A visit to Chicago would not be complete without spending some time on the North Side at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, longtime loveable losers until 2016 when they won their first World Series since 1908. As my dad is from Chicago and a lifelong Cubbies fan, so am I. Go Cubs go! Fly the W!!
Fanaticism aside, Wrigley Field is a beautiful historic ballpark well worth visiting. Opened in 1914, Wrigley is the second-oldest MLB ballpark, after Fenway in Boston. It is located in the Lakeview community in a neighborhood known as Wrigleyville. Just the name is exciting, isn’t it? The Friendly Confines are full of lore and legend, as one might expect for a designated Chicago Landmark over 100 years old.
Wrigley Field was first known as Weeghman Park, home to the Chicago Federals, a short-lived Federal League team. This team disbanded in 1915, and the Cubs began playing at the park the following year. It became known as Wrigley Field in 1926 after the Wrigley family purchased the team. Fun fact and California connection, the Wrigleys played a huge role in the development of Catalina Island off the shores of Long Beach in Southern California. The Cubs’ spring training was held at Wrigley Field in Avalon from the 1920s until 1952. There are still signs of the Chicago connection on the island today, and there are businesses that will Fly the W during the major league season.
There is some really cool history surrounding the park’s features. The scoreboard is hand-turned and was constructed in 1937. No batted ball has ever hit the scoreboard, but there have been a few near-misses.
The popular hashtag #FlytheW comes from the blue and white flag flown after Cubs’ victories. This is a longtime tradition and has its origin in the Wrigley family’s love of sailing. The mast built atop the scoreboard resembles sailing flags and flew the eight flags representing the NL teams. In the 1940s, the Win/Loss flags were hung after games to signal to commuters on the L train the outcomes of the games, as this was way before the advent of social media and instant news.
The iconic Boston ivy-covered wall has been carefully preserved throughout the years. The ivy covers the hard brick wall and was planted in 1937 by Bill Veeck whose dad had been president of the ball club. There are some interesting baseball rulings that can happen as a result of balls getting stuck inside the ivy. There has been many a play impacted by the ‘vine rule,’ with the controversy to go along with it. You can take photos along the ivy wall with a tour package.
The Cubs have never won a World Series at Wrigley Field. Their wins in 1907 and 1908 were prior to the ballpark being built, and their 2016 victory took place at Progressive Park in Cleveland. Nevertheless, you can visit the Motorola Trophy Room on Gallagher Way for a look at their magnificent trophy and even get a photo along the fake ivy wall without the added cost you’d incur inside the ballpark.
This is only a snapshot of what you can see and learn by a visit to Wrigley Field. I definitely recommend a ballpark tour on your visit to Chicago. Our tour guides were great- really funny and informative. The history and beauty of the park put Wrigley at the top of my Chicago must-do list. You can skip that other ballpark on the Southside. Although, I may be a bit biased…
A Lifelong Cubs Fan:
This segment is very personal for me. As I mentioned above, my father is from the Chicago area. He grew up in the Chicago suburbs and all his life cheered for the North Side team. The story goes that he once even got to announce a Cubs game for the Chicago radio station he was working for at the time back in the day. I don’t remember which station he was working for at the time, though that’s a detail he never would have forgotten. He loved radio, loved sharing facts, loved his Cubbies.
The frequency of my posting drops off sharply following November 2018. This is because my father, who has contributed to this blog directly in Hurricane Andrew and indirectly by the parental wisdom he so generously shared, suffered from sudden cardiac arrest on October 24, 2018. This was a devastating event. While he was able to be resuscitated, it left him severely brain-damaged and he has not regained consciousness since. This loss to our family has been great. Dad, the retired teacher and Army Captain, had been a fixture in the lives of his grandkids. He attended their school events- everything from music concerts to awards assemblies to book fairs where he would spend his fixed means on stuff for his grandkids just to see them smile. Only three months before being hospitalized, he was on Catalina Island leading a Boy Scout trip for my younger boy’s troop. While Nate was at first mortified at the idea of having his Pops on his Scout trip, he ended up having a great time with his granddad, and they made some great memories together. These experiences have become even more precious as we now see the limits of our time here on Earth so pronounced. Dad’s always done his best to provide for his family, and when the going got tough- and I mean really tough- he persevered still. I am grateful for the sacrifices he made to make sure that he could see us grow up.
Through the grief and pain, I have reflected on the many things I have to be thankful for. I was fortunate to live in close proximity to my parents, and saw Dad every week at church. As often as possible, he’d come over to take the grandkids for lunch or Yogurtland or just to visit. We had a good relationship and we would have great conversations, and I’ll be forever grateful for that. But there will always be things I wish for, small regrets for time lost or stuff undone. There are text messages of the kids’ photos and funny sayings that I wish I sent; there are places I wish we had visited. Wrigley Field was one such place I hoped we could visit together. We would talk about someday going back to Chicago and catching a game. I imagined being able to catch a foul ball with my pop. Not that I can catch a ball anyway, but it was a nice thought… There’s just never enough time.
So two things I’ll share: I am thankful for the husband, a lifelong Dodgers fan, for planning our trip to Chicago and taking the trip to Wrigley. He might not put on a Cubs cap, and I’m pretty sure he’ll never cheer for the Cubbies at a game, but he visited the ballpark, and he actually had a great time. I appreciate him for knowing how much it meant for me to go. And as for Pop, a lifelong Cubs fan, the one who made me a lifelong Cubs fan, I am thankful that he got to see his team win the World Series in his lifetime. We did get to share in the excitement of their victorious Game 7 in the 2016 series. The pennant I got him following game now proudly hangs in his hospital room, along with photos of his kids and grandkids. There are many fans who didn’t get to see their Cubbies get to the World Series on this side of eternity. I am thankful that Pop did.
This road to loss has been a long one. I have felt joy, gratitude, sadness, hope. I am experiencing grief, and yet my father is still here. But he’s also not. And as difficult as it is to walk this road, I am in an odd way, thankful for the hurt: my loss is great because the love is great.
For more history on Wrigley Field or to buy tickets for games of ballpark tours, visit cubs.com.