Reunion enhances Wrigley Field experience
CHICAGO — Many friends, such as Trey Schaap and Justin Acri, are die-hard fans of the Chicago Cubs, who won last year’s World Series after a drought that would make the Mojave Desert look like a rain forest.
Through countless seasons of disappointment, Wrigley Field has become an iconic stadium. The home of the Cubs was originally named Weeghman Park — after Charles Weeghman, who built the stadium — then Cubs Stadium. Once the Wrigley family — think chewing gum and the Chicago Tribune — gained control, the stadium became Wrigley Field in 1927.
The scoreboard is still hand operated, and the entrance remains virtually unchanged, but there is nothing old about the guts after a $575 million update after the Ricketts family — think billionaires — bought the Cubs.
The seats are molded plastic and have cup holders. The concession stands are new. The outfield still has the ivy-covered wall that was started in 1937 when Bill Veeck, son of the club president, planted the vines, but now there are jumbotrons and other modern additions.
Monica Timpani and yours truly had great seats down the third-base line and even with home plate, but that was because Mark Potash — who worked at the Arkansas Democrat in the late 1980s and whose family has been season-ticket holders almost forever — gave us the tickets and joined us for the game.
Potash, who now is part of the team that covers the Chicago Bears for the Chicago Sun-Times, asked about the high school coaches he covered when he was a rookie at the Arkansas Democrat. He wore a T-shirt that said Arkansas Democrat Sports.
He asked about Tommy Fowler, Tommy Reed, Al Flanigan, Charles Ripley and about two dozen others. It was a great reunion and also like a private tour of Wrigley Field from a lifetime fan. One note about Potash: When he worked here, he had worked so many days in a row covering high school basketball that it was insisted he take a four-day weekend. Reluctantly he agreed, then got in his car and drove to St. Louis to watch a high school basketball tournament.
Most people had urged us to get to Wrigley early, which we did, mingling with the jovial mob. We shopped a little and soaked up the atmosphere, especially around The Cubby Bear bar, which is across the street from the entrance to Wrigley. Vendors were yelling that their peanuts were cheaper than the ones inside the park, and there were a lot of 12-ounce curls going on.
It was a different crowd than at Fenway Park in Boston — although both seem to attract young single folks — in that the crowd was a bit more blue collar, which made your trusty scribe feel more at home.
We arrived in Chicago via Amtrak from Boston to Buffalo, where we saw Niagara Falls. We were four hours late because the tracks had flooded (story one), a tree had fallen on the tracks (story two) and Amtrak always gives way to freight trains (final story and the most believable). We saw the falls and went to the original Anchor Bar, home of the original chicken wings.
Our train was two hours late leaving for Chicago, and we were four hours late arriving. See above for reasons.
Lunch was at the original Billy Goat Tavern, which has its own history with the Cubs. The tavern was made famous by a skit on Saturday Night Live. The cheeseburgers are very good.
The reason for the trip was to see Wrigley Field, and it was worth it. Despite being renovated it has charm, charisma and a feeling of baseball history.
Lastly, all of our planes were on time, no one got beat up and the Cubs lost, but have started winning since.