Cubs plan to relax, enjoy rare Sunday off-day
Nats, Cubs play twin bill Saturday to accommodate Pride Parade in Chicago
CHICAGO -- Jason Hammel will play golf. Wesley Wright will be able to read the Sunday newspaper at a leisurely pace. Anthony Rizzo will probably have Sunday brunch. Carlos Villanueva most likely will sleep late.
For the first time since the Cubs began playing at Wrigley Field in 1916, they have a scheduled day off on a Sunday during a homestand.
Rather than finish their home series against the Nationals on Sunday, the Cubs played a day-night doubleheader on Saturday. The schedule change was announced in early February at the request of 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney to avoid traffic congestion in the neighborhood because of the annual Pride Parade, which will be Sunday.
Saturday's day-night twin bill was the Cubs' first regularly scheduled doubleheader since they played two against the Expos on July 4, 1983.
"We have some family plans for that day and maybe it can become a regular thing -- let's play two, Ernie style, and enjoy a day of rest on Sunday," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said, referring to Hall of Famer Ernie Banks' enthusiastic approach to the game.
According to Cubs historian Ed Hartig, the last time the Cubs had a Sunday off-day in the regular season was June 19, 1932. On Saturday, June 18 that year, the Cubs split a doubleheader against the New York Giants, losing the first game, 4-2, and winning the second, 3-0, behind Lon Warneke's six-hit complete game. Kiki Cuyler and Rollie Hemsley both homered for the Cubs in the game played at the Polo Grounds. Warneke, a right-hander from Mount Ida, Ark., known as the Arkansas Hummingbird, would win 22 games that season.
After the twin bill, the Cubs took Sunday off, then resumed play Monday, June 20, in Philadelphia. Local blue laws in the early 1930s prohibited professional baseball games on Sundays in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Boston. The city of Philadelphia would not host its first legal Major League baseball game on a Sunday until April 8, 1934.
In 1902, Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati permitted Sunday baseball. By 1918, professional games were allowed in Cleveland, Detroit and Washington on Sunday. New York City permitted Sunday games in 1919, and Boston and Baltimore signed up in 1929 and 1932, respectively.
States were serious about protecting Sundays. Supporters of the blue laws said playing professional baseball on Sunday was a "breach of peace." Games would be a "disturbance to persons in that neighborhood desirous of preserving the peace and quiet of Sunday so that they may in such peace and quiet pursue their religious worship and meditation."
Times changed in the 1950s and '60s when teams frequently scheduled doubleheaders on Sunday to maximize attendance. But teams realized they were losing gate receipts giving fans two games for the price of one, and by the 1970s, they were eliminated completely. In 1985, the Cubs became the first National League team to go the year without a doubleheader. They had gotten a boost by winning the division in '84 and having games broadcast on superstation WGN increased their fan base.
In 1916, the Cubs had a Sunday off-day on June 18, but that date fell between a series in Brooklyn and a home game against the Reds. The Cubs didn't get the day off, either, and played an exhibition game in Jamestown, N.Y., on June 18.
This year, the Cubs will have an off-day in Boston on Sunday before opening a three-game Interleague series on Monday. It's the first visit to Fenway Park since May 20-22, 2011, which was the Cubs' first trip to the Red Sox's home park since the 1918 World Series. Boston won that series in six games, led by Babe Ruth, who was the winning pitcher in two of the games.
The current Cubs don't look at it as having Sunday off, but just a day off.
"In baseball, you do the same thing every day, so you really don't know the day of the week," Wright said. "All you know is that it's an off-day. Every day feels the same, and whether it's Sunday or Thursday, you just take off. The fact that it's on a Sunday is kind of unique, but it's just an off-day to me."
So, will he relax, order eggs Benedict at brunch, watch a movie?
"An off-day for me means 'rest day,' and just lounge," Wright said. "I want my body to be stagnant as much as possible. I don't like to do a lot on the off day."
Hammel lives in the Boston area in the offseason, so he'll be home. His brother-in-law set up golf for the pitcher and some of his teammates on Sunday.
"It'll be a lot of fun -- I can relax, go home, have a good dinner at one of the restaurants we know and sit down on my couch," Hammel said. "It'll be like you actually have a regular life."
Sounds like what a lot of folks do on summer Sundays.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.