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Today in Cubs history: The time a Cub hit a baseball into the Citrus Bowl

Not “in” the Citrus Bowl. “Into” the Citrus Bowl.

Courtesy Chris Gent

In-season exhibition games used to be commonplace among major-league teams. Much of the time, they were played to raise money for various charities. The Cubs and White Sox played games like that in Chicago from the 1950s through the early 1970s, and again for a brief time in the late 1980s. The Cubs also would occasionally play one of their minor-league teams, frequently Iowa.

They don’t play games like this anymore; scheduling concerns make them impossible, plus there are plenty of other ways to raise money for good causes, such as the good work done by Cubs Charities.

The last in-season exhibition played by anyone was the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown in 2007; the Orioles beat the Blue Jays 13-7. The Cubs were supposed to take part in the HoF game in 2008 against the Padres. They did make the trip to Cooperstown and even participated in the town’s annual parade, but the game got rained out.

This is the story of the last in-season exhibition played by the Cubs, a game against the Southern League All-Stars on this date in 1996. At the time the Cubs’ Southern League affiliate was in Orlando, where they sent their Double-A players from 1993-96.

At the time the Orlando team played at Tinker Field, yes, named after Cubs Hall of Famer Joe Tinker. It was built the same year Wrigley Field was, 1914, and as you can imagine, by 1996 other development had pretty much surrounded the old ballpark. You can see that, in fact, in the photo above — that’s Tinker Field at the bottom, and the Citrus Bowl at the top.

The Cubs won the game 8-0, not too surprising when you’ve got major leaguers playing minor leaguers, even a group of All-Stars. What made this game significant and why I’m writing about it 21 years later was this, chronicled in the game recap in the Tribune:

The Cubs blasted four home runs to win the game. Sammy Sosa gave the crowd of 5,292 its money's worth when he drilled a two-run homer to give the Cubs a 3-0 edge in the bottom of the third.

The long-ball exhibition continued three innings later when [Scott] Bullett hit a solo homer into the adjacent Florida Citrus Bowl in right-center to make it 5-0.

No word on exactly where that baseball landed in the Citrus Bowl or what happened to the ball. It would have made a fun souvenir, a major-league hitter smacking a home run into a football stadium. Scott Bullett hit six major-league homers in a career that spanned four seasons (1991, 1993, 1995 and 1996) and 405 plate appearances.

As for Tinker Field, it was torn down in 2015 when the Citrus Bowl was expanded.