Results tagged ‘ Wrigley Field ’

Now Playing: Stretching Out with ESPN personality Michael Wilbon

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.

Wrigley 100: Before the Confines, there was the West Side Grounds

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(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.

Live at CubsCon: Celebrating 100 Years of Wrigley Field

Len Kasper is moderating and opens the panel by introducing Pat Hughes, stadium announcer Andrew Belleson, Cubs historian Ed Hartig, groundskeeper and scoreboard operator Rick Fuhs and senior director of marketing Alison Miller.

Miller shows a quick slide presentation about what the Cubs are doing to celebrate the Party of the Century in 2014. The theme is 10 Decades and 10 Homestands. Each of 10 homestands (starting after Opening Week) will celebrate a different decade in Wrigley’s history.

At each of the 10 homestands, there will be a themed Friday bobblehead giveaway: 1910s Joe Tinker, 1920s Red Grange, 1930s Babe Ruth, 1940s All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, 1950s Ernie Banks, 1960s Gale Sayers, 1970s Jack Brickhouse, 1980s Rick Sutcliffe and lights, 1990s Kerry Wood’s 20K game, 2000s TBA.

On Sundays, the team will wear throwback uniforms. Unis being represented are 1914 (not a Sunday but the birthday game on April 23), 1929, 1937, 1942, 1953, 1969, 1978 (baby blue road jersey), 1988, 1994, 2008. The opponents will also wear throwbacks.

There will also be retro toys on Sundays for kids 13 and under. Each will represent the top toy from that decade from yo-yos to Viewmasters to Mr. Potato Heads to Etch-a-Sketches.

There will be themed food and beverages at the ballpark to represent the decades. This will include cocktails, like a Manhattan for the 1930s.

Organist Gary Pressey is working with the Cubs on decade-specific music.

The ballpark will be decorated, and the players will have sleeve and hat patches commemorating Wrigley’s 100th. The game balls will also be stamped.

For each decade, there will be special guests at the ballpark, from former Cubs and Bears players to celebrities.

The official birthday is on April 23, 2014. The Cubs will wear old Federal League Chi-Fed uniforms, and the Diamondbacks will wear Kansas City Packers unis (the team the Chi-Feds played that day). Everyone will also get cake. Yep, everyone. And the first 30,000 fans will walk out with a Chi-Feds jersey.

The Cubs are working with MLB on developing WrigleyField100.com to celebrate the ballpark. The site will feature historical facts, fan stories, ballpark facts and more.

Hartig talks about the ballpark’s beginnings as Weeghman Park for the independent minor league Federal League. For more info on this, check out the January issue of Vine Line.

Hughes talks about his first major league game as a broadcaster—an exhibition game between the Cubs and Brewers in 1992. He was immediately struck by Wrigley Field’s atmosphere. He’s now in his 19th season with the team.

Fuhs talks about how he runs the scoreboard and how he’s so fast putting up balls and strikes. He watches the umpire’s movements. If the ump moves his foot, it’s going to be a strike. He knows most of the characteristics of most of the umps in the league. He also credits Curt Huebert, who designed the scoreboard in 1937. Fuhs has been operating the scoreboard for 26 years, and there haven’t been any major problems with the electronics. He’s still using the original panel from 1937. Fuhs also credits Bill Veeck for helping design and plan the scoreboard. He complains about how slow umpire Tim McLelland is with his calls. Apparently, Quick Rick would like to take the day off whenever McLelland is umpiring.

Fuhs talks about Lee Smith and the closer’s relationship with the groundscrew. Those were Smith’s best friends on the team. After being repeatedly asked, Fuhs went down and visited Smith in Louisiana last year. Reiterates that Smith deserves a Hall call.

Belleson talks about getting the job at Wrigley Field. He was only 24 (he’s 27 now) when he got hired. Says he has the greatest job in the world.

Back to Hartig about ballpark history. Weeghman Park was originally just a single-story grandstand, and it seated 14,000. The scoreboard was originally in left field. For more on the original park, check out the January issue of Vine Line.

The team actually tried to install lights in the early-1940s. They had already bought them, but after Pearl Harbor, Mr. Wrigley donated them to the war effort. They were supposed to be used to play twilight games so people could attend after work.

One fan wants to bring back smoky links and Ron Santo pizza. There is something in the works on the smoky links front.

One fan asks if Wrigley Field will be the last park to turn 100. Kasper mentions Dodger Stadium was built in 1962, so it’s halfway there. But other than that, it’s not likely. Hughes agrees that no other park will last that long.

Belleson said he doesn’t emulate anyone in his job, but likes the simple style of guys like Paul Friedman.

Kasper compares Wrigley Field to Central Park in New York—a green oasis in the middle of the city. He says he loves coming into the ballpark before everyone else arrives. You can hear the sounds of the city around the park. Once baseball starts, it drowns out those city sounds.

Hughes talks about the possibility of being the only announcer living Cubs fans have ever heard say the words, “the Cubs win the World Series.” Kasper thinks about it too.

Someone asks about biggest pranksters. Rick Sutcliffe, Greg Maddux, Ron Santo and Keith Moreland all get mentions.

Asked about most exciting players to watch, Hughes brings up Derrek Lee as one his favorite ballplayers. Cites his defense, power hitting, modesty, friendliness and more. Kasper agrees that Lee was one of the best. Fuhs remembers Sosa in 1998 and the buzz around the ballpark.

Hartig’s favorite event at the ballpark happened in 1944—a ski-jumping event at the ballpark. They set scaffolding up behind home plate and trucked in ice. The skiers took off from about the current home television booth and landed at second base.

Asked about the most memorable seventh-inning stretch renditions, Fuhs talks about the infamous Jeff Gordon incident. Gordon called the park Wrigley stadium, possibly because Fuhs asked him about the “stadium” right before that.

Belleson talks about how scared people are before they sing the stretch, no matter how big the celebrity. And says no one did it better than Harry Caray.

And that’s it for us on Saturday at the 2014 Cubs Convention. Thanks for following along. We’ll be back up with the 30th anniversary of the 1984 season and Down on the Farm tomorrow.

Go Cubs go.

Now Playing: Clark the Cub makes his debut

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.

The Cubs are collecting for Illinois tornado relief

Meteorologists from the National Weather Service have determined that at least 16 tornados hit Illinois and Northwest Indiana last Sunday, the largest of which ravaged the town of Washington near Peoria.

On Thursday and Friday morning, the Cubs will be doing their part to help the storm’s victims. Thursday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. through Friday from 8-11 a.m., people can drop off donated items at Wrigley Field’s Purple Lot on Clark Street just west of the stadium. These items will be loaded onto a truck, and a small group of Cubs volunteers will personally drive them to Peoria Friday afternoon. The organization is working with Heroes Memorial Foundation to ensure the donations reach people in need.

Below is a list of items the Red Cross has specifically requested for donation.

Items Most Needed:

  • Tote bags
  • Plastic trash cans
  • Plastic storage bins
  • Gloves

Other Items Needed:

  • Non-perishable food items (granola bars, canned food items, etc)
  • Bottled water
  • Large garbage bags
  • Toiletries (toothpaste, deodorant, soap, etc)
  • Buckets
  • Sponges
  • Mops
  • Towels
  • Baby formula
  • Diapers
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Manual can openers
  • Duct tape
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Female hygiene products
  • School supplies – new or used backpacks, crayons, colored pencils, notebooks, binders, etc.

Hot Off the Presses: November Vine Line featuring GM Jed Hoyer

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How do you evaluate a 96-loss season? It depends on how you look at it.

Are you evaluating just the major league team or the organization as a whole? Your answers would likely be very different.

On the surface, things don’t look too good. For the second straight year, the Cubs languished in the basement of a stacked NL Central that sent three teams to the 2013 postseason. The offense consistently struggled to put runs on the board, the bullpen faltered early in the season, several key players failed to develop as expected, and manager Dale Sveum was released after two seasons at the helm. To hear General Manager Jed Hoyer tell it, that’s simply not going to cut it.

“One of the things about this job is that your report card is in the paper every morning,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, that report card tells us we’re not good enough. We’re not talented enough at the major league level, and we have to improve that.”

Despite the struggles in Chicago—and both President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and Hoyer are quick to admit they’re disappointed by the win-loss total—the front office has never wavered from its initial blueprint for building a consistent winner.

When Epstein and Hoyer took over in October 2011, there was a severe talent deficit in the minor league system, and the major league team was saddled with expensive, aging players. The goal was to stockpile as much young talent as possible as quickly as possible and create payroll flexibility to ensure that the next time the team is competitive, it has a chance to remain competitive for years to come.

On that front, things don’t look bad at all. In 2009, Baseball America ranked the Cubs 27th in its annual organizational talent rankings. By the start of 2013, they had moved up to 12th. Thanks to shrewd trades, some aggressive international signings and a strong 2013 draft, headlined by overall No. 2 pick Kris Bryant, most experts agree the Cubs system is firmly in the top five heading into 2014. And 11 of the organization’s top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com, were acquired since the new front office took over in 2011. That’s a lot of progress in a few short years.

This month, we sat down with the Cubs’ GM for a frank conversation about the state of the organization. There is great reason for optimism, but the wave of young standouts developing in the farm system has yet to crest at Wrigley Field. Until that top-notch talent arrives, it’s imperative the Cubs find a way to improve their bullpen and generate more quality at-bats.

“The amount of talent and the athleticism we have [in the system] is a long, long way from where it was when we first got here, and we’re excited about that,” Hoyer said. “But all those things don’t hide the fact that the goal is to get better at the major league level, and we need to improve on what we’ve done in 2012 and 2013.”

We also talked to one of the key pieces Hoyer acquired last offseason that fits this new organizational philosophy—outfielder Nate Schierholtz. The 29-year-old veteran finally got a chance to play regularly in 2013, and he had a breakout season, with career highs in plate appearances, home runs and RBI. Everybody, from the front office to his teammates, says the same thing about Schierholtz: He’s a professional ballplayer who fights for every at-bat and brings his best effort every day.

Finally, despite the win-loss total, there were plenty of positive developments at the major league level. The Cubs strengthened their pitching depth behind the emergence of lefty Travis Wood, ace Jeff Samardzija continued to miss bats with the best of them, Junior Lake made a surprisingly successful major league debut, and the left side of the infield was as strong defensively as any in baseball. We examine several impressive stats from the 2013 campaign that should bode well for the organization’s near future.

If you want to get to know the future of the organization now, follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline. All winter long, we’ll be following the Cubs’ top prospects in the fall and winter leagues. And pick up the November issue of Vine Line today.

1000 Words: See you in 2014, Wrigley Field

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

As the Cubs held off the playoff-bound Pirates to claim a 4-2 win Wednesday afternoon, it marks the end of home games at Wrigley Field for 2013. Next season, the Cubs will start on the road at Pittsburgh before heading to the Friendly Confines, with the home opener slated for Friday, April 4 against Philadelphia. The 2014 season will mark Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary and will be celebrated all season long on the north side.

Cubs unveil 100th Anniversary logo

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When the Cubs play their home opener on April 4, 2014, it will kick off the 100th season of baseball at Wrigley Field. Over the weekend, the team unveiled a new logo to commemorate 100 years at the venerable ballpark.

The logo was created by graphic designer Brandon Ort of New Bremen, Ohio, who’s design beat out more than 1,200 other submissions in the “Wrigley Field Turns 100″ logo contest, held earlier this year.

For his efforts, Ort was recognized during an on-field ceremony prior to Saturday afternoon’s game against the Braves. His logo will be featured as a patch on the team’s home uniform next year, as well as in a variety of promotional items, including memorabilia and commemorative baseballs.

“I am excited and completely honored to have my ‘Wrigley Field Turns 100’ logo design selected to represent this historic ballpark in its 100th year,” Ort said. “Creating the design that will be a part of Cubs and Wrigley Field history is incredibly humbling and serves as a benchmark in my career. What better way to celebrate than to watch a game at Wrigley Field today with close friends and family.”

Throughout the 2014 season, the Cubs will celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field with promotions, events and collectible memorabilia. Additional details will be revealed later this offseason, and attendees of the 2014 Cubs Convention will get a first look at many aspects of the planned celebration.

“We’re very excited to unveil our official logo celebrating 100 years of Wrigley Field and to kick off what will be a season-long celebration of the past century at this beautiful ballpark,” said Alison Miller, Cubs senior director of marketing. “Our fans will want to be here to remember and possibly re-experience many of the historic moments that occurred at Wrigley Field.”

Fans can now find official Wrigley Field 100th merchandise—such as hats, clothing, glassware, pins and pennants—at the Cubs store on Clark Street and at Wrigley Field gift shops. Chicago Cubs Charities has also introduced a limited-edition Wrigley Field 100th Anniversary ornament.

Cubs to unveil Wrigley Field 100th logo Saturday; honor Baez and Hendricks

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Cubs Minor League Player of the Year Javier Baez will be honored at Wrigley Field Saturday.

Prior to Saturday’s game, the Chicago Cubs will unveil the official logo to celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field in 2014 and recognize the winning designer who participated in the “Wrigley Field Turns 100” logo contest earlier this season. The team received more than 1,200 submissions, and fans selected the winning design from four finalists on cubs.com.

Immediately following the logo unveiling, infielder Javier Baez and right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks will be recognized for being named the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year. Baez and Hendricks received the honor last Friday, and both will be present at Wrigley Field for Saturday’s pregame ceremony.

First Pitch/Seventh-Inning Stretch Lineup: 9/20-9/25

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Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins will be behind the mic on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Wrigley Field. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Starting Friday, the Cubs are back at Wrigley Field and looking to make an impact on the National League playoff race. The NL East-leading Braves come to town for a three-game series over the weekend, and the Wild Card-leading Pirates will invade the Friendly Confines for a three-game set on Monday. If you’re headed out to Wrigley Field for the final homestand of the 2013 season, here’s your seventh-inning stretch lineup:

Friday – 9/20
Dennis Miller, comedian and TV personality

Saturday – 9/21
TBD

Sunday – 9/22
Wayne Messmer, regular Cubs anthem performer

Monday – 9/23
Tom Dreesen, comedian

Tuesday – 9/24
Fergie Jenkins, Cubs Hall of Famer

Wednesday – 9/25
Grounds Crew (from the field)

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