Yesterday was Wrigley Field’s 100th Birthday celebration. And it was quite a party. There was a lot to celebrate when surveying 100 years of history. Wrigley was built on the former home of a Seminary. It was originally the home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League (a competitor to Major League Baseball back in the day.) To distinguish them from the Major League team nearby (The Cubs) they were usually called the Federals or Feds, which eventually became their nickname. Weeghman Park (team owner) was its original name. It cost $250,000 and was completed in 2 months, opening in April of 1914. Weeghman was shrewd. The beautiful setting and success of his team forced MLB to respond by letting him buy the Cubs in 1916 (struggling at the time.) Wrigley played a major role in shaping how MLB came of age, was in the center of several national political scandals that touched even the White House (Tea Pot Dome), and along the way became one of the best places on earth to spend time with friends. History haunts this sacred ground everywhere you look. The greatest living Cubs and Bears legends (yes they played here for 50 years, winning 8 NFL Championships!) were invited to honor this great park. The ceremony concluded with Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks shuffling across the diamond like he had for 19 seasons. Ernie was rightly honored most. One of baseball’s greats who always wanted to “play two” and even requested to be able to live on the grounds while he was playing. But he never got a World Series ring and that’s the other chapter of living the Wrigley experience.
It’s one of my favorite places to be since the late 1970’s when my dad would drive me from Iowa to take in a game. (Sunny every single time he brought me.) Every season brings fresh hope that this will be the year a World Series Championship is won in these hallowed friendly confines. This special day brought gifts and cake (A throwback Federals jersey for the first 30,000 fans and a birthday cupcake for the first 10,000-yes I made sure to get both!). It seemed magical as the Cubs were winning. Samardzija was pitching like an ace. The Cubs were up 5-2 with 2 outs in the 9th and 2 strikes on the batter, when relief pitching collapsed. How many times have I seen that movie? Alas, we were all treated to the full Cubs experience. Boundless hopes, historic atmosphere, great excitement, and soul-crushing disappointment. All in the same day! But it was great to share it with my college friend Lon. Just like always, one of the best places on earth to spend the day with a friend. It’s about so much more than winning and losing. A place with a spiritual heritage of hopes handed down. I park on nearby Seminary Street whenever I can. Here’s to 100 years of Wrigley. May we run out of candles before this place breathes its last…
Tom Ricketts says he’s committed. Here’s hoping he really means it. Wrigley is one of baseball’s last great cathedrals of hope. Part of me laments a shift to a “winning” model. There’s a reason why I’m not a Yankees fan. But I’ve been a Cubs fan since the last time we had a player named DeJesus. I remember 1984, 1989, and 2003. I was there when Wrigley had no lights, hoping a game wouldn’t be called due to darkness. I was there when it was only $20 to give your keys to a shirtless fat guy who promised your car would be the first out! (Now try $60). I was there when bleacher tickets were $4.50 and full of kids and well, yes, shirtless fat guys. I was there to see Dave Kingman, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, and the disgraced Sammy Sosa hit game changing or game ending home runs. I was there when Lou Boudreau and Vince Lloyd Skaff called the games in my earpiece and Jack Brickhouse brought the Cubs into my living room.
And I was there yesterday, for the first time on Opening Day. I found a free spot in a neighborhood many blocks away to park, so I could afford it. I saw ad space in 4 cutouts in the Ivy. Dozens of banner ads were tucked here and there. A cool new electronic scoreboard is integrated into an existing wall. Nice. I thought, “This is different, but it’s still Wrigley.” The view to my right and left told me this was still home. 40,000 of my closest friends there not really expecting a victory. Just glad to have some sacred space to watch a game we love in a beautiful garden of historic baseball delights. As God would have it, I sat next to a really nice young father who was new to Chicagoland and the Wrigley experience. It was fun to talk about the history and point out the lovely features of the friendly confines…
I hear talk of JumboTrons and luxury hotels across the street. Fine. The future must come. But please don’t spoil what is most sacred to every Cubs fan.
I would love for the Cubs to win a World Series. Believe me I would!! But honestly, we’ve all come back year after year after year because the Cubs and Wrigley symbolize something much more important: stories of hope handed down to each generation. I was sitting right there when it happened! I hope we never trade what is best about that for corporate franchise success.
Nice article about a wonderful family tradition! Yes, I’m one of those deeply committed Cubs fans! Got the bug at age 9 watching Ivan DeJesus, Manny Trillo, Bruce Sutter, and Rick Reuschel! Baseball cards, breaking in a new glove, and discovering I could pick up the games on 720AM WGN radio all the way in Iowa City made that summer perfect!
Once a Cubs fan, always a Cubs fan. It’s kind of like being a Christian. It requires faith. It requires devotion. Suffering is involved. But hope always Springs eternal!
It’s Opening Day and anything is possible! Amen!