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The Chicago Traveler

Wrigley Field

by Matt B on March 26th, 2008

wrigley field

Yesterday was Opening Day for Major League Baseball, so it is only appropriate to dedicate a post to Chicago's one and only Wrigley Field. It is one of Chicago's most recognized landmarks and is one of the few remaining ballparks without a dome, with real grass, and without a large-screen television. And while a few of the seats are less than ideal (the infamous 'nosebleeds' and seats behind structural supports), the majority of fans have a great view of their 'loveable losers.'

With nearly 100 years of history, where do I even begin? Wrigley Field was originally built in 1914 as Weeghman Park for a team known as the Chifeds (a minor league club) which would later change its name to the Chicago Whales. It was known for its cleanliness and the popular Ladies' Day (every Friday), and in 1916 it became the first ballpark to allow fans to keep foul balls. (Of course, nowadays, if the foul is from the opposing team, you'd better throw it back, per tradition.)

chicago cubsThe Chicago Cubs played their first game in Weeghman Park in April of 1916, after the owner purchased the Cubs franchise and merged the team with his champion Chicago Whales. Despite the team's previous successes though, 'Lucky Charlie' Weeghman wasn't so lucky and was losing a lot of money. So, in November 1918, he gave up the Park and the franchise to chewing gum tycoon William Wrigley, one of his top investors.

With Weeghman gone, the park was generally referred to as Cubs Park, and Wrigley would be responsible for several major renovations over the next few years, including relocating the grandstand, adding box seats, and replacing old wooden bleachers with steel-framed seats. Attendance for the 1923 season was incredible, despite the Cubs' lackluster performance. In 1927, work began on adding a second deck to the grandstand. Even though it wasn't finished in time for the baseball season, the Cubs still drew over 1.1 million fans, the first National League team ever to do so. Cubs Park was formally renamed Wrigley Field.

wrigley field ivyIn the early 1930s, distance markers were posted, but what Wrigley Field is probably best known for is the ivy on the outfield wall. It was planted there in 1937 by Bill Veeck, whose father had been team president. If a ball is hit into and lost in the ivy, it is ruled as a ground-rule double, provided that the outfielder signifies that the ball has been lost and doesn't try to search for it. Veeck was also responsible for erecting Wrigley's famous manual scoreboard, which no batted ball has ever hit.

Lights were scheduled to be added to Wrigley Field in 1942. However, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Philip Wrigley (William's son) donated the lighting materials to the war effort. He eventually decided to never install lights, and Wrigley Field became known as a mainstay for daytime-only baseball. This would become a severe area of contention for the new owners, the Chicago Tribune Company, who acquired the Cubs in 1981.

wrigley field lightsIt didn't take long for the new owners to begin talking about lights and ruffling a few feathers. Fans and neighbors of the Cubs resisted, giving reasons like noise, crowds, traffic, and'above all'nostalgia. In fact, the City of Chicago passed an ordinance banning night events at Wrigley Field. The debate went on for several years, and in 1987, Chicago Mayor Harold Washington compromised, allowing the Cubs to install lights but to play a limited night schedule. The first major league night game at Wrigley was attempted on August 8 but was rained out. The first official night game was achieved the following night against the New York Mets, making Wrigley Field the last major league stadium to host night games.

wrigley field bleachersThis wasn't the last debate of course. Chicagoans love their Wrigley Field, so when talk of reconstruction and bleacher-expansion began in 2005, Windy City citizens were once again up in arms. Despite Mayor Richard Daley's protests, the work began, and approximately 1900 new seats were added, extending the bleachers out over the sidewalks (supported by steel columns). Chicagoans kept a close eye on the goings-on via the Internet.

Most recently, over the past year, a new drainage system was installed, requiring the entire playing surface to be removed. As part of the excavation, the crew found the foundations of the Bears' old goal posts.

Earlier this month, Tribune owner Sam Zell announced that he would consider selling the naming rights for Wrigley Field. But many fans believe that the park is too historic to have the name changed, and such an attempt would only be faced with incredible backlash. In fact, even if the name changed, the famous marquee out front would have to stay the same, as it has been declared a local landmark and is protected by the city council. I suspect that for many diehard Chicago Cubs fans, the 'Friendly Confines' could never be known as anything other than Wrigley Field.

Brick walls, green ivy, hot dogs, peanut shells, and even the occasional spilled beer'this is baseball at its finest.

wrigley field scoreboardwrigley field scoreboard
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wrigley field foul polewrigley field foul ballswrigley field bleachers
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Photo credit: maura, Matt Stratton, Somewhat Frank, Shutrbug72, jlurie, bcbeatty, Wikipedia, wallyg, chillywillyracefan, Jesus V, techne

Wrigley Field: 1060 W Addison St; 773-404-CUBS (2827)
Street parking difficult
Public trans: Bus # 22, 152 or Red Line train (Addison)
3-D model (requires Google Earth)

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POSTED IN: Architecture & Attractions, Hot Dogs, Sports and Recreation

11 opinions for Wrigley Field

  • Jon - The DC Traveler
    Mar 26, 2008 at 8:05 am

    One other team that played at Wrigley wwere the Chicago Bears, from 1921 until 1970. I remember seeing a Bears game there in the late 1960s.

    The field was laid out from home plate to left field. Due to it being very tight, the end zone in left field was missing about 2 feet in one corner and players regularly ran into the ivy wall. Bleachers were set up in right filed.

    Not the best place to watch a football game, but there is no better baseball park in America.

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  • JVChuy
    Jun 18, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    This is a great park. I like going there as much as I can. Also thanks for selecting my picture for this post!

  • Matt B
    Jun 19, 2008 at 10:19 am

    JV, many thanks for sharing the great photo!

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