|Wrigley Field Homers|
By Eddie Gold*
Babe Ruth calling his shot . . . Gabby Hartnett's home run in the gloamin'... Ernie Banks' No. 500. . . These are some of the 6,905 major league home runs hit at Wrigley Field.
The first home run was hit by Art Wilson of the Chicago Whales in a Federal League game on April 23, 1914. Wilson connected off Kansas City's George (Chief) Wilson, sending the ball over the left-field wall with a man aboard in the second inning. The Whales went on to win 9-1 before 15,000 fans. It was the inaugural game at the Clark and Addison ballpark, which was constructed at a cost of $250,000 by Charles 0. Weeghman as a home for his Whales.
Two years later the Federal League folded and Weeghman headed a 10-man syndicate that purchased the Chicago Cubs. Gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. was a member of Weeghman's group.
The Cubs moved from their West Side Grounds, located at Congress and Loomis, for their gala opener on April 20, 1916 at Weeghman Park. The team, managed by Joe Tinker, beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-6 on an 11th-inning single by Vic Saier. But the first National League homer at the North Side park was hit that day by the Reds' John Woolf Beall with none on in the sixth inning off Claude Hendrix.
For the record, the first official Cub homer was hit by little Max Flack, who knocked the ball over the right-field wall off the Reds' Gene Dale in the sixth inning with one on base on April 22, 1916.
Weeghman resigned after the 1918 season and Wrigley became the majority stockholder. Weegham Park then became known as Cubs Park. It wasn't until 1926 that the stadium was renamed Wrigley Field.
Over the years, the most productive homer slugger at Wrigley Field was Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, with 290. Rounding out the top are Billy Williams, 241; Ron Santo, 212; Hank Sauer, 118; Gabby Hartnett, 115; Hack Wilson, 109; Bill Nicholson, 91; Rick Monday, 68; Andy Pafko, 67, and Jim Hickman, 65.
The longest homer at Wrigley Field? Roberto Clemente hit one to the left of the scoreboard, Bill Nicholson just off to the right, while Sauer and Randy Jackson both hit buildings across the street on Waveland Avenue. But our vote goes to Dave Kingman when he was a member of the New York Mets on April 14,1976.
It was the second game of the season and the Mets were leading the Cubs 3-2 with one on and two out in the top of the sixth inning. Cub manager Jim Marshall strolled to the mound to discuss strategy with reliever Tom Dettore. There was a 20-miles-per-hour jet stream blowing from the plate to left-center and first base was unoccupied with Kingman at bat.
Dettore insisted on pitching to Kingman. Marshall gave his OK, patted the hurler on the rump and departed for the dugout. Dettore worked the count to a ball and a strike. The next pitch was a fast ball. It exploded off Kingman's bat and soared high into the wind. There was no question about it leaving the ballpark.
The usual gang of kids was waiting outside with gloves poised. But the ball sailed over their heads. They turned and started running north on Kenmore Avenue. The ball struck the porch of the third house from the Waveland Avenue corner and was caught on the rebound by Richard Keiber.
How far did the ball travel? Some say 600 feet. The Cubs went on to win 6-5, but Kingman's king-sized blow took center stage. Many agreed it was the longest homer ever hit at Wrigley Field. Others say if Kingman could have straightened it out, the ball would've hit the scoreboard.
No. Nobody ever homered off the present-day scoreboard. But golfer Sam Snead once hit one over it. He teed off from home plate and sent a golf ball over the scoreboard moments before the Cubs’ 1951 season opener. While there is much debate over the longest homer, there is little doubt about the shortest. It was hit by Rocky Nelson of the St. Louis Cardinals on April 30, 1949. The ball traveled about 220 feet and was dubbed the “inside-the-glove-homer.”
The Cubs were leading the Cardinals 3-2 with two out and one on in the top of the ninth inning when pinch-hitter Nelson strode to the plate, facing Bob Rush. Rocky hit a sinking liner to short left center. Centerfielder Andy Pafko ran in, dived for the ball and made a game-saving catch. The Cubs won.. . but wait.
Umpire Al Barlick, standing near second base, ruled that Pafko had trapped the ball. Andy came running in, holding the ball aloft in triumph, while the Cardinal runners raced around the bases.
Pafko then looked at Barlick in disbelief and started to argue. It wasn't until Nelson was a few steps from home plate that Pafko threw the ball. Nelson was safe and the Cardinals won 4-3 on the shortest homer in Wrigley Field history.
Of the 19 World Series homers (six by the Cubs), none could equal Ruth's "called shot" in the fifth inning of the third game of the 1932 classic. Ruth had already hit a three-run homer for the New York Yankees in the first inning when he stepped to the plate to face Charlie Root. The Cub bench jockeys were riding the Babe and that made him fume. With one strike on him, Ruth yelled to the Cub dugout that he was going to belt a homer. Root then fired another strike and the Cub players increased their heckling.
Ruth then pointed his bat toward the center-field bleachers, letting them know what he had in mind. Root wound up and delivered and Ruth connected. He sent the ball sailing high and far to the spot he had designated for one of the most dramatic homers in World Series history.
The Cubs' most dramatic homer was hit by Hartnett on September 28, 1938. It was the famous "homer in the gloamin" against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates led the Cubs by a game-and-a-half when they opened a crucial three-game series at Wrigley Field.
In the first game, manager Hartnett went with sore-armed Dizzy Dean and he escaped with a 2-1 victory, cutting Pittsburgh's lead to a half-game. The following day, the skies were cloudy and gray. And the outlook was gloomy as the Pirates led 3-1 after six innings and 5-3 after 7½. But the Cubs put two runs across to tie the score 5-5 after eight innings. It was growing so dark that the umpires had agreed to call the game after the Cubs had batted in the ninth. Burly Pirate reliever Mace Brown retired the first two Cubs. Hartnett was the next batter.
Brown whipped home two quick strikes and was gloating. Brown, figuring Hartnett couldn't hit what he couldn't see, wound up and let loose with a fastball. The pitch wasn't seen by many, but it was heard as Hartnett rocketed the ball into the left-field bleachers for a 6-5 Cub victory.
Gabby had to fight his way around the bases and was greeted by hundreds at home plate. The Pirates were done, and the Cubs went on to clinch the 1938 pennant.
The new generation of Cub fans, however, rate Banks' 500th homer over Hartnett's as the most dramatic. On Saturday, May 9, 1970, Banks hit his 499th homer. That set the countdown for No. 500. The following day, a crowd of 40,000 jammed Wrigley Field to see Mr. Cub experience his magic moment against the Reds.
In his first at bat, Banks received a standing ovation. He responded by lining the ball off the top of the ivy vines in left field. Banks started churning the bases. He rounded third, but that was as far as his 39-year old legs would take him. He puffed back to third base as the ball was relayed home. He had to settle for a triple.
On Monday, Banks remained a triple threat with another three-bagger. And Tuesday hardly seemed like a day for heroics. A fog rolled in and out and was replaced by a morning downpour. The skies were murky and it was damp, but the show went on against the Atlanta Braves. This time there was only a smattering of applause from the slim crowd of 5,264 as Banks faced the Braves' Pat Jarvis in the second inning.
With the count one-and-one, Jarvis delivered a fastball, chest high and a bit inside-and Banks swung. The ball was hit deep, but had a low trajectory. Would it clear the 12-foot high fence? Left fielder Rico Carty went back, back-and then stopped. The ball landed in the first row of the bleachers. Banks ran as fast as he could to first base before he stole a glance, heard the crowd noise and then broke into his familiar home run trot. He doffed his cap as he crossed home plate, and repeated his act as he headed towards the Cub dugout. Play was halted as the ball was retrieved and presented to Banks.
And, finally, here's one for trivia buffs. In which major league ballpark did Lou Gehrig hit his first homer? Yankee Stadium? Guess again.
On June 26, 1920, Lane Technical High School of Chicago was playing the High School of Commerce from New York for the inter-city baseball championship at Wrigley Field.
The score was 8-8 and Commerce had the bases loaded in the eighth inning, when Gehrig, a high school junior, stepped up and hit the first ball pitched over the right-field fence for a 12-8 victory.
Although it wasn't one of the official 6,905 Wrigley Field homers, it was a memorable one.
PLAYERS WITH 20 OR MORE HOME RUNS AT WRIGLEY FIELD
(as Cub player or opponent)
WRIGLEY FIELD HOME RUN FACTS (1914-1978)
Total Homers by Cubs-3,427
Total homers by Cubs opponents-3,396
Total homers by Federal League teams-82
World Series homers-19 (6 by Cubs, 13 by Cubs opponents)
All-Star Game homers-5 (0 by Cubs, 2 by NL; 3 by AL opponents)
Most homers in one season-201 in 1970 (Cubs 109, opponents 92)
Most homers in one season by Cubs-109 in 1970.
Most homers in one season by Cubs opponents-100 in 1966
Most homers by a Cub lifetime-Ernie Banks 290
Most homers by a Cub opponent lifetime-Willie Mays 54
Most homers by a Cub in one season-Hack Wilson, 33 in 1930
Most homers by a Cub opponent in one season-7
Gene Oliver, St. Louis, 1965
Johnny Callison, Philadelphia, 1965
Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia, 1976 (4 in 1 game)
All-Time Cub Team
Ernie Banks, 120 lB
Rogers Hornsby, 29 2B
Ernie Banks, 170 SS
Ron Santo, 212 3B
Billy Williams, 241 OF
Hank Sauer, 114 OF
Hack Wilson, 105 OF
Gabby Hartnett, 115 C
All-Time Opponent Team
Willie Stargell, 28
Rogers Hornsby, 23
Glenn Wright, 10, Johnny Logan, 10
Eddie Mathews, 36
Willie Mays, 54
Hank Aaron, 50
Mel Ott, 38
Roy Campanella, 17
Note: Banks is listed at two positions; Hornsby made the Cub team and the opponent team; Stargell edged Gil Hodges and Orlando Cepeda by one homer at 1B; Johnny Bench has 16 homers and will likely replace Campy as the catcher.
*Assisted by John C. Tattersall