Cubs at Wrigley give fans no rings but 100 years of stories
In the 100 years that the Chicago Cubs have played baseball at Wrigley Field, the iconic ballpark has yet to hoist one world-championship banner. But, since the Cubs beat the Reds in the inaugural game on April 20, 1916, the Cubs and Wrigley have fueled plenty of stories.
In "Cubs 100: A Century at Wrigley," authors Dan Campana, 39, of Streamwood, and Rob Carroll, 37, of Rockford, reveal insights from Cubs greats and not-so-greats, broadcasters and reporters, ushers and fans.
"It documents what being a Cubs fan is all about," says Carroll. While the book's 100 tales include stories from fans such as Liz Gumprecht of Hawthorn Woods, who married her husband, Kris, at Wrigley Field in 2009, it also features stories from former Cubs Andre Dawson, Burt Hooton and Jody Davis, and baseball legends such as former St. Louis (and White Sox) Manager Tony La Russa and pitcher John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves.
"We wanted to focus more on the players this time around," Carroll adds, noting that he and Campana teamed up in 2013 for a book about the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field.
"The players have the most interesting memories because this is their workplace," Campana says. "This is their office."
Some of that work was produced by Cubs Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg who, naturally, talks about that game in 1984 when he slugged two home runs off St. Louis closer Bruce Sutter. But he also tells of getting his first hit at Wrigley Field as a rookie for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Fellow Hall-of-Famer Fergie Jenkins talks about his 20-win seasons at Wrigley, but he also talks about his Wrigley Field debut with the Phillies, when he gave up a ninth-inning home run to Ron Santo. "Well," the rookie Jenkins told reporters after the game. "I'd hate to pitch my whole career in this ballpark."
Former Kane County Cougars Manager Mark Grudzielanek remembers the 2003 playoff collapse, infamous for a foul-ball incident involving a fan. As the Cubs second-baseman that season, Grudzielanek saw that controversy unfold, but says he still thought the Cubs would preserve the lead thanks to a routine grounder to short two batters later.
"I'm sitting at second base, ready to turn this double play and get out of the inning, and…," Grudzielanek says, recounting how generally smooth-fielding shortstop Alex Gonzalez dropped the ball.
"You would have thought this happened last week," Campana says of getting Grudzielanek to relive that memory. "It still devastates him. His eyes dropped as he was telling it, almost as if he watching that ball again."
Not to dwell on a dropped ball, but the book includes a story from former outfielder Brant Brown. He might be best remembered for inspiring radio legend Ron Santo's anguished "Oh, noooo!" wail as Brown dropped a flyball in 1998 with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning, costing the Cubs the chance to clinch a wild-card berth. Instead, Brown's story is about how earlier in that same season, he hit a walk-off homer at Wrigley to give the Cubs a sweep in the inaugural Crosstown Series against the White Sox.
Campana made sure that story made the book, because he was at that game. But the author's story is about the first time he took his future wife, Jen, to a game. "I never enjoyed myself at Wrigley so much with baseball having so little to do with my mood," he recalls.
He comes by his fondness for the Friendly Confines naturally.
"My parents met in the bleachers," says Campana, who grew up in Hanover Park and graduated from Hoffman Estates High School in 1995. Campana and his wife also have an 11-year-old son now, whose name is pronounced Ryan, but spelled Ryne, just like Sandberg.
"Guess who won the coin flip for that?" Campana says. "About a month before he was due, we did a best-of-seven coin flip to decide the spelling. I won four to nothing, a sweep."
Even though the surprising young and talented Cubs were swept in last fall's National League championship series, and had to watch the hated New York Mets celebrate on the Wrigley Field infield, both Carroll and Campana have high hopes that the 2016 Cubs can provide a happier end to the season. But they've seen enough of the Cubs and Wrigley to shun any predictions.
"I'll never say, 'They are going to win it all this year,'" Campana says.
But if the Cubs do become 2016 World Series champs, it will add a memorable 101st story to the lore of the Cubs and Wrigley Field.