Thursday, July 31, 2008

Top 10: The Things We Love About Wrigley

We here at The BearDown have made many statements about Wrigley Field, specifically our love for The Museum of Sport on the Corner of Addison and Clark. Now true, Garnes and I are lifelong Cub fans born (and in her case raised) in the grand ole' city of Chicago. But 4Real loves Wrigley and he doesn't even like the NL, Wrigley scored at the top of his Stadium Rankings back in April. And many of you may be aware of how it affected us when we found out Wrigley's naming rights might be Up for Sale. The outrage spread from having to rename Garnes' Dog to being forced to come up with acceptable Alternate Options for Wrigley Field. Why do we care so much for Wrigley? Because Wrigley is unlike any other ball park in the world. Take into account the following 10 reasons (in no particular order).

10. The Architecture:
Wrigley has been in existence a very long time. It was built in 1914 and not much has been changed since then. Expansion occurred over the years. After 9 years William Wrigley doubled the seat capacity. As the decades went on, renovations were added amenities upgraded, but Wrigley Field today is nearly the same silhouette as Weeghman Park was in 1914. Things have been fixed, seats have been replaced, the bleachers are concrete instead of wood, but the bottom line is that the same field that has been used by the Cubs since 1916 is still where they play on summer afternoons. There's no slide, no gigantic video screen (to tell the "fans" when to cheer and what to cheer), no gimmicks to bring in fans, the Cubs are the draw and the entertainment. Wrigley Field is a museum to the game what it used to be like to head out to the ballpark instead of these over the top retractable roof monstrosities that are everywhere. And because there's no room for it anywhere else, the fact that Wrigley is constructed where it is, on the Shores of old Lake Michigan, the winds are ridiculous and they make the games interesting. When the wind is blowing out a pop up to left field is out, and when the wind is blowing in a ball destined for Sheffield or Waveland won't even make it to the Warning Track. It's a beautiful thing.

9. The Scoreboard:
The Scoreboard is still manually operated. In what is probably the best job in the world, there are people in the scoreboard who change the scores, pitchers, teams, etc on the board during the games. Necessary, absolutely not, but that's the reason that it's so amazing. Wrigley has done everything in its power to exist today the way it has for decades. Not to mention, as opposed to other ballparks that have the NL or AL scoreboard off in the upper deck corners (I'm looking at you Bank One Ballpark) this scoreboard is in DEAD CENTERFIELD instead of the video screen gimmicks.

8. The Flags:
In much the same way the scoreboard is still in existence to keep the fans informed. The Scoreboard lets people know the score, much the same way it has for a very long time (even before the Internet!) so too does Wrigley choose to keep fans, and Chicago's passerbys informed on the baseball world. There are flags atop the scoreboard, one for each team in three separate rows. These represent the divisions and the place in the division. And as you can see in the beautiful picture at the left the Cubs flag flies highest when the Cubs are in 1st. But there are other flags that fly at Wrigley besides the team by team/division by division flags. After a Win a White flag with a Navy W flies high above Wrigley Field and after a loss the inverse (Blue with White L) flag flies high, albeit not as proudly for all in Wrigleyville to see. But there are other flags that fly in the Southwest winds. There are pinstriped 10, 14, 23, and 26 flags representing four of the greatest Cubs of all time (Santo, Banks, Sandberg, and Williams). Also atop the Crown of The Friendly Confines there are a few other flags, the Hack 191 (Hack Wilson's 1930 RBI Record), 20 KW (Woody's 20 K game), 66 Sammy (Sosa's 1998 HR Total), Hawk 8 (MVP Andre Dawson), JR42 (Jackie Robinson), FJ31 (Fergie Jenkins), and Maddux 300 (300th Win) among others as well as their World Series Championships (2) and NL East, NL, and NL Central pennants are up there as well.

7. The Outfield Signs:
I know what you're thinking, "but you keep talking about the history and the architecture and you're saying one of your favorite things are Ads? I can't say that I've been to a lot of professional ballparks (5) but one thing that (I believe) is unique to Wrigley is the Miller Lite Ad on one of the rooftops across Sheffield. Next time you watch a Cubs game look for it. Some of the time the billboard is your typical Miller Lite Baseball ad, but a good portion of the time (I believe a majority of the time) the ads are opponent focused and for your viewing pleasure:

And Obviously my favorites are the Anti-Brewers Slogans, specifically "We Prefer a Pennant Chase to a Sausage Race". You can always tell when the sign is made for Wrigley by the distinctive Ivy lining either the bottom or sides of the ad. But it's not just the commercial Miller Lite ads that I love of the outfield signs. It's the distinctive Red Budweiser roof across Waveland, the Harry Caray commemorative sign on the Rooftop of Murphy's Bleachers, The Eamus Catuli (Go Cubs) and AC count up (Division/League/World Series) signs on other rooftops. All great to see when looking out on Wrigley's famed outfield and Rooftops. The fans out there love their Cubs, and who can blame them. Speaking of the Rooftops....

6. The Rooftops:
I figure since I spent so much time talking about the signs that appear in the outfield and on the rooftops, I might as well just put the rooftops as my next favorite thing about Wrigley, even if it's not technically in Wrigley. It's a beautiful thing for so many reasons, the uniqueness of it, the truly midwestern, neighborly, neighborhood feel of the rooftop fans having cookouts and watching the game that just encompasses what it is that Wrigleyville is. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 different rooftops to view the game from. Some are simply a grill and some bleachers and (a surprise to many) some are really high class with nice bars on the inside, basically the best sports bar in the world. Also, because of the rooftops, a piece of baseball history happened in July of 1995 when Reds pitcher Tom Browning snuck out of Wrigley and across the street to enjoy a game from the bleachers - in full uniform. TV Cameras caught him and he was thus fined. He has said that it was one of if not The Best experiences during his career - he won a game in the World Series, won the World Series, and threw 1 (nearly 2) Perfect Games.

5. The Bleacher Bums:
No other group of individuals has been as immortalized as the Bleacher Bums. The lovable nickname for the members of*ahem* society, who grace the bleachers at Wrigley. If you ever attend a game in the bleachers, get there early. Seating is general admission and people wait for lengthy amounts of time, to get prime real estate in the concrete seats. But be forewarned, a high amount of alcohol has passed through their blood streams so not too late in the game (often before the first pitch) R-Rated curses and chants start flying. And not just at the opposing players on the field but in cases of friendly rivalry the chants are often aimed at the other Bleacher Bums. Hearing the Left Field Bums lash out against the Right Field Bums is common. The Bums are so famed that shirts can be purchased in and around Wrigley stating your alliance. The Text on the back of the shirt of course reads "Shut up and Drink your Beer". The most ironic part of this is the fact that on most summer days, it is much more common to see the Bums not wearing their Bleachers shirts, well actually they aren't usually wearing any shirts.

4. The Baskets:
As you should be well aware the Bleacher Bums enjoy waiting hours in line for their general admission seats in the sun, and what's better to do whilst waiting in the sweltering Chicago heat and/or humidity than down a few frosty cold pints (cans) of Old Style. We all know midwesterners know how to drink, they have to drink to survive 3-4 months per year. We all know beer goes best with baseball. So the Bleacher Bums stand and drink all day (in the sun) then get into the park and continue to drink. Well right around the 6th inning those same Bleacher Bums have had enough cold suds to lose their balance. Thank God for the Baskets at Wrigley. It is probably one of the most unique things at Wrigley. To my knowledge it will not be found anywhere else. Not only does it save the lives of drunk Bleacher Bums but the basket counts as a home run. Though I don't have the official stats in front of me I feel like I have praised that basket (for Cub HRs) much More often than cursed it (for opponent HRs). I would go out on a limb and say that the basket is responsible for a higher percentage of Cub HRs than opponents.

3. The Ivy:
Probably the most recognizable thing about Wrigley is the Ivy lining the back (brick) walls to "soften" the blow of diving, running outfielders. Well as you might guess it doesn't soften anything, it's one of the reasons teams hate to play at Wrigley. But it is a fun sight to see along the outfield walls. Not just that but it presents an interesting Home Field Advantage. If a ball goes into the Ivy and the Outfielder raises both arms in an "I surrender, I can't find the ball" it is ruled a ground rule double. All Cubs outfielders know this. If the outfielder though decides to search through the vines to find the ball, it is no longer a Ground Rule Double. And the baserunner is free to run as fast as he can around as many bases as he can. I have seen many singles stretched into triples based on an opposing outfielder searching through the Ivy like he knows the Grail is there. (Thank you Bill Veeck).

2. Wrigleyville:
Where is Wrigley Field Located? Wrigleyville? How about the Chase Ballpark? Oh Phoenix. Um Yankee Stadium? Oh the Bronx. Fenway Park? It's in the Fenway district of Boston (the park is named after the area, not the other way around. Wrigley Field, and The Cubs, have a certain aura around them that leads to an entire area of Chicago to become one with Wrigley Field. And of course there is (almost) nothing but bars lining Addison and Clark Streets, and also Sheffield and Waveland. The arguably most famous and popular bar in Wrigleyville is probably The Cubby Bear right across from Wrigley on the corner of Clark and Addison. The way it works in Wrigley on game day is the fans show up and begin their trek past each bar until they find one they can fit into. Everyone walks into The Cubby Bear, looks around the gigantic place, and gets to walking down Clark. Whether it's down to Goose Island, Bernie's, Casey Moran's or the seemingly thousands of other bars and restaurants. These are all packed hours before the game and hours after the game. Win or Lose everyone is having fun in Wrigleyville.

1. The History:
I know non Cubfans. They all say the same things. They are sick of the Cub history being rammed down their throat, the lore of Wrigley Field and The Cubs. Well if you are one of those, then stop reading, but that's the beautiful thing about Wrigley. Especially with Yankee Stadium set to be debris in the near future Wrigley is one of, well 2 ballparks with such history. We're not talking about team history, the Reds can look back at their Big Red Machine team history but those guys never stepped foot on the field at the Great American Ball Park. The Dodgers may have one of the more storied franchises in sport history, but they can't look back at the Brooklyn team and say it was the same place as this team. Cub teams since 1914 have had one thing in common, they have played at Wrigley Field. There is more than just Cub History alive in the Brick and Ivy, have you heard of the following MLB Historic Events:

  • Hall of Famer Babe Ruth's "Called Shot"
  • Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett's "Homer in the Gloamin"
  • 1917's Hippo Vaughn vs. Toney both throwing No-hitters through 9 full innings
  • Hall of Famer Mr. Cub Ernie Banks' 500th HR
  • Pete Rose's 4,191st hit (to tie with Ty Cobb)
  • Kerry Wood's 20 K game (2nd ever to throw 20 Ks, and 1st not aligned to Steroids) Randy Johnson did it 3 years later but the game went extra innings so it is not an official record.
  • Sammy Sosa's 60th HRs in 3 out of 4 seasons (98, 99, 01)
  • Hall of Famer Lou Gherig's 1st Grand Slam, as a 17 year old for New York City Commerce High School
  • The Highest scoring game in MLB history Cubs 26, Phils 23
  • 3 All Star Games
  • Hall of Famer Stan Musial's 3,000th hit
  • 1976's 4 HR game for Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt
  • The 2nd Highest Scoring Game in MLB history Phils 23, Cubs 22
  • Greg Maddux's 3000th Strikeout
  • Tom Glavine's 300th win
  • 7 No-Hitters

And not just known for Baseball Wrigley was also the host venue for

  • The Bears 1933 victory over the Giants in the first NFL East vs. West Championship game (23-21)
  • 1937 NFL Championship Game (Bears over Skins 28-21)
  • 1949 NFL Championship Game (Bears over Giants 37-9)
  • 1943 NFL Championship Game (Bears over Skins 41-21)
  • 1963 NFL Championship Game (Bears over Giants 14-10)
  • Hall of Famer Gale Sayers' Record 6 Touchdown Game against the 49ers in 1965
Besides just that history there is Ronnie Woo Woo parading around the field in full Cubs gear (though never playing a game for the team) as the unofficial mascot of the Cubs. There's the organist playing "Take me out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning made famous by the late Harry Caray (originally at Comiskey and later at Wrigley) a practice which has continued by a number of "guest conductors" over the last 10 years since Harry's passing. Most famously Dutchie Caray to start the 1998 season (the first without Harry), as well as his grandson and former WGN commentator Chip Caray, as well as Hall of Famer broadcasters Vin Scully and Bob Uecker and many other famous Chicagoans and other national Celebs, as well as some of the more infamous like Mike Ditka (at triple speed), Jeff Gordon "Wrigley Stadium", Ozzy Osbourne's incoherence, and many others.

Wrigley field is a Museum to the game, a porthole to the past, the last living Federal Park, and one of the remaining 3 (2 once Yankee Stadium is dust) glances into the past. The history of not only the Cubs but baseball itself. The Friendly Confines is by far the most unique, fun, amazing Ballpark in the world.


Anonymous said...

The Browning in the rooftops incident was in '93 (not '95) the fine was $500.00.

Anonymous said...

oh yeah? well your moms a smirf