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From the Archives: Zimmer steamed by Cubs rain out fun

This week, we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first night game at Wrigley Field. Here are a pair of stories about then-manager Don Zimmer’s fumes after some Cubs had too much in the rain out.

Bash a bath to some Cubs, But Zimmer simmers at his wet ones

By: Joel Bierig, August 9, 1988

For the Cubs, the first Wrigley Field night game wasn’t a total washout. So what if it was called with the Cubs leading the Phillies 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth?

Ryne Sandberg lost a two-run homer but went home with memories of a near encounter with Morganna Roberts, baseball’s “Kissing Bandit.” And Jody Davis, Greg Maddux, Les Lancaster and Al Nipper won’t soon forget their belly flops onto a drenched infield tarp during a two-hour, 10-minute delay.

Neither will manager Don Zimmer, who wasn’t amused.

“I thought it stunk,” said Zimmer, who was in his office when the four came bouncing out of the dugout midway through the delay.

“I didn’t know about it. I’ve got one guy with a stiff elbow (Nipper), one with an appendectomy (Lancaster), one with a stiff foot (Davis) and another who’s one of the best pitchers in the league, and they’re doing something like that.”

Asked if he might take action against them, a frowning Zimmer said, “No. I guess it was a fun night.”

The most surprising belly-flopper was Lancaster. He’s on the disabled list after a July 23 appendectomy.

“It was fun breaking the monotony of sitting around here,” said Nipper. “I didn’t dive on my elbow. You dive on your stomach and stick your arms out. We were just having fun.”

“I thought it was funny,” said third baseman Vance Law, normally one of the most serious Cubs. “If I hadn’t been in the game, I might have gone too. Can’t somebody have some fun?”

Sandberg had fun in the bottom of the first. He homered moments after Morganna tried to collar him at the plate. She failed to reach him; a security guard caught her from behind as she neared the mound.

“I’ve been reading about her wanting to kiss Sandberg,” Zimmer said. “She should have been smart enough to wait until he got out to second base.”

“I’ve been on her list four years now,” Sandberg said. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw her coming. Of all nights.

“I got a laugh out of it, though. It took the pressure off. It loosened me up, and I had a good at-bat because of it.”

Despite the rain, it was a picture-perfect night for some in the rollicking, frolicking crowd of 39,008. Many fans brought cameras.

“When I turned to throw the first pitch, I couldn’t see because of those flash cubes,” said Rick Sutcliffe. “Before I let the ball go, there must have been 40,000 flash cubes that went off. I had no idea where the first pitch went.”

Said Zimmer: “If it hadn’t rained, it would have been a beautiful night. If we won, it would have been more beautiful. And if we lost, it still would have been beautiful.”

* * * * * * *

Cubs’ belly-floppers draw lecture, fines from Zimmer

By: Joe Goddard, August 10, 1988

Manager Don Zimmer was “totally embarrassed” Monday when four Cubs, including leading pitcher Greg Maddux, did belly-flops on the tarpaulin during the rain delay that postponed the first Wrigley Field night game.

“I guess they thought it was funny, but I certainly didn’t, and I don’t imagine the club did, either,” said Zimmer, who fined Maddux, Jody Davis, Al Nipper and Les Lancaster.

“I had the TV on in my office during the delay when I saw these guys sliding in the water. I didn’t know who they were at first, but I wasn’t real happy to see Maddux was one of them.

“Wouldn’t it have been nice if (general manager) Jimmy Frey, Mr. Cook (Tribune Co. president Stanton), Mr. Madigan (Tribune chairman John) and I had received a call from the trainer this morning, saying that our best pitcher hurt his shoulder?

“Not only that, but Davis is supposed to have a bad foot and a sore neck, Nipper has an elbow problem and Lancaster just had an appendectomy.

“Here they (security guards) were, taking people to jail for diving on the tarp, and our guys run out and do the same thing. I was totally embarrassed. It was a very stupid thing to do.”

Not all players understood the lecture, including Davis.

“He’s been telling us all year to have fun and we did, but now it’s not fun?” Davis said. “Ask the fans if they thought it was fun! Judging by their response, they thought it was great.

“I don’t understand things around here.”

Maddux said he understood, but not until Zimmer talked with the team.

“I didn’t think of it at the time, but now that it’s over, I can see why it might be a little embarrassing,” Maddux said.

“We get preventative maintenance every day with ice treatment. It’s up to us to take care of ourselves in other ways.”

As for the fines, Davis said, “I’ll probably have to cut short a hunting trip, but it was worth it.”

Previously

Mike Schmidt didn’t like being “a guinea pig”

Bill Murray, Harry Caray, and the first night homer (that didn’t count)

Prepping for the big night with more cops, TVs in Grant Park

Rick Telander on how the fight for lights prepped the Cubs for what’s to come

Timeline of the fight for lights

Bringing Light To Wrigley

“First” Wrigley Field night game a wash

Wins and Losses: 25 years under the lights and sun at Wrigley Field