broadcasts started with "It's a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game" by the Harry Simeone Chorale. In 1979, Roger Bain released a 45 rpm record of his song "Thanks Mr. Banks," to honor “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks.
The song "Go, Cubs, Go!" by Steve Goodman was recorded early in the 1984 season, and was heard frequently during that season. Goodman died in September of that year, four days before the Cubs clinched the National League Eastern Division title, their first title in 39 years. Since 1984, the song started being played from time to time at Wrigley Field; since 2007, the song has been played over the loudspeakers following each Cubs home victory.
In 2007, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder composed a song dedicated to the team called "All the Way". Vedder, a Chicago native, and lifelong Cubs fan, composed the song at the request of Ernie Banks. Pearl Jam has only played this song live one time, on August 2, 2007 at the Vic Theater in Chicago, IL. Eddie Vedder has played this song live twice, at his solo shows at the Chicago Auditorium on August 21 and 22, 2008.
An album entitled Take Me Out to a Cubs Game was released in 2008. It is a collection of 17 songs and other recordings related to the team, including Harry Caray's final performance of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on September 21, 1997, the Steve Goodman song mentioned above, and a newly-recorded rendition of "Talkin' Baseball" (subtitled "Baseball and the Cubs") by Terry Cashman. The album was produced in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Cubs' 1908 World Series victory and contains sounds and songs of the Cubs and Wrigley Field.
The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series championship since 1908 and have not appeared in the Fall Classic since 1945, although between their postseason appearance in 1984 and their most recent in 2008, they have made the postseason a respectable six times. It is the longest title drought in all four of the major American professional sports leagues, which includes the NFL, NBA, NHL, as well as 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. Despite their championship drought, the Cubs have won three fictional World Series in the films Rookie of the Year, Back to the Future Part II, and Taking Care of Business.
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