Longtime Daily Herald sportswriter Bruce Miles teams up with Jesse Rogers to tell the story of the Chicago Cubs

Writing a book on the history of the Chicago Cubs is a tall order.

Taller than the ivy-covered outfield walls. Taller than the flagpoles, which wave with numbers of past legends. Taller than the iconic scoreboard that still updates fans with inning-by-inning results.

But when you've lived through the devastating 1969 collapse as a youngster and then covered every significant event over the past two decades as a reporter, the task doesn't feel overwhelming in the least.

So when former Daily Herald reporter Bruce Miles was offered this opportunity by radio personality Jesse Rogers, he jumped at the chance.

"Jesse approached me in March of last year," said Miles, who started at the Herald in 1988 and covered the Cubs from 1998-2019. "I was at a Blackhawks morning skate, the phone rings and he says, 'I've got a project I'd like you to help me with. It's a series of essays on any aspects of Cubs history that you want to write about.'

"So I said, 'I'm very much interested because I covered so much of this and lived so much of this.'"

Chicago Cubs: A Curated History of the North Siders is Miles' third book. It is available for preorder on Amazon and will be stores June 6.

Miles wrote on nine subjects, while Rogers tackled four - including a terrific closing chapter on pranksters Ryan Dempster, Rick Sutcliffe and Ryne Sandberg.

Miles took a deep dive into Gabby Hartnett's "Homer in the Gloamin'" in 1938, the ups and downs of Sammy Sosa's star-crossed career, the ignominious Lou Brock trade, the brilliant Ryne Sandberg trade, the reasons why the 1969 squad remains revered to this day and more.

Fans will come away with a better understanding on these fascinating subjects thanks to the impressive storytelling skills of both authors.

"I did a lot of features for the paper, and to me this was like doing nine long features," Miles said.

Here are some more of Miles' thoughts, mainly on the Sosa chapter, which he confessed was his favorite to research and recount:

Q: You could have chosen any number of jumping off points when it came to Sammy. How did you decide on the news conference late in the 1998 season when he was sitting with Mark McGwire at St. Louis?

A: Because to me, the '98 home run race between McGwire and Sosa was the defining point of what made Sammy Sammy. That whole weekend - it was Labor Day weekend - you had these two guys going for the same thing who had vastly different approaches. Sammy embraced it, enjoyed it and played the media great. McGwire really didn't want to talk about it very much. Now here they are together in McGwire's home ballpark.

Then I went back in time to show how Sammy got to the White Sox from Texas - which I found very fascinating - and then from the White Sox to the Cubs.

Q: Should the Cubs and Sammy have reconciled by now?

A: Yes. And in the book, I present the scenario on how that could happen. There is a Cubs Hall of Fame independent of ownership and management. I'm on that committee, as are several other journalists and broadcast people. We meet every year.

I believe Sammy will be on the ballot this year. That's still to be determined because they've taken it by eras to catch up. If we elect Sammy, Tom Ricketts can say, 'Hey. I had nothing to do with this. An independent committee voted him on.'

Then Sammy comes to the ceremony. I think it's the easiest out for Ricketts that there could possibly be.

Q: Let's say Sammy never gets voted in. Shouldn't the two sides have come together by now?

A: Oh, absolutely.

Q: So why haven't they been able to mend fences? Is it the steroid cloud? Is it how he left the ballpark without permission during the season finale in 2004?

A: I don't think it's the way he left. I do think it's the steroid cloud because Tom has said that he wants Sammy to say certain things. What those things are, I don't know and Tom has never specified those. ... But, yes, this should have been resolved years ago.

It's too good of a story and Sammy meant so much to the Cubs and to the fans. They enjoyed all those home runs no matter how they were fueled. We all saw them. Yeah, it's long past due.

Q: How difficult was it to research and write the chapter on Gabby Hartnett's "Homer in the Gloamin'"?

A: Well, first of all it's one of those things that's always fascinated me. It's one of the most important and biggest home runs in baseball history, yet nobody knows anything about it. It didn't win the Cubs the pennant, but it helped them get there a couple of days later. There was no TV. There was radio, but there's no tape of it. There's no film of it. There's just a few still shots.

The Cubs were able to put me in touch with his granddaughter, who lives in the area. I sat down with her over coffee last summer and we had just a delightful talk. She told me stories about when she was a kid, about how Gabby would show up to do a clinic with kids in the pouring rain. So all of those things kind of figured into it. It's just kind of my interest in baseball history.

And I would have liked to go back even further, to like Tinker, Evers and Chance or Cap Anson or William Hulbert in the 1800s. But that was a chapter that needed to be written, for me to get it out of my system and to show other people: Hey, this is a big moment and more people should know about it.

Q: In the book, there are a lot of advanced stats like WAR, OPS and OPS-plus. Do you think everyone's up to speed on those by now or will you have older fans who are a bit lost?

A: That's a great question because when I started doing it, I tried to bring the reader along. When I wrote, I didn't care about the editor, I didn't care about other writers. I wrote for the reader - and that's sincere.

So when I first started doing slash lines and advanced stats, I explained them first. I always said, 'Batting average, on-base percentage and slugging.' I tried to limit WAR. OPS I like. ...

But, yeah, there's concern you might lose the casual fan, but I think I tried to do it in a way that brought that fan along and also spoke to the fans who are more interested in that.

Q: Final thoughts?

A: For me, the book was part memoir because I lived so much of it. I lived through the '69 Cubs and then I covered so much of it. So there were things I wanted to explore with the benefit of time and distance. When you're writing something day by day, you don't see the forest for the trees. But now that I've been away from it for a few years, I have some perspective.

And I wanted to satisfy my own curiosities about some things. Like why Kerry Wood still remains a phenomenon. He'll always be a popular Cubs. Why the '69 Cubs remain so popular even though they suffered a crushing end to their season. So I just wanted to satisfy those things and give voice to those moments.

Bruce Miles bio:

High school: Schaumburg, 1975; College: Loyola, 1979

Began at Daily Herald in 1988; Covered Cubs from 1998-2019

Family: Bruce and his wife, Arlene, have three kids and two grandchildren, ages 6 and 1

Bruce has written two other books:

• Harry Caray Voice of the Fans (with Pat Hughes), released in 2007

• The Phenom (with Jack Schneiderman), released in 2020

Bruce Miles, below, and Jesse Rogers wrote a new book about the Cubs. Courtesy of Bruce Miles
Cubs catcher Gabby Hartnett is pictured in an undated photo. One of the chapters in Bruce Miles' new book is about Hartnett's "Homer in the Gloamin.'" Associated Press
JUNE 24, 1969: Cubs third baseman Ron Santo clicks his heels after his sacrifice fly allowed the winning run to score for a 5-4 victory against Pittsburgh. Before he covered the Cubs for a living, Bruce Miles was a fan of the ill-fated '69 team. Associated Press

Leading off

Current Cubs manager David Ross wrote a forward for "Chicago Cubs: A Curated History of the North Siders." It reads, in part:

"Every time a right fielder runs out to his position, I get images of Sammy Sosa running out there. I'm sure there are images like that for fans every time they step into the stadium. I think that's where the love from fans comes from. It's a special ballpark where everyone wants to come experience a great show and a great product and make a memory. …

"So when I think about putting on that Cubs uniform, I think about the atmosphere around Wrigley. Wearing those pinstripes on a beautiful summer afternoon in Chicago and seeing fans with a beer in their hand excited for each and every game is what summer is supposed to be. And the Wrigleyville neighborhood has that energy and buzz to it. There's nothing like it."

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