They were the last team to install lights, and one of the last to install rotating advertising boards behind home plate. The installation of the car sign in left field caused a stir last summer, and talk about bringing a Jumbotron to Wrigley has been debated for years.
The Cubs made one small change to tradition in 2010 to make their players happy, while aggravating a segment of their fan base. With no fanfare last June, they suddenly replaced Gary Pressy's organ music with snippets of taped music for hitters' intro songs.
Asked by a fan at the Cubs Convention why they were spoiling the "Wrigley Field experience," Chairman Tom Ricketts recalled a conversation with an unnamed player who wanted the taped music to help the team out of its early-season slump.
"We weren't getting the clutch hits, we weren't scoring runs," Ricketts told the fans. "And a player came up and made that request. "I was like, 'Geez, we have traditions.' "
Ricketts and the marketing department debated it, and ultimately decided to make the change.
"I said 'Look, I know that it won't be popular with everybody, but if it shows the players that we're going to give them some support and try to shake things up and help things a little bit, then I'll give it a shot,' " he told fans.
Marlon Byrd confirmed he was the player Ricketts cited and that he was trying to boost the team's morale.
"We were the only team not coming out to music," Byrd said. "I thought it'd be a good twist, with it being 'Year One' with the Ricketts. I understand you have to keep tradition, have to keep the organ. But change it up just a little bit."
Byrd's intro song was "Work" by Gang Starr, which included the lyrics: "I've been laying, waiting for your next mistake/I put in work, and watch my status escalate." He said he enjoyed seeing fans "bobbing their heads in the stands" when they heard his song, even if the sound system is so antiquated it barely could be heard.
The reaction was split between the traditionalists and progressives. Ricketts admitted to fans they received "a lot of feedback from fans who preferred" organ music to taped songs, and said they're considering whether or not to return to the old-school ways.
Infielder Jeff Baker, who came out to various Beastie Boys songs, said he hopes the Rickettses keep the status quo.
"It creates a personality and an identity for each player, showing what you bring, and making your own stamp," Baker said. "I'm all for it. I know the majority of the players like it. I know it's a tough line for (the Rickettses) because they're trying to balance the traditions of Wrigley with what the players like and want.
"It's a tough call, but I hope they don't can it. It's not like you're replacing the organ music completely. You're just adding to it. I don't think it has ruined the fundamental history of Wrigley."
Catcher Koyie Hill, who preferred striding to home plate to Led Zeppelin, said a new sound system would make the recorded music more palatable.
"If they're going to (play) music on that speaker system they have now, I don't know what the point is." Hill said. "But if guys in the room like it and that's their thing, I'm all for it. When you're up at the plate, or on the mound, it's your turn. So take your turn. If you want music, you get music. I'm a big traditional guy, but I'm also not ignorant to the modern stuff. I like a good mix."
If the Ricketts family decides to go back to organ music, Byrd said the team can live with it. It's not a big deal, but one of those little "Chicago things" Chicagoans like to debate.
"I'm not part of the marketing department. So I'm not sure what kind of feedback they got," Byrd said. "If the fans didn't like it, we don't need to have it. They do need a new sound system. We need a lot of things. But I think the Ricketts are going to take care of that, and if we did have one, it'd be pretty cool.
"I know, just looking in the stands, that a lot of people enjoyed it. It's all just fun, trying to keep it loose. It's too serious sometimes in Chicago. We need to have fun."
Feb 28, 2011
About the use of the organ at Wrigley Field for Chicago Cubs games
Really interesting article from the Chicago Tribune about the use (and non-use) of the organ at Wrigley Field for Cubs games. Excerpted here, bold parts are my emphasis: