CHICAGO (AP) — Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its first game on Wednesday with an afternoon matchup against Arizona. The ballpark that opened as Weeghman Park on April 23, 1914, has been the scene of some of baseball's most memorable plays and millions of fans have come through its gates. Memories from some of them:
Like everyone else under the age of 106, John Paul Stevens wasn't yet born the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. But the retired Supreme Court justice did see the single most famous moment at Wrigley Field that may or may not have happened, or if it happened, it may not have meant exactly what people think it did.
Stevens was 12 when his dad took him to Game 3 of the 1932 World Series between the Cubs and the New York Yankees. His seat behind third base was good enough to see that Ruth and Cubs pitcher Guy Bush were really jawing at each other whenever Ruth came to bat. It seems that the Yankees were steamed when they heard the Cubs had voted a former Yankee on the roster only a half-share of the World Series money.
"The Yankees regarded the Cubs as cheapskates," Stevens said.
Not that the future justice knew any of this, or could hear exactly what the two were yelling at each.
"I didn't know what the reason was for it but I remember... they were going back and forth," he said.
Ruth homered in the first inning and when he came up in the fifth, he'd apparently had it with Bush. "He did point the bat in the direction of the centerfield bleachers as everybody describes," he said.
The next day the buzz was that Ruth had called his second home run.
Stevens isn't so sure. He had the distinct impression Ruth was talking about hitting something besides a baseball.
"I remember thinking (it meant) he was going to knock Bush to the moon," Stevens said.
Joe Mantegna can't remember not being a devoted Cubs fan. When he was a young struggling actor in his hometown, a seat in the bleachers at Wrigley Field — about $1.25, he recalls — was one of the few things he could afford to buy.
Day after day, he'd see the same fans — the successful businessman who would take his shirt off and wrap it around his head like a turban, the three blind guys, the kid covered with ice cream and the lady who seemed to know more about the Cubs than any of them. He'd watch as they'd bet on anything — including how long it took for a bug to make its way up a wall.
"I'd look around at the end of the game and I'd say, 'What the hell, there are 35,000 people out here to watch this team every day that at best is mediocre,'" he said. "I thought if I can capture what it is that brings these people out, how they share this experience every day, I'd have a play."
Toward the end of the season of the theater company he was in, the director said they needed another play and had pretty much no money to do it. Any suggestions?
"I raised my hand (and said), 'Come to the ball game tomorrow and tell me if you don't think this is a play,'" he said.
They did and Mantegna didn't have to change much to create "Bleacher Bums." He tinkered with the names a bit, turned the three blind guys into one blind guy and turned a couple of fans into a married couple, but that was it.
The play, he said, was an immediate hit and soon the theater was getting calls from actual baseball fans who wanted to come to the theater.
They'd never seen a play and wanted to know what you wear when you come to a play," he said. "They were baseball fans so they were told to come dressed as they were."
Novelist Sara Paretsky had been a Cubs fan, though a casual one, since 1966. In 1973, home with a sprained ankle and with nothing to do, she started watching Cubs games on WGN. She admired Bill Buckner, a fleet, hard-hitting first baseman years before his famous gaffe while with the Red Sox.
"There was just something about him," she said.
Paretsky, who was working at a downtown insurance company, soon heard from a client about how a nice young man who lived near her and her mother had shoveled their sidewalk for them during the winter. Turns out it was Buckner.
"They were not fans, he didn't get anything out of it," said Paretsky. "That he would go out of his way to help these two women, that's when I became a die-hard fan."
And she wasn't the only one. So is V I Warshawski, the character that propelled Paretsky to the top ranks of mystery novelists and ultimately put her on the field she'd seen on television and from the stands. When the movie starring Kathleen Turner as Warshawski was being filmed, one scene — ultimately cut — was shot inside Wrigley, just hours after the Cubs and Paretsky favorite Andre Dawson had played a game.
When she got on the field, Paretsky kissed the grass in right field. She ran the bases.
"The movie was terrible and it bombed at the box office, but I still have this glorious memory of being on that field and on that grass," she said.
William Petersen thought he was onto something. All he had to do was walk down the street to a doughnut shop, pick up the pay phone, lower his voice to sound like his dad and inform the school secretary that young Billy too sick to attend.