Wrigley Field: Home of the Cubs
Regardless of whether you love or loathe the Cubs (anyone with half a brain should, of course, LOVE them, but we’ll save that argument for another time), there is no denying that Wrigley Field is one of the most unique and storied ballparks in the country. From the signature red sign at Clark and Addison to the manually operated scoreboard, the Friendly Confines house some of the most recognizable sights in all of baseball.
Originally dubbed Weeghman Park, Wrigley was designed by architect Zachary Taylor Davis, who, just a few years earlier, conceived the plans for another Chicago baseball park — one that in my opinion is not worth mentioning (Comiskey, or US Cellular, if you must know). The then Weeghman Park was completed in 1914 after only six weeks of construction and was initially meant to house the Chicago Federal League baseball team, the Chicago Whales. (Mercifully, this unfortunately named team no longer exists. Win, Chicago!)
The Cubs took up residence at the ballpark beginning in 1916. From 1920 to 1926 it was appropriately called Cubs Park, until it was renamed for the current Cubs owner, William Wrigley, Jr., of chewing gum fame. Over the years, Wrigley Field has undergone dramatic physical changes. The upper deck was added in 1927, and the signature ivy-covered walls came about ten years later. Lights were not installed in the ballpark until 1988; though even with the addition of lights, the number of night games played there is limited due to an agreement with the city council. Wrigley is the tenth smallest actively used ballpark, with a current seating capacity of 41,160. It is the oldest National League park and the oldest major league park, second only to the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park.
Aside from being one of the oldest ballparks in the country, Wrigley has many unique features that differentiate it from other parks. The signature ivy that overtakes the outfield walls each spring has consumed many a fly ball, causing umpires to automatically call a ground-rule double (each player on the field advances 2 bases). Outfielders must throw their hands in the air to signal the ball has been lost for the rule to take effect. While the ivy enhances the aesthetic appeal of the ballpark, it has little other use and does not serve as a cushion for players running full speed into the outfield walls while attempting to catch a ball.
Another feature that’s unique to Wrigley, though not technically considered part of the ballpark, is the rooftop bleacher seats surrounding the outfield. Wrigley is known for its rowdy, in-park bleacher section, and the rooftops are basically just an extension of the party. The rooftop views can vary based on where a particular building is located, but each offers its own unique game day atmosphere and is a fun way to mix up your Cubs experience.
Refusing to succumb to the evils of modern technology, Wrigley has resisted installing unnecessary distractions such as firework machines and fancy jumbotrons (ahem, South Side sellouts). Wrigley still uses a hand turned scoreboard, which is located above the center field bleachers. Though the scores are sometimes difficult to read if one forgets to wear their contacts, the nostalgic scoreboard, coupled with the organ music, gives Wrigley an old school ballpark feel that is irreplaceable.
Though it’s main purpose over the last one hundred years or so has been to house Chicago’s North side baseball team, Wrigley has served as a venue for other events as well. Before moving to Soldier Field, the Chicago Bears played football at Wrigley from 1921 through 1970. In recent years, an ice skating rink has been installed during the winter months, and on January 1, 2009, the Chicago Blackhawks faced off against the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL’s 2009 Winter Classic. Select musicians have also performed concerts at Wrigley, including Jimmy Buffett, Billy Joel and Elton John, The Police, and Rascal Flatts.
Wrigley Field has become more than just a place to watch baseball games; it has become a popular tourist destination, a Chicago landmark, and the hub around which a whole neighborhood and nightlife culture has sprung. Perhaps I’m being slightly dramatic due to my sentimental attachment to the park and its surrounding neighborhood, but, it seems to me, that during baseball season, an infectious energy emanates from the ballpark. It’s impossible not to get excited walking down Clark or Addison on game day. So for newcomers, visiting Wrigley is an absolute must; if you’re like me, and Wrigley is your second home from March through September (and sometimes even October!), then nothing more needs to be said besides, “Hey Chicago, what’d ya say…”