By Bruce Levine-
WRIGLEY FIELD (CBS) — The 100-year celebration of Wrigley Field will seem incomplete Wednesday without some of the most iconic players and managers who won’t be part of the party.
Planning the festivities has been a can of worms for the marketing department, led by relative newcomer Alison Miller.
The franchise was not going to spend $200,000 in first class airfares to invite 100 former players and managers, which is understandable. The Cubs invited their newest Hall of Famer in Greg Maddux, but clearing his schedule to get to Chicago wasn’t possible. Maddux currently works in the front office of the Texas Rangers.
The important trio of Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams will be in place. No Cubs players ever represented the franchise with more grace and style on and off the field. Banks and Williams have statues, and Jenkins, Maddux and Ryne Sandberg should eventually have their own.
The absence of Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe is sad but understandable. Sandberg is off managing his baseball team, while Sutcliffe could not get out of his TV broadcast commitment.
Two of the greatest living players were passed up on the Wrigley birthday bash list. Sammy Sosa and Carlos Zambrano weren’t invited. Sosa was the only good reason to come and watch the Cubs from 1992 until he was traded to the Orioles in 2005. The Cubs’ all-time home run king hasn’t been accused of wrong doing by Major League Baseball or the courts, but the fact is he suffers the same fate as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
In the court of public opinion, both Sosa and Zambrano committed the cardinal sin of walking out on their teammates — Sosa on the last day of the 2004 season and Zambrano after giving up a franchise-high five home runs in 2011.
Regardless of these serious transgressions, both players should have been invited to take part in the celebration of the ballpark’s historic day. If history tells you anything, it confirms that people aren’t perfect. Certainly Sosa and Zambrano made mistakes, but that can’t erase their vast contributions to the history of a lot that was great and memorable at Clark and Addison. Zambrano’s tantrums will never be forgotten, but 130 wins goes a long way as well to his legend. Sosa is the only player to hit 60 or more home runs three times.
Cincinnati stills adores Pete Rose despite his permanent suspension from baseball and all activities around the game. A little respect to the decade of All-Star service both players contributed to the Cubs would not be asking too much.
You can make an argument that both players burnt the final bridge behind them with hasty selfish exits. I choose to look at the excellent body of work and fun both guys brought to the Wrigley faithful. For whatever flaws they had, both gave everything they had to the fans when they took to the hallowed ground of Wrigley Field.