Today marks the 50th anniversary of my last and probably final appearance on the mound at Wrigley Field. No, I’m not Joe Schaffernoth or Marcelino Solis, or even one of those local guys from Lane Tech or Brother Rice who occasionally got 10-minute look-sees during batting practice back in the day. I’m only a longtime Cubs fan who happened to attend the May 15, 1960 doubleheader against the Cards at Wrigley Field, using box seat tickets I got as a birthday gift from a generous neighbor, who likely was reciprocating for the World Series programs and ticket stubs I scrounged up for him at Comiskey following Game Six in 1959.
If you’re a BCB regular, I’m sure you’ve seen other comments and video links that describe or show the final moments of the no-hitter Don Cardwell pitched in the second game of that 1960 doubleheader. It was Cardwell’s first appearance as a Cub, and the game itself was quite possibly the highlight of the Terrible Twenty years of unmatched failure recorded by the Wrigley Era Cubs after World War II. If you haven’t seen the very early WGN video of the ninth inning, look it up either here or on YouTube. The end of that game has been good enough for me to remember this anniversary almost every year since 1960.
As you know, the Cubs force you to savor every worthwhile event in order to keep from getting caught up in a world of “What Ifs?” and “Might-Have-Beens.” Those who have followed the team since the ‘60’s undoubtedly have asked themselves questions like: “What if Brock hadn’t been traded?” or, “What if Leo had rested his regulars?” or, “What if Kenny Hubbs had been a better pilot?” Less knowledgeable fans of that era might ask questions like “What if we give back Broglio for Brock?” or, “What if the College of Coaches becomes fully-accredited?”
The list is endless and, for the most part, unanswerable. That’s why, if you must dwell on the Cubs, one great way to work through a melancholy stretch like these first six weeks of 2010 is to ponder the team’s fascinating history, then go ahead and make up your own story lines that explore what might have been. Each of the events referenced in the following leads would have changed the course of team history dramatically, had they actually taken place. Of course, none of them did happen, and all reported quotes are, to the best of my knowledge, entirely fictitious.
I’m sure knowledgeable fans from any era may have a few more to add. As they say at Hackney’s, bon apetit...
December 12, 1915 – A new, modern and expanded West Side Grounds may be ready as early as the 1917 baseball season, Cubs owner Charles Weeghman announced today at a packed press conference held at the Morrison Hotel. “We are firmly commited to this central location,” Weeghman said. “Fans all over Chicago deserve easy access to see the Cubs play in a clean, safe, and historic environment.” he added, rejecting suggestions from reporters that the team might be forced to spend the 1916 season at the facility on Addison Street built last year for Weeghman’s short-lived Federal League team. “We’ll play at Comiskey until the new home of the Cubs is finished,” he said. “We found out the hard way that ballparks and residential neighborhoods don’t mix. Believe me, we won’t make that same mistake again.”
October 29, 1919 – Cubs owner Charlie Weeghman announced today he has assumed full control of team operations after purchasing all shares previously held by William Wrigley Jr., formerly the team’s largest minority stockholder. “1919 has been a great year for baseball, especially for me personally,” Weeghman told reporters as he described his plans for the 1920 season. “Seeing an underdog like the Reds roll over a great team like the White Sox this month has renewed my faith in the integrity of this great game.”
February 14, 1934 – A tentative agreement to sell the Chicago Cubs to Leland S. MacPhail was announced today by Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley. MacPhail, who recently resigned as president of the Cincinnati ball club, addressed yesterday’s press conference held at the Wrigley Building, where his remarks increased speculation the Cubs may become the first major league team to offer night baseball. “Chicago’s my kind of town,” he said, “so I’m extremely confident night games will be welcomed in this community. But if we move ahead with our plans, they will be scheduled on only a very limited basis – certainly no more than 30 games next year.” In closing remarks, Wrigley acknowledged the public support he and his family have received during the 15 years they have owned the club. “Let me extend my heartfelt gratitude to each and every Cubs fan.” he said. “I’m just as sorry as you are that things didn’t work out. Each of us must remember that owning a professional baseball team is a public trust to be held only by those who know and love baseball.” he added. “I’m sure the Cubs under Mr. MacPhail will continue to operate on that principle.” On a side note, MacPhail introduced 26-year-old Walter “Red” Barber as the new and exclusive radio voice of the Cubs.
June 2, 1948 – A new fluorescent lighting system will be operational at Wrigley Field before the end of this season, Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley said Tuesday. Wrigley apologized to fans for delays that resulted when light towers scheduled for installation in February were donated to CARE in support of the Berlin Airlift and Marshall Plan. “Mr. Saltwell of our technical group is developing a system that will make night games more attractive for all Chicagoans,” Wrigley said. “Meanwhile, the entire Cubs organization intends to meet its patriotic responsibilities.” In other Cubs news, the team announced the signing of 17-year-old Negro League sensation William Mays, Jr., who will report immediately to the Cubs AAA farm team at Los Angeles. “We fully expect Mays will be ready to play next season here in Chicago,” Wrigley said. “1948 may be a disaster, but with Willie on our roster, along with one or two other stars from the Negro Leagues, we should be ready to compete with anyone in 1949,” he added.
June 17, 1948 – Former Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher has accepted an offer to manage the Cubs, replacing Charlie Grimm in time for today’s doubleheader with Cincinnati. “We’ve been looking for this opportunity for many years,” Cubs owner Phil Wrigley said in making the announcement. “Leo is my kind of guy, and I’m more certain than ever that with Durocher on board, we’ll see the Cubs back in the World Series by next year.” In other news, the Cubs announced the team’s 1949 home telecasts will be carried exclusively on WBKB-TV, Channel 2, with Whispering Joe Wilson and Cubs great Rogers Hornsby calling the games.
September 15, 1965 – Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley is scheduled to meet with Mayor Daley and owners of the city's other major professional sports teams later today to discuss the city’s long-awaited plans for a domed lakefront sports palace to be occupied by the Cubs, White Sox and Bears, as well as a new NBA team. “I’m excited at the possibilities,” Wrigley said. “Every sports fan deserves the amenities that only a modern stadium can deliver. And considering the problems we’ve had competing these last few years, I think a change actually may also do the Cubs some good.” Wrigley dismissed the idea of placing his family’s name on any new facility. “Actually, I never really have been comfortable seeing my name attached to a ballpark,” he said. “Maybe it’s time for one of Chicago’s other major corporations to step up and contribute. I understand Zenith or Motorola may be interested in the naming rights once our plans are finalized.”