Son Dan has always been interested in ballparks. Or, “Shrines to Sports” as he puts it. Now in his mid-40s, he is father of a lucky 12-year-old son and lucky himself to have a sports-minded and accomplished wife, sports and otherwise,
In what I would call a bucket list, Dan is just going to visit all of the sports shrines he can in his lifetime. After hearing some of the stories about the sports venues, I thought that telling you about them would be interesting. Today, I’ll start with Wrigley Field in Chicago. Dan just got back from there.
“There are 2000 seats on top of the apartments and other buildings outside back of the outfield walls,” said Dan. They sell for about $100 per game and include some food. The Chicago Cubs wanted a piece of the action and their neighbors said no. The Cubs threatened to put up a “wind barrier” to block some of the wind and obliterate the view from those 2000 seats. Finally they settled and the Cubs get 19 percent of the take.
“The next thing you notice is the ivy on the fences. Then we were told it’s the same ivy that was planted in 1937. It’s still there.” said Dan.
Dan found out that the field was originally called Federal Baseball Field in 1914 and housed the Federal Chicago Whales. The field cost a whopping $250,000 to build. But the Federal League folded and some guy named William Wrigley Jr. bought the Cubs in 1916 and moved them to Cubs Field and modestly changed the name of the stadium to Wrigley in 1926 after he purchased the field.
“Another great story was that the field was built without outfield walls. So they had ropes that were manned by ushers and Cubs fans sat behind them. Somehow the ropes came in when the Cubs were at bat and the ropes squeezed the fans back when the opposition came to bat.”
Now, that’s home field advantage! Anyway, the commissioner ordered fences to be built in 1937 so the Cubs decided to build their manual scoreboard in the same year and added some bleachers as well.
You’ve heard of the Chicago Cubs’ Curse. Apparently Billy Sianis wanted to take his goat (Billy?) into Wrigley Field to view a Cubs game. This was 1945! He, and the goat, was thrown out because the goat smelled! Sianis apparently said, “Them Cubs, they aren’t going to win no more.” This was interpreted to mean the World Series and they haven’t even been in one since that losing year. The Cubs brought Billy’s nephew, Sam, back with the goat several times to try and break the curse.
Just when they thought they had, Steve Bartman in 2003 interfered with a Cubs infielder catching a crucial out just in the stands in the playoffs and the Marlins went on to win the series after being one out away from losing it.
Dan learned that Bartman has turned down all offers to make money on all of this and is very sorry it happened. “He’s kept a very low profile since then,” said Dan.
I can’t imagine a ballpark today without lights but Wrigley didn’t have any until 1988 after 5,687 day games that were played. Dan found out they almost did. On Dec. 6, 1941 the lights were brought in and were to be assembled the next day. Then Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941 and Wrigley donated the lights to the Army. Dan also found out there was a night game in 1943.
Portable lights were brought in to showcase the All-American Girl’s All-Star Game. Back in those days the professional All-America Girls were big as a lot of the male ballplayers were off to war.
The manual scoreboard doesn’t even have room for all the scores so just the ones that mean something to Cubs’ fans are displayed and everything is done manually. A new scoreboard has been thwarted by “historical” laws.
Thank you, Dan, for telling us about Wrigley Field. Look forward to the next installment from Fenway in Boston.