Better men: Cardenal, Vedder build friendship
Former Cubs outfielder was Pearl Jam lead singer's favorite player
CHICAGO -- Cubs fan Eddie Vedder will return to Wrigley Field this year when his band, Pearl Jam, plays two concerts, on Aug. 18 and 20. Jose Cardenal will probably be there, too. After all, the outfielder was Vedder's favorite Cubs player when the singer was growing up.
How did they meet? After Cubs home games, fans often wait outside Wrigley to get a glimpse of the players. Cardenal, who played for the Cubs from 1972-77, said most players would walk past the crowd and head to their cars, but he always tried to stop for youngsters. One of those kids was Vedder.
Vedder was about 12 or 13 at the time, and Cardenal not only signed an autograph, but he also talked to him.
"I like kids," said Cardenal, now 74 and no longer sporting the Afro hairstyle that was his trademark. "I came from a small family, a poor family. My family taught me to treat people the way you want to be treated."
Whenever Vedder was outside Wrigley after a game, he and Cardenal would chat. Vedder, who was born in Evanston, Ill., even switched sides in the bleachers when the outfielder was moved from left to right.
Fast forward to 2002, when Cardenal was a coach with the Reds and they were playing the Cubs at Wrigley. A bat boy came up to Cardenal in the visitor's clubhouse.
"He said, 'Mr. Cardenal, Eddie Vedder is here, he'd like to see you and he'd like to talk to you,'" Cardenal said. "I asked him, 'Who's Eddie Vedder?' He told me, 'He's a big singer -- blah, blah, blah.'"
So, Cardenal went to see this mysterious singer.
"I went downstairs and there were three big guys and one little guy," Cardenal said. "I figured one of the big guys had to be the singer. I went to one of the big guys, and he was a bass player. I said, 'Hi, Eddie,' and Eddie starts to laugh. The big guy says, 'He's Eddie.' And then Eddie hugged me."
Vedder explained to Cardenal how they met at Wrigley, and thus began a beautiful friendship. Vedder, now 53, calls Cardenal often, has invited him on stage at Pearl Jam concerts, and sat with him during the Cubs' playoff games. Vedder has worn Cardenal's No. 1 jersey when he performs at Wrigley Field.
In 2015, Vedder told the Chicago Tribune: "He was No. 1. He had this great Afro. He was always smiling, he was colorful. ... We've become really close. I talk to him a couple of times a week, especially lately. Just an amazing guy. His knowledge of baseball is just incredible."
How much of a Cubs fan is Vedder? He wrote "All the Way" at the encouragement of Ernie Banks.
"When he was [performing] in Florida, he took me on stage," said Cardenal, who was in Chicago earlier this month for the Cubs Convention. "In Chicago, when he came here, he flew me to Chicago. I ride in the bus with him."
The lesson, Cardenal said, is that you should be nice to whoever you meet because you never know who it is -- or who that person will become.
"It's a great relationship," Cardenal said. "I've known him since he was a kid. You never know."