Spot­light shifts to Wrigley Field

For the first time since 1945, the Cubs to play World Se­ries home game in tonight’s Game 3 show­down with In­di­ans

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Carla K. John­son

CHICAGO >> A woman in a Chicago Cubs jersey climbed onto a man’s shoul­ders to pose for — what else? — a selfie in front of the cher­ryred mar­quee at Wrigley Field, the sec­ond-old­est ball­park in the ma­jor leagues.

Not far away, red car­na­tions lay at the foot of Harry Caray’s bronze statue and fans were sip­ping mid­day beers out­side Murphy’s Bleach­ers, where a sign out­side the pub de­clared: “We’ve been pre­par­ing for to­day for 71 years. Cleve­land’s in trou­ble.”

Not since Oct. 10, 1945, has a World Se­ries game been played at Wrigley. The Cubs lost 9-3 to the Detroit Tigers that day 71 years ago, but that’s an­cient his­tory to fans now as the Fall Clas­sic makes its long-awaited re­turn to the ball­park nes­tled in a North Side neigh­bor­hood.

As the Se­ries shifts to Chicago this week­end knot­ted at a game apiece be­tween the Cubs and In­di­ans, it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that Wrigley lore has been shaped by change — and changes are plain to see again around here.

The bronze ball ready to fly from the grip of the Ron Santo statue is seem­ingly aimed at heavy equip­ment beat­ing the earth for the foun­da­tion of a com­plex of lux­ury apart­ments and stores. On Wave­land Av­enue, where kids

and adults chase home runs or foul balls that clear the left field bleach­ers, an of­fice build­ing rises be­hind fenc­ing and “PAR­DON OUR DUST” signs. Nearby, work­ers are ready­ing the site of a seven-story bou­tique ho­tel.

“There are three dif­fer­ent con­struc­tion projects go­ing on as we speak,” said 44th Ward Al­der­man Tom Tun­ney, who rep­re­sents Wrigleyville. “It’s a del­i­cate path. How do you pro­vide a ma­jor league ex­pe­ri­ence in a con­gested, suc­cess­ful neigh­bor­hood?”

The changes flow­er­ing in Wrigleyville, fi­nanced by the Cubs-own­ing Rick­etts fam­ily and other de­vel­op­ers, alarm some who cling to his­tory like ivy on the walls of the friendly con­fines. Not El­iz­a­beth Barnes, a 24-year-old nurse who ex­em­pli­fies the young, ur­ban fu­ture of the neigh­bor­hood.

“It’s ex­cit­ing,” she said while walk­ing her dog. “It has been a lit­tle lengthy, but I’m very ex­cited to see how ev­ery­thing turns out.”

Here are some of the sights and sounds that make the 102-year-old ball­park a beloved land­mark and a touch­stone for base­ball fans:


Built in 1914, Wrigley Field was first known as Weegh­man Park and was home to the Chicago Fed­er­als, later called the Chicago Whales. The Cubs started play­ing there in 1916. Only Bos­ton’s Fen­way Park is older among ma­jor league ball­parks.

Base­ball his­to­ri­ans still ar­gue over what Babe Ruth was point­ing at in Game 3 of the 1932 World Se­ries be­fore he hit his fa­mous “called shot” homer into Wrigley’s cen­ter field bleach­ers. It wasn’t the score­board. The orig­i­nal man­ual score­board , still in use to­day, went up in 1937.

Wrigley was the first ball­park to let the fans keep foul balls. It was the first with or­gan mu­sic. And it was the first to be cleaned up in an ef­fort to at­tract fe­male fans and chil­dren.

It was the last ball­park to be il­lu­mi­nated for night games. The lights went on in 1988.


Ernie Banks’ No. 14, Ron Santo’s No. 10 and Fer­gu­son Jenk­ins’ No. 31 fly on flags on the left field foul pole. Billy Wil­liams’ No. 26, Ryne Sand­berg’s No. 23 and Greg Mad­dux’s No. 31 fly from the right field foul pole. That’s not a typo: Jenk­ins and Mad­dux both wore No. 31, which was re­tired in 2009.


On Wave­land Av­enue, the ball­hawks gather for bat­ting prac­tice and home games wear­ing gloves to catch a sou­venir. They know a ball is com­ing by read­ing the crowd’s re­ac­tion. Bleacher ex­pan­sion and a left field video board have lim­ited the balls hit over the wall and into the street. But the ball­hawks keep show­ing up to chase them.


Wrigley’s spe­cial char­ac­ter is show­cased by the neigh­bor­ing rooftops where fans can watch the game from bleach­ers erected to pro­vide a glimpse of what’s go­ing on in­side the park.

The rooftop fun on game day be­lies the court bat­tles over rev­enue-shar­ing agree­ments and views blocked by new video boards. Since the Rick­etts fam­ily bought the Cubs in 2009, they’ve been buy­ing up the prop­er­ties and now con­trol most of the 16 rooftop clubs.


The “W” stands for “Win.” Flown from the score­board flag pole, un­furled by Cubs fans in the stands, plas­tered on win­dows and hang­ing from Chicago porches, the W flag is now white with a blue let­ter. It didn’t start out that way.

The Wrigley fam­ily that owned the team also owned the Wilm­ing­ton Trans­porta­tion Co. Its logo was a blue flag with a white W. The tra­di­tion of fly­ing a W flag for a win from the score­board pole started with that color combo. The flag would sig­nal pas­sen­gers on nearby el­e­vated trains how the Cubs had done that day.

The cur­rent blue W on a white back­ground be­gan in the 1980s. To­day, there’s also a hash­tag — #FlyTheW.


When Cubs fans say, “Holy Cow!” they’re quot­ing Hall of Fame broad­caster Harry Caray, who de­vel­oped the phrase to make sure he didn’t ut­ter ex­ple­tives on the air. Start­ing in 1982, Caray led the crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” dur­ing the sev­enth in­ning stretch.

After Caray’s death in 1998, his widow, Dutchie Caray, led the song at the home opener in April. “He was guid­ing me,” she said.

The Cubs some­times show video of Caray sing­ing on new jumbo-sized video boards in­stalled in 2015.

Chicago singer-song­writer Steve Good­man cap­tured the dark side of what it means to be a Cubs fan in “A Dy­ing Cub Fan’s Last Re­quest” in 1983.

But with “Go Cubs Go,” writ­ten in 1984 be­fore he died of leukemia at age 36, he cre­ated a Cubs vic­tory song with a cho­rus of: “Go Cubs go, go Cubs go. Hey Chicago what do you say? The Cubs are gonna win to­day.”


Fans watch what they can of a game be­tween the Mar­lins and Cubs on a rooftop across the street from Wrigley Field. As the World Se­ries shifts to Chicago this week­end, all eyes are on the sec­ond-old­est ball­park in the ma­jor leagues.

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