Monday, March 31, 2008
My Town Monday – Wrigley Field
(Photo above, Wrigley Field - from Chicago Tribune)
I haven’t participated in Travis’ My Town Series for a few weeks, mostly because the day keeps slipping past me. But I thought Opening Day might be a good one to pick back up on my posting for this – a look at Wrigley Field... It is, after all, one of my favorite Chicago features.
If you haven’t seen any of the news stories on the naming rights at Wrigley Field, let me fill you in. The current owner, Sam Zell, is selling the naming rights separately from the park and the team.
On the Cubs’ Website, Zell is quoted as saying:
“As far as Wrigley is concerned, Wrigley is an obvious worldwide icon and Wrigley Field is worldwide known, but in the world of economics, when I bought the Tribune, they didn’t give me a discount because I wasn’t going to use the naming rights that the field represents,” he said. “Perhaps the Wrigley Co. will decide that after getting it for free for so long, they decide to pay for it.”
Well, what kind of logic is that?!!!! For my two cents, and because it is my blog I can add my two cents, I will not purchase or support any product that removes the name ‘Wrigley’ from that ballpark. There are an awful lot of Cubs fans out there and many of them feel the same way... so if some other company buys the rights, they might want to think about keeping the name Wrigley – I know a lot of fans that will go out of their way to give you business if you help preserve the history of the park. And on with the post:
A Brief History:
Wrigley was built in 1914 and is one of the oldest ballparks in baseball. I think Fenway (which I’d love to see, I hear it’s fantastic... plus they serve chowder!!!) is two years older. Wrigley was originally named Weeghman Park after the first owner, Charles Weeghman. He built the stadium to house Chicago’s Federal League team, the Chicago Federals which were later known as the Whales.
The Federal League was short lived, folding in 1915, at which point Weeghman, along with a number of other investors (including William Wrigley, Jr.) bought the National League ball club from Charles Taft – the Chicago Cubs played their first game in Weeghman Park in 1916. Wrigley bought out the other investors’ shares in the park and team over the course of the next few years, becoming the sole owner by 1919. The park was named Cubs Park in 1920 and then in 1926 it was renamed Wrigley Field in honor of William Wrigley, Jr. (the man, not his chewing gum company which was also given the family name).
(Pictured above, Wrigley Field 1928, photo from Chicago Tribune)
For those of you keeping score, the Cubs, a nickname originally given the team by a local newspaper and one that obviously stuck, have never won a World Series since taking residence in our beloved Wrigley Field. Our last World Series victory occurred in 1908 when the club resided in the West Side Fields. Our last appearance was in 1945.
I have to edit this here, to give you all a link the the story on the Cubs site today. I forgot to mention that today they are unveiling a very special statue - for Ernie Banks, #14, everyone's favorite who is forever known as Mr. Cub. Even if you're not a baseball fan, go check out the article. You have to love this guy, who was one of the greatest players ever, yet never made the post season, and never let it diminish his love of the team, the city, or the sport...
I’ll spare all of you non baseball fans the wealth of sports history, names such as Ernie Banks(see edit above, I obviously lied a bit) and incidents such as Babe Ruth’s called shot. We’ll focus instead on the stadium and the fans. The thing about Wrigley Field that evokes such passion from those of us who love it is this: the stadium itself reeks of the City. It’s like a little snapshot with all of the myriad facets that make up Chicago.
Those of you who have never been here would love it – those who have know exactly what I mean. Chicago is as much small town as big city. We house every walk of life, pace, view, and vantage point. You can easily find the highest of society among the little green rigid seats, along side the hotdog vendors and bus drivers watching the game.
When you’re inside Wrigley Field, every person is a neighbor and friend. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never met them before in your life; they’ll strike up a conversation just because you’re in the vicinity. The bleachers... ah, I love the bleachers. They are the most uncomfortable seats in the house – but you feel right in the action of the whole damn game. The bleachers are just what they sound like, long rows of benches – there are no ticket numbers here. Get there early and you might find a good seat – get there late and God help you, because I’m not giving mine up... Luckily they start serving beer long before the game begins. I’ve sat all the way down near the basket and all the way up under the big green scoreboard – that seat’s not actually too bad, the beer stand is only a few steps behind : - )
I would never take my kids to the bleachers – it’s a party and a fun one, but I don’t think it’s for kids. I’ve seen them there, but I wouldn’t do it myself, you never know who’s going to get rowdy. But the main seats in the stadium are a perfect place to introduce your kids to the love of baseball. Whether I’m there with the kids our out with a girlfriend, I’ve never failed to make friends with the people sitting near me – guy or girl, rich or poor, it just doesn’t matter in Wrigley. The only rivalries that are bitter are the Cards and the White Sox – our fans can’t be around each other without tweaking noses or worse. I’ve been in the stands with every other fan under the sun and had a good time watching the game and a better time at the Cubby Bear after. Brewers fans are especially fun; we tend to have an attitude that if it can’t be us, we don’t mind rooting for you..... probably because we all hate St. Louis.
I’ve learned a lot and had a great time reading all of the My Town Monday posts. I have places marked to check out if I ever get to those parts of the country... I have to go explore Texas and Washington and definitely New York... would love to see New Orleans and a lot of other places. If I can post on one next week, I’ll try to give you all something more historical, because Chicago does have a fantastic history and some wonderful sites. But, if you’re a baseball fan and you’re heading this way, I can’t recommend Wrigley highly enough – I guarantee you’ll have one of the best times at a ball game in your life.