He might be Phillies manager, but Joe Girardi’s roots are with the Cubs.
Long before Joe Girardi was managing the Phillies – or mismanaging, depending on who you ask – he was just an Illinois boy.
Born in Peoria, Illinois, Girardi grew up less than three hours away from Chicago. As a boy, he went to Cubs games with his dad. In third grade, he wrote an essay about how he wanted to grow up and play for the Cubs.
"“I absolutely loved [Wrigley] and I loved the Cubs.” – Girardi on growing up in Illinois"
Girardi’s dream came true. After college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he played college ball, went to more Cubs games, and earned his Bachelors in industrial engineering – which he says helped him with scouting reports – the Chicago Cubs drafted Girardi in the fifth round of the 1986 draft.
Being drafted by the Cubs meant that Girardi began his professional career in his own hometown, with his team’s then-affiliate Peoria Chiefs.
Girardi made his Major League debut for the Cubs on Opening Day in 1989, the first rookie catcher since Randy Hundley in 1966 to start for the Cubs on Opening Day. Recalling his debut experience, Girardi said:
"“It truly was the fulfillment of a dream. I used to go to Wrigley as a kid, and now to have the chance to step on the same turf was an amazing thrill.”"
He played for them until 1992, before the brand-new Colorado Rockies took him in the MLB Expansion Draft. After a stint with the Yankees, Girardi returned to the Cubs from 2000-2002.
In 2006, after being fired by the Miami Marlins, Girardi even interviewed to manage the Cubs, but lost out on the job to Lou Piniella. He was considered a “prime-time candidate.”
In 2019, as the Cubs were again looking for someone to fill the skipper’s shoes, Girardi expressed renewed interest in the job. Of course, the job went to fellow former Cubs catcher David Ross, while Girardi now heads up the Phillies.
"“Obviously, I have a lot of ties to Chicago.” – Girardi"
So for Girardi, any series at Wrigley Field is a homecoming. His home state, his first MLB franchise, his first home ballpark, memories with his father, a diehard Cubs fan. Girardi was even one of their captains during his second stint, and once made the bold choice of turning down Sammy Sosa’s boombox in the clubhouse. In the Cubs’ first home game after the September 11 attacks, Girardi was the player who addressed the fans at Wrigley.
Girardi’s Illinois roots, and more specifically, his Cubs roots run deep. He might be running the show in Philadelphia, but this week in Chicago, he’s home.