Wrigley at 100: Still waiting for a title

CHICAGO -- As baseball and Chicago dignitaries line up for Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary celebration on Wednesday, there’s one undeniable aspect that can’t be avoided: One of the most iconic stadiums in sports has never housed a championship. The Cubs last won one 105 years ago at West Side Park, before Wrigley Field was built.

“That’s not what I’m thinking when I think about [Wednesday],” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “When it comes to the 100th anniversary, I think of Wrigley as the epicenter of fans' connections to the Cubs.”

And he’s right. It’s where many a generation of fans have connected with family and friends, but a 100-year-old building without even one title is hard to swallow. The Cubs say they are committed to changing that.

“That’s the whole purpose for going out and playing,” said Rick Renteria, the 53rd manager in Cubs history. “The organization has had playoff-contending teams, just haven’t been able to get it to its finality.

“They’ve had winning clubs and winning players, just haven’t finished it. I hope I’m a part of that.”

How many managers before him have said something similar? Everyone wants to be a part of breaking the longest drought in American professional sports history, but the Cubs haven’t even come close since 1945, their last appearance in the World Series. At least that one was at Wrigley Field.

“Losing sucks,” Epstein said. “When losing stops sucking you should probably find another career.”

It’s Epstein’s plan the Cubs are currently in the midst of trying to fulfill. In an ironic twist it involves lots of losing before they can win again. The Cubs know how to do that, but again, they are committed to a different outcome this time around. When that will occur –- if it occurs –- is anyone’s guess.

“We’re putting 200 percent in to change that,” shortstop Starlin Castro said. “It’s really special. I’m happy to be here for this birthday.”

There isn’t a Cubs player who has ever donned the uniform who hasn’t liked playing at Wrigley Field. Or rather, if there are, they’ve kept it to themselves. Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen used to criticize the working conditions but always said that between the lines it was a beautiful park. What’s not to like -– besides all the losing, of course?

“It’s just a great ballpark,” reliever Justin Grimm said. “Everything about it. And to have all those former players here is going to be awesome.”

The only thing more awesome would be winning a championship at Wrigley Field. There’s a first for everything, and Epstein is hoping he’s in charge when it happens.

“We all look forward to the day when the crowd and the energy in the ballpark is focused on that ninth-inning comeback the Cubs are going to have instead of the seventh-inning stretch,” Epstein said.

For now, we’ll take the seventh-inning stretch.