The Cubs released an official announcement about the Wrigley Field rededication event this Friday, noting the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the ballpark’s designation as a National Historic Landmark and laying out the details of the team’s new Hall of Fame. Missing from the announcement was any additional word about a plaque acknowledging the Ricketts family’s role in preserving Wrigley, which makes sense given the initial negative response to the idea.
The new Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame includes 56 plaques representing individuals who dedicated their time to Cubs baseball, both on and off the field. Those plaques represent individuals previously enshrined in the original Cubs Hall of Fame (1982-86), those enshrined in the Cubs Walk of Fame (1992-98), Cubs in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and a new 2021 inductee, Margaret Donahue, who broke gender barriers as Major League Baseball’s first female officer who was not a team owner.
“Honoring those who came before us and those who will come after us is critical to respecting the rich history and tradition of the Chicago Cubs,” said Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney.
Do you know who’s not being honored as part of that rich history? Sammy Sosa, whose exploits singlehandedly enabled the organization to start ratcheting up ticket prices that have become the most expensive experience in the National League and among the priciest in all of baseball. Tom Ricketts has maintained a contrived grudge against Sosa for far too long and it’s long past time to let it go, particularly given how much the slugger has meant to business operations.
And that’s before we even mention his 545 homers, seven All-Star appearances, seven Silver Sluggers, and the 1998 NL MVP award. I get that a lot of folks are still hung up on PEDs and that I’m not going to change anyone’s mind there, but Sosa was larger than life in his 13 years on the North Side. He was Cubs baseball for a good decade there and you can’t deny his impact.
That said, there is one very business-savvy reason not to include Sosa for now. The Cubs say the new HoF “will evolve over the years with new inductees continuously added,” and what better way to mend fences than to orchestrate a reunion that would see Sosa welcomed back to Wrigley? It makes too much sense not to happen soon.
Following the rededication event, the night will conclude with the premiere of a new documentary created by Cubs Productions that details the multiyear restoration and expansion of Wrigley knows as the 1060 Project. The documentary titled “Saving Wrigley Field” will premiere at the ballpark with season ticket holders and seasonal associates in attendance and will air post-event on the Cubs YouTube channel and Marquee Sports Network.
The doc should be pretty cool from an informational standpoint alone, as the logistics of the project are pretty mind-boggling. Whether it’s the massive and intricate excavation of the new home clubhouse or the process of replacing virtually all of the concrete in the entire ballpark, it was quite the feat of modern engineering. Oh yeah, they also managed to squeeze in quite a few new premium club experiences.
As nice as some of this stuff is, my big gripe with it is the timing and the bluster over the idea of restoring the park as though it’s some sort of altruistic act of philanthropy. Habitat for Humanity, this was not. Wrigley was literally falling apart and has been brought back from that to something that will last for many years to come, that much can’t be denied, but adding a sportsbook and making several other changes hardly qualifies as preserving a national landmark. Alas, that’s not my call to make.
I’ll feel a lot better about all of this if ownership spends to put a much better product on the field in short order and then buries the hatchet with Sosa to bring him back.
Ed. note: As it too often the case when discussing Sosa’s legacy, I mentioned only some of the problematic baseball issues and not the domestic violence allegations. While I don’t believe that actually factors in the Cubs’ choice to maintain his exile, it’s not something that should simply be glossed over when considering whether or not he should be honored.