Today marks the 25th anniversary of the first night game at Wrigley Field.
Well sort of, the game actually didn't count as the rains came and wiped it away. However, for those of us who were there we will never forget the electricity surrounding the park that night.
One person who was responsible for doing the heavy lifting for those very lights was former Cubs GM and President Dallas Green. Green fought with the Wrigleyville neighborhood for years, letting them know just how important having lights was for the Cubs to compete in then modern baseball.
That's why I found it so ironic that Green would draw the line at a Jumbotron.
“It’s going to mar the beauty of the ballpark, there’s no question about that,” said Green, who ran the Cubs from 1982 to 1987 and is a senior adviser to the general manager with the Phillies. “It’s one of the oldest in the game, and it has a charm to it. But it goes back to the same old thing. If you don’t put asses in the seats and you don’t have advertisers and you don’t have TV contracts, you cannot survive in today’s game.”
Green almost sounds like one of the silly neighbors that he fought against for so many years. Then he reminded himself that the economics of the game practically demand it. The Cubs say they need the jumbotron to compete in today's game. Sound familiar Dallas?
Gordon Wittenmeyer caught up with Green and the column delves much more into the parallels between Green and Theo Epstein's attempts at turning the Cubs around. There are some choice quotes, and even a cutting dig at a certain Trib suit holdover.
We here have drawn those same parallels many times between Green, Epstein and their respective plans. I've written before how disappointing it was for Green not be able to finish out his vision.
However, from what I was told years ago Green had only himself to blame for that. Green was power thirsty and wasn't happy about giving up the Cubs Presidency. He couldn't successfully wear all the hats, and he couldn't play nice with the Tribune suits.
“Theo’s got his work cut out for him, no question about that,” he said. “You go in there and you don’t have anything. Like the old saying: ‘You can’t polish a turd.’
“So you’ve got to figure out a way to be competitive so your people still come to the games and everybody’s still interested in Wrigley Field and coming to the ballgames.”
That is where this is a little different. The Cubs aren't competitive and there are plenty of fans who have stayed away during this reconstruction, but it hasn't derailed anything. Of course, Green didn't have the luxury of working for a non corporate owner in Tom Ricketts, who is also patient, for now at least.
“We just went about our work and tried very desperately to do it as quickly as we could,” said Green.
“And we probably did it too quick,” of the suddenly hyped expectations.
Unfortunately or not, that likely won't be a problem this time around.
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