The offseason between 1998 and 1999 was busy for the Chicago Cubs marketing team and Vine Line magazine staff. A marketing campaign with Old Style beer was conceived to conduct a fan vote for the Cubs’ All-Century team in early 1999 that included the production of an accompanying 21-card set. As discussions of the greatest players of the century were ongoing, the marketing department proposed a second set of cards highlighting “greatest moments.” According to Cubs team historian Ed Hartig, however, the problem they grappled with was “top moments of what? Of the team? Of the team during the century? Of the park? Of the team at the park?”
Ultimately, they decided to do a card set highlighting the top ten Cubs moments that occurred at Wrigley Field. A Budweiser sponsorship provided for a 10-card set to be given out at the August 6, 1999 game.
Unlike the Cubs All-Century Team, there was no fan voting component for the top moments. Instead, Hartig was tasked with selecting the greatest moments at Wrigley Field. After surveying media members, media relations staff, broadcasters, and others, Hartig took their suggestions and made the call on the definitive Cubs moments at Wrigley Field. He wrote some notes for each event and reviewed them with the Vine Line staffers. Hartig had “a couple ‘extra moments’ in [his] back pocket in case there was any pushback.” However, the conversation went almost as planned.
The only moment they struggled with was Babe Ruth’s alleged “Called Shot” during the 1932 World Series. Hartig jokingly argued it should not be included “because it didn’t happen and wasn’t truly a Cubs moment.” They eventually agreed it was too big a happening (despite its apocryphal nature) not to be included; however, they decided to use a photo of Cubs twirler Charlie Root on the card instead of Ruth.
Once the “moments” were finalized, the project was turned over to the Vine Line staff to design the cards. Photos for the older moments were selected from the George Brace Collection and newer ones came from Cubs photographer Steve Green. Hartig wrote the highlights for each moment to be used for the card backs. They intentionally did not rank the moments, but instead chose to list the cards chronologically.
Hartig recalled “a little bit of pushback from fans” regarding some of the top moment selections. Some folks were critical of what constituted “the moment” of Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game pitched on May 6, 1998. Others suggested that Mark Grace’s catch for the final out of the 1998 Wild Card tie-breaker game against the Giants on September 28, 1998 was more of a “moment.” Regardless, Ed knows they made the right call including the Kerry Wood game because “the whole game was a special moment!”
Some other games/moments considered included the first Chi-Fed game at the ballpark (then called Weeghman Park) on April 23, 1914; the first Cubs game at the park on April 20, 1916; the August 25, 1922 game in which the Cubs beat the Phillies 26-23 (still the most total runs ever scored in a game); Game 6 of the 1945 World Series; Jackie Robinson’s debut at Wrigley Field on May 18, 1947; no-hitters by Sam Jones and Ken Holtzman; and All-Star games at Wrigley Field in 1947, 1962, and 1990.
If only Topps Now existed all along!
Here are Ed Hartig’s personal Top Three Moments (through 1999):
- September 28, 1938 – Gabby Hartnett’s “Homer in the Gloamin’”
“Hartnett’s HR gets the number 1 spot for me because it checks off so many boxes. He was a Cubs legend and Hall of Famer, it was dramatic AND it had a significant impact on an improbable comeback to win the NL pennant. The HR didn’t win the pennant as many may claim, but it certainly crushed the Pirates’ spirit.”
- May 6, 1998 – Kerry Wood Strikes out 20 Houston Astros in his fifth Major League start
“Wood’s 20 K game would be second. I’ve jokingly said that game reminded me of an adult playing in a kids’ game of Wiffle Ball—with the kids mouthing off. Rather than take it easy on the kids, the adult is throwing curve balls with two-foot breaks or blowing fastballs right past them. It just wasn’t fair.”
- December 12, 1965 – Gale Sayers Scores Six Touchdowns
“Number Three is the “Kerry Wood Game” equivalent for football—when [Bears running back] Gale Sayers scored six touchdowns against the 49ers. I know we didn’t include football in the top moments card set, but in a true list of top moments at the park, this game must be included. Sayers was the adult running through, over, and around a group of kids. It was the original ‘it just wasn’t fair.’”
- May 12, 1970 – Banks’ 500th Home Run
- August 8, 1988 – First Night Game at Wrigley Field
“The first night game and Ernie’s 500th would likely come next—I go back and forth on which is fourth and which is fifth. I got to know Ernie while working with the team and his 500th was the first great moment I can remember watching as a kid, so maybe that pushes him to fourth. But without the lights, the Cubs might not be playing in Wrigley Field today. Toss a coin which is fourth and which is fifth.”
- October 1, 1932 – Ruth’s “Called Shot”
“A lot of people list Ruth’s home run high on their lists. As one who thinks it is more myth than truth, I personally don’t rate it very high. But I know others do, so I included it among the top ten—but it would be further down the list.” [Regardless of all the lore that has followed this alleged event, video footage clearly shows that Ruth was pointing at the Cubs’ dugout, not predicting a home run.]
Hartig also had a few ideas for moments that would crack the Top Ten today: the Cubs clinching the Central Division at home in 2008; knocking off the Cardinals in the 2015 NLDS; and Miguel Montero’s grand slam against the Dodgers in the 2016 NLCS. Kyle Hendricks’ two-hit gem over the Dodgers to win the NL pennant in 2016 would certainly be a worthwhile entry for that new list, too.
1999 Budweiser Wrigley Field Top Ten Moments Checklist
(Cards are unnumbered, list presented in chronological order)
- May 2, 1917 – Hippo Vaughn-Fred Toney Double No-Hitter
- October 1, 1932 – Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” (photo is Charlie Root)
- September 28, 1938 – Gabby Hartnett’s “Homer in Gloamin’”
- May 15, 1960 – Don Cardwell’s No-Hitter
- May 12, 1970 – Ernie Banks’ 500th Home Run
- September 2, 1972 – Milt Pappas’ Near-Perfect Game (Cubs broadcaster Lou Boudreau in foreground)
- June 23, 1984 – The Sandberg Game
- August 8, 1988 – First Night Game at Wrigley Field (uncorrected error – “Wrigley Feild” on front of card)
- May 6, 1998 – Kerry Wood’s 20 Strikeouts
- September 13, 1998 – Sammy Sosa Hits Home Runs 61 and 62
Special thanks to Chicago Cubs team historian and Chicago SABR member Ed Hartig for the behind-the-scenes information into how he helped the Cubs create this fantastic card set.
Ed Hartig interview with author, May 23, 2023.