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Wrigley 100 4/6: Billy Ends HOF Pitching Duel


On April 6, 1971, fans attending a chilly Wrigley Field Opening Day were treated to a true Hall of Fame exhibition. For nine innings, the Cardinals Bob Gibson matched Fergie Jenkins allowing only one run through regulation play. Fergie allowed only three hits all day and set the Cards down in order in the 10th. After a Glenn Beckert ground-out, Billy Williams let loose with one of the sweetest swings of his career, driving a Gibson pitch into the right-centerfield bleachers and sending the crowd into delirium.

For Billy, it was a moment he never gets tired of talking about. “We were playing the Cardinals on Opening Day and two guys who were always real competitors, Bob Gibson and Fergie Jenkins, got into a duel out here. It was like those guys were really working. They didn’t throw too many pitches and even though we went to 10 innings, the game barely lasted two hours. It was cold out there and the temperature started to drop. Bob Gibson threw me a slider inside and I made good contact with it. I didn’t know the ball was going out of the ballpark. I was running down to  first base saying ‘get up, get up, get up!’  This is what you say when you hit a ball. The ball went into the stands and we won it.  That was some kind of exciting.”

What a game – what a moment. Time of game – one hour and 58 minutes.


-Bob Vorwald



Wrigley 100 4/6: LaRussa Scores For Cubs


41 years ago today was a triumphant Opening Day on the North Side with a special twist. The Cubs man of the hour that day was none other than later-to-be-nemesis-as-Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, who scored the winning run on what was truly a walk-off win.

Tony laughed when he told me the story last year. “To me it’s a great example of what a lousy career I had. One of my highlights is that I scored the winning run for the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day in my last major league appearance. That’s the kind of thing they make movies about except that highlight takes about two minutes and then what do you do for the other? I pinch-ran for Ron Santo, I didn’t get on base myself.”

To fill in a few details, a crowd of 40,273 packed Wrigley Field for Opening Day on Friday, April 6, 1973 and those that braved the chilly weather were treated to a comeback win. The Cubs trailed 2-1 going into the 9th. Neither team had scored since the first inning, but Joe Pepitone got the Cubs started in the 9th with a leadoff single. Montreal manager Gene Mauch went to a five-man infield only to see second baseman Ron Hunt make an error on a Ron Santo ground ball. Enter our hero for the day as LaRussa, who had made the club as a utility infielder, came in to run for Santo. Glenn Beckert walked to load the bases and Mauch summoned Mike Marshall from the bullpen to try and escape the jam. Marshall promptly walked Randy Hundley to force in a run and tie the game at 2, sending LaRussa to third base. Don Kessinger flied out, Jim Hickman struck out, but Rick Monday coaxed a walk and Tony trotted home with the winning run.

LaRussa remembers the day with a sense of humor. “I can remember it was really cold,” he said. “It was the bottom of the 9th and I would have had to play third base without warming up and my arm was always hurting. The whole time I’m on base I’m thinking ‘oh man if I don’t score, how am I going to get loose?’ I can’t get the ball to first base. So it got down to third base with two outs and Marshall is facing Rick Monday. I think the fans were happy when Monday walked. I was ecstatic because I didn’t have to get this ugly arm thrown’.”

So there you have it Cub fans – one reason to cheer Tony LaRussa. That’s him scoring the winning run below. For the record, it was his only appearance for the Cubs and his last appearance in the majors.

Tony LaRussa Cubs opener 73


-Bob Vorwald

*The Cubs are tied for the fewest runs in the majors with 8 runs in 5 games.

*Through 5 games, Cub starting pitchers have combined for a 1.95 ERA, 5th best in baseball.

*Cub reliever Hector Rondon has an 11.0 inning scoreless streak that dates back to September 3 of last year.

*Through 5 games, Emilio Bonifacio is second in the NL with a .542 batting average.

*Chicago has a .294 batting average with none on and none out, 194 points higher than its .100 BA (4-for-40) with runners in scoring position.


Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins sing the 7th inning stretch (4-4-14)

Dan Roan talks with the Cubs Hall Of Famers before the home opener


Opening Day Wrigley Photos



Cubs & Phillies At Wrigley Notes


*The Cubs and Phillies have played 867 games at Wrigley. The Cubs lead the series 476-387-4)

*August 25, 1922 – After scoring 14 runs in the first inning, the Cubs defeat the Phils 26-23. The 14-run inning remains the largest ever against the Phils.

*April 17, 1976 – Mike Schmidt ties a major-league record by hitting four home runs in four consecutive at-bats in a wild 18-16 Phils win. He finished 5-for-6 with 8 RBIs.

*May 17 1979 – another 10-inning classic as the Cubs rally from 21-9 down, tie the game at 22, and lose to Philadelphia 23-22 on a Schmidt 10th-inning homer. The two teams combine for 11 home runs.

*August 8, 1988 – in the first night game at Wrigley Field, Rick Sutcliffe is nearly blinded by flash bulbs on the first pitch, then gives up a lead-off homer to Phil Bradley. Mother Nature is not happy with the lights and the game is rained out.

*August 5, 1989 – Mike Schmidt hits the last of his 50 Wrigley Field homers off Jeff Pico. Those 50 HRs tie him for second on the visiting Wrigley list with Hank Aaron, trailing only Willie Mays (54).

Thanks to the Phillies PR dept.


After the events of 20 years ago today, we should have known it was going to be that kind of year. 12 straight home losses to start the season, Ryne Sandberg’s sudden retirement, a season shortened by the strike – we should have known these things were coming after Opening Day.

20 years ago today, Cubs center fielder Tuffy Rhodes hit three home runs (solo, of course) off the Mets Doc Gooden in his first three at-bats of the season. The Cubs lost 12-8 (of course).

First Lady Hillary Clinton was on hand to throw out the first pitch, gold medalist Bonnie Blair was in attendance, but Tuffy stole the show. For the record, he hit a 3-2 pitch out to lead off the bottom of the 1st for the Cubs.  In the third with two outs and a 3-1 count, he hit home run number two. Rhodes led off the 5th for the Cubs and drilled an 0-1 pitch for his third homer. Talk about starting off with a bang.

tuffy rhodes

With the jet stream still cruising out, Rhodes had two more chances to become the only Cub to hit four homers in a game. In the 6th, Rhodes walked on four pitches to load the bases. In the 9th, he singled to make it a 4-for-4 day. (In JD’s world, he was hitting 4.000.)

Rhodes had only five more homers the rest of the year, lost his starting job in mid-season and was out of the majors after 1995. However, he made the move to Japan and flourished, becoming the all-time home run leader among foreign players and tying the Japan single season record with 55 homers in 2001.

Tuffy was in the news last week and it’s nice to see he still has good hands.

-Bob Vorwald


Cubs Game Notes For Monday @ Pittsburgh

stats_logo_400x225* When Francisco Liriano takes the hill for the Pirates, he will be the seventh different Opening Day starter in seven years for the team.

* Liriano missed the first month and a half of last season, but still ended up with a 16-8 record. Over a four-month stretch from May to September, he had a decision in 23 straight starts, going 16-7 with a 2.92 ERA over that stretch.

* Like last year’s Opening Day at PNC Park, the Cubs counter with Jeff Samardzija, a pitcher who has always had success in Pittsburgh, allowing only 3 earned runs in 37 innings pitched.

* Last year, the Cubs got a lot of their production from the long ball, scoring 44.4% of their runs via the HR, second only to Seattle (46%) in MLB.

* Both teams had their problems last season getting runners home from third base. Th Pirates were second from the bottom in the majors, scoring only 45.8% of the runners at 3rd with less than 2 outs. The Cubs were third-worst at 49.1%


Wrigley 100 3/31: Mr. Banks Gets His Statue

WRIGLEY_FIELD_100_LOGOOpening Day on March 31, 2008 was a raw, rainy affair, but nothing was going to rain on Ernie Banks parade. Mr. Cub was honored that day as the first player from the franchise to have his own statue and the dedication ceremony was held along Clark Street at 11am that morning.

Local sculptor Lou Cella used a Banks at-bat vs. Warren Spahn in 1959 as the inspiration for the statue and when it was unveiled, Banks loved the new addition to his Friendly Confines.

Banks was joined by long-time teammates Billy Williams and Ron Santo at the ceremony and was honored that old friend Hank Aaron made the trek to be there as well. “You were the greatest ambassador for baseball, and you still are a great ambassador for baseball,” Aaron said in his brief remarks.

For Ernie, it was a dream come true that still tickles him to this day. “Having the statue at Wrigley Field is a great honor and I am just so pleased that Jesse Jackson, John McDonough, the Cub organization, and the fans bestowed this honor on me. It’s different, and it’s hard for me to believe I’ve done anything for a statue. In Chicago, people here like to honor their heroes and that is often the athletes. Chicago is amazing and as I thought about it, the more I thought about it and shared it with my kids, I thought this is amazing. Even when I’m not here, I’ll be here!”

Ernie Banks

 - Bob Vorwald