Some people will say that the best time to be an American sports fan each year is during NCAA March Madness. Others will point to the start of the NFL season, or the opening rounds of pretty much any sport. But I don't care that much about the national perspective because, as a Philly sports fan, you know what's pretty cool? The time each year that the Philadelphia Phillies travel to Wrigley Field to face the Chicago Cubs. They've been doing it for over 100 years, and it's worth talking about. (Note: I'm going to two of the games in this upcoming series, so I have an alterior motive, so sue me.)
Let's begin at the beginning. The ballpark we all know as Wrigley was originally known as Weeghman Park, and it opened in 1914. The Cubs didn't take up residence there until two years later, and it was on May 21, 1916 that the Phillies made their first ever visit. The Phils would win that game by a 4-2 score, with Charles "Chief" Bender getting the win in relief of Eppa Rixey. Trailing 1-0 entering the ninth inning, the Phillies jumped all over Cubs pitcher George McConnell, which ruined the day for a lot of fantasy baseball teams, I'm sure. Gavvy Cravath became the first Phillies player to homer in the park. Six years later, these clubs combined for a still-standing major league record 49 runs at the park in a 26-23 Cubs win. I'm assuming that Jamie Moyer got roughed up that day, whichever staff he was on at the time.
But what about "Wrigley Field" you say? The name change took effect for the 1927 season, and the Phillies officially played at "Wrigley Field" for the first time on June 15, 1927. The Cubs won 12-5 that day, with Phils starter Claude Willoughby failing to get out of the first inning. We'll forgo roughly half a century of other various meetings and jump right to the game that people always think about when you say "Phillies/Cubs at Wrigley Field": Mike Schmidt's four-home game on April 17, 1976 in an 18-16 Phillies win. Wild. You know you've had a big day when it gets mentioned on your Hall of Fame plaque. Three years later, the Phillies won an even zanier 23-22 affair. Holy cow.
Fast forward to August 8, 1988 (yes, 8/8/88), and the Phillies were the opponents for the first ever night game at Wrigley Field after they had finally installed lights. Unfortunately, the game was rained out before it became official, and the Phils had to leave town. Also of note, the Phillies were the opponent for Ryne Sandberg's (UGH) final home game as a Cub, on September 21, 1997. Sandberg was replaced with a pinch runner after a fifth inning single off of Curt Schilling, getting his final Wrigley ovation. It actually ended up being his final MLB hit, as he went 0-fer on the Cubs' season-ending road trip after that game.
As for our current century, there haven't been as many crazy, notable games between these two teams at Wrigley Field, but I'll detail a few because I got to attend them in person. My first Phillies/Cubs experience at Wrigley (although not my first time at Wrigley overall, because of a random game six years earlier) came on August 1, 2007. I've detailed this one before and you can read up on it if you want, but I'll just tell you that it ended in ugly fashion when Brett Myers uncorked a walkoff wild pitch. At least the Phillies won the following night when I was again in attendance. One year later, I saw a a pair of Phillies losses at Wrigley in 2008 which I don't care to recount, although that year turned out ok overall.
Prior to this week, my last time at Wrigley Field came during the 2009 Phillies season, and it was memorable. In the opener of the series, the Phillies blew a ninth inning lead but emerged victorious after a 12th inning home run by — wait for it — Ben Francisco, This game was on August 11, but the start time temperature was only 65 degrees. Add in the fact that we were sitting near the top of the stands, with swirling winds and a game that went extra innings, and this was just about as cold as I've ever been at a baseball game. I think we threw on parkas for the game the next day, which was slightly nicer. We also had better seats that weren't in the death zone. The Phils won that game 12-5 behind Pedro Martinez, but this game was particularly noteworthy because it included a Cubs fan throwing a beer at Shane Victorino as he was catching a fly ball on the warning track. This got some media attention for a couple days, but you can be assured that it would still be brought up to this day during every national telecast involving the Phillies if it had happened in Philadelphia.
Through it all, the Phillies and Cubs have somehow never met in the playoffs (although if you're even vaguely familiar with either team's history, you know why this is the case); hence, the Phillies have never played a postseason contest at Wrigley Field. This is the part where I was going to say "But the Eagles have!", but I looked it up, and they didn't. Oh well. At any rate, it would be fun to see things get wild again at the Friendly Confines this week, but I'd just settle for some Phillies victories, whatever variety they might come in.