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Ski jumping at Wrigley
April 7, 2014 - Ron Deuter
I was recently given a copy of the 2014 Cubs Calendar which celebrates 100 years of Wrigley Field. Flipping it open, I was surprised to see January’s picture, a ski jumper in flight heading toward center field. The caption of the photo, which was provided by the Library of Congress, states:
On January 23 and 30 1944, the Norge Ski Club held their 38th Annual International Ski Jump Tournament at Wrigley Field.
I found some additional information online:
The Norge Ski Club was founded in 1905 in an effort to spread of love of skiing throughout Chicago. In 1943, the club sought permission from Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley to stage its annual mid-winter ski jumping event at Wrigley due to the mandated gasoline rationing during World War II. Wrigley, enticed by the profits from concessions sales, agreed.
The club encountered some issues with the Illinois War Production Board, which thought the use of materials for a non-essential event was wasteful, but a 90-foot slide was built. Jumpers slid down toward home plate and went into the air toward the center-field scoreboard, landing near second base. Jumps were not as far as expected due to the low ceiling from Wrigley's second deck. About 11,000 total fans attended the event, held on consecutive Sundays.
The event was won by Torger Tokle, who some refer to as the Babe Ruth of ski jumping. Tokle immigrated to the U.S. in 1939 and won 42 of 48 sanctioned tournaments. He was the winner of the national championship in 1941. In 1942, he enlisted in the army and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division. He attained rank of Sergeant and died while leading his platoon during the famous battle at Riva Ridge in 1945.
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