J. D. Thorne, speaker and author of the new book Baseball’s Winning Ways  (Available on Amazon Books).

 

“Chicago Cubs History”

 

I love telling the stories.

 

I visited Wrigley Field growing up.  Imagine a nine year old tagging along with a gaggle of about 8 or 9 neighborhood kids on a summer day in the late 1950s from the Chicago suburbs having a day at the ballpark ON THEIR OWN.  The eldest would be like twelve years old.  A parent would drive us from Mt. Prospect to Des Plaines, where the Chicago bus system ended.  From Des Plaines we could take a bus to Howard Street in Evanston.  There we could transfer to the Elevated (or “EL”) for a ride to the Addison Avenue Station, the street at the ballpark.  When we returned on the round trip to Des Plaines, someone in the group would call from the local ice cream shop, the Sugar Bowl, for a parent to pick us up.

My mother would give me $5 for the day.  Sometimes I might have a couple bucks myself extra, but the $5 would cover our roundtrip travel, admission to the ballpark, and a footlong hot dog from Tastee Freeze just outside the park.  The decision we would have to make would be whether to buy a bleacher ticket for 60 cents or a grandstand seat for $1.25.  That choice meant that if we sat in the bleacher seats we could get an extra hot dog.  It was about 50 – 50 which way we would go?

The Cubs were usually a second division club.  But they had some great players, like shortstop Ernie Banks.  Also, sometimes just watching the stars of the opposing teams made the expedition worthwhile.  I saw players like Stan Musial of the Cards, Roberto Clemente of the Pirates, Hank Aaron of the Braves, Willie Mays of Giants, and later on, Johnny Bench as a 19 year old rookie for the Reds.  I saw Sandy Koufax pitch!

In 1958 for my 10th birthday it just so happened the Cubs hosted the All–Star game.  My father arranged for box seat tickets for my brother and I to attend it.  It was a beautiful summer day as my father took us and picked us up after the game.

There was always that special moment when one would first come into the stadium and see the beautifully manicured emerald infield and outfield grass.  Ah, . . . .

The history goes back further with my father, an inveterate long-suffering Cub’s fan.  He could tell the story of being 16 years old attending the first game of the World Series in 1929.  This game was interesting in baseball lore because of a managerial move made by opposition manager Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics.  As opposed to pitching his ace, Lefty Grove, who won 20 games that year, without saying anything to the press to start the game, veteran hurler Howard Ehmke, who had won 7 games that season, walked out to pitcher’s mound.  Mack had the idea about six weeks earlier, and then asked the veteran Ehmke to take the end of the season to solely scout the Cubs.  Ehmke threw a mix of slow curve balls and other off speed with an almost underhand delivery. He completely mastered the hard hitting Cubs who hit .300 as a team on the season, with players Rogers Hornsby, Kiki Cuyler, and Hack Wilson.  Ehmke stuck out 13 Cubs, notching the victory.

My father was also at Wrigley Field for the 3rd game of the World Series in 1932.  My father and his cousin, also an amateur ballplayer, decided to wait all night in line before the game for tickets.  He said extra bleacher seats were added, and he sat there overlooking the field.  During the night he walked down to the lake to watch the sunrise.  He was treated to being a witness at one of the most iconic moments in baseball history – the game that Babe Ruth called his shot by pointing to the outfield where he was going to hit the ball before the pitch!  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Lots of the baseball season left as the All-Star game is just behind us.  In Milwaukee, we are glad to be just on top in the Division Pennant race.  Anything can happen!  It is what makes major league baseball such a great sport!

 

Sporting Chance Press includes books on sports including baseball. Our baseball books:

The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy’s Principles for Baseball (and Life)  also by J. D. Thorne

Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball’s Fred Merkle

Baseball’s Winning Ways