Few people get to see Wrigley Field in all her glory. This is before the hot dogs are on the grill, before the distinctive sound of cowhide meeting hard maple rings through the park, before 40,000 cheering fans make their way into the belly of the Friendly Confines.
The best time to experience Wrigley Field is in the morning, when the sun is shining and the park is empty. That’s when you can see the venerable, 100-year-old ballpark for what she is—a beautiful, lush green oasis in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities on the planet.
Bereft of fans, players and noise, you also get a better sense of just how anachronistic Wrigley Field is—from the brick outfield wall, to the ivy, to the manual scoreboard, to the light standards. Wrigley is a shrine to baseball. Not a modern, Disney-meets-Dave & Buster’s amusement park, where a sporting event just happens to be played amidst other fanfare designed to keep modern, iPhone-obsessed fans occupied. Wrigley is all about the game.
And sitting solo in the grandstand, it’s easy to imagine what the stadium looked like and felt like when Andre Dawson roamed right field, or Ron Santo manned the Hot Corner, or Grover Cleveland Alexander toed the slab. The concourses and halls of the stadium are filled with memories, stretching back past Babe Ruth’s supposed called shot.
For 100 years, Wrigley Field has been the altar upon which North Side baseball is consecrated. And a century of sporting (and other) events calls for a little celebration.
Ultimately, what else can be said about one of the great, historic cathedrals of baseball? We decided to turn it over to the people who know the stadium best and let the images and quotes speak for themselves.
Happy 100th birthday Wrigley Field. Here’s to 100 more. (Click the images below to start the slideshow.)
To celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday, Vine Line dips into the archives for some classic images of the venerable ballpark, with quotes from the people who helped make it legendary. Get ready to party like it’s 1914.
“Wrigley is a perfectly designed baseball cathedral filled with memories. We respect that, and we want to give those memories to the next generation of fans. So we’ve designed a strategy for doing that, and hopefully we’ll get that behind us soon.” — Tom Ricketts, Cubs chairman
“My first impression was the Bleacher Bums being right on top of you, how noisy they were, how they could ride you a little bit. But it was in a good way—not anything abusive. Just stuff that would make you chuckle.” — Andre Dawson, Cubs outfielder
“[The ivy leaves] turn five or six different colors at the same time. Not many people see that. I hope that someday someone gets to see the end of the cycle, because they’re beautiful. It would be right at the start of the World Series.” — Carl Rice, vice president of ballpark operations
“I want my ashes to be spread over Wrigley Field, with the wind blowing out.” — Ernie Banks, Cubs Hall of Famer
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm, and generally there’s a full house. I’ve had the opportunity to pitch seven Opening Days for the Cubs and throw a few ceremonial first pitches, but it’s still a lot of fun to come here and see a lot of the fans that you knew and are still friends with.” — Fergie Jenkins, Cubs Hall of Famer
“It’s the history of it. It’s the tradition of it. It’s right here in the neighborhood. I mean, it’s the Friendly Confines. I go back to Jack Brickhouse, Ernie Banks, Ladies’ Day on Friday. It’s as close as you’re going to get to a church in sports, let’s put it that way. If you’re going to talk about a place where people convene to take in something unearthly, that’s a Cubs fan.” — Joe Mantegna, Chicago actor
“My first thoughts of Wrigley Field are of arriving at the park for an afternoon game. I usually get there at around 9:45 a.m., while it’s still empty. The only sounds I hear come from the bustling city surrounding this baseball oasis. It’s very peaceful, even with the faint sounds of car horns in the distance. … The dichotomy of a calm, green pasture in the middle of a frantic urban setting is very comforting.” — Len Kasper, Cubs TV play-by-play announcer
“I love Wrigley Field. I love what it stands for. I understand the South Side and Comiskey Park and Soldier Field—I played in all of them. But there’s something about Wrigley Field that is Chicago, maybe the North Side more than anything else. It’s a great place with great history. I’m glad I was part of it.” — Mike Ditka, former Bears coach and player
“Sometimes I’ll sit out here early in the morning, and I might be the only one on the field. You hear the birds chirping, and you look at the ivy and scoreboard with a cup of coffee, and it’s pretty cool.” — Rick Fuhs, Cubs groundskeeper
“The fans are the best feature of Wrigley Field. They’re some of the greatest fans in baseball. They’re always there behind us. Whether we’re doing good or bad, they’re always there pulling for you. Not every baseball town is a baseball town. You come into some parks, and there aren’t a whole lot of fans there. But for us, we sell out almost every game no matter what. That’s something not a whole lot of people can say.” — Travis Wood, Cubs pitcher
“Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are the last two of a dying breed. It’s baseball. When you walk into Wrigley Field, and you come up from the concourse, and you look down at that green field and the ivy, that, to me, is what baseball is all about. It’s not the new stadiums and all the big stuff. That’s all great. … But when you look at those fields like Wrigley Field, that’s what baseball is to me. It’s a nostalgic old look and knowing guys like Babe Ruth were in the batter’s box and Ernie Banks and Ron Santo and Billy Williams. All these guys have played in that ballpark. That’s what baseball is—the old with the new.” — Ron Coomer, Cubs radio analyst