I remembered this long-ago incident quite well and learned that my friend (and Cubs By The Numbers co-author) Kasey Ignarski had video of the game where it happened, so here are three minutes’ worth of clips of a squirrel running all over the infield, outfield and Cubs dugout at Wrigley Field:
What I had not remembered, but is mentioned in the video clip, is that Cubs starter Julian Tavarez took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. He walked a ton of hitters, five in all, and after he walked the bases loaded in the eighth, Mendy Lopez broke up the no-no with a two-run single.
And you’re saying, “Who?” Yeah, I didn’t remember him either. Lopez played 190 MLB games for the Royals, Astros, Marlins and Pirates between 1998 and 2004.
Bob Foltman’s recap in the Tribune didn’t mention the squirrel at all, though it entertained both the 35,020 in the ballpark and the TV audience on WGN. (Yeah, I didn’t remember Foltman either; he eventually left the Tribune and became an attorney, per his LinkedIn profile.)
The other notable thing about that game’s broadcast is that it was the last for legendary WGN-TV director Arne Harris. Harris died of a heart attack that evening when out to dinner with his family. He was only 67 years old. As reported by the Tribune’s Ed Sherman:
Chip Caray, who was with Harris and his wife, Arlene, said the last thing Harris did was laugh at a joke. It was Caray who notified members of the WGN family of Harris’ death. Immediately, the crew went to work on transforming Sunday’s game from a routine season finale to a tribute to Harris.
WGN-TV broadcast that tribute to Harris before the next day’s game, which was the 2001 season finale. You can see it (and the entire game) here:
That truly was the end of a television era. Harris, who had produced and directed Cubs games on WGN-TV for 38 years, was a master of putting shots like those of the squirrel on the air. I am honored to say I worked a couple of games under Arne when I was a WGN-TV intern back in the 1970s and he was always kind and gracious to me.
The squirrel that Arne made famous did its act on the turf at Wrigley Field 21 years ago today, Saturday, October 6, 2001.