Last night the Red Sox beat the Cubs 7-4 at Wrigley Field taking the series rubber match. In attendance were my son and his lovely wife.
Last night at 7 PM I received this photo and a simple message Wrigley Field, “a lot like Fenway”.
A lot like Fenway indeed and the Cubs and Sox were long-lost cousins for the better part of a century. Both teams tagged with the “lovable losers” moniker and both clubs allegedly cursed. The “curse” remains in place for the Cubbies as this year they will complete their 104th season since they last won a World Series. While the Red Sox have captured two World Series titles in the past eight years and along with it have become one of the most hated teams in baseball.
Wrigley Field is the oldest park in the National League and the second oldest park in baseball, two years younger than Fenway.
Originally known as Weegham Park, it was built by Charles Weegham the owner of the Chicago entry of the new “renegade” Federal League.
Built for the 1914 Federal League season, the first game played there was April 23rd and was won by the Chicago Federals (also known as the Whales) 9-1 against Kansas City Packers.
April 23, 1914
Art Wilson had played six seasons with the New York Giants before “jumping” to the Federal League in 1914.
Chicago catcher Art Wilson hit the first ever home run at Chicago’s new ball park, a two run shot in the second inning off of Packer pitcher “Chief” Johnson. In fact there were nine home runs hit in the first ever series at the new park and Weegham, thinking this was way too many, had the left field fence moved back 25 feet after that first series.
Chicago Federals owner Charles Weegham.
There were some interesting innovations instituted by Weegham, among them were allowing fans to keep baseballs hit into the stands. Before Weegham’s Chicago Federals, fans would return balls hit into the stands to the field where they would be put back in play. There is an irony in this as it was the Cub fans who instituted the “tradition” of throwing opponents home run balls back onto the field. Weegham Park was also the first baseball park to build concession stands. Prior to this innovation, vendors would simply walk through the stands peddling their wares.
The Cubs played their first game at Weegham Park on April 20, 1916, the fourth anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park.
The Federal League collapsed following only two seasons and in 1916, Weegham purchased the Chicago Cubs, moved them into his new facility and in 1920 its name was changed to Cubs Park. Two years later, Weegham sold the team to William Wrigley and following the renovation of the park in 1926, it was dubbed Wrigley Field.
Like Fenway, Wrigley’s evolution to a beloved ball yard has been one which is ongoing.
It’s signature ivy on the outfield wall was planted by Bill Veeck in 1937.
The original center field scoreboard is still there and in use. It has never been struck by a batted ball, however twice it came close. The first close call was Cubs outfielder Bill Nicholson in 1948 and then a decade later in 1959, the Great One, Roberto Clemente nearly reached it.
Flags play a huge part of the Wrigley tradition, as their retired numbers are displayed in flags down the right and left field lines.
It is a flag which also informs the city of a Cubs win or loss. a win will bring a white flag with a blue “W” on it while a loss flys a blue flag with a white “L” on it.
In 1988 Wrigley Field became the last field to add lights and finally play night games, a half century after night baseball was first played in the major leagues.
I made it to Wrigley Field in 1984 however, I never got inside. A street vendor back in the day, I was peddling my T-Shirts outside on Waveland Avenue. It remains an item on bucket list, and last night I had a smile in my heart as I watched my Red Sox playing at Wrigley and knowing that Josh and Meg were there.
And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history, June 18, 2012.