Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First Cubs game at Wrigley

On this day, April 20, 1916, exactly 95 years ago, the Cubs played their first game in what is now known as Wrigley Field.

It was still known as Weeghman Park at the time, named after their owner Charlie Weeghman, the man that built it. William Wrigley had just bought a minority share in the club, but the ballpark wouldn't bear his name for several more years.

The manager of the Cubs that day was the future Hall of Famer Joe Tinker (we have his 1911 baseball card at the link--that's Joe in the photo). The man on the mound, Claude Hendrix, was quietly banned from baseball in 1920 for allegedly betting against the Cubs. (He also started the first game in the ballpark's history in 1914)

It was almost as if the Cubs knew this was going to be an important day in their history. They staged a parade from Grant Park through the downtown streets before the game, and then, before the game started, they sent aerial bombs into the sky--each one shooting an American flag into the crowd, or beyond into the North Side neighborhood.

The Cubs won that first game after a dramatic comeback. They scored twice in the bottom of the eighth thanks to doubles by (future 1918 World Series goat) Max Flack, and (future criminal) Heinie Zimmerman. Cubs first baseman Vic Saier knocked in Cy Williams with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.

Here's one last piece of trivia from that day. The first ever National League homer hit in that ballpark was slugged by Reds outfielder Johnny Beall. It was the only one he hit that year, one of only three in his career, and the last one he ever hit.