Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cub-like delusions stretch on and on. Or, is Captain Morgan the Cubs' savior?

The Cubs are coming out of hibernation!


I still remember that advertising jingle from the early 1980s.

Soon to have Captain Morgan (below) and other corporate images in abundance to bolster the building's profitability.
The Chicago Cubs had just been sold by the Wrigley family to the Tribune Co., and long-time baseball man Dallas Green (who had just won a World Series as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies) had been hired to be general manager and turn the Cubs into a “winning” organization.

TRUE ENOUGH, THE Cubs did win a pair of division titles in the 1980s. But the streak of seasons without a National League championship remains unbroken – let alone the streak of seasons without a World Series win.

You can’t win the series if you don’t even make it!

And that division title of 1984 also gave Chicago sports fans one of the ultimate Chicago Cub moments – the sight of that ground ball skipping through first baseman Leon Durham’s legs. Bill Buckner let the same thing happen to him two seasons later in the World Series while playing for the Boston Red Sox.

But it was probably his ex-Cub status, more than any Red Sox “curse,” that caused it to happen.

The Cubs' goat
I COULDN’T HELP but think of all of this when I learned of current Cubs owner Tom Ricketts (his family bought the ball club from the Tribune types just a few years ago) talking of the deal negotiated to permit a renovation of Wrigley Field that will allow for the addition of features meant to make the stadium a more profitable facility.

“If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series for our fans and our city,” Ricketts said. “We need this project in order to bring our fans a winner. The financial impact of this proposal will help us do that.”

That’s some pretty bold talk coming from the operator of a ball club that was one of the worst in the National League last season, and isn’t all that much better this year.

The Cubs goat in Boston
I know some are convinced that one-time Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is destined to do some serious re-building apart from the renovations to take place at Clark and Addison streets. But we forget that the Boston and Chicago North Side situations are nowhere near comparable.

THE RED SOX just had to overcome the New York Yankees for a single season to dump their jinx. The Cubs have to overcome more than a century of ultimate failure that caused sportswriter George Castle to write a book labeling them, “The Million-to-One Team” (as in the odds the Cubs overcame in order to lose so consistently across generations).

Personally, I’m not convinced that this move will have anything to do with making the Cubs significantly better on-field.

Tribune Co. ran a profitable operation of a ball club by putting the emphasis on turning the ballpark experience into something so unique that people wouldn’t pay any attention to those pesky ballplayers in baby blue on the field bobbling all those ground balls.

So I have no doubt that all the proposed changes to Wrigley Field (including 35,000 square feet of advertising, construction of a new hotel across the street and a two-story restaurant and bar in the building carrying the “Captain Morgan Club” corporate name) will add to the financial bottom line of the Chicago National League Ball Club.

BUT THAT DOESN’T necessarily translate into more “W’s” in the standings. Ricketts’ comments WILL be long remembered amongst sports fans in Chicago – particularly if the on-field victory eventually comes so many decades in the future that there’s no way it can be tied to the upcoming renovations.

The ballpark in its original, pre-Wrigley Field, condition. Image provided by Chuckman Collection.
Whose real purpose is to ensure that the 99-year-old structure is sound enough to remain in use for those many more decades of play!

Not that it really matters much. In the end, Chicago baseball fans got to experience a World Series just a few seasons ago. We have had it in our time.

As for those Chicagoans who preferred not to get excited about the Ozzie & Co. production of ’05, that was their choice. I hope they enjoyed their ivy on the walls.


No comments: