Vets to chew on Wrigley's candidacy
Late owner made Cubs and their home a household name
Cubs fans who have suffered the pangs of defeat for so long may not rush to anoint Phil Wrigley as a Hall of Famer.
Bleacher bums, on the other hand, are a different story.
Phillip Knight Wrigley, sometimes called P.K. Wrigley, is among 15 former managers, umpires, and executives eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
It is Wrigley's second appearance on the Veterans Committee Composite Ballot. The former Cubs owner received 11 percent of 79 ballots cast in 2003, needing 60 or more to be elected.
The Veterans Committee electorate (currently at 83 members), is comprised of the living Hall of Fame members (60), Ford C. Frick Award recipients (14), J.G. Taylor Spink Award recipients (8) and former Veterans Committee members whose terms have not yet expired (one). All candidates who earn 75 % of the votes will be enshrined in the summer of 2007. The entire process will be repeated again for eligible managers, umpires, and executives in 2011.
Wrigley took over as major stockholder of the Chicago Cubs in 1932 after his father, William Wrigley Jr., passed away. It was Wrigley Jr., the gum manufacturer, who bought the club in 1925 and revitalized the organization with the help of marketing guru William Veeck. And the club experienced success on the field, winning NL pennants in 1929, 1932, 1935, and 1938.
By the late 1930s, though, both Wrigley Jr. and Veeck had died, leaving the Cubs franchise in Phil, or P.K., Wrigley's hands.
The Cubs entered a long period of mediocrity, reaching the World Series for the last time in 1945 and finishing in the bottom half of the National League for 20 consecutive years beginning in 1947.
But what P.K. Wrigley failed to offer on the field, he made up for in his business savvy.
He resisted installing lights at Wrigley Field, stating that it took away from the character of the stadium.
August Busch Jr.
He allowed radio broadcasts of Cubs games extensively throughout the metropolitan area, often for minimal fees. In the heydey of baseball, during the post-World War II era, Wrigley continued this practice, allowing WGN-TV to broadcast all home games in addition to a significant number of away contests. This practice seemed ludicrous to other owners, but Wrigley revolutionized sports broadcasting, with the superstation developing into a nation-wide network. And by carrrying Cubs games throughout the country, Wrigley created and enhanced the Cubs mystique and appeal. This resulted in a consistent fan base and, ultimately, sellout crowds on a daily basis.
And baseball fans can thank Wrigley for the adorable bobblehead dolls of their favorite players, as well.
The first sports licensing agreement is thought to have taken place in 1928, according to the a 1999 New York Times article, when David Warsaw persuaded Phil Wrigley to allow Warsaw's company, Sports Specialties, to produce ceramic ashtrays in the shape of Wrigley Field. When Warsaw offered to pay a royalty for every ashtray sold, Wrigley took the deal. Almost 35 years later, Sports Specialties became the National Football League's first licensee.
Wrigley also instituted a "college of coaches," which eventually developed into the modern-day type of coaching staff. The specialization of coaches is somewhat taken for granted today, but Wrigley's innovation abolished the traditional field management structure that had dominated the game for years.
His approach, though, did not last because he rotated the "head coach" on a continual basis, which confused the players and invited media criticism, largely due to the lack of success in the win column. But Wrigley did abandon the head coach carousel when he made his best managerial hire in 1966 with Leo Durocher.
Finally, with regards to the appeal of the stadium named after his father, Wrigley maintained the ballpark so well that it is still one of the most beautiful parks and, with its vine-covered outfield walls and red brick symmetry, one of the most enjoyable in which to watch a baseball game.
Regardless of the team's place in the standings, Cubs fans continue to attend Wrigley Field in droves. All thanks to P.K. Wrigley.
Chris Girandola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.