WGN starts taping Wrigley Field 2014 centennial doc

WGN-TV has started production on a two-hour special to mark Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday in 2014, by traveling to tape interviews with great Cubs of the past, including one in Dallas with former Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux.  

Station officials declined to comment on the anniversary show, possibly because it’s too early in the game to provide any conclusive details.  

Speculating on the special’s format, the station can go several ways, given such long commemorative baseball specials have been put together and been well-received several times in station history.

Keeping the costs down, WGN could stick close to home to tape baseball celebrities who either reside in Chicago, or are passing through with their teams or making personal appearances here. The station also would re-cycle its voluminous library of baseball highlights that have accumulated since 1960.

But if the station really wanted to craft a saleable special that offers a memorable time trip through Wrigley history, they’ll budget for several trips around the country for interviews. 

Maddux, perhaps the greatest pitcher the Cubs ever produced out of their farm system, was in Dallas assisting brother Mike Maddux, pitching coach of the Texas Rangers. He likely will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the near future.

Must interviews for the special will be Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg and Bruce Sutter, who spent all or part of their careers as Cubs.  

But a necessity are other Cubs achievers, like pitcher Dick Ellsworth and outfielder George Altman, living around the country who have not made the Hall of Fame. In many cases, these ex-players have been overlooked by the team and WGN in commemorative events and video productions.

WGN will need to spend only gas money to tape others close to home. Milt Pappas, the last Cub to throw a no-hitter (in 1972) in Wrigley Field, resides in suburban Beecher.

WGN sports production legends Jack Rosenberg and Bill Lotzer are also local residents.  

One Chicago team that honors its history is the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks. Part of their entertainment package has been taping interviews with former players while also regularly showing the likes of Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito and Denis Savard in a United Center suite via the arena’s video scoreboard.

George Castle is a longtime Chicago-based sportswriter, author and sports historian.