Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wrigley Field Is 100 Years Old!

The first game ever played in Weeghman Park, which was later named Wrigley Field when William Wrigley, Jr. bought the stadium from Charles Weeghman after the Independent Federal League folded in 1915. The Independent Federal League was giving the American and National League a run for their money and paying customers, but its original eight teams could not keep up. 

That game was played April 23, 1914. Please forgive me as I missed the exact date by two days. The Chicago Federals and the Kansas City Packers played the first game ever played at the new stadium, which was built for $250,000 in 1914. The Chicago Cubs moved into the stadium in 1916, where they have remained ever since in the second oldest ballpark in major league baseball just a couple years newer than Fenway Park in Boston.

Here is a photograph of the stadium just after completion in 1914. The seating capacity was 14,000 people. Click on the image to make it larger:

Wrigley Field has undergone many changes and growth since this picture. Most notably the planting of the Ivy covered outfield wall in 1937. Obviously, there have been other additions including the centerfield scoreboard which is still operated manually and updated inning by inning of the other games going on and additional seating to get it to where its capacity is today of just over 41,000 people.

In February 1914, workman tore down a few old seminary buildings on the corner of Clark and Addison on the North Side of Chicago. By mid April they were ready to play ball. That is amazing when you consider how long it takes to build a stadium today! Of course it is like comparing apples to oranges, but just think of the comparison in construction techniques and size of stadiums.

I wanted to give you a little history behind the stadium because it is now a Mecca for Cubs fans from all over the country. People who have attended games in Wrigley Field tell me the atmosphere is like no place else! I have heard stories about how fans and players alike feel differently when they walk or roll into Wrigley Field! I find that incredible. Can AT&T Park in North Texas make that claim? At a cost of $1.8 billion, Jerry's World, as is affectionately known and is now the largest stadium in the country is the epitome of opulence and Jerry Jones arrogant ego!

I know people that will take their children and go to a three-game weekend series in Chicago to experience three days of baseball in the confines of beautiful, old Wrigley Field.

I have mentioned my attendant, Robert, in previous blogs. He grew up in Chicago and tells fondly of going to games in Wrigley Field. He said his greatest memories revolve around the taste of the hot dogs, hoping to catch a fly ball with his tiny glove, and most importantly the sound of the bat hitting the ball and trying to watch it fly over the Ivy covered wall.

He has not been at a game in more than three decades, but those memories remain vivid.

We have all heard of the Bucket List. One of the items on my Bucket List is going to Wrigley Field and experience a weekend of baseball in this cool old stadium. Fenway Park is another one on my list. Of course, I love watching baseball. If you are not a baseball fan, you may not feel the way I do. However, you may still like going to Wrigley or Fenway just for the experience.

Here is another photo from the outside of Wrigley Field I enjoy:

Matt Snyder wrote this on CBS's Eye On Baseball two days ago. Obviously, he grew up in Chicago and still writes for the Cubs:

"If we could leave the business end out of things, the across-the-street rooftop gatherings are also part of the equation.

And, of course, there's the ivy on the brick outfield wall, which isn't yet grown out this season, given that it's still April. By the middle of the summer, though, the ivy will be a full, beautiful green, just as it has been since Bill Veeck decided to plant ivy out there all the way back in 1937.

Those features alone are worth a visit for non-Cubs fans at least once. Wrigley is a bucket-list type stadium.

Every baseball stadium has a potpourri, but Wrigley's is so endearing. It's like a mish-mash of peanut shells, stale beer, brick dust, freshly-mown lawn, hot dogs, popcorn and hope. Yes, hope. Our good friend Andy Dufresne taught us hope was a good thing long ago and Cubs fans would be wise to embracing this mantra years later in the great Wrigley Field. Hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.

For generations of Cubs fans, though, it's so much more than the look and smell and even, yes, the necessary hope. Wrigley Field is a shrine. It's home, in a way. It's where we first heard bleacher bums chanting "left field sucks!" and "right field sucks!" in taunting fashion directed at each other. The view of the outfield when first emerging from a tunnel in the grandstand with the ivy and scoreboard as the backdrop on a beautiful summer day cannot possibly be described or matched. It's just so perfect; so gorgeous.

Each of us has a childhood memory that stands out above the rest — mine being that I saw an Andre Dawson homer that didn't count in his MVP season (the game was rained out before the fifth inning was completed and eventually restarted from the top). I went home and made sure to grab No. 8 in Little League because I wanted to be like the Hawk.

Similar stories could be told through the years about players like Gabby Hartnett, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Derrek Lee and a host of others. Or pitchers like Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux and Kerry Wood."

You can see his passion for Wrigley and the Cubs.

There is just one more thing to say, "Play ball!"

I look forward to your memories of Wrigley Field. As always, I look forward to your comments even if you have never been to Chicago or Wrigley Field.




Frank said...

Hi, Mike!

I have very fond memories of rooting for the Mets in 1969, when they went from worst to first, while sitting with the Bleacher Bums. I even converted a few - for the duration of one game only!

This summer, my family will vacation outside Boston, and yes, I have purchased tickets for us for a game at Fenway! Wish you could join us!

Yes, Wrigley is on my bucket list.



Colleen said...

Can't help but think of my "Grandpa Bill" and the second favorite passion of his — baseball! Fishing was at the top of the list but I fondly remember sitting beside him at a "town" baseball game in the little town of Aurora, South Dakota! My introduction to the game!