A sentimental 100th happy birthday to Wrigley Field
We witnessed again today the fact that the club on the field is more about heartbreak for the fans than it is winning. Through all of the Cubs misery of the past 60 or so years, one thing stands out about this franchise is the ballpark. The cool little ballpark at the corner of Clark and Addison.
This afternoon on the radio broadcast Bud Selig stopped in with Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer and called Wrigley Field, along with Fenway Park the cathedrals of baseball. I guess I can give the commish that. The memories of Wrigley Field are not that of championships and great games. The memories many of us have are far more personal. It’s your first game with your Dad, Mom or Granparent. It’s where you were sitting when you met a dear friend you now have known for decades. It’s the place where countless family gatherings, parties with friends, etc… have taken place. For many of us fans our relationship with the Wrigley Field is very personal. Everyone has a unique experience with this unique little ballpark.
My experience is not special, but it is my experience so I’ll share a bit about it here. My Dad brought me to my first game when I was 6 in 1977. I absolutely loved how green and big everything seemed to be. It looked just like it did on WGN only without Jack Brickhouse describing the action. We would go to two or three games every summer in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Sometimes my Grandpa would take me, the memories of cigar smoke filled rides home in his Buick come to my mind. We didn’t go often, so when we did my Dad would try and get us good seats behind the plate. As a kid I loved getting to Wrigley Field early to watch the players warmup and hit. Watching a guy like Dave Kingman take batting practice was jaw dropping for a little kid.
In my teens, I somewhat lost interest in baseball and started really following the NFL and even the NHL more. The trips to Wrigley didn’t happen as often, as life and being a teen got in the way. The 1989 season changed all of that for me. That team caught my attention on Opening Day when Mitch Williams loaded the bases and proceeded to strikeout the side to end the game. My Dad took time off to take me to a few weekday afternoon games that year. We would arrive early and walk around the neighborhood. The excitement that was in the air in August and September was something I won’t forget. I remember high fiving my Dad and discussing the Cubs pennant chances on our rides home. With the Cubs winning, the atmosphere around Wrigley Field was contagious. 1989 brought me back to the Baseball, the Cubs, and Wrigley Field. I’ve been hooked ever since.
In spring of 1990 I ditched high school and went with a buddy of mine and sat in the bleachers for the first time. It was kind of our own Ferris Bueller’s Day, off without a principal chasing us around Chicago. That was a day I’ll never forget. Hearing some of the leftfield regulars taunt Lonnie Smith was hilarious. Andre Dawson capped off the fun time hitting a game winning homer into the left field bleachers a few rows below where we were sitting. The next day I returned to school with a bad sunburn and some fun stories to tell friends.
In the early 90’s I went to school in Madison, Wis. We would often ride across I-94 to take in Brewers games at Old Milwaukee County Stadium. While it was fun, it wasn’t the same. A few times I was able to talk a group of yahoo’s into piling into cars and taking the trip down to Wrigley Field. We of course went to the bleachers and had the times of our lives doing the sorts of things that college kids do.
Following college, I settled into living on the northside of Chicago and summer afternoons and evenings at Wrigley Field were part of my everyday life. I was fortunate enough to spend the late 90’s without many cares, except how I would get my next Old Style as a regular in the right field bleachers. The memories out there, although at times foggy, are great. The friendships built with complete strangers from all walks of life just another part of the experience.
The sentimental part now arrives. In 2007 my wife and I were fortunate enough to have a healthy baby boy. Somebody should call DCFS because I took the poor kid to his first game when he was 2-1/2 months old. As a father my Wrigley Field experience has changed alot. I see how my son follows the game. I see how nice complete strangers are to a father and son out at the ballpark. My son has never asked about where the batting cages or any of those things are. When we go to Wrigley Field we watch baseball, eat hot dogs and enjoy ourselves. It’s still a special get away even though its just a short bus ride from our house.
I have always known that Wrigley Field was a great baseball experience (results not withstanding). What hits me I’m at a game with my son is the fact that this is the same ballpark where my Grandfather brought my Dad when he was little. I know everyone says this, but when it’s you and it’s very personal it’s something that makes for sentiment. For most teams you take your kid to a place where the team just moved in the past 15 years and the place you went to growing up is now a parking lot. It’s not like that with Wrigley Field, she’s the ballpark in the black and white video and the high def video.
So I’ll just wrap this whole thing by thanking the little ballpark at Clark and Addison for all of the memories and not just the baseball ones televised on WGN. The personal ones that are etched into all of our lives from the fun 3-4 hour escape we have from reality when we go to Wrigley Field.
Happy Birthday Wrigley Field!