Time to do away with cursed Wrigley?
May 1, 2013 at 1:00a ET
The latest news out of Chicago is that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts may consider moving the team from Wrigley Field if he’s unable to get a new 6,000-square foot video board installed in left field at the Friendly Confines.
And fans, predictably, are ticked.
But given some of the more forgettable moments in the nearly 100-year history of the ballpark, would a fresh start at a new stadium necessarily be the worst thing? Maybe it would; maybe it wouldn’t. There’s certainly something to be said for history, after all.
But at the same time, the evidence that Wrigley is source of the Cubs’ demise is somewhat overwhelming. Just look at some of the more memorable, heartbreaking home-field gaffes that have tortured Cubs fans during their century-long wait for another World Series:
ALL THOSE WORLD SERIES LOSSES
We all know the Cubs won the World Series in 1907 and 1908, but since moving into Wrigley in 1916, the team has yet to add that elusive third title, much to the chagrin of its fans. It’s not that the Cubs haven’t reached the Fall Classic in that span — they have, six times, in fact. But once the Cubbies get there, they’re always met with failure. Since moving to Wrigley, the Cubs have played in 32 World Series games, with a record of 8-24. In 16 World Series games at Wrigley, the Cubs are 3-13 (so, lucky you if you were there on Sept. 6, 1918, Oct. 6, 1935 or Oct. 8, 1945). The most painful of all? Probably the most recent one — a 9-3 home loss to the Tigers in Game 7 of the 1945 Series (more on that later).
BABE RUTH’S CALLED SHOT
One of the most famous World Series moments in Wrigley Field history came, shockingly, at the Cubs’ expense. It was Game 3 of the 1932 Series, which the Cubs already trailed 2-0 to the Yankees. New York slugger Babe Ruth had already homered once in the game, a three-run shot off Charlie Root in the first inning, when he stepped to the plate with one out in the fifth and the game tied 4-4. After working the count to 2-2, Ruth stepped out and made a gesture — whether it was toward the mound or the center field-wall is still up for debate — and then sent the next pitch sailing over the fence to regain the lead for the Yankees. To this day, Ruth’s “called shot” is one of the most revered moments in baseball history. You decide for yourself whether he actually called his shot in this video.
THE BARTMAN GAME
Another point of contention among Cubs fans is all of the near misses on the path to a championship. Perhaps the most painful of all came on Oct. 14, 2003, when a mild-mannered fan named Steve Bartman became enemy No. 1 in Chicago for all of eternity — or at least until the Cubs finally win that championship they’ve been clamoring for for more than 100 years. The Cubs, up three games to two in the NLCS against the Florida Marlins, were leading 3-0 in the eighth inning of Game 6 and were just one win from their first World Series appearance since that 1945 disappointment. The Cubs were just five outs from the NL pennant when Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo flared a pop up down the third-base line, and though several fans reached for the ball as it crossed into the first row of the stands, it was Bartman who deflected it, preventing Cubs outfielder Moises Alou from making the catch. Alou famously went ballistic, Bartman had to be escorted from the stadium by security and the Cubs went on to lose the game. There were several other incidents that the loss could and should be blamed on — no one ever wants to talk about Mark Prior's wild pitch or Alex Gonzalez's misplayed ball at short later in the eighth inning — but Bartman became a villain for starting the chain reaction, and he still hasn’t been heard from, to this day.
THE BILLY GOAT GAME
Of course, none of this misery may have found the Cubs over the last several decades had someone just let Billy Sianis bring his goat into the stadium. It was in 1945 that Sianis, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, attempted to bring his pet goat into Wrigley Field for Game 4 of the World Series. According to legend, Sianis was stopped at the gate by an usher and was subsequently told by Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley that he couldn’t bring his goat in, “because the goat stinks.” A frustrated Sianis reportedly responded by saying that “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more,” the message being that they wouldn’t win another World Series until he and his goat were allowed inside. Chicago would go on to lose the 1945 World Series (as noted above), and to this date, no attempts to break Sianis’ curse have proven fruitful. Cubs fans haven’t forgotten, either. Just last month, a fan delivered a box addressed to team owner Tom Ricketts containing a severed goat's head to a Wrigley Field security entrance.
LEE ELIA’S MELTDOWN
One of the most vulgar and epic manager meltdowns came at Wrigley Field on April 29, 1983, when Cubs manager Lee Elia fired off one of the most memorable rants in sports history following a 4-3 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers. "Eight-five percent of the (expletive) world is working. The other 15 come out here." After an announced attendance of 9,391 showed up for the defeat, despite the White Sox being out of town, the Bulls’ season being over and the Blackhawks trailing in their playoff series, Elia took out his frustration on the fans of Chicago in the most NSFW way possible: (WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE)
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME
Speaking of the fans, one of Wrigley Field’s most storied traditions used to be the daily singing of “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. Over the years, countless celebrities stopped by to lead the song between the top and bottom of the seventh. Unfortunately, not all of them did it well. Among the worst were Ozzy Osbourne and Mike Ditka (below), and finally, in February 2013, the team put an end to the ear-splitting tradition. These days, celebrities are no longer singing during the stretch, limiting the honor to Chicagoans only.
BERKMAN RIPS WRIGLEY:
Elia’s rant may be the most famous anti-Wrigley tirade in sports history, but it’s hardly the only one. Wrigley Field has been the butt of countless jokes over the years, most recently from Rangers DH Lance Berkman, who trashed the legendary stadium during an interview earlier this season. "If they're looking for a guy to push the button when they blow the place up, I'll do it," Berkman told reporters before slamming the stadium's history, adding, “I read where they got approval for some more upgrades. Count me in the group of people extremely happy to see that. I guess I'm just spoiled. There is a tremendous history associated with it and there is something special about playing on the same field that guys like Babe Ruth did. But really, what kind of history is there? It's not like there has been one championship after another. It's mainly been a place for people to go and drink beer."
THE FIRST NIGHT GAME
For 74 years, the Cubs played their games exclusively during the daytime — and not necessarily by choice, but rather, by law. However, on Feb. 25, 1988, the Chicago city council passed an ordinance permitting limited night baseball at Wrigley Field, with a maximum of 18 night games per season. On Aug. 8, 1988, the Cubs finally took the field for the first night game in stadium history, and it went the way only a Cubs game could. After Rick Sutcliffe allowed a leadoff home run, the Cubs rallied to take a 3-1 lead. But it started raining in the fourth inning, and after a two-hour downpour the game was stopped. So after three quarters of a century, Cubs fans were forced to wait one extra day before a complete night game could be played — and they had a win taken out from under them in the process.
SOSA POPS A CORK
Sammy Sosa became one of the most beloved Chicago Cubs in history during the homer-happy 1990s, and his epic duels with Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire made for some of the most riveting baseball. But on June 4, 2003, Sosa was caught with cork in his bat during a game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and his career subsequently began to unravel. Sosa, who had joined the 500-home-run club earlier that season, came to the plate with two runners on in the bottom of the first against Devil Rays pitcher Jeremi Gonzalez. After working a 3-2 count, Sosa connected on a Gonzalez pitch low and away, shattering his bat, and when umpire Tim McClelland walked out to retrieve the bat pieces, he noticed what he described to be a “half-dollar sized piece of cork” in the handle. After conferring with the other umpires and Cubs manager Dusty Baker, McClelland ejected Sosa from the game. Sosa was also suspended for eight games, a ruling that was later reduced to seven. But his image had been tarnished forever, despite the fact that none of his other bats — each of which had been analyzed — were found to contain cork. The bat was later put up for auction, and Sosa’s reputation in Chicago never recovered. (Sosa also didn’t do himself any favors when he left early in his last game as a Cub, in 2004.)
LOSING IN EVERY WAY IMAGINABLE
Wrigley Field has been host to some of the most devastating moments in Cubs history over the last 100 or so years, so it goes without saying that, in that span, the hometown team has lost in just about every way possible. There was the time on Aug. 19, 1965 when Jim Maloney became the only visiting pitcher to no-hit the Cubs. Or the Sept. 16, 1975 game when the Pirates shut out the Cub 22-0, the most lopsided Cubs loss in Friendly Confines history. On May 17, 1979, the Cubs scored 22 runs of their own against the Phillies — and still found a way to lose. (It was one of just two games in baseball history where a team scored 18 or more runs and lost. The other game? Aug. 25, 1922 … when the Cubs beat the same Phillies, 26-23.) Cubs fans didn’t always take kindly to losing, either. In 1995, a crazed Cubbies fan named John Murray ran onto the field and attempted to attack Cubs closer Randy Myers after Myers imploded during a save opportunity against the Houston Astros.
WOO WOO’S BOO BOO
Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers is something of a celebrity in Chicago for his chants during games, and is widely recognized as the ultimate Cubs fan. The Cubs, regardless of how much they struggled, could never seem to break Ronnie Woo Woo’s spirit, but on April 18, 2005, another fan nearly broke his bones when he hit Woo Woo with his car in a parking lot near Wrigley Field. The Cubs were out of town at the time, but that fact means little. When your biggest fan is getting hit by cars, you know you’re cursed and should have just let that goat in all those years ago. Or maybe it was the firing of popular ball girl Marla Collins after she posed for Playboy that brought about some of the more recent failures. But rather than focus on the bad, let’s relive some of Ronnie Woo Woo’s happier moments: