The iconic jewel is Wrigley Field. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the oldest ballpark in the National League.
The ball diamond was completed in 1914 and called Weeghman Park for the home-standing Chicago Whales of the Federal League. A couple of years later, when the league folded, the Chicago Cubs of the National League moved into the stadium and called it home.
The name of the park became known as Cubs Park between 1920 to 1926. The sports complex was renamed to Wrigley Field in 1927 to honor Cubs’ owner William Wrigley.
The name has stuck and today it is considered a sacred palace for baseball fans around the country. It is the second oldest park in the majors behind only Fenway Park In Boston that was opened for baseball in 1912.
A way to give you an example of the historic significance of Wrigley Field comes down to one simple fact. The next oldest stadium in the Major Leagues is Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles that was built in 1962. So Wrigley Field is 48 years older than the next oldest baseball complex.
The cozy place was called “The Friendly Confines” by Cubs’ legend Ernie Bank who always wanted to play two. The glowing feature of the park is the ivy-covered brick wall in the outfield. It was put into place by Cubs’ General Manager Bill Veeck in 1937.
Another feature of Wrigley Field was the lack of lights in the park. The Wrigley family felt that baseball was meant to be played during the day. So the Cubs were the last team to install lights. That came in 1988 or Five decades after the first major league club the Cincinnati Reds first flipped the switch to play at night.
Wrigley Field sits right in a neighborhood so therefore another unique feature of the park is patrons who watch games from roof tops across the street from the stadium.
Unfortunately, the dominant theme of the Cubs at Wrigley Field is their inability to win. They have played ball in that complex since 1916 and have yet to win a World Series. In fact, the last time they appeared in the fall classic was 69 years ago in 1945.
Legend has it the Cubs ticket taker refused to allow a Cubs fan to bring a billy goat into the park. The Cubs fan got mad and stated he would put a curse on his beloved team for not allowing him to bring his buddy into the game with him. The Curse of the Billy Goat lives on.
Wrigley Field is a place that will break your heart with its beauty and also break your heart with the play of the Cubs. Chicago did have their chances to make it to the final classic since the end of World War II. They led the National League most of the year in 1969 only to fall apart in early September allowing the Miracle Mets to pass them for the flag. They were also up 2-0 in games played over San Diego in the 1984 National League Championship series only to lose three straight to throw away a chance at the World Series.
The pain of that lose was minor compared to the nightmare of 2003. The Cubs led the Florida Marlins in the 8th inning of game six of the National League Championship Series. Chicago was six outs away from paradise. Then everything fell apart. A life-long Cubs fan, Steve Bateman, interfered with Moises Alou’s attempt to snag a fly ball down the left field line. The Marlins got another chance and made the Cubs pay. They rallied to win that game then came back the next night to win game seven and send Cubs fans home crying once again.
One saving grace for Windy City fans is the Chicago Bears of the National Football League called Wrigley Field home for many years. The Bears played at Wrigley from 1921 through 1971. The Monsters of the Midway won numerous championships under legendary coach George Halas. The last National Football League Championship game played there in 1963 saw the Bears beat the New York Giants for the league title.
Yet, even the Bears had some different things to overcome at Wrigley Field. Both teams had to stand on the same sidelines. So if a play was taking place at one end of the field a player might have to sprint from their own 20 yard line all the way down perhaps 70 yards down the field to reach the huddle. Players also had to be careful not to crash into the outfield icy-covered wall after scoring a touchdown on the left side of the field. The wall sat just inches out of bounds from the end line.
The Bears featured many great players at Wrigley Field including Red Grange, Sid Luckman, Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers who scores six touchdowns against San Francisco in one game at Wrigley Field.
The Bears have moved on to Soliders’ Field for game, however, the Cubs still remain. That is good for baseball and good for America. In this fast-paced world, it is refreshing to step back in time and see how if felt when your grandfather went to the ball park. That is what you have at Wrigley Field as it celebrates 100 years in 2014. The Bleachers Bums in left field say “Let’s Go Cubs” perhaps in our lifetime that might even mean a chance to see the World Series played there. Now that would be a treat.