As part of an ongoing commitment to ease vehicle traffic and reduce the number of cars near Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs are launching a free remote parking lot operation two miles west of the ballpark during night and weekend games. The new remote parking lot is located at 3900 N. Rockwell St., just east of the Chicago River and immediately south of Irving Park Road. The lot has a capacity of 1,000 vehicles and will be secured by Cubs personnel. The parking service includes free shuttle transportation to and from the remote lot and Wrigley Field.
“We believe free parking is a great incentive for our guests and encourages fans to take advantage of this new remote parking lot,” said Manager, Government & Neighborhood Relations Kam Buckner. “We recognize many fans drive to Wrigley Field, and this easy-to-use remote parking operation will help alleviate traffic congestion in the neighborhood before and after games.”
Shuttles will begin running two and a half hours prior to the start of games and will run continuously for approximately an hour postgame. At the conclusion of night and weekend games, the shuttle bus will pick up fans at the designated drop-off location on Addison Street.
This shuttle service will also be available for postseason games and night games of a day-night doubleheader. The Cubs’ first day-night doubleheader of the season will take place Sat., June 28.
This newly introduced free remote parking lot replaces the team’s previous remote parking operation at DeVry University.
The Cubs today announced details for purchasing single-game tickets for the 2014 season. This year, Cubs fans will be able to watch their favorite team while taking part in a season-long celebration of the last 100 years of baseball and other events at Wrigley Field. Guests will enjoy unique promotional items, retro food and beverage options, throwback uniforms and entertainment specific to the time period being celebrated during 10 decade-specific homestands.
Single game tickets go on sale Friday, March 7, at 10 a.m. CST at http://www.cubs.com and by phone at 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).
As referenced last year, the team will no longer host a two-hour on-sale event at Wrigley Field prior to online and phone sales. The Wrigley Field Ticket Windows will open Saturday, March 8, at 9 a.m.
In celebration of Wrigley Field’s milestone, the team has introduced a section of MasterCard Century Seats with tickets priced at $19.14 before tax for every game of the season. This 350-seat section is located in the Upper Deck Box level in left field. These tickets must be purchased with a MasterCard and are available at http://www.cubs.com/CenturySeats or 800-THE-CUBS with no service or delivery fees.
“We’re excited to host the ‘Party of the Century’ at Wrigley Field this year while honoring our historic ballpark,” said Cubs Vice President of Sales and Partnerships Colin Faulkner. “Our fans will notice a unique look and feel when they attend each homestand as we recognize a century of events, milestones, people and teams who play a significant role in Wrigley Field’s iconic history.”
Following Opening Week, Cubs fans will be treated to a variety of elements to celebrate 10 decades, during 10 unique homestands at Wrigley Field. These festivities include historic bobblehead giveaways on the first Friday of each homestand to honor key individuals or events from the corresponding decade; “Throwback Sunday” games on the first Sunday of each homestand, in which the Cubs and many visiting teams will wear throwback uniforms; retro toy promotional giveaways to children 13-and-under on those same Sundays; a dedicated “Decades Diner” with rotating food and beverage options; plus commemorative ballpark décor, guests and game entertainment.
While the entire season is dedicated to celebrating 100 years of Wrigley Field, one game stands out as Wrigley Field’s actual 100th birthday. On April 23, the Cubs will host the Arizona Diamondbacks exactly a century after the Chicago Federals opened then-Weeghman Park against the Kansas City Packers on April 23, 1914. Both teams will wear commemorative uniforms, and the first 30,000 fans in the ballpark will receive a replica 1914 Chi-Feds jersey. Like any good birthday party, Wrigley Field’s celebration will feature special guests, gifts, cake, entertainment and even a serenade to the tune of “Happy Birthday.”
Details for each single game purchasing option follow:
SINGLE GAME GENERAL ON-SALE:
Via the Internet: Visitors to http://www.cubs.com can purchase tickets beginning at 10 a.m. A virtual waiting room will be used for all Internet orders. The virtual waiting room will begin accepting customers Friday, March 7, at 9:30 a.m. At 10 a.m., customers will be selected from the virtual waiting room to begin purchasing tickets. All Internet customers will need a valid cubs.com account. Customers are recommended to register for an account prior to March 7.
By Telephone: Tickets can be purchased by telephone beginning at 10 a.m. by dialing 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).
At the Wrigley Field Ticket Office: Tickets will be available for purchase at the Wrigley Field Ticket Windows Saturday, March 8, beginning at 9 a.m. Due to offseason construction in the main concourse and fans’ increased use of online ticket purchasing, the team will no longer host a two-hour on-sale event at Wrigley Field prior to online and phone sales.
MASTERCARD CENTURY SEATS:
In celebration of Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday, the Cubs and MasterCard have partnered to offer a consistently low-priced seating option for every game during the 2014 regular season. Cubs fans can use their MasterCard to buy tickets priced at $19.14 before tax with no service or delivery fees. This 350-seat section is located in the Upper Deck Box level in left field.
MasterCard Century Seats must be purchased with a MasterCard, which serves as the buyer’s day-of-game ticket for admittance along with a photo ID. Guests will receive email confirmation of their purchase, however print-at-home tickets are not available for MasterCard Century Seats. These tickets are non-transferable. MasterCard Century Seats are available at http://www.cubs.com/CenturySeats or 800-THE-CUBS beginning Saturday, March 8, at 10 a.m.
For updated ticket pricing, please visit http://www.cubs.com. For more information, please contact the Chicago Cubs Ticket Office at 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).
The Cubs unveiled their Party of the Century itinerary Tuesday afternoon, celebrating 100 years of Wrigley Field. And the festivities promise to have a little something for everyone.
While there will be multiple promotions and giveaways to help celebrate the Party of the Century, there are three basic components to the fun.
Giveaways begin the opening homestand and continue throughout the year. Starting with the Reds series on April 18, the Cubs will commemorate a different decade at every homestand. Both teams will wear throwback uniforms from the respective era on Sundays, and there will be giveaways such as decade-specific bobbleheads on Fridays and toys or trinkets that were popular from the time period on Sundays.
Below is a rundown of the various gameday promotions so you can plan your trips to Wrigley Field accordingly.
Apr. 4 Cubs Magnet Schedule presented by Giordano’s – First 30,000 Fans
Apr. 5 Cubs Magnet Schedule presented by Budweiser – First 30,000 Adults
Apr. 18 Exclusive Limited-Edition Joe Tinker Bobblehead – First 10,000 Fans
Apr. 20 Cubs Diecast Train Engine® – First 5,000 Kids
Apr. 23 100TH CELEBRATION: Replica Chicago Federals Jersey – First 30,000 Fans
May 2 Exclusive Limited-Edition Red Grange Bobblehead – First 10,000 Fans
May 3 Cubs Fedora Hat presented by Budweiser – First 10,000 Adults
May 4 Cubs Yo-Yo® – First 5,000 Kids
May 6 “Pink Out” T-shirt presented by Advocate Health Care and Cubs Charities – All Budweiser Bleacher Fans
May 16 Exclusive Limited-Edition Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” Bobblehead – First 10,000 Fans
May 17 Umbrella presented by Morton Salt – First 10,000 Fans
May 18 Cubs Viewmaster – First 5,000 Kids
June 5 Jersey Off Our Back presented by Majestic – Lucky Seat Winners
June 6 Exclusive Limited-Edition All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Bobblehead – First 10,000 Fans
June 8 Andy Pafko OYO Mini Figure – First 5,000 Kids
June 20 Exclusive Limited-Edition Ernie Banks Debut Bobblehead presented by Giordano’s – First 10,000 Fans
June 22 Cubs Mr. Potato Head Keychain – First 5,000 Kids
June 27 Wrigley Field 100 Tote Bag presented by MLB Network – First 20,000 Fans
July 11 Exclusive Limited-Edition Gale Sayers Bobblehead presented by Comcast SportsNet – First 10,000 Fans
July 13 Cubs Etch-A-Sketch – First 5,000 Kids
July 25 Exclusive Limited-Edition Jack Brickhouse Bobblehead with Sound Chip presented by Advocate Health Care – First 10,000 Fans
July 26 Ernie Banks Replica Statue presented by Budweiser– First 10,000 Adults
July 27 Cubs Magic Baseball presented by Gonnella – First 5,000 Kids
Aug. 8 Exclusive Limited-Edition Illuminating First Night Game Bobblehead presented by Las Vegas – First 10,000 Fans
Aug. 10 Cubs Rubik’s Cube presented by Comcast SportsNet – First 5,000 Kids
Aug. 22 Exclusive Limited-Edition Kerry Wood 20 Strikeout
Bobblehead presented by Budweiser – First 10,000 Adults
Aug. 23 TBD presented by Starwood Preferred Guest – First 10,000 Fans
Aug. 24 Reissue Gracie the Swan Beanie Baby – First 5,000 Kids
Sept. 5 Exclusive Limited-Edition Greg Maddux 3,000th Strikeout Bobblehead presented by Bank of America – First 10,000 Fans
Sept. 7 Build-a-Bear® Plush Doll presented by Bank of America® – First 5,000 Kids
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs announced details for purchasing single-game tickets for the 2014 season, the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field. This season, the Friendly Confines will host a year-long celebration to honor the classic stadium. Along with Cubs baseball, guests will enjoy unique promotional items, retro food and beverage options, throwback uniforms and entertainment specific with the time period being celebrated during that homestand.
Single-game tickets go on sale Friday, March 7 at 10 a.m. CST at cubs.com and by phone at 1-800-THE-CUBS. For fans purchasing tickets online, a virtual waiting room will begin accepting customers at 9:30 a.m., and at 10 a.m. customers will be selected from the virtual waiting room to begin purchasing tickets. All internet customers will need valid cubs.com accounts.
Fans can also participate in the MasterCard pre-sale, which begins Tuesday, March 4 at 10 a.m. CST, where fans using a MasterCard can purchase tickets in advance at a 15 percent premium, while fans using other forms of payment may buy tickets at a 20 percent premium.
The team will no longer host a two-hour on-sale event at Wrigley Field prior to online and phone sales, but the Wrigley Field ticket windows will be open Saturday, March 8 at 9 a.m.
To celebrate Wrigley Field’s milestone, the team introduced a section of MasterCard Century Seats, priced at $19.14 for every game this season. The 350-seat section is located in the Upper Deck Box level in left field. These tickets must be purchased with a MasterCard and are available at cubs.com/centuryseats or 1-800-THE-CUBS.
Harry Caray conducts the stretch with then-first lady Hillary Clinton.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Even 16 years after his death, iconic broadcaster Harry Caray is very much a part of the Cubs organization. Celebrities still make their way to the broadcast booth to conduct their renditions of the seventh-inning stretch, players and fans continue to do imitations of the club’s biggest fan, and people arrive at Wrigley Field wearing enlarged versions of his trademark glasses.
Tuesday marks the 16th anniversary of Caray’s death at the age of 83.
Prior to joining the Cubs in 1981, Caray worked in the booth for the White Sox, the Athletics, and the Cardinals and Browns in St. Louis. He was awarded the Ford C. Frick Award by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 for his contributions to the game. He was also inducted into both the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame and the National Radio Hall of Fame.
(Photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame)
The following can be found in the February issue of Vine Line.
It’s a typical chilly April afternoon on the North Side.
A strong breeze blows off the lake, and the people clustered in the bleachers are bundled in winter clothes. But they don’t seem to mind the cold. Some arrived as early as 9 a.m. to see the marching bands and politicians parade in the street.
They wear red and blue caps, ring bells and sing songs. The park looks, someone would later remark, like “a huge floral horseshoe.” Music plays and curious onlookers gather at windows and on the rooftops of adjacent buildings.
A few dozen members of the Daughters of the Grand Army of the Republic parade in with a 30-foot silk American flag. They present the team’s manager with gifts—three dozen neckties, a six-foot-high floral display—and someone fires off a series of explosions to mark the occasion.
Finally, one of the leaders of the GAR, filling in for Chicago’s mayor, steps out onto the mound and throws the first pitch.
It’s April 23, 1914, and baseball has come to West Addison Street on Chicago’s North Side. But the Cubs—and Wrigley Field as we know it—would take a little longer to arrive.
* * * *
Depending on how you look at it, the story of Wrigley Field began either with a property deal struck in the waning hours of 1913 or with an unlucky investment made a few years earlier.
In 1909, three men with ties to American Association baseball found what they thought was the perfect spot for a ballpark. The parcel of land at North Clark and West Addison streets in Chicago was the former site of a Lutheran seminary. It was surrounded by homes and businesses and offered convenient access to public transportation.
The plan was to bring an American Association team to Chicago. But there was a problem: The city was spoken for, according to Organized Baseball. The Cubs and White Sox had already claimed the town—the Cubs were playing in a park on the city’s West Side at the time—and both teams refused to approve a new organization in their territory.
For the next few years, the three men held onto the property, but they didn’t make any progress on a new team.
Enter Charles Weeghman.
The self-made millionaire began his working life as a waiter. He eventually opened a diner, followed by another and another. Once he was running 15 restaurants, he began investing in pool halls and movie houses. By the time the men from the American Association were sitting on their North Side plot of land, baseball was surging in popularity, and Weeghman was getting some big ideas.
In 1913, the increasingly crowded baseball universe got a new competitor, an independent minor league operation called the Federal League. To secure its financial standing, the league went looking for deep pockets and found Weeghman, who had already tried, and failed, to buy the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.
With Weeghman’s clout in the mix, organizers figured they could give the American and National leagues a run for their money and declared the Fed League an official major league. Because the operation was independent, they didn’t have to get Organized Baseball’s permission to set up a new franchise in town.
Prior to the 1914 season, Weeghman acquired the Chicago Federals for $25,000—but he insisted if they were going to be a major league team, they needed a major league-quality stadium to rival those of the other professional teams in town.
He had just the spot in mind—that former North Side seminary that was close to streetcars and the city’s rail system. Plus, it came with a near-perfect geographic orientation. It was as far north from the city’s center as Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox, was south. For the first time, Chicago would have proper North Side and South Side teams.
On Dec. 31, 1913, Weeghman agreed to a 99-year lease on the property. The spot at Clark and Addison was about to get a second chance. That is, unless Organized Baseball had anything to say about it.
* * * *
Technically, the Chicago Federals didn’t need anyone’s permission to play in the Windy City, but the fledgling organization was still going to have to fight its way in.
The AL and NL threatened to blacklist players who joined the Federals. Even though Weeghman was already gathering up a roster of big-name players—including infielder and manager Joe Tinker—the opposing leagues didn’t stop their fight. Instead, they tried to pull the rug out from under him, right in the North Side neighborhood where he was trying to build his new baseball empire.
Weeghman’s lease became official in January 1914, and all the details were published in the Chicago Tribune. He would pay $16,000 annually for the first 10 years of the 99-year lease, eventually upping the rate to $20,000. That averages out to the equivalent of about $452,000 per year in today’s dollars.
By late February, some of the neighbors around Clark and Addison were pushing back. Several of them signed a petition against the ballpark, which they delivered to the city’s building commissioner.
But the little secret just about everyone knew at the time was that the neighbors weren’t particularly opposed to the park.
Cubs historian Ed Hartig said major league officials were holding frequent meetings, trying to figure out how to get rid of Weeghman, his team and his ballpark.
“You think about this nowadays—oh, my gosh, some of the stuff they tried to do,” Hartig said. “Professional men who had made their money in real estate, in communications, in newspapers, and here they are in back rooms trying to finagle these deals.”
One of the schemes cooked up in those backroom meetings was to use the ballpark’s neighbors to fight the team’s plans. But Hartig said just about everybody saw through that tactic.
“Organized Baseball saw Chicago as being the key to the success of the Federal League. As Weeghman went, so did the Federal League—or at least that’s what Organized Baseball thought,” Hartig said. “The belief, or hope, was that if they could make life miserable for Weeghman, Charlie would withdraw his interest in the Chicago Federal League team. And with no Chicago team, the league would fold.”
The plan didn’t work.
The building commissioner told the neighbors he’d take their concerns under advisement, but warned them the Federal League already had enough support in the neighborhood to go ahead with its plans.
Two days later, wrecking crews were tearing down the seminary and a few nearby houses to make way for Weeghman Park.
* * * *
The stadium went up with a speed that seems unfathomable today, when major public projects typically require years of study, design and debate. Weeghman gave his construction team less than two months to complete the job, because he wanted the park ready for the start of the 1914 season.
About 5,000 people turned up for a groundbreaking ceremony on March 4, 1914. The building commissioner stuck a shovel in the dirt, and someone smashed a bottle of champagne. As soon as the ceremony was over, the chief contractor began issuing orders to 100 workmen hired to build the grandstand.
By late March, the structure was nearly complete. Weeghman pushed for speedy work, paying off union workers who went on strike and nearly doubling his 450-man crew.
The city provided some help too. The park’s eight-foot-high brick fence in the outfield didn’t follow city ordinances. An inspector reported the violation, but didn’t insist the wall be taken out. Ultimately, it stayed.
On April 23, visitors streamed in for Weeghman Park’s first game. Tickets were $1 for box seats (about $24 today) or 75 cents for the grandstand. One of the reasons the construction was able to move so fast was that the park was far less polished than today’s big league facilities.
“The ballparks were pretty simple then,” Hartig said. “It was 14,000 seats with no upper decks. The bleachers were pretty basic.”
Weeghman made a point of selling the facility as a cleaner alternative to other ballparks of the day, which were known for being a bit grungy. Hartig said it was common for teams to go through 15-game stretches and hose down the bleachers only a few times—and this in an era when the primarily male crowd generally went to games dressed in suits and ties.
Though the park was a scaled-down version of the modern Wrigley, it had a few special touches. Among them was a stable Weeghman had built for his horse, Queen Bess, under the third-base grandstand. Queen Bess pulled the lawnmower that cut the grass on the field and was allowed to run free around the park when the team was on the road.
About 21,000 people turned out for the first game to watch the Federals top the Kansas City Packers, 9-1.
The team finished the season second in the league, but Weeghman was worried about its continued success. In 1915, after a naming contest, the club was rechristened the Chicago Whales. They had another excellent season, winning the Federal League title, but by year’s end, the league was mired in legal challenges with Organized Baseball.
The Federal League had sued the American and National leagues for antitrust violations, but the battle was a stalemate. The federal judge on the case, future baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, thought the upstart league had a legitimate case, but understood that a ruling in its favor might cause Organized Baseball to collapse.
So he did the only other thing he could think of—he stalled, hoping one or both sides would cave. By the end of the 1915 season, the Feds were in a financially untenable position and reached an agreement to shut down.
In January 1916, less than two years after his namesake park opened, Weeghman and nine other investors, including majority stockholder Albert Lasker and chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., struck a new deal. The Cubs would add most of the Whales personnel to their roster and swap their well-worn West Side home for something bigger, better and newer: Weeghman Park.
* * * *
As the Cubs were moving in, Weeghman was moving out of the baseball business. Facing monetary problems, he began selling off his Cubs stock and was off the team’s board of directors by the start of the 1920s.
Wrigley, who wasn’t much of a baseball fan, began regularly attending games. By the 1917 season, he’d convinced the team’s board to move their Spring Training operations to his property in California. He continued to boost his holdings and owned a majority of the shares by 1919. From then on, his name would forever be linked with the Cubs and their venerable ballpark.
But Hartig said the forgotten bit of Wrigley Field’s early history is part of what makes the park so unique. During tours of the stadium, visitors are often surprised to learn that it hasn’t always been all about the Cubs on West Addison Street.
“To me, that’s the biggie, that it wasn’t built for the Cubs,” he said. “There was an independent league team that existed for three years—and almost took down Major League Baseball.”
ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon has never been shy about giving his opinions, whether it’s in print or on camera. And despite his years as a columnist for the Washington Post, it doesn’t take long to realize he’s a die-hard Chicago sports fan. Vine Line caught up with the Northwestern alum when he was on hand for Social Media Night in mid-August to talk about growing up a Cubs fan and his love for Wrigley Field.
(Photo courtesy National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)
Each month in Vine Line, we are looking back at a century of Wrigley Field history. In the January issue, we tackle the pre-Wrigley years when the team called various parks home.
Imagine a world in which Wrigley Field wasn’t the home of the Chicago Cubs. There’s no marquee, no manual scoreboard, no ivy and no bleachers.
Though the Cubs became one of the eight charter members of the National League all the way back in 1876, they didn’t officially move into the Friendly Confines until 1916—two years after the venerable facility was built.
Aside from Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox, perhaps no stadium is as inextricably linked with its organization as Wrigley Field is with its lovable Cubs. When people travel to Chicago, the nearly 100-year-old stadium is a top tourist destination year after year. It’s a testament to one of the most sacred baseball cathedrals in the game.
But for all the history—the beloved ballpark will celebrate its centennial on April 23—and despite the great stories your grandparents, parents and kids have regarding their many trips to Wrigleyville, there was a time when the Chicago Cubs existed without Wrigley Field.
A century ago, there was no such thing as baseball on Chicago’s North Side. The South and West sides were the epicenter of sports in the city, while the corner of Clark and Addison still served as a cemetery. The Lutheran Church constructed a facility on the property that would one day house Wrigley Field in the 1870s, and they opened an adjoining seminary in 1891.
For the first decade of the 20th century, the Cubs dominated the National League at a stadium called West Side Park—though there were other facilities as well.
Chicago’s National League representative had the same problem finding a suitable place to play home games that much of baseball was experiencing at the time. Poor ballpark conditions, inadequate fields, bad leases and an inconstant fan base turned the NL club later known as the Cubs into a de facto Chicago barnstorming team for nearly 20 years.
From 1876-93 they spent time at the 23rd Street Grounds (1876-77), Lakefront Park with its 200-foot left-field fence (1878-84), West Side Park I (1885-91) and South Side Park (1891-1893). The 1891 overlap came as a result of the organization using West Side Park on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and South Side Park on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
At the time, Blue Laws—city- or region-specific ordinances—were still in effect in much of the country (including Chicago), and they effectively limited local recreational and entertainment options on Sundays and prevented any viewing or playing of baseball games. This was during a time when men generally worked six days a week and reserved Sunday for relaxation, often for religious observances.
In 1892, however, the National League removed any restrictions against Sunday baseball, paving the way for Chicago NL club President James A. Hart to take advantage of a prime opportunity. The World’s Fair was set to open in Chicago in May 1893, and Hart realized the global event could help drive his business (and perhaps signal an end to the city’s Blue Laws). The Columbian Exposition’s arrival also meant thousands of people would be visiting Chicago and looking for ways to spend their day off—and their hard-earned money.
Ideally, the management of Chicago’s NL team, then called the Colts, wanted to continue playing its games at South Side Park—located on 35th and Wentworth—due to its close proximity to the World’s Fair, which was occurring at Chicago’s lakefront. The problem with South Side Park was that the initial lease on the stadium still prohibited games from being played on Sundays. As a result, Hart pushed the team west to the West Side Grounds, a facility that was owned by Albert Spalding and John Walsh, also the Colts’ majority owners.
For the 1893 season, home games were still played at South Side Park Monday through Saturday, but the team played its Sunday games on the West Side. The Colts moved into the West Side Grounds full time the following season.
Though it sounds odd in today’s world for an ownership group to have its team play in a ballpark other than the one it owns, Spalding and Walsh viewed the western location that now houses the University of Illinois Medical Center as too far away from the city. Playing ball at the West Side Grounds was originally seen as a major gamble—though it’s one that would eventually be rewarded with solid play from the club.
The West Side Grounds, or West Side Park as it was called at the time, was a spacious wooden ballpark that seated 8,000 fans when the club initially moved in. Home plate was on the corner of Polk and Lincoln (now Wolcott) facing southeast, Wood Street ran behind left field, and Taylor Street’s flats and stores abutted the facility to the south. Though it’s difficult to find accurate dimensions for the stadium, during some of the time the Cubs spent there, center field was 560 feet from home plate. It’s believed it was roughly 340 feet to right and 310 feet to left.
In the early 1900s, a series of renovations added an upper deck and replaced the small row of outfield seats with full bleachers, doubling the stadium’s capacity to 16,000. By 1910, seating had expanded all the way to 30,000. Bleachers were also added to center field in 1908, reducing the outfield distance to 418 feet.
The most eye-catching aspect of the venue was an advertisement that was installed in 1913 and ran down the length of the right-field wall. The enormous ad stood back only about 10 feet from the fence, and it blocked sightlines for many who sat in the back of the bleachers. Like Wrigley Field today, fans were also able to take in a game from the adjoining rooftops.
But perhaps West Side Park’s best feature was the caliber of baseball that was played there. Cubs fans in the early 1900s got to see something people have been fantasizing about for the last century—success at the highest level. As a tenant of the West Side Grounds, the Cubs averaged nearly 100 wins per season over a nine-year span (898 wins from 1904-12). The infield trio of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance, along with pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, became league stars who were well worth the price of admission.
Charles Webb Murphy’s purchase of the Cubs in July 1905 coincided with one of the club’s most successful runs in franchise history. Between 1906-10, the team played .693 ball (530-235) and captured four NL pennants and two World Series titles (1907 and ’08). The one season during that run in which they didn’t win the pennant, they still managed to win 104 games.
But there was a growing problem. Though there was plenty of success on the field and the stadium was constantly expanded, the park’s infrastructure was starting to give way.
Murphy, who purchased the stadium in December 1908, failed to update the visiting facilities, and rival NL teams complained that the plumbing in their clubhouse often didn’t work. Murphy argued that it wasn’t his job to make visiting teams happy, even after a family of ducks made a home in the clubhouse. Murphy’s West Side Grounds was also being rendered obsolete by the first steel and concrete ballparks, which were being built in 1910.
But it wasn’t just the stadium that was falling apart. The team that became a dynasty in the century’s first decade was aging and beginning to fray at the seams. Following a 104-win campaign in 1910, the Cubs had six straight seasons in which they lost more games than they had the previous year. This run of poor play eventually caught up to the fan base, and attendance numbers began to dwindle.
In 1916, a group headed by Chicago business mogul Charles Weeghman purchased the Cubs and moved them into his new Weeghman Park—or Wrigley Field as it’s known today—a modern steel and concrete facility on the city’s North Side that was opened two years prior to house the Federal League’s Chicago Whales.
As terms of the move, the Weeghman group agreed to pay two years of rent at the West Side stadium while Murphy found a tenant to replace the ballclub. Even though Murphy received his rent checks, he still filed several unsuccessful lawsuits attempting to block the team and the National League from playing Cubs home games on any field other than his own. He’d later claim he was raising money to repurchase the club, though that never came to fruition.
Finally, in October 1919, Murphy finalized a deal to sell the property to the state of Illinois for $400,000. The space was to be used as the future home of the Illinois State Hospital and the University of Illinois Medical School. The stadium was torn down in 1920.
The West Side Grounds certainly did not have the hold on the hearts and minds of visitors that the Friendly Confines has today. It lacked the marquee, the ivy and all the other attributes that make Wrigley Field the special place it is.
It did, however, house more than 20 years of Cubs history and some of the best teams ever to play the game. Wrigley Field has deservedly received so much praise that the West Side Grounds is not much more than an afterthought these days. But hosting four World Series appearances in five years is no small feat, and for that, the West Side Grounds should always be remembered.
Clark, the newly introduced Chicago Cubs mascot, made his debut Monday night along with more than a dozen prospects in the Cubs Rookie Development Program at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center’s Pediatric Developmental Center. Together, they helped reinforce positive activities being taught to children with autism and other developmental challenges.
Clark was joined at Advocate Illinois Masonic by prospects Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C.J. Edwards, Kyle Hendricks, Pierce Johnson, Eric Jokisch, Mike Olt, Neil Ramirez, Armando Rivero, Rubi Silva, Jorge Soler, Christian Villanueva and Arodys Vizcaino.
The players divided into four rooms and hosted activities for the children and their siblings, including an interview room where kids asked questions of players and practiced social skills; a reading room where players and kids looked at pictures of Wrigley Field and read stories about baseball; a game room where kids practiced sportsmanship in matches against their Cubs counterparts; and a gym where Clark and players stressed the importance of learning from others through pre-activity stretching drills and practiced motor activity skills during a ball-toss drill.
The next stops for Clark will be the Cubs 100 Gifts of Service 2014 Caravan Tour and the Cubs Convention.