Sunday, March 16, 2008

Wrigley Today, ? Tommorrow...

I snapped this shot from the Red Line el a week or so ago. I wanted to get an oil change on my car, and have belts, hoses, etc. checked before Adam and I visited my parents, so I took the el to work.

There's been a big stink about Wrigley lately. The new owner of the Chicago Tribune, real estate mogul Sam Zell, has proposed selling off the naming rights like so many stadiums have in recent years. Not surprisingly, public sentiment has not been favorable.

What might surprise people is that it was not originally called Wrigley Field. It was opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park, and was the home of the Chicago Whales, of the long-gone Federal League. The Cubs were playing on the west side of Chicago at West Side Park.

They moved into their present location in 1916, and from 1920 to 1926 it was called Cubs Park, which a lot of fans still call it. It became Wrigley Field, after the owner, William Wrigley, Jr., of the chewing gum company. In 1981, the Chicago Tribune purchased the Chicago Cubs, prompting many Cubs fans to believe that the Cubs would win the World Series soon; common wisdom had it that the Cubs were a tax write-off for the Wrigley family and that they didn't want a winning team. And of course, the Cubs have not won a World Series, or even appeared in one since then.

Whether the park changes names remains to be seen. I'll probably take Adam to a game this year, but not many-- it's become very, very expensive to see a game at Wrigley. In May of 1979, not long before I graduated high school, some high school friends and I came down for a game on a sunny afternoon. We paid $1.50 for our bleacher seats, and had plenty of room. These days, bleacher seats at Wrigley cost $22.00 and up, and are hard to get on a Sunday or other weekend day. We may make a trip or two this summer to see the Peoria Chiefs, who are managed by Cubs Hall of Fame great Ryne Sandberg. And tickets are ten bucks.

Still, Wrigley is one of the last of the old stadiums. There is nothing like a summer day down there. The White Sox fans have a mythology that Wrigley is filled with cell-phone-yakking yuppies who know nothing about the game. Far from it (and I have seen that stereotype down at whatever the White Sox are calling their mall, er, I mean stadium this week). When Adam and I go, there are inevitably a couple of the old-timers who we can chat about old teams, old players and prospects for the present players.

There's an old George Carlin bit I love, about the difference between baseball and football. Football, Carlin says, is representative of industrial America, aggressive and violent. Baseball, on the other hand, is a vestige of America's rural past, a game played without time limits, and consisting mostly of standing around. For those who don't know the strategies of baseball, baseball is boring. And if you don't know the history, it's even more ponderous. But for those of us who know those things, baseball is fascinating. And to see it played, win or lose, on a gorgeous summer day in Wrigley Field-- or whatever name it ends up being-- is a great break for a few hours from a hectic, stress-filled life.


Suze's Sass said...

We used to be able to catch the el and go see the Phillies on a weekday afternoon for under $7.00. That included el-fare, the ticket and lunch. Those days are long gone!

Bubs said...

Ah...the friendly confines. Thanks for reminding us that Wrigley field was, in itself, a corporate name.

I don't know how to put a link in a comment, so you'll have to come visit to see it--you've been tagged.

Mnmom said...

Bleacher seats are $22??!!!
My parents were big Cubs fans, and the sound of a Cubs game on TV on a hot summer day or evening is like a lullaby to me. For me, heaven will be warm summer evenings, a nice bath, followed by the Cubs on TV while slurping a big bowl of chocolate ice cream.
I love that Carlin bit, probably because I love baseball.
Read The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by WP Kinsella.

dmarks said...

MnMom's comment brought back memories... memories I didn't even have. I hope to see it someday, but I didn't even get to see Tiger Stadium before they abandoned it.

"Iowa Baseball Confederacy" is a great book.

Jess Wundrun said...

I went to Wrigley in 1984. Just before lights, I think. We used to live within walking distance of Miller Park in Milwaukee. I have a hard time remembering not to say County Stadium. The funniest thing to have been said about the old county stadium it by Bud Selig's son-in-law. He said that if it didn't have corrugated metal siding [which made it an eyesore] they'd never have convinced the citizens of Milwaukee to tear it down and build them a new one.

Going to a Brewer game was never too difficult. But I suppose that getting into Wrigley these days is a bit like trying to go to Lambeau Field.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Thanks for calling out the WSox and their awful soulless shell of a stadium. They should never have torn down Comisky. Now, THAT was a ballpark. Not as beautiful as Wrigley, but still. And yes, the stereotype of Cubs fans being baseball-ignorant texting yuppies is not true.


Things sure have changed since we dropped out of high school, Dee Dee.

GETkristiLOVE said...

Nothing compares to a day at Wrigley with a brew and dog in hand. Nothing.

Being from the land of new stadiums (Coors Field, Pepsi Center and Invesco Field), I'll be very upset to see that happen there.

The journalists around town started calling the Pepsi Center "the can" (it kind of looks like a squashed one from the outside) but Pepsi but the kibash on that right away since that doesn't use their name in vain.

And don't believe you if they tell you they will keep a great name like Mile High and incorporate that in, because they end up putting those words in such tiny print, in a cursive typeface, that you can't read it next to the big INVESCO Field part.