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Today in Cubs history: The time an umpire warned fans about throwing snowballs on the field

It was a cold, cold Opening Day.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It was Opening Day at Wrigley Field, the very first home opener for the team under Tribune Co. ownership after decades of Wrigley family ownership. The Cubs had begun the 1982 season by splitting a pair of games in Cincinnati. New ownership had given fans hope that someday, the team would return to real contention.

That would come in time, but just four days before this home opener, a huge snowstorm clobbered Chicago:

On April 5, 1982, the Chicago area was hit by a major late-season storm that officially delivered 9.4 inches of snow.

It warmed up a bit over the next couple of days (after a low of seven degrees April 7, the only single-digit temperature ever recorded in Chicago in April). The Cubs hired helicopters to move air around to try to remove snow from the field, but there was so much snow still around the ballpark area when game day arrived that people sitting on the rooftops on Sheffield were throwing snowballs across the street, trying to see if they could hit those of us sitting in the bleachers. A few managed to reach that far, prompting some bleacher denizens to opine that the Cubs should sign those people up.

Other snowballs came from the upper deck, as the Tribune reported:

The plate umpire and the fans in the lower deck glared at the upper deck as the snowballs showered down in the fourth inning, in celebration of a Cubs home run.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the Wrigley Field announcer, “please refrain from throwing snowballs onto the playing field. Anyone throwing snowballs on the playing field will be subject to ejection.”

In this video, you can clearly hear that P.A. announcement and see a couple of snowballs fly through the frame. That umpire, incidentally, was our old buddy Bruce Froemming. Fun times!

This game also marked the return of Fergie Jenkins to the Cubs, and he came through with 6⅔ shutout innings. Lee Smith finished up with 2⅓ scoreless innings, striking out three. The Cubs won the game 5-0. As you can see in the video, a scoreless tie was broken by a two-run homer in the fourth inning by Bill Buckner just before the snowball incident. Keith Moreland had two hits and also drove in two runs. Attendance, which in those days was just the turnstile count and not total tickets sold, was 26,712, not a bad showing considering the brutal weather, 34 degrees and cloudy at game time.

It all happened at Wrigley Field 40 years ago today, Friday, April 9, 1982.