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At Last, The Cubs Are First
William Nack
October 01, 1984
Holy cow! After a drought of Biblical magnitude Chicago fans have a winner
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October 01, 1984

At Last, The Cubs Are First

Holy cow! After a drought of Biblical magnitude Chicago fans have a winner

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"How are the Cubs gonna do?"

"I think they'll win the pennant," Veeck said, to cheers. "They'll go on to win the world championship."

"What about lights in Wrigley Field?" came a third inquiry.

"Why would you want to put in lights and spoil this ball park?" Veeck asked, to even lustier cheers.

As Caray rules the grandstand below his booth, so Veeck presides over his small corner of the universe, an old baseball man obviously revered by the fans who pass and wave and beseech him for autographs. Most recently he owned the White Sox; he switched his allegiance back to the Cubs after selling the Sox in 1980. He's a thorn to the Sox now, so obvious has been his presence at Wrigley, but his ties to baseball trace to the Cubs. It was Veeck, as the Cubs' youthful treasurer in 1937, who decided to plant Boston ivy along the outfield wall, and it was Veeck who one night led a crew of groundkeepers in the setting of the plants.

"Playyyy ball!" thundered the voice over the loudspeaker. The Cubs trotted onto the field to a raucous standing O. Another sign fluttered in the right field bleachers: GOD is A CUBS' FAN. And, at that moment, the scene suggested that divine intervention was at hand. The sun finally peeped through, throwing hazy shadows on the ground, and a breeze rippled a flag with Banks's retired No. 14, on the leftfield foul pole, high above the white lines and bright green grass of this quaint, idyllic pasture set in the middle of a city. Veeck had his lamb chops and Sutcliffe had his fastball and, with God in his heaven, all seemed right with the world.

"To me, a ball park filled with people is a beautiful thing," said Veeck, relishing the scene. "It's an epitome, a work of art. This is the prettiest ball park in either league. Look at it. It's open. You're close to the players. You're a participant rather than a spectator. If you look out from the grandstands, you see the vines, you see grass. Ball parks should smell like freshly cut grass. That's why artificial turf is such a disaster. People come to the ball park to escape the asphalt and city streets. This park is light and airy and it means outdoors."

Veeck glanced up at the scoreboard that looms like an old ship, with team flags flying, over centerfield. The inning-by-inning scores are still posted manually by a crew of three that scurries around the Scoreboard's three tiers, each of them connected by steel ladders and interlaced by girders.

"You see the old bleachers and the old scoreboard, built in 1937," Veeck says. "There's not a discordant note in the appearance of this park."

There wasn't on this day. The scoreboard showed the Cubs leading 3-0 in their half of the sixth. The bases were loaded and Jody Davis, the Cub catcher, was at bat. "If the Cubs win this one, it's all over for the Mets," Veeck said. A chant went up in the bleachers, people screaming louder and louder as Davis came to the plate: "Jo-DEE! Jo-DEE!"

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