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.

Personal Perspective:

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.


Angela Williams Duea said...

Merry, I am so with you on this one. I don't care whether Wrigley got the field name for free or not. That's it's name, and that's it's place, and us northsiders don't need a change.

P.S. Because I'm ornery, I still refer to the "Rosemont Horizon". I don't care what they want to call it now.

Kalynne Pudner said...

Yes, I'd love that link! Thanks!

Re your other advice, I agree. I started writing fiction after Miss Snark's retirment, but I'm crushing big time on Nathan Bransford and the Evil Editor :)

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Angela,

You've changed your name!!! Okay, that was probably always your name, but it used to just say, Angela W...

A lot of people are arguing that it doesn't matter because Wrigley was a corporation and the park was originally named after Weeghman... I don't think so, though, Wrigley was named after the person, not the company and he was the sole owner for many many years. Weeghman built the park but only maintained partial interest for five years.

I just dislike the whole idea that the Wrigley company should have to pay to keep the name because they've been 'getting free advertising' - eeeesh. I actually felt bad when they changed Comiskey to US Cellular Field because I think it stinks - but the sox fans I know are practically dancing because Wrigley's name might get changed... even if they did change the name, no one would ever call it anything but Wrigley Field or Cubs Park (and it hasn't legitimately been Cubs Park since 1926, so that'll tell you how long it takes to get used to a new name :-)

Thanks for stopping in.

Hi Kalynne,

I dropped the link back over on your blog. Feel free to look through my blogroll too - both Precie, Ello, and Helene are all Kidcritters and so are my authors, Marsha and Anita (though I don't think Anita crits much these days).

WordVixen said...

I agree, most people would still call it Wrigley Field. Particularly people who don't live in Chicago.

I'm not a sports fan, but I always thought the stadium would me so much fun to explore. I love the architecture!

The Anti-Wife said...

It will always be Wrigley Field to me. I have many great memories of watching the Cubbies lose - and occasionally even win - games there. I only lived a few blocks from there for several years.

I particularly remember one extremely cold opening day in April when we were all so decked out in our down coats, scarves, gloves and long underwear, we barely fit in the seats. We drank peppermint schnapps until the 7th inning when we finally were so cold and inebriated we left.

Once a Cub lover, always a Cub lover!

Jerseygirl89 said...

I refuse to use any corporate names for stadiums, concert venues and what have you. I think it's one of the worst practices in the world and when I finally get to go to Wrigley Field, I'm going to Wrigley Field, dammit.

Great post.

Lana Gramlich said...

Very interesting! I, too, abhor the corporate takeover of stadiums. "The HSBC Arena" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "The Aud" (in Buffalo, NY.) Corporate sponsorship sucks. <:(

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Wordvixen,

Thanks for stopping by, and yeah, it's a beautiful park, just the view itself is heaven and the neighborhood around it has a lot of character (as antiwife can attest, she used to live there)

Hey AW,

You know what they say, you can take the girl outta the city, but you can never take the city outta the girl! I can't remember an opening day that you didn't need multiple layers... today wasn't too bad, though, I think it was in the mid 40's but rainy, the game got delayed twice and it was all misty out there... must've been murder in the stadium with the wind blowing in.

Hi Lana,

For the life of me, I don't get why the corporations even do it!!! The advertisement can't be worth it, more people are annoyed by it than anything. I've certainly never purchased anything because the product name was on a stadium!

Thanks for stopping in. I see you all the time at Travis' - and I read a few of your my town posts, I'll have to stop back over.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Jersey,

I hate it too!!! Though, my husband is a Sox fan and since he's so happy to rub this current development in my face, I've been referring to Comisky as 'The Cell'... heh, or saying, "Could be worse, they could name it US Cellular Field"... but I never shot that low before he started teasing me... I actually felt bad when they did it to Comisky and that's a new park - the old one was torn down.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Loved the post. I hate all this selling the name stuff. What kind of nonsense is that?

This is really, really, really the last year for Yankee Stadium. I've heard that my entire life, but it always meant renovation. This time they mean replacement, but they are keeping the name. And that's as it should be.

Wrigley is Wrigley!


Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Terrie,

I know!!! And I've never seen the House that Ruth built! I have a friend whose favorite team is the Yankees (even though he grew up here in Chicago - he's the most avid baseball fan ever, too) and he hasn't gotten to see Yankee Stadium. I've been trying to talk him into going, even just long enough to see one game...

I have to say, I think Europe has an edge on us that way - they don't tear down the history to build something new, they keep the old and reinforce or renovate it... or build up and around it...

It does feel like we lose so much of it... and when you think about it Yankee stadium is only in its 80's - it was built in 24 right? (told you I like the Yankees, they have great history)

Thanks for stopping in.

Stephen Parrish said...

As a boy I had the enormous pleasure of watching Ernie Banks play for the Cubs in Wrigley Field. Fortunately each game I attended the Cubs won. And in each game he hit a homer. Maybe I should have attended more.

It was a golden era for the Cubs: Hundley, Santo, Williams, Beckert, etc. were on the team. Fergie Jenkins was the dominant pitcher.

Fegie came to Germany a few years ago "on tour" and I got to meet him and get an autographed baseball. He has large, powerful hands. I told him I had watched him pitch in Chicago and he said the Cubs was always his favorite team even though they traded him away. His Hall of Fame uniform is a Cubs uniform.

I'd love to meet Ernie Banks. The closest I came was during a game at Wrigley when he walked over to the stands to sign some autographs. My brothers and I practically climbed over heads to reach him, but only got within about a yard.

Our team's day will come. And when it does, the city of Chicago will shut down to accomodate the celebration.

Travis Erwin said...

I had a taste of the Cub Card rivalry when I caught a game between the teams in St Louis a few years back. I'm not a huge baseball fan, especially on TV but I love to go to a game and have a few beers in the warm sun and be a part of the crowd.

And I'd love to visit Wrigley.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Stephen,

You got to see the '69 Cubs!!!! I would give anything to sit in the stands for one of those games, I've seen old footage, of course, and if you ever get the chance, pick up This Old Cub - you'll enjoy it and the money goes to diabetes research.

My dad wouldn't even talk about that season - the Cubs of 69 and World War II, never a peep about either one.

Ernie still does promotions, here and there, but he's always impossible to get to - every generation from young to old want an autograph or a look... that's pretty impressive when you think about it.

Those must be great memories for you Stephen, and yes, we'll get there.... when is the question.

(by the way Stephen, I stop by your blog all the time but haven't wanted to get embroiled in some of the debate by commenting - but I especially liked the last one on Hillary and the debate that spawned)

Hi there Travis,

You know I never asked if you were a baseball fan... blasphemy that I should forget such an important question.

If you and the Mrs. ever come up this way, let me know - maybe we can all take in a game together - stands if your with the kids, bleachers if they're not along, either way it's a good time (though with the kids you won't get the full effect of the party that spills into all the bars down the block after the game).

(If you are ever planning a family vacation up here, though, you might want to plan ahead and get the tickets as far in advance as possible - they fill up pretty quick and while it's possible to get two together, it gets really hard to get more than two in a row close to the games)

blogless_troll said...

Hope they don't lose the name. There are only a handful of good ones left. It'd be a shame to see Wrigley listed next to Comiskey, The Stick, The Murph, etc.

Leigh Russell said...

I came across you on Moonrat's blog. Like you, I used to spend spend spend on books. Now I've taken up writing, I do the same with pencils and notebooks. At least it's cheaper! I can't leave the house without a pencil and notepad these days.

Stephen Parrish said...

You got to see the '69 Cubs!!!!

Well, yes, now you've dated me. I'm one of those old farts who thinks the team hasn't ever been the same since Ernie Banks retired (kind of like the Yankees without Mickey Mantle). Ernie had silly slogans that endeared him all the more to Cub fans: "The Cubs will be great in 68!" "The Cubs will shine in 69!" And the less-than-extremely-successful "The Cubs will be heavenly in 1970!"

Those were the days.

To add to Travis's comment, watching baseball on TV doesn't at all compare to the experience at the park. I can understand how people who have only seen the game on TV might lack enthusiasm. I still think they should all die lingering, agonizing deaths, but I understand them.

ChristineEldin said...

What an awesome post!
I've never been, but you're right about it being an icon. It fills me with pride just the same. I really like baseball. I don't follow the games much, but I truly enjoy just watching a good game.

Thanks for putting the photos up.