Former Cubs share fond memories of Wrigley
Byrd, DeRosa, Campana salute fans as beloved park turns 100 in '14
This is the second in a series on memorable moments at Wrigley Field, in honor of its upcoming 100th season.
Mark DeRosa's two seasons with the Cubs were his favorite. Marlon Byrd respected the fans at Wrigley Field, and they cheered him in return. And Tony Campana brought the crowd to its feet as soon as he got on base.
This season marks Wrigley Field's 100th anniversary, and MLB.com reporters asked players, coaches and managers for their favorite memory of the ballpark. Here, former Cubs Byrd, DeRosa and Campana share their stories.
When Marlon Byrd played for the Cubs from 2010-12, he made a point of saluting the fans in the bleachers when he took the field before games. He knew what made Wrigley Field special.
"The big thing about playing in Chicago is that everyone knows what makes Wrigley Field is the fans," Byrd said. "Day games, night games, it doesn't matter. Everyone knows day games, there will be 30,000 to 40,000 people, and it doesn't matter if it's a 100-loss team or a team that hasn't won in over 100 years. Opening Day, 5 a.m., the bar is open. It's Wrigleyville, the whole atmosphere. There are little things people don't know -- when you're a player, leaving the field after the game, there are kids sprinting all the way down Waveland [Avenue], following your car, just to wave and say 'Hi.' They aren't even asking for autographs.
"That was a big thing for me was the fans. I always gave them a salute when I went to the outfield because they are there every single day when we played. I always heard more cheers than boos. In 2012, when I finished, I think I had two hits in 47 at-bats, I didn't hear one boo all year long. I really appreciated that. The fans always made Wrigley special."
DeRosa timed his stint with the Cubs perfectly. He played in 2007 and '08, and the team reached the postseason both years. The former quarterback and versatile player was very popular in Chicago. He'll do well in his next job as a commentator on MLB Network.
"It means a heck of a lot more to me than some other guys," DeRosa said of playing for the Cubs. "For me, I've been fortunate to play on eight teams, eight unbelievable organizations, but when I'm done playing, I'll consider myself a Cub, just because that was the team I got a chance to start with every day. They gave me a three-year contract to come over there to try and turn things around. We were successful. We had two years where we were division champs. I have a lot of great memories playing there.
"For me, Wrigley is a very special place. I always equated it to a college football atmosphere. That's the feeling I used to get driving to the field at 9 in the morning. If we had the Cardinals in town on the weekend, or a big series, there were people almost tailgating, and there would be a buzz in that Wrigleyville area that a big game was coming up. I always loved it.
"Everyone always asks, 'How do you play so many day games?' It's not easy, but you show up at 9 o'clock and you feel like, 'Here we go again, another day game, we got to get fired up.' For some reason, when you come out at 12:45 to get loose and that place is jumping, your adrenaline gets going and you're ready to go. It's an electric atmosphere. All the people that have played there, the history behind it, it's a very cool place. I think about stuff like when you do your tee work and your flip work under the right-field bleachers, you think that's where so many Hall of Famers have hit from the exact same spot. That stuff is pretty neat.
"[My favorite memory] personally were the at-bats in the postseason games where I actually went somewhat deaf for a second. It was so loud in there that you kind of lose all sense of hearing, and it's almost one big flat line. Those are always cool moments.
"For me, a huge moment will be a game that probably not a lot of people will remember. It was late in '07, we were battling for the division against Milwaukee. We were losing. Bottom of the ninth, we made a great comeback, and Aramis Ramirez ended up hitting a walk-off homer. It kind of catapulted us to winning the division, and ended Milwaukee's hopes of catching us at that point. I think they still ended up making the playoffs, but at the moment it was such a big swing game for us. Just to see the fans, the way the team reacted, and the way the city reacted to that game. It was kind of a turning point in my time there where we went from a good team, a talented team, to a team that kind of came together and was ready to win a lot of ballgames. I remember that one.
"I always like the team moments ... Carlos Zambrano throwing a no-hitter, being out on the field for that, that was special. Celebrating in the clubhouse. One of my fondest memories would be in '07 when we did clinch. We beat Cincinnati in Cincinnati, and Milwaukee had to lose to San Diego and they were in the sixth or seventh. We had the champagne on ice, and all the guys sat and watched to see if San Diego would win. They did win that game, and the clubhouse erupted. For me, it was validation. I had won so many division titles with the Braves but never as an everyday guy. We had won the division and I was an everyday guy, counted on to perform every day. So for me, personally, it meant a lot. But yeah, I enjoy the team moreso than myself."
Campana was fast, and as soon as he got on base, Cubs fans knew he was running. The outfielder, who played for the Cubs from 2011-12, was a crowd favorite.
"[Playing at Wrigley] was awesome. The fans would come out and support you every day pretty much no matter what. I mean, we didn't play that well and yet they came out and showed their support. I don't think I could have had a better experience there. They treated me very well.
"You go to a place like that where you know all those great players in the past have played there and it's humbling. It's humbling to know that I played in center field where all kinds of Hall of Famers have played in the past. Just getting to play in the same stadium, on the same field it's humbling, a humbling experience."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. Steve Gilbert contributed to this report. Muskat 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.