The tradition of having a “guest conductor” to sing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field began in 1998, the year Harry Caray passed away. Caray had made this an event, starting with Bill Veeck asking him to do it when Caray was a White Sox announcer.
So this tradition was still relatively new when former Bear Steve McMichael was the “guest conductor” when the Cubs faced the Rockies August 7, 2001.
The Rockies led the game 2-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh. There had been some controversial ball-and-strike calls earlier in the game. You will not be surprised to learn that the plate umpire that night was Angel Hernandez.
McMichael, before leading the crowd in the traditional song, had some words for Hernandez:
Hernandez was reported to have ejected McMichael from Wrigley Field. Yes, umpires do have the right to do that; they can eject fans, too, if the situation calls for it. However, this article indicates McMichael was never officially tossed:
The Cubs and fans were particularly upset over an out call by Hernandez on Ron Coomer in the sixth inning.
Hernandez, however, stressed he never signaled to eject McMichael and merely turned around and stared in the direction of McMichael, who didn’t immediately leave the booth.
Hernandez said first base umpire Randy Marsh, who was the crew chief at the time, told Hernandez that he would handle the matter and called security.
McMichael eventually left the booth.
The Cubs took the lead 4-2 with a three-run seventh inning, but the Rockies tied it with two in the eighth.
In the bottom of the ninth, Ricky Gutierrez singled and Sammy Sosa singled him to second. After a strikeout, Joe Girardi came to the plate and here’s what happened then:
(NOTE: The audio dropouts were part of the original broadcast.)
That was one of the craziest endings to one of the wackiest evenings in recent Wrigley Field history. The Cubs won 5-4 and were 64-47, leading the NL Central by 2½ games. Eventually they faded and finished third, but their 2001 season had quite a bit of fun, including this game, which happened 20 years ago today.
Lastly, as you might know, Steve McMichael has been battling ALS for the last few years. If you hadn’t known this before now, this Tribune article from earlier this year is worth reading. All the best to McMichael and his family.