Wrigley Field is a baseball stadium in Chicago, Illinois, United States that has served as the home ballpark of the Chicago Cubs since 1916. It was built in 1914] as Weeghman Park for the Chicago Federal League baseball team, the Chicago Whales. It was also the home of the Chicago Bears of the National Football League from 1921-1970. It was also called Cubs Park from 1920 to 1926 before finally being renamed for then Cubs team owner and chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr.
Located in the residential neighborhood of Lakeview, Wrigley Field sits on an irregular block bounded by Clark and Addison Streets and Waveland and Sheffield Avenues. The area surrounding the ballpark contains bars, restaurants and other establishments and is typically referred to as Wrigleyville. The ballpark's mailing address is 1060 W. Addison Street. During Cubs games, fans will often stand outside the park on Waveland Avenue, waiting for home run balls hit over the wall and out of the park. However, as a tradition, Cubs fans inside and sometimes even outside the park will promptly throw any home run ball hit by an opposing player back onto the field of play, a ritual depicted in the 1977 stage play, Bleacher Bums, and in the 1993 film, Rookie of the Year.
Wrigley Field is nicknamed The Friendly Confines, a phrase popularized by "Mr. Cub", Hall of Famer Ernie Banks. Since 2006, its capacity has been 41,118, making Wrigley Field the fourth-smallest and most actively used ballpark in 2006. It is the oldest National League ballpark and the second oldest active major league ballpark (after Fenway Park on April 20, 1912), and the only remaining Federal League park. When opened in 1914, Wrigley Field had a seating capacity of 14,000 and cost $250,000 to build.
In 1909, the minor-league American Association was seeking to become a third major league. Key to its designs was the establishment of a franchise in the lucrative Chicago market to compete with the Cubs and White Sox. Charles Havenor, owner of the AA Milwaukee Brewers, and Joe and Mike Cantillion, owners of the AA Minneapolis Millers, saw an opportunity to make profit by snapping up choice property and selling it back to the AA. Since the White Sox played on the South Side at South Side Park, and the Cubs were firmly ensconced on the West Side at West Side Park, Havenor and the Cantillions looked to the rapidly developing North Side as the best place to situate the team. The Seminary's location represented the best open land on the North Side. The Seminary, eager to move, sold the property to Havenor and the Cantillions for $175,000 and relocated to the suburb of Maywood, Illinois, where it remained until 1967.
The American Association's plans to become a major league and enter the Chicago market fell through, however, and the lot remained idle over the next few years. Havenor eventually sold his interests to Edmund Archambault, a real estate investor.
John T. Powers, founder and president of the new Federal League, had ambitions of building the new organization into a premier minor league, on par with the American Association. By the middle of the 1913 season, however, the owners had forced Powers out of his job, sensing that the Federal League had the potential to become a viable major league. Replacing him as president was James A. Gilmore, a wealthy Chicago businessman who had made his fortune in coal. Gilmore had the organizational and political skills necessary to mount a serious challenge to the established major leagues.
Gilmore brought on board two partners to control the key Chicago franchise. One was William Walker, a fish wholesaler. The other was the flamboyant Charles A. Weeghman, known as "Lucky Charlie", who had made a quick fortune in local lunch counters (a predecessor to fast food). Weeghman became the club president and the main force behind the team from that point onward, with Walker willing to remain in the background, and Gilmore tending to League issues. Weeghman made headlines by landing star shortstop Joe Tinker from the Cincinnati Reds in December 1913. The Tinker acquisition was the shot in the arm that gave the franchise the momentum to think big for the upcoming 1914 season.
Weeghman chose to relocate the franchise from DePaul to the former Seminary grounds at Clark and Addison owned by Archambault and the Cantillions. Although the major leagues threw up a number of roadblocks, including an attempt to secure rights to part of the land on the block, in late December 1913 Weeghman secured a ninety-nine year lease on the property. The lease stipulated, among other things, that improvements on the property could not exceed $70,000. Within several months, however, Weeghman would spend several times that amount in erecting his new ballpark.
Weeghman hired Zachary Taylor Davis, architect of Comiskey Park (which became the home of the White Sox in June 1910), to design the new ballpark. Weeghman wanted the park to rival the Polo Grounds in New York, but in the end the single-decked grandstand as designed bore little resemblance to it.
Work on the property didn't begin until February 23 1914, exactly two months before the Chifeds' scheduled home opener. After the grounds had been cleared, groundbreaking ceremonies took place on March 4. Under the guidance of the Blome-Sinek company, the lead construction contractor, the park came together over the remainder of March and the first half of April. Despite a brief strike by construction workers in early April, the new park was ready for baseball by the date of the home opener on April 23 1914.
The new ballpark, known as Weeghman Park, was a modern steel and concrete baseball plant (as stadiums were often called then). It featured a single-decked grandstand sweeping from right field behind home plate to near the left field corner. Perched on top of the grandstand roof behind home plate was a small area for the press.
A modern-day visitor to the original Weeghman Park would have difficulty recognizing the outfield aside from the familiar buildings on the opposite side of Waveland and Sheffield Avenues (which haven't changed much at all). The dimensions of the original playing field along the foul lines were quite short. The distance from home plate to the right field brick fence along Sheffield Avenue was around 300 feet at the foul line. Left field was not much better, partly because several old Seminary buildings stood between the wooden left field fence and Waveland Avenue. The left field fence also featured a large scoreboard. Like most of the parks of the day, the field was essentially angular, as it was shaped by the surrounding grid street pattern. The right and left field walls converged in a corner in deep center field, nearly 450 feet from home plate. Because of the constricted size of much of the outfield near the corners, bleachers were limited to a small jury box in right-center field. All told, Weeghman Park had a seating capacity of 14,000, but this was frequently exceeded by the many standing room only crowds of the day.
After an unusual number of home runs were hit during the Chifeds' first home series against Kansas City in April, Weeghman decided the left field wall was too cozy a target, and had the entire fence moved back some 25 feet. To do this, the front porch had to be removed from the old Seminary building beyond the wall.
Before the start of the 1915 season, Weeghman made additional changes to the outfield. Gone were the jury-box bleachers in right-center field. The old Seminary buildings beyond left field were finally demolished in March. In their place, Weeghman had wooden bleachers erected from the left-field corner to center field, raising the park's capacity to roughly 18,000. The scoreboard was relocated to center field, where it has remained in one form or another since then.
On the field, the Chifeds were renamed the Chicago Whales for the club's sophomore season. Weeghman Park was fast becoming the best place to watch baseball in Chicago, as the Whales fought their way to the Federal League pennant in one of the closest races in major league history. Additionally, fans enjoyed Weeghman's high standards for cleanliness and promotion. He was an early champion of Ladies' Day (every Friday) and in 1916 would become the first baseball owner to allow fans to keep foul balls. And as a successful restaurateur, his food was top-notch. Long before the Wrigley family entered the scene, the park was already famous for its hospitality.
Despite the exciting pennant race and generally high quality of baseball played in the Federal League, the League was hemorrhaging money. In December 1915, the League capitulated to the other major leagues and disbanded. But all was not lost for Weeghman, however. He was allowed to purchase the Cubs franchise for $500,000, and promptly moved his new club out of the dilapidated West Side Park and into his Weeghman Park for the 1916 season. The purchase was in reality a merger between the Whales and the Cubs, as a number of former Whales stars, such as Max Flack and Claude Hendrix, found themselves playing in the same park as Cubs the following season.
The Cubs played their first game at Weeghman Park on April 20 1916, besting the Cincinnati Reds 7–6 in eleven innings. This proved to be the highlight of an otherwise unremarkable season. After another year in the bottom half of the standings, the Cubs won the National League pennant in 1918 under manager Fred Mitchell. The victory was not without a little outside help, as wartime conditions during the height of American involvement in World War I caused major league baseball to end the regular season on September 1st. With the Cubs struggling for cash, Weeghman reluctantly rented the larger capacity Comiskey Park for the Cubs' home games in the World Series. For the Cubs, the experience was a bust, as the club lost the series to Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox in six games to relatively anemic attendance. Such losses may have provided the final push forcing Charlie Weeghman out of management following the season.
Although Weeghman was clearly the most dominant figure in the revamped Cubs organization in 1916, a number of investors had taken up minority shares in the club. One of the new investors was chewing gum magnate William Wrigley. Over the next couple years, as Weeghman's financial fortunes off the field entered a sharp decline, Wrigley acquired an increasing number of shares in the club and took on a growing role in the team's affairs. In November 1918, Weeghman gave up his remaining interest to Wrigley, resigned as president, and left baseball for good. Wrigley would acquire complete control of the Cubs by 1921.
With Weeghman out of the picture, starting in 1919 the park was generally referred to as Cubs Park. Although the Cubs featured stars such as pitchers Grover Alexander and Hippo Vaughn, along with a young catcher named Gabby Hartnett, over the next few seasons Cubs Park was the setting for largely also-ran teams.
The fans had even more to be frustrated about off the field. Rumors of thrown games plagued the Cubs during the latter part of the 1920 season gave impetus to the criminal investigations which eventually led to uncovering the infamous Black Sox Scandal across town with the White Sox. In addition, 1920 marked the beginning of prohibition, meaning fans would have to find some other way to quench their thirst during the many hot summer afternoons at Cubs Park.
Although the Cubs teams of the early 1920s were little more than also-rans, the fans still flocked to Cubs Park. In 1922, 542,283 fans went through the turnstiles -- the second-highest attendance in the National League -- to watch a fourth-place club.
By 1922, William Wrigley had decided that after nine seasons, both the seating and the playing field of cozy Cubs Park were ready for a major expansion. Rather than rebuilding the grandstand from scratch, Wrigley hired original architect Zachary Taylor Davis to make the expansion around the existing structure. The grandstand would be sliced into three pieces, with the home plate section placed on rollers and moved roughly 60 feet west (away from right field), and the left field section about 100 feet northwest. Both gaps were to be filled in with more seating, resulting in a significantly longer grandstand and the noticeable "dog leg" shape of the stands on the first base side visible to this day. Additionally, the foul ground and the height of the fence in front of it would be reduced by additional rows of box seats added in front of the existing grandstand. The diamond and the foul lines would be rotated 3 degrees counterclockwise from their earlier orientation, allowing for those extra box seats.
The relocation of the grandstand, even with the additional box seats, would make right field far more spacious than before, even with the addition of new bleachers in right field from the corner to the center field scoreboard. The old wooden bleachers in left field were to be dismantled and replaced with newer steel-framed wooden seats like those being installed in right field. The renovations would boost the park's capacity from roughly 18,000 to 31,000. Its dimensions would be roughly 320 feet in left field, 318 in right, and 446 feet to straightaway center.
Work on the renovations began in December 1922 and were completed in time for the 1923 season opener. The changes were of such magnitude that many publications of the time referred to the "new" Cubs Park. Fans flocked to the park, and attendance shot up to 703,705 for the 1923 season, although this was once again only good for second-best in the National League. On the field, however, the Cubs remained also-rans. The team drifted aimlessly through the middle of the standings in 1923 and '24. By 1925, the Cubs found themselves commemorating their fiftieth season in the National League by finishing last for the first time (which in 1925 meant eighth place).
The recently renovated Cubs Park, while a hit with the fans, was not without its critics. Their main objection was that the new left field bleachers were simply too easy a target for right-handed hitters. By late July and early August 1925, reporters were frequently griping about games lost to fly balls which would have been easy outs without the left field bleachers. During the Cubs' first road trip that month, the half of the left field bleachers closest to the foul line was dismantled, leaving a "jury box" of seats running from deep left-center to the center field scoreboard. The change cost the Cubs over a thousand seats, although that left-field area was sometimes filled with standing-room-only spectators behind ropes, as was the custom of the day. With the left field line now at a substantial 364 feet from home plate, home run production dropped.
By 1926, the Cubs were benefiting handily from the peak of the Roaring Twenties. Nearly 900,000 fans went through the turnstiles at a park with a capacity of just over 30,000. After the close of the season, work began on adding a second deck to the grandstand. The original idea was to have the job completed by the opening of the 1927 season, but by April, only the third-base side of the upper deck had been completed, temporarily giving the park a startlingly asymmetrical appearance.
Cubs Park was formally renamed Wrigley Field prior to the start of the 1927 season.
Despite the half-finished state of the upper deck expansion, the 1927 Cubs drew over 1.1 million fans, becoming the first National League team ever to do so. In addition to the increased capacity of the park, the Cubs helped their own cause by becoming an increasingly competitive team under manager Joe McCarthy.
The upper deck was finally completed in time for the 1928 season, which saw the Cubs break the million mark in attendance yet again. The timing couldn't have been more fortuitous. In 1929, the Cubs put together one of the most potent lineups in major league history, and easily walked to the National League pennant with stars like Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, Kiki Cuyler, Charlie Root and Pat Malone. Season attendance soared to nearly 1.5 million fans. This would remain the major league record for seventeen years, a record aided in large part by declining major league attendance during the Great Depression and World War II. The Cubs themselves would not top this mark for another forty years.
As the World Series approached, Wrigley sought to provide even more seating at the park. He contracted to have temporary wooden bleachers erected on both Waveland and Sheffield Avenues, raising the park's capacity to roughly 50,000. Both streets were closed to traffic. In the end, the bleachers were only needed for games one and two of the 1929 World Series, both of which the Cubs lost on their way to a five-game defeat at the hands of the underdog Philadelphia Athletics.
By the early 1930s, distance markers were posted: left field line, 364 feet; left-center against the outer wall, 372; left center, corner of bleachers, 364; deep center field corner, 440; right center, 354; right field line, 321.
In 1937, the Cubs announced plans to rebuild the bleachers in concrete instead of wood, to be fronted by brick that would soon be covered in ivy, and to build a new scoreboard. To make the outfield look more symmetrical and graceful, the plans called for extending the left field bleachers to a point closer to the corner. The gentle curves between the ends of the left and right field bleachers would become popularly known as the "wells". That summer, the Chicago Tribune ran a series of articles about major league ballparks, and the writer sharply criticized the Cubs for a remodeling that he suspected would result in too many "cheap" home runs. The writer later retracted when he saw that the final plan was somewhat more spacious than originally announced.
Be that as it may, construction went on behind a temporary fence during the summer, and the finished product was unveiled on September 4th, in time for the last month of the season. Bill Veeck's famous ivy was planted not long after, but it would be another year before it fully took hold. According to his own autobiography, Veeck as in Wreck, he planted Bittersweet, which would grow quickly, and also the more famous Boston ivy, which would eventually take over. Another part of the arboretum was to be a series of Chinese elms on the large "stairsteps" up to the scoreboard, as well as one apiece in the little triangle at the top of each "well". According to Veeck's biography, that plan did not fare so well as the winds kept blowing the leaves off. Management finally gave up "after about twenty tries," so the trees are long gone, leaving just the large bare steps and (until 2006) the little flat triangular supports at the tops of the "wells". According to Veeck, the trees themselves were inexpensive, but the special construction for them in the bleachers cost about $200,000.
Another mistake was constructing bleachers in straightaway center field: The batters could easily lose sight of the ball in the white shirts worn by spectators on sunny days, because the wall was not high enough to provide a full batter's background by itself. Various methods were tried to get around this. At one time a flat canopy was extended over the area, to try to put the spectators in shadow, but that was ineffective (the 2005-2006 reconstruction would to some extent revisit that concept). For a while in the mid-1960s, a screen was attached to the top of the wall and the ivy twined its way up. Batters and bleacher fans disliked it, and it was removed after a couple of seasons. Later, for a number of years, a green tarp covered those seats.
After generally being closed to spectators sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s, the last time those three problem sections were used for baseball was during the 1962 All-Star game. The seats continued to be used for other events such as football and soccer, during the years when the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Sting played their games here.
By the 1990s, the area was occupied by juniper plants, which nicely complemented the ivy. Also, the layout was tweaked a bit, to open up a few seats on either side of the straight center field area while still providing a rectangular background from the perspective of the batter.
After the 2005 season, the plants were temporarily removed during reconstruction (see below). Over the following winter, a lounge was constructed in the upper part of this area and new rows of juniper bushes were placed in the lower part.
By the end of 1937, the dimensions were set: 355 feet to the left field corner, a few feet behind where the corner wall tangents the foul pole; 368 to fairly deep left-center; 400 to the deepest part of center (at the right edge of the batters background area); 368 to right center; and 353 to the right field foul pole. There are other intriguing distances that have never been posted. In the original Encyclopedia of Baseball, by Hy Turkin and S.C. Thompson, 1951, measurements of 357 feet to the left field "well" and 363 to the right field "well" were revealed. That would put the closest point of the left end of the bleachers no more than about 350 feet from home plate, a fact many pitchers have cursed over the years. Left-center in general is shallow. Straightaway center is probably about 390. Deep center and the right field area in general are better balanced. But the shallowness of the left-center power alley, really too cozy for major league standards, and the resultant increase in home runs in the decades since 1937, suggest that the Chicago Tribune's original skeptical assessment was correct.
The "basket", an angling chain-link fence that runs along the top of the outfield wall, was installed at the start of the 1970 season. During the 1969 pennant race, there were several incidents of fans interfering with fly balls and even falling onto the field. The basket was intended to deter or prevent that kind of problem. Security cameras were also installed at that time. The "basket" angles away from the wall, and is also higher than the wall in order to provide some balance for the pitchers. However, over the years a number of baseballs have been hit "into the basket" for home runs that previously would been outs, or off the wall, or possibly interfered with by fans. The basket only exists where there is seating. During the 1980s, when the bleacher seating was extended over the "catwalks", i.e. the bleacher ramps in extreme left and right fields, the basket was likewise extended.
The Cubs had been run almost like a hobby by the Wrigleys, but the Tribune Company was interested in the Cubs strictly as a business. The new owners started talking about lights and began stirring debate on the matter. One of P.K.'s stated reasons for not installing lights was that it would upset the neighborhood, and the initial negative reaction to the Tribune Company's intentions validated P.K.'s prediction.
Resistance to the installation of lights was not limited to those who lived nearby and opposed the lights on the practical grounds of bothersome brightness or the noise and crowds from night games. Many Cubs fans who lived outside Wrigleyville opposed the idea simply due to the fact that the Cubs' stance as the last team to resist night baseball was a point of pride, as it was seen as a vestige of baseball's heritage as a pastoral game, played in natural sunlight. Some Cubs fans also had fond associations with Gabby Hartnett's famous "Homer in the Gloaming," in which Hartnett hit a crucial home run in the bottom of the ninth of a game on the verge of being called for darkness, helping the Cubs to win the 1938 pennant.
The City of Chicago had passed an ordinance banning night events at Wrigley Field, due to its presence in the residential Lakeview neighborhood, so Tribune was unable to install lights unless the ordinance was repealed. They compromised by scheduling a significant number of 3:00 starts, which typically carried games into the evening but did not require lights for games that completed within three hours or so.
This debate continued for several years, and became more intense as the Cubs returned to competitiveness during the early 1980s. When the Cubs won the National League Eastern Division title in 1984, then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn announced that the Cubs would lose home field advantage should they advance to the World Series (home field advantage alternated between the champions of the National League and American League until 2003), since by this time nearly all World Series games were played at night in the Eastern and Central time zones. After winning their two scheduled home (day) games in the National League Championship Series, the Cubs lost all three games in San Diego, so Kuhn's threat became moot. But the following year, new commissioner Peter Ueberroth announced that because Wrigley Field had no lights, the Cubs would have to play all future postseason games at another ballpark, likely Comiskey Park, Soldier Field, or possibly even St. Louis' Busch Stadium, or Milwaukee County Stadium. The Cubs fell out of contention for the next several years, however, and the possibility of playing post-season "home" games in other cities did not arise.
The Cubs, under team president Dallas Green quickly changed the issue from lights or no lights to Wrigley Field or move out of town. With typical bluntness, Green said, "if there are no lights in Wrigley Field, there will be no Wrigley Field." Green seriously considered shuttering Wrigley and playing at Comiskey Park as tenants of the White Sox for a year, in hopes that the neighborhood would feel the loss of revenue and back down. The Cubs also explored moving to several suburban locations, including a site adjacent to Arlington Park in Arlington Heights and another in Schaumburg. There was even talk of a drastic move which involved selling the stadium to local college DePaul University, who would likely tear down Wrigley Field to host its indoor sports or convert it to a full-time football stadium in hopes of returning football to the campus. The Cubs would then likely build a new ballpark near the Rosemont Horizon (now the Allstate Arena, where DePaul plays its home games currently) in suburban Rosemont.
The Cubs' new stance quickly changed the context of the debate, as no one wanted to be responsible for the Cubs leaving for the suburbs. Interestingly, Schaumburg officials were so convinced that the Cubs were actually coming that land was purchased by investors hoping to build a new Wrigley Field off the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway west of I-355. When the Cubs and the city of Chicago came to an agreement to keep the team on the North Side, the site spawned a ballpark anyway, which was modeled closely after Wrigley Field. That stadium, Alexian Field, is now home to the (non-affiliated) minor league Schaumburg Flyers.
In the fall of 1987, Chicago mayor Harold Washington proposed a compromise ordinance to the Chicago City Council providing for the Cubs to install lights but play a limited night schedule. Washington died a week after the compromise was proposed, but the city eventually approved a compromise in February 1988 under interim mayor Eugene Sawyer. Major League Baseball responded by awarding the Cubs the 1990 All-Star Game.
The first major league night game at Wrigley was attempted on August 8 against the Philadelphia Phillies, but was rained out after 3 1/2 innings. During the rain delay, several Cubs players, imitating a scene in the recent film hit, Bull Durham, played "slip-and-slide" on the tarp. One source says the group included Greg Maddux, Al Nipper, Les Lancaster and Jody Davis. Manager Don Zimmer was not amused, and they were fined $500 apiece.
The first official night game was achieved the following night, August 9 against the New York Mets (in front of a nationally televised audience watching Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola call the game on NBC), ending a streak of 5,687 consecutive home day games. However, this was not the first night game of any kind at Wrigley, as in the 1940s, some AAGPBL night games were played in Wrigley Field using temporary lighting structures; specifically, the All-Star Game held in July, 1943, was the first night baseball game there, according to the Lowry book and the movie A League of Their Own.
Starting with their first full season with lights, in 1989, as part of the compromise with the city, the Cubs were limited to 18 night games within their 81-game regular season schedule, plus any post-season games that might have to be played at night for TV scheduling reasons. The timing of the lights' installation proved fortuitous, as the Cubs did indeed reach the post-season in 1989. Their first two post-season night games were the first two games of the NLCS, on October 4 and 5. They lost the first game against the San Francisco Giants 11-3, and won the second game 9-5.
The Cubs' post-season appearances since 1988 (as well as their one-game regular-season playoff with San Francisco in 1998) have featured mostly night games, the exceptions (as of 2007) being the fourth game of their 2003 Division Series matchup with the Atlanta Braves and 3rd game of the 2007 Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, which were played on Saturday afternoon, October 4 and October 7th respectively.
In recent years, the Cubs have successfully lobbied for additional regular-season night games (up to a potential 30 per year, as of 2007). However, per their agreement with the city, they still play most of their games during the day. Due to the limited night schedule, night games at Wrigley Field are considered an "event" and are almost always sold out well in advance. Some observers compare the atmosphere of a Wrigley Field night game to that of Rush and Division streets, the longtime epicenter of Chicago's nightclub scene.
Wrigley Field has continuously evolved over its 90-plus seasons. There is relatively little left of the original that is visible to the casual viewer. One of the more obvious originals were the brick portions of the outer bleacher wall, visible in the "back of Wrigley Field" photo. The Cubs' bleacher expansion resulted in removal of those bricks, which were later sold to the public individually at a "garage sale" at the start of the 2006 season.
After lengthy debate, the reconstruction and expansion of the bleachers (by some 1,900 seats) finally began after the close of the 2005 season, although it was strongly opposed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. The first part of the process was to remove the outer brick wall, one of the last vestiges of the 1914 structure. Additionally, much of the 1937 construction behind the inner ivy-covered wall was removed (except for the steel supports and the center field upper tier) and the former sidewalk was excavated. The work progressed quickly throughout the winter, aided by the relatively mild midwestern January.
The original concept called for the bleachers to simply extend out over the sidewalks, supported by open steel columns in cantilevered design, connecting new steel to the existing steel that supported the old bleachers. That plan was altered somewhat when it was feared the area would become an impromptu homeless shelter. Thus the vertical part of the supporting structure for the new bleachers was encased in a wall constructed of new bricks, in a style reminiscent of the original wall, and the sidewalk (repaved in brick) became a few feet narrower. The only part hanging over the sidewalk is the flat walkway behind the bleachers. The upper part of the formerly vacant center field area is occupied by a large luxury suite, fronted by darkened, slanted windows so as not to interfere with the batters' sight lines, and the lower part by juniper plants that had been temporarily removed. Another notable change to the configuration was to replace the solid door in the right field corner with a chain-link fence gate, so passers-by can see part of the ballfield (an idea borrowed from AT&T Park).
Various Internet sites displayed photos tracking the progress of construction. The results support what management had stated, that the changes would not depart radically from the previous structure.
On March 30, 2006, the Cubs announced the bleachers would be renamed the Bud Light bleachers. A sign to that effect was soon posted over the bleacher entryway which contrasts significantly with its previous look. The Cubs management also announced they would plant ivy on the rebuilt exterior walls, in a soil trough that was provided as part of the construction. Conventional Boston ivy was planted on the east-facing Sheffield wall, which gets a fair amount of sunlight during morning hours. The north-facing wall along Waveland, which receives little direct sunlight in the summer and none in the winter, was to have an "evergreen" variety, English ivy, which thrives in shade.
The bleacher expansion project was designed by HOK Architecture, of Kansas City Missouri with Osborn Engineering of Cleveland, Ohio serving as the engineer. On January 4, 2008 the Cubs got permission to add 80 new seats to the ballpark. The Cubs also got permission to add new signs. Wrigley Field will now hold up to 41,198 people after adding the seats.
At the end of the Cubs' 2007 season, two different efforts were undertaken to upgrade the playing field at the old ballpark. A few years earlier, a Sports Illustrated poll found that the players considered Wrigley's playing field to be one of the poorest in the Major Leagues. The renovations should go a long way toward fixing that situation.
First, as reported on the Cubs web page and also reported and pictured in the November issue of Chicago Cubs Vine Line, the Cubs official fan magazine (p.4), the outfield and portions of the infield were replaced by turf purchased from an Oswego, Illinois, firm. This was accomplished in the 13 days between the last home regular season game and the first (and last, as it turned out) post-season game for the year.
Then, following the post-season, as reported on the Cubs web page and also reported and pictured in the December issue of Vine Line , a more ambitious project began, to install a state-of-the-art drainage system. The entire playing surface at Wrigley was removed, which required digging down 14 to 28 inches. The underlying base material was replaced by a system of 6,000 feet of piping buried in a special clay. The drainage system capable of holding 60,000 gallons of water was installed, on top of which a new playing surface of Colorado-grown sod was unrolled. This renovation, replacing a system installed in 1935, makes Wrigley the last Major League field to move away from a crown-based water management system. The infield had been at a somewhat raised elevation relative to the shallow part of the outfield and the far edge of the foul ground around the infield, hence the gutters in front of the box seat railings.
Starting in 2008, the infield will sit lower than it did, by 14 inches, eliminating the slight downhill slope that runners had to contend with upon rounding third base, and also allowing the managers in the dugouts to see the opposite-field outfielder in full, not just his "top half". The system will allow for much shorter rain delays, while also controlling the flow of water toward the storm sewers. The ballpark sits on a block that has a noticeable downhill slope from the northwest corner to the southeast corner. The left field (northwest) corner of the playing field is several feet below street level. The natural drainage direction is toward the right field (southeast) corner, and the new system will direct all the water through an outlet under the right field corner.
As part of the excavation, the crew found and removed the foundations of the goal posts from the Bears' playing days. The crew also reported that they left a "time capsule" buried somewhere under the new turf. Lowering the infield by 14 inches also effectively raises the outfield barrier by 14 inches, from the standpoint of the batter. It remains to be seen whether that factor will have any effect on home run production.
A fan site shows some amateur photos of various stages of progress.
'Wrigley Field, the Cubs and all the land around it is an asset of the company -- including the right to name the park. Based on the sales of naming rights around the country, this would probably qualify as being extraordinarily valuable. Could that be part of an equation? Of course.'Even if the name of the stadium is changed, the famous Wrigley Field Marquee will have to stay the same. The marquee is protected by the Chicago city council, and declared a local landmark.
Owned by the Tribune Company since 1981, Wrigley Field has been a notable exception to the recent trend of selling corporate naming rights to sporting venues. The Tribune Company chose not to rename the ballpark, utilizing other ways to bring corporate sponsorship into the ballpark.
In the early 2000s, following the trend of many ballparks, a green-screen board was installed behind home plate, in the line of sight of the center field TV camera, to allow electronic "rotating" advertisements visible only to the TV audience. By 2006, the board was set-up to allow advertisements to be physical rather than electronic (thus they can be seen in both live and replay shots).
In 2007, the first on-field advertising appeared since the park's early days. Sporting goods firm Under Armour placed its logo on the double-doors between the ivy on the outfield wall, in left-center and right-center fields. Advertisements were also placed in the dugouts, originally for Sears department stores, then Walter E. Smithe furniture and now State Farm insurance.
Corporate sponsorship has not been limited to the park itself. Wrigley Field is famous for its view of the neighborhood buildings across Waveland and Sheffield Avenues. In addition to spectators standing or sitting on the apartment roofs, corporate sponsors have frequently taken advantage of those locations as well. In the earliest days of Weeghman Park, one building across Sheffield Avenue advertised a local hangout known as Bismarck Gardens (later called the Marigold Gardens after World War I). That same building has since advertised for the Torco Oil Company and Southwest Airlines.
A building across from deep right-center field was topped by a neon sign for Baby Ruth candy beginning in the mid-1930s and running for some 40 years. That placement by the Chicago-based Curtiss Candy Company, coincidentally positioned in the line of sight of "Babe Ruth's called shot", proved fortuitous when games began to be televised in the 1940s -- the sign was also in the line of sight of the ground level camera behind and to the left of home plate. However, the aging sign was removed in the early 1970s.
Another long-standing venue for a sign is the sloping roof of a building behind left-center field. Unsuitable for the bleachers that now decorate many of those buildings, that building's angling roof has been painted in the form of a large billboard since at least the 1940s. In recent years it has borne a bright-red Budweiser sign. Other buildings have carried signs sponsoring beers, such as Old Style (when it was a Cubs broadcasting sponsor) and Miller; and also WGN-TV, which has telecast Cubs games since April, 1948.
For 2008, the Cubs worked out an agreement with the Chicago Board Options Exchange to allow the CBOE to auction some 70 box seat season tickets and award naming rights to them.
The term "White flag time at Wrigley!" means the Cubs have won.
Beginning in the days of P.K. Wrigley and the 1937 bleacher/scoreboard reconstruction, a flag with either a "W" or an "L" has flown from atop the scoreboard masthead, indicating the day's result. In case of a doubleheader that is split, both flags are flown.
Past Cubs media guides show that the original flags were blue with a white "W" and white with a blue "L", the latter coincidentally suggesting "surrender". In 1978, blue and white lights were mounted atop the scoreboard, to further denote wins and losses. The flags were replaced in the early 1980s, and the color schemes were reversed with the "win flag" being white with a blue W, and the "loss flag" the opposite. In 1982, the retired number of Ernie Banks was flying on a foul pole, as white with blue numbers. It is believed the win flag was switched to match that scheme.
Keeping with tradition, fans are known to bring win flags to home and away games, and displaying them after a Cubs win. Flags are also sold at the ballpark. On April 24, 2008 the Cubs flew an extra white flag displaying "10,000" in blue, along with the win flag, as the 10,000th win in team history was achieved on the road the previous night.
In April and May the wind often comes off Lake Michigan (less than a mile to the east), which means a northeast wind "blowing in" to knock down potential home runs and turn them into outs. In the summer, however, or on any warm and breezy day, the wind often comes from the south and the southwest, which means the wind is "blowing out" and has the potential to turn normally harmless fly balls into home runs. A third variety is the cross-wind, which typically runs from the left field corner to the right field corner and causes all sorts of interesting havoc. Depending on the direction of the wind, Wrigley can either be one of the friendliest parks in the major leagues for pitchers or among the worst.
Many Cubs fans check their nearest flag before heading to the park on game days for an indication of what the game might be like; this is less of a factor for night games, however, because the wind does not blow as hard after the sun goes down.
With the wind blowing in, pitchers can dominate, and no-hitters have been tossed from time to time, though none recently; the last two occurred near the beginning and the end of the 1972 season, by Burt Hooton and Milt Pappas respectively. In the seventh inning of Ken Holtzman's first no-hitter, on August 19, 1969, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hammered one that looked like it was headed for Waveland, but the wind caught it just enough for left fielder Billy Williams to leap up and snare it in "the well".
With the wind blowing out, some true tape-measure home runs have been hit by well-muscled batters. Sammy Sosa and Dave "Kong" Kingman broke windows in the apartment buildings across Waveland Avenue several times. Glenallen Hill put one on a rooftop. Batters have occasionally slugged it into, or to the side of, the first row or two of the "upper deck" of the center field bleachers. Sosa hit the roof of the center field camera booth on the fly during the NLCS against the Florida Marlins, some 450 feet away.
But the longest blast was probably hit by Dave Kingman on a very windy day in 1976 while with the Mets. According to local legend, one day, Kingman launched a bomb that landed on the third porch roof on the east (center field) side of Kenmore Avenue, some 550 feet away.
No matter the weather, many fans congregate during batting practice and games on Waveland Avenue, behind left field, and Sheffield Avenue, behind right field, for a chance to catch a home run ball.
The Chicago Bears of the National Football League played at Wrigley Field from 1921 to 1970 before relocating to Soldier Field. The team had transferred from Decatur, and retained the name "Staleys" for the 1921 season. They renamed themselves the "Bears" in order to identify with the baseball team, a common practice in the NFL in those days. Wrigley Field once held the record for the most NFL games played in a single stadium with 365 regular season NFL games, but this record was surpassed in September 2003 by Giants Stadium in New Jersey, thanks to its dual-occupancy by the New York Giants and New York Jets.The game played between the Jets and Miami Dolphins on September 14, 2003 was the 366th regular season NFL game at Giants Stadium breaking Wrigley's regular season record. The 50 seasons the Bears spent at Wrigley Field had been an NFL record until 2006 when Lambeau Field duplicated this feat by hosting the Packers for the 50th season, and broke it in 2007.
Initially the Bears worked with the stands that were there. Eventually they acquired a large, portable bleacher section that spanned the right and center field areas and covered most of the existing bleacher seating and part of the right field corner seating. This "East Stand" raised Wrigley's football capacity to about 46,000, or a net gain of perhaps 9,000 seats over normal capacity. After the Bears left, this structure would live on for several years as the "North Stand" at Soldier Field, until it was replaced by permanent seating.
The football field ran north-to-south, i.e. from left field to the foul side of first base. The remodeling of the bleachers made for a very tight fit for the gridiron. In fact, the corner of the south end zone was literally in the visiting baseball team's dugout, which was filled with pads for safety, and required a special ground rule that sliced off that corner of the end zone. One corner of the north end line ran just inches short of the left field wall. There is a legend that Bronko Nagurski, the great Bears fullback, steamrolled through the line, head down, and ran all the way through that end zone, smacking his leather-helmeted head on the bricks. He went back to the bench and told Coach "Papa Bear" George Halas, "That last guy gave me quite a lick!" That kind of incident prompted the Bears to hang some padding in front of the wall.
The Bears are second only to the Green Bay Packers in total NFL championships, and all but one of those (their only Super Bowl championship) came during their tenure at Wrigley. After a half-century, they found themselves compelled to move, because the NFL wanted every one of its stadiums to seat at least 50,000. The Bears had one experimental game at Dyche Stadium on the Northwestern University campus, but otherwise continued at Wrigley until they transferred to the lakefront, finally ending their long and glorious run on the north side.
In another brand of football, the NASL professional soccer team called the Chicago Sting called Wrigley their home during the 1980s. Their games occurred during the baseball season, so there were no special stands in evidence, just added wear-and-tear on the field. On January 1, 2009, the National Hockey League is scheduled to play its 2009 Winter Classic in The Friendly Confines pitting two "Original Six" teams - the host Chicago Blackhawks and the visiting Detroit Red Wings - in an outdoor ice hockey game.
Old-time ballparks were often surrounded by buildings that afforded a "freebie" look at the game for enterprising souls. In most venues, the clubs took steps to either extend the stands around, or to build spite fences to block the view. Perhaps the most notorious of these was the one at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, which caused a rift between the residents and the team that never healed. The Cubs themselves had built a high fence along the outfield at West Side Park, to hide the field from flats whose back porches were right next to the outer fence of the ballpark.
But at Wrigley it was different somehow. The flat rooftops of the apartment buildings across Waveland and Sheffield, which actually pre-date the ballpark, were often populated with a reasonable number of fans having cookouts while enjoying the game for free. The Cubs tolerated it quietly, until the 1990s, when some owners of those apartments got carried away: they began building little bleacher sections, and charging people to watch the games. That was a whole different ball game, and the Cubs management became very vocal in expressing their displeasure, threatening legal action. In 2003 they went so far as to line the screens that top the outer walls with opaque strips, to block the best exterior sight lines. That was the closest thing to a spite fence that Wrigley had seen. Therefore the bleachers are sometimes called "The Spiteless Fence" as well as "The Ivy Wall".
This led to meetings and to a peaceful settlement among the various parties. The building owners agreed to share a portion of their proceeds with the Cubs, and the Cubs obtained permission from the city to expand the ballpark's own bleachers out over the sidewalks and do some additional construction on the open area of the property to the west, bordered by Clark and Waveland, and to close the remnant of Seminary Avenue that also existed on the property.
The rooftop seats are now effectively part of the ballpark's seating area, although they are not included in the seating capacity figure.
Some of the rooftops have become legendary in their own right. The Lakeview Baseball Club, which sits across Sheffield Avenue (right-field) from the stadium displays a sign that reads, "Eamus Catuli!" (roughly Latin for "Let's Go Cubs!"—catuli translating to "whelp", the nearest Latin equivalent), flanked by a counter indicating the Cubs' long legacy of futility. The counter is labeled "AC," for "Anno Catuli," or "In the Year of the Cubs." The first two digits indicate the number of years since the Cubs' last division championship as of the end of the previous season (2007), the next two digits indicate the number of years since the Cubs' last trip to the World Series (1945), and the last two digits indicate the number of years since their last World Series win (1908). It is not currently known what the LBC will do if the Cubs reach 100 years without a World Series title.
Wrigley Field had a brief cameo in the movie The Blues Brothers (1980), starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as Jake and Elwood Blues. Elwood listed 1060 W. Addison as his fake home address on his Illinois driver's license, tricking the police and later the Nazis listening on police radio. The Natural (1984), starring Robert Redford, had a scene set at Wrigley but was actually filmed at All-High Stadium in Buffalo, New York. All other baseball action scenes in that movie were shot in Buffalo, at the since-demolished War Memorial Stadium.
The ballpark was featured in a scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Many scenes from Rookie of the Year were filmed at Wrigley Field. Later, the film, The Break-Up, would use Wrigley Field as the setting for its opening scene. An early 1990s film about Babe Ruth had the obligatory scene in Wrigley Field about the "called shot" (the ballpark also doubled as Yankee Stadium for the film). A scoreboard similar to the one existing in 1932 was used, atop an ivy wall (though that did not exist until later in the decade).
The ballpark was used for the establishing tryouts scene in A League of Their Own (1992). This film was a Hollywood account of the 1940s women's baseball league which Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley championed during World War II. Garry Marshall (older brother of the film's director Penny Marshall) has a cameo as "Walter Harvey", Wrigley's fictional alter ego. The sign behind the scoreboard was temporarily redone to read "Harvey Field", and filming was split between Wrigley and Cantigny Park near Wheaton, IL.
Many television series have made featured scenes set in Wrigley Field, including ER, Crime Story, Prison Break, Perfect Strangers, and My Boys. Also, the animated comedy, Family Guy featured a scene at Wrigley Field, which parodied the Steve Bartman incident. In an episode of The Simpsons entitled "He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs", upon arriving in Chicago, Homer walks past a number of famous Chicago landmarks, including Wrigley Field, followed by a generic looking stadium bearing the name "Wherever the White Sox play". In 2007, the band Nine Inch Nails created a promotional audio skit, which involved Wrigley Field being the target of disgruntled war veteran's terrorist attack.
The late-1970s comedy stage play, Bleacher Bums, was set in the right field bleachers at Wrigley. The video of the play was also set on a stage, with bleachers suggesting Wrigley's layout, rather than in the actual ballpark's bleachers. The tradition of throwing opposition home run balls back was explained by Dennis Franz's character: "If someone hands you some garbage, you have to throw it back at them!"
The Statler Brothers' 1981 song "Don't Wait On Me" referred to a then-implausible situation: "When the lights go on at Wrigley Field." However, after lights were installed, the line for their 1989 Live-Sold Out album. was changed to: "When they put a dome on Wrigley Field."
The Red Line stop at Addison is less than one block from Wrigley Field. The stadium was originally built for proximity to the train tracks. At the conclusion of games, the scoreboard operator raises to the top of the Centerfield scoreboard either a white flag with a blue "W" (to signify a Cubs victory), or a blue flag with a white "L" to signify a loss. This is done not only to allow passengers on the nearby "El" train to see the outcome of the game, but also anyone passing by the park can now know the results of that days game. Interestingly, the basic flag color was once the exact opposite of the colors used today (the rationale being that white is the traditional color for surrender). In addition to rail service, the CTA provides several bus routes which service Wrigley. The Addison 152, Clark 22, and Halsted 8 routes all provide access to the ballpark. Biking to the field is also a popular alternative. As Halsted, Addison, and Clark streets all have designated biking lanes, getting to the field via bicycle is a great way to avoid hectic traffic before and after games. Bikers need not worry about their bike during the game, because Wrigley Field offers a complimentary bike check program. Cyclists may check their bikes up to 2 hours before games at the bike racks off of Waveland Ave, and may pick up their bikes up to one hour after games end.
Parking in the area remains scarce, but that does not seem to bother fans who want to come to this baseball Mecca, which has drawn more than 3 million fans every year since 2004, averaging to a near-sellout every day of the season, even with those many weekday afternoon games. The little parking that is available around the park can go for as much as $25 or $30 per space.
In 2001, a series of commemorative postage stamps on the subject of baseball parks was issued by the U.S. Postal Service. Most of them were engravings taken from old colorized postcards, including the illustration of Wrigley Field. In the case of Wrigley, the famous scoreboard was sliced off, presumably to hide the original postcard's banner containing the park's name. It may also be observed that the original black-and-white aerial photo, presumably from the 1945 World Series, was taken from nearly the identical spot as the photo of the 1935 Series, allowing a comparison before and after the 1937 alterations to the bleachers. The stamp and its sources also provide a rare look at the center field bleachers filled with spectators, a practice which was later discontinued due to the risk to batters, who might lose the flight of a pitch amidst the white shirts.