Ballpark of the Week: Wrigley Field (Home of the Chicago Cubs)
This year was the 100th anniversary of the opening of Wrigley Field, Chicago’s little baseball wonderland nestled in the middle of a true neighborhood and much heralded both for its authentic, old-time baseball feel, as well as the extraordinary amount of …um…losing… that has happened there.
In 2008, just one month after I had kicked off my “visit all of the ballparks” mission, my then-girlfriend-now-wife Jen surprised me with a trip to Chicago to see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field. Not only had she gotten the location, she had also (1) purchased bleacher seats (I had said I wanted to experience the park in the bleachers with the ‘bums’), (2) against their rivals the St. Louis Cardinals, and (3) in a pennant winning year, no less! This was a home run of a surprise, no pun intended. So in September of 2008, we loaded up the car and drove to Chicago to take in some baseball.
For those who don’t know, Wrigley Stadium is in the middle of a real Chicago neighborhood (Wrigleyville), so one of the first things to know is that parking is extremely hard to find and at a premium. Luckily, the ever prepared Jen was aware of this, and had not only gotten us a hotel a distance away, but plotted out the train lines so that we could get there bright and early. Which we did – wise decision, as it turns out people line up EARLY for the bleachers and day games. We joined a line full of reveling Cubs fans, and I don’t think it’s going to shock that many of them had begun the day’s drinking well before they got there. It was a party atmosphere and, when they finally opened the gates and we came pouring in, it stayed that way.
Immediately, Wrigley Field transports you into a different time (Fenway does this even more so, a point for another post). It feels incredibly small and comfy, and not overwhelming like many modern stadiums do. Most importantly, a sense of history just seems to seem out of every crack and crevise. The feeling that it’s bigger – bigger than you and me – and smaller at the same time. It’s just a game, just a sporting event. Grown men running around a grassy field. But it has meant so much to so many. I know I’m sounding like Terence Mann, James Earl Jones’ character from Field of Dreams, but as hokey as it seems, Wrigley makes you feel this way. There really is something to be said for standing in the same place to get a beer and hot dog where generations of fans have done the same thing.
That said, one of the first things you’ll notice is a small group of vendors and concessionaires than you are used to. It’s not that there aren’t plenty, but the concourse doesn’t seem like a shopping mall, like it does in most stadiums. We made our way to our seats, and stopped for the right food and drink for the experience: Chicago style dogs and Old Style beer. Wrigley has it’s share of specialty foods now, and micro-brews, but we were going for the fully authentic experience. Dogs and suds in hand, we wandered down to our seats.
Now, plenty has been said about the Bleacher Bum’s rowdiness and sometime lac of manners, but we did not experience any of that this day. The people around us were pleasant and cheerful, and pretty damn knowledgeable about their baseball! Not many other stadiums in America have their outfields fill up an hour before game time, but this one does. The temperature was just right – mid 70s – and there was a slight haze over the field. We watched the prep and marveled on the famous outfield ivy and the magnificent old scoreboard. While I admit, the Chicago dog was not my cup of tea, my wife still swears that it was the best dog she ever had.
The game itself was a bit of a sleeper. The Cubs clinched their division the night before, so they put in their “B” lineup this day. To be honest, I only knew a couple players on the Cubs roster that day (Kosuke Fukudome, Ryan Dempster), and the Cardinals roster wasn’t much better, although they had left in Albert Pujols. But it didn’t matter. For nine innings (that only took 2 1/2 hours), we soaked in the sun (it ended up reaching the mid-80s), enjoyed some of baseball’s best fans and ate a few too many Chicago Dogs.
Wrigley Field is a baseball Mecca, and a trip that any true fan of the game’s history should undertake if they can. As we left, Cubs “W” flag for win being hoisted high, I got the amazing feeling one does when they know they just crossed an item off of their ‘bucket list,’ and it didn’t disappoint. If you can, go soon, while they are still rebuilding. This isn’t a cheap park to visit when they are winning, but it’s a little better now. With
Dan’s scale (1-10): 9.1
Below are my stats. I’ll post them for every park I’ve visited. I include the big details, as well as who I visited with. Lastly, I am a huge fan of throwback jerseys, and for every stadium I visit, I buy one of a player from that organization I admired as a kid, from watching them or reading about them. So for every one, I will also list the throwbacks I’ve added to my collection for each.
Wrigley Field – September 21, 2008. St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs
Date: Sunday, September 21, 2008, 1:24PM
Seat: BLCHR, GA, Seat 1462
Ticket Cost: N/A
Went with: Jen Weaver
Time of Game: 2:26
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cardinals 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 7 1
Cubs 0 0 1 1 0 2 1 0 X 5 10 0
Winning Pitcher: Ryan Dempster (17-6)
Losing Pitcher: Braden Looper (12-14)
Jerseys: Ernie Banks (1968) and Ryne Sandberg (1984)