The History of the Iconic Cubs ?W? Flag and Its Path to the 2016 World Series
Cubs Win!!!(Photo by Mel via Flickr)
As the Chicago Cubs were winning the 2016 World Series, a simple white and blue ?W? flag became the indelible image to display for Cubs fans all across the land. Flying the ?W? created unity and joy for Cubs fans everywhere.
Fans everywhere would fly the flag loud and proud. They pledged their allegiance to a team that had made a living out of losing for over a century, but had suddenly turned the tide. World Series fever had a stranglehold on Cubby Nation and ?Fly the W? became their mantra.
After every win at Wrigley Field the refrain of ?Go Cubs Go? would wash across the ?Friendly Confines? as the ?W? flag would ascend the masthead high above the green scoreboard behind the ivy covered center field wall. Fans would interact with each win by waving the simple flag as they sang along.
Tile Mural of Cubs on Catalina Island(Jeff Lowe via Flickr)
In 1919, there was a transport company that existed called the Wilmington Transport Company. It?s purpose was to ferry people from the coast of California to Catalina Islandandbackagain. William Wrigley, Jr. purchased the island as well as the transport company. For a better part of thirty years the island was the spring training home for the Cubs. The logo for his transport company was a blue flag with a white W. It is believed this flag was the impetus for the creation of the ?W? flag that would eventually fly at Wrigley Field.
Cubs Spring Training on Catalina Island(Thaddeus Piton via Flickr)
In 1937 Phillip K. Wrigley decided to have the outfield bleachers in Wrigley Field reconstructed, as well as adding the green manually operated scoreboard which still watches over the stadium today.
In 1938 the masthead was installed atop the scoreboard. The American flag hung above eight banners representing the teams that made up the National League of the day. Four flags flew on the left strand and four flags on the right.
Scoreboard in 1938(Photo by LI Phil via Flickr)
It is unknown when the ?W? and ?L? flags first flew above Wrigley Field. The original flags consisted of a white ?W? on a blue flag and a blue ?L? on a white flag. These colors were chosen to coincide with the ?team flags? that flew on the foul poles. There were also multiple ?W.F.? flags that adorned the grandstands roof. These assisted the players in getting a feel for what the wind direction and wind speed were. Lighting was also added so passengers on the Chicago ?L? train could see what the outcome of games were as they passed the field after dark. The lighting has had several configurations over the years and the exact colors are not definitely known.
Below is a home video of a Cubs game at Wrigley Field filmed by Chicagoan Jacob Glick. It gives a rare glimpse into Cubs baseball of the era. It also provides a great look at the scoreboard and bleachers after renovations were completed and the configuration of the flags.
In 1982 the Cubs retired Ernie Banks? jersey number 14. The decision was made to create a flag that would have the appearance of the white and blue pinstriped look of the home uniform. It is believed that at the same time the color scheme of the ?W? flag was changed to coincide with the color scheme of the rest of the flags flying at Wrigley.
Banks and Santo Live on Forever at Wrigley Field(James V. via Flickr)
The ?W? and ?L? flag tradition was now firmly entrenched in Wrigley Field tradition.
Starting in 2007 the tradition of ?Go Cubs Go? became a regular fixture at Wrigley Field after wins. It was enhanced in it?s popularity as a result of the Cubs playing in the postseason that year. As a result of the evermore popular tradition, Len Kasper and Bob Brenly would shut their mic?s off and allow the crowd to celebrate each win by serenading the television audience. As fans started to realize the broadcasting duo were doing this and the WGN cameras were panning the crowd after wins they began purchasing and waving ?W? flags as well.
Bleacher Bums Celebrate a Win in 2008(Jonathan Lurie via Flickr)
Fans probably assume that one ?W? flag is used throughout the season, but that is not the case. Every ?W? flag is only used once. When it is lowered it is authenticated and auctioned off. All of the proceeds from the sales are donated to various Cubs charities.
As social media sites like Facebook and Twitter began to gain in popularity, it became a place where Cubs fans could all gather together and share their passion for the Cubs. With the success of the 2015 season and the Cubs going to the postseason, #FlyTheW became a rallying cry for these fans after every win all across the internet. The Cubs organization got behind the social media phenomenon and joined in the fun. From the Wild Card game to game 3 of the NLCS the hashtag had appeared more than 620,000 times.
In 2016, the Cubs launched a postseason campaign to drive participation by fans, media, players, and celebrities using #FlyTheW.
Here are the results of that effort according to ?Shortyawards.com? The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media. The numbers are epic!
- #FlyTheW was used more than 3,000,000 times on Twitter and 213,800 times on Instagram, and was trending multiple times on Twitter after games. The hashtag was also used more than any other MLB club postseason campaign.
- People shared 217 Facebook posts and 406 tweets using #FlyTheW, which generated more than 1.2 billion total impressions and 13.9 million total engagements.
- Across all platforms, #FlyTheW videos were viewed more than 120.6 million times.
- The club distributed more than 6,000 W Flags and 13,500 #FlyTheW posters.
- Cubs.com/FlyTheW received nearly 38,000 visits with more than 350 fan stories submitted.
Celebrating NLCS Victory over the Dodgers. The W flag is in the middle of everything.
The night before game 7 Aroldis Chapman Tweeted out the following:
On February 10th, 2017 after 100 days of flying the ?W? above Wrigley commemorating the World Series championship the following was Tweeted out:
On March 3rd, 2017 this was Tweeted out after 121 consecutive days of flying the ?W? at Wrigley Field.
The time had come to begin looking forward to the 2017 season and the chance for a repeat.
As the Cubs moved through each series of the 2016 postseason, ?W? flags started to appear all over the land. It felt like they were everywhere.
Flying the W (Hajee via Flickr)
All across America, Cubs fans flew their ?W? flags. Whether it was in the city or the country, Cubs fans found unique ways to share in the craze.
There was no place off limits(Sonny Cohen via Flickr)
Cubs Nation flew them from trees, from flag poles on their homes, or draped them around their shoulders. They flew them from car windows and displayed them on license plates.
Trees were a great place to fly the W(Tim Putala via Flickr}This speaks for itself(James Trevenen via Flickr)
Whether it was on the brick walls of Wrigley or on buildings across Chicago, they flew the ?W?. The spontaneity and creativity was endless.
An Epic Parade(Clint Mickel via Flickr)
And in the end they flew the ?W? at the epic gathering of Cubby Nation celebrating the 2016 World Championship. As fans gathered from near and far in Grant Park, the ?W? was present no matter where you looked. Street lamps, fence posts, buses, cars, balconies, on tattoos, on shirts, on hats, and on pins. The ?W? was the ever-present image of that day. And when it was raised at Wrigley it was ever present for 121 days.
Grant Park and the W having a party with Cubs Nation(Nick Ulievieri via Flickr)
When fans of the Chicago Cubs think about baseball at Wrigley Field, there are some things that just go together.
Ivy and the outfield wall ? Harry Caray and ?Take Me Out To The Ballgame?? Ernie Banks and ?Let?s play two!? ? Ryne Sandberg and the Baseball Hall of Fame ? Joe Maddon and ?Try not to suck!? ? A Cubs win and ?Go Cubs Go?
And finally, after the 2016 season: A Cubs World Series Championship and Fly the W.
None of us will ever forget the joy of our beloved Cubbies at last winning it all and where we were when that moment happened. Go Cubs Go! Fly the W!
If you are a Cubs fan and this video doesn?t give you chills you aren?t human!!
Doug Preszler is the type of person who can be a Cubs fan and an Iowa fan while living in South Dakota. He is a man who cares not for regional loyalty. He can be found on Twitter @PreszlerDoug, telling tales of the Dakotan Cubs fan?s existence.
All opinions expressed are my own.