As ‘tradition’ ends, a list of Wrigley Field’s worst seventh inning stretch conductors

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

After 15 eardrum-assaulting seasons, the Chicago Cubs have mercifully decided to euthanize the practice of having random celebrities sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field. As detailed on the Hall of Very Good, the Cubs will now look to dole out the duties to local Chicago celebrities and former players instead of offering the job to any actor or musician with a new film or album to promote.

The celebrity conductor practice began in 1998 after the death of famous broadcaster/songleader Harry Caray. While the approach was novel at first, it quickly devolved into something much worse as Chicago had to pretend it actually liked natives like Jim Belushi and Richard Marx. Meanwhile, national celebrities on PR tours monopolized the microphone to pitch their wares in the bottom of the seventh inning instead of letting us just watch the game. One often had to wonder if the day's singer could tell a shortstop from a center fielder.

That's not to say we didn't get some great blog material from it. Whether it was Tony Romo's butchering, Stephanie Izard's screeching or Denise Richards' cheat sheet, Big League Stew was always happy to catch the falling clicks from the Wrigley Field broadcast booth. In the interest of doing that one more time, here's a look at the five worst conductors since 1998:

5. Bernie Mac — October 14, 2003

The late comedian was a noted Chicago White Sox fan, but for some reason he was singing the seventh inning stretch during Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. He sang "root, root, root for the champions" instead of "for the Cubbies" during his rendition and, well, you know the rest. Mac's name will always be mentioned alongside other scapegoats like Alex Gonzalez, Mark Prior and Dusty Baker when it comes to alternate culprits not named Steve Bartman.

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4. Steve McMichael — August 7, 2001

The Chicago Bears great became the only singer to ever be ejected from Wrigley Field after his song when he threatened home plate umpire Angel Hernandez following a blown call in the sixth inning. Mongo's insistence that he'd "have to speak" with Hernandez after the game whipped already-perturbed Cubs fans into a frenzy and earned him the old heave-ho. Here's a grainy video of the hilarious scene. (And, no, the fact is not lost that the first two people on this list are/were local Chicago celebrities. It's safe to say this new Cubs plan really isn't all that controversy proof.)

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3. Jeff Gordon — May 24, 2005

Yours truly was in the grandstand when the NASCAR champion started off by enthusiastically saying it was great to be at "Wrigley Stadium." I'm told Gordon's off-key rendition of the song followed, but you couldn't hear it over the booing that lasted the entire song. (Yes, I was among those showing my throaty and Old Style-induced displeasure.)

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2. Mike Ditka — July 5, 1998

I was somehow also in attendance for the time Da Coach decided to shout Take Me Out To The Ballgame in the short span of 22 seconds. It was quite a bit of performance art, sure, but it was also the first indicator that this tradition would often turn into a headline maker.

(Still in a choice between the Bears vs. the Assembled Choir of Heavenly Angels, there's really only one answer. It starts with 'D', ends with 'A' and has "ITK" in the middle.)

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1. Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne — August 17, 2003

Ozzy Osbourne is the inarguable No. 1 on anyone's list of worst Wrigley singers. If you somehow doubt that, check out one YouTuber's transcription of his rendition.

take me out to the ballgame
takjmejoiaooout to dsaadawfkojieecdraoewsdd
313strikes ur out jvveesf

Here's what it sounded like from the bleachers that day. It may have been the only time in Wrigley's recorded history that the person on the public address system was more unintelligible than your average person sitting out in right field.

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