“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” — Rogers Hornsby (Born 1896, Winters, Texas. Died 1963, Chicago, Il. Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame 1946)
For millions of American baseball fans, the first week in April heralds the beginning of their hopes and dreams for a World Series Championship. Opening day is a sellout in virtually every major league baseball park. On Friday, April 7th, 2006 the St. Louis Cardinals will travel to Chicago where the Cubs will begin their 93rd season in venerable Wrigley Field. On April 11, 2006 the Boston Red Sox will begin their 95th season with their home opener against Toronto at Fenway Park.
Built in 1914, Wrigley Field was originally known as Weeghman Park. It was home to the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. The first game at Weeghman Park was played on April 23, 1914 where the Chicago Whales defeated Kansas City 9-1. When the Federal league folded in 1915 Charles Weeghman purchased the Cubs from the Taft family of Cincinnati and moved the team to the “friendly confines” on the corner of Clark and Addison Streets. From 1920 – 1925 the field was known as Cubs Park. It was renamed Wrigley Field for the 1926 campaign.
Only Fenway Park in Boston (built in 1912) is older than Wrigley Field. Both parks are historic landmarks, predating all other major league parks by decades. Both Wrigley and Fenway are landlocked and located in vibrant neighborhoods teaming with bars, restaurants, nightlife and theater. As such, an outing at either Wrigley or Fenway is a day-long (often night-long) event. Many fans come just for the festive atmosphere. In the neighborhoods around Fenway and Wrigley you don’t need a ticket to the game to enjoy the day.
In 1986, while in Boston on a business trip, I learned that the Tigers were in town that evening to play the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Figuring that I could probably secure a single ticket for the game, I took the “T” (the Boston Subway) down to the ballpark. A nice young man on the train asked me where I lived. After mentioning I was from Minnesota he gave me a big hug, eager to welcome a “fellow American League fan”. God only knows what he would have done if I had been from St. Louis or Los Angeles! When the train stopped at the Kenmore station we followed the masses to the ballpark. He bought me a bag of peanuts and I’ll never forget his Boston hospitality.
As we walked in the crowd I couldn’t see the ballpark. I was pre-programmed to see some sort of a huge parking lot with a stadium looming in the distance. All of a sudden there was this big brick building on my left and he said to me, “Here we are!” There it was, Fenway Park, so jam-packed between city streets that I hadn’t noticed it was there. I went to the ticket window, but they didn’t have any seats. Then, overhearing my conversation a fellow offered to sell me one of his extra tickets. I paid him face value. It was six rows up, right behind the catcher!
Being in that “field of dreams” ballpark was a night to remember. I don’t recall much about the game, except that the Red Sox lost. But the sights, sounds and feelings of Fenway will be with me always. The green monster, the ironwork, the old press box, the CITGO sign, the enthusiasm of the fans, the old scoreboard…it was wonderful!
Over the past five decades the old ballparks have vanished one by one. Detroit’s old Tiger stadium, at the famed “corner” of Michigan and Trumbull streets, was the latest to succumb to the wrecking ball. Now it’s gone forever. Some of the new parks have been fashioned to look like the old parks and they are fantastic, but in my way of thinking, history rules!
This brings me to my pride and joy, Wrigley Field. For two years I combed the neighborhood around Wrigley Field attempting to purchase the perfect Victorian Chicago Greystone. On hot summer days, as I plied the neighborhood with my realtor, I often heard the roar of the crowd from Wrigley. I longed to enter the “friendly confines,” but made a vow that I would not attend a Cubs game until the property had been purchased. On August 26, 2005 we signed the closing documents at a title company in the Loop. The next day, Saturday, August 27, 2005 I walked through the gates of Wrigley field for the first time. The whole family was in Chicago that weekend to celebrate the occasion including my father from North Carolina, my brother from Denver, and my daughter from Minneapolis. What a wonderful weekend that was!
Now that summer is coming, I plan to attend quite a few games at Wrigley, which is only a five-minute walk from our historic Chicago home. Don’t get me wrong, I love Fenway Park, but for me, Wrigley is the place! As you sit in the grandstand at Wrigley you are treated to a magnificent view, complete with fans atop three-flats on Sheffield and Waveland Avenues, EL trains streaking up and down the red line, and Lake Michigan on the horizon. This is the field where Babe Ruth made his legendary “called shot” pointing to a bleacher location during the third game of the 1932 World Series and hitting Charlie Root’s next pitch out of the ballpark. Like Fenway, Wrigley Field boasts an antique scoreboard, which is still operated by people hanging wooden numbers from inside the structure. No batted ball has ever hit the scoreboard during a game at Wrigley Field. Wrigley has other unique features such as flags with retired players jersey numbers on the foul poles (Ernie Banks, Ron Santos, Billy Williams and Ryne Sandberg), ivy on outfield walls, and the new, but popular Harry Caray statue.
My only regret is that I don’t have time to be a baseball bum all summer in Chicago. Those of you who are planning a trip to Chicago or to Wrigley Field might want to consider staying in our Classic Victorian Greystone Flat right in the heart of Wrigleyville. You can find a link at http://www.chbb.com/cubs.htm