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August 2, 2005
Once upon a time, it was common for baseball stadiums to have character. Outfield fences, for instance, used to be fun -- asymmetrical, sharply and inexplicably angled, sometimes really tall, sometimes really far away. Wrigley field, home of the Chicago Cubs, is one of the last of these old parks -- and is perhaps the most distinctive. While most modern parks have padded walls, to protect the multi-million dollar outfielders who are most likely to run into them, Wrigley's famous walls are made of brick. And covered in ivy, in which the ball is sometimes lost. There's no giant scoreboard to offer instant replays, highlights from other games, or (especially) ads. And no retractable roof to prevent the inconvenience of rain.
As a baseball fan, I knew all this already. What I didn't realize was how much a part of the neighborhood Wrigley Field is. It actually sits right on the edge of a residential neighborhood -- "Wrigleyville". Unlike other stadiums, which are built tall and imposing to prevent any possible viewing of the event from outside the stadium, Wrigley's far walls are short enough that viewers sitting on the roofs of bars across the street can see in. During games, fans wait on Waveland avenue, just past the outfield, to catch balls hit out of the stadium. And on any game day, people start drinking at the many local bars well before game time, continue through the game, and then on into the night. Normally this would not be noteworthy, except that most games at Wrigley field are played in the middle of the day, even during the week.
Tickets can be hard to get, as this is one of the smallest stadiums in baseball. But if you're a fan of the game, you'll just have to find a way, because this is one stadium you have to visit. If you’re not a fan, well it's still a pleasant experience, but don't expect a gaudy giant scoreboard or team mascot to entertain you. You'll get to sing "Take me out to the ballgame," led by some manner of celebrity, but mostly you will have to watch the game.
I did see a game while I was here. Wasn't much of a game, but I get the feeling that maybe baseball itself was never really the star at Wrigley to begin with. The Wrigley experience itself is. That might explain how the people of Chicago can continue to have such affection for a team that hasn't won the World Series for 100 years.
From journal Summer Weekend in Chicago
April 18, 2005
Baseball is in its purest form at Wrigley Field. The stadium was built in 1914 and little has changed since then. It is the second oldest major-league ballpark in the nation and brings feelings of nostalgia anytime you are there. Wrigley Field still has its original scoreboard, and you can tell if the Cubs won or lost their game that day by the flag flying from it (W = Win, L= Lost). You feel like you must root for the home team here (and it will be the Cubs, not the Socks); you must indulge in beer, popcorn, ice cream, and peanuts to your heart’s content; and you will sing "Take me out to the Ballgame."
I would suggest purchasing tickets online or through Ticketmaster. The scalpers jack up the prices a ton, especially if the Cubs are on a winning streak. Unlike other parks, there is really no bad seat at Wrigley Field, so you will always have a chance to watch the game or the other fans.
Getting to Wrigley Field is easy enough. I would suggest taking public transportation; just jump on the Red Line "L" and get off at Addison. You are able to see the field from the platform, so you can’t get too lost, or you could always just follow the crowds in red-and-blue apparel. There is parking but not a lot, and you will pay anywhere from $10 to $30 for parking spaces. Once again, these prices go up depending on how the Cubs do.
Once inside the stadium, make sure that you check out the buildings across the street. These are some of the best places to watch a Cubs game in Chicago. These are rooftops that are rented out on game days, usually to companies, and are fully catered. If you have a chance watch a Cubs game from these rooftops, they are arguably the best view and a unique experience.
There is tons of traditional baseball food in Chicago, and the prices reflect the fact that you are in Chicago. If you don’t feel like playing the game-day prices, I would suggest you check out some of the many restaurants located around the ballpark. In addition, if you are looking for Cubs apparel, look into a few of the shops. The prices may very well be better than the hawkers out on the street.
Wrigley Field is the host to America’s most lovable losers when it comes to baseball. In addition, there is the feeling of old-time baseball that adds to the feeling of the ballpark. Not much has changed here since 1932, when Babe Ruth called his shot (a moment in baseball history).
From journal Windy City Spots
July 8, 2004
From journal Chicago - I Should Just Move There
May 10, 2004
The Cubs are the "loveable losers" of baseball, having failed to win a World Series since 1908 (95 years and still counting). Will the "goat curse" ever truly be lifted from the Cubs?
It's easy to get to Wrigley Field -- just jump on the Red Line "L" and get off at Addison -- you can see into the field from the platform. There's no official parking at the field; local merchants and homeowners hawk their parking spaces for $5-20 on game days.
On the streets that flank the stadium, you can find all kinds of sports bars, memorabilia shops and ticket brokers (book your tickets online or buy them at the ball park, $14 and up). The 2004 season is almost sold out due to the near miss that the Cubs had with the World Series last year. You can tell if the Cubs won or lost their game today (home or away) by looking for the "W" or "L" flag atop the scoreboard.
The Wrigley Field tour (cost $15) runs on weekends throughout the summer and takes approximately 90 minutes. On the tour you visit a number of areas of the stadium, including the Cubs clubhouse, visitors clubhouse, dugouts, playing field, bleachers, mezzanine suites, press box, and security headquarters. Cameras are permitted on tours.
Wrigley has also been host to some of the most memorable moments in baseball. Among them is Babe Ruth's famous "called shot" in the third game of the 1932 World Series, when Ruth allegedly pointed to a bleacher location when he came to bat, and then hit the next pitch for a homer. Pete Rose also hit his 4191st career hit here, which tied him with Ty Cobb for the most hits in baseball history. On the trivia side, Wrigley still sports its original scoreboard from 1937, and in nearly 70 years of play, no batter has ever hit the scoreboard.
A die-hard Chicago tradition is partying on rooftops and nowhere is that more celebrated than the rooftops around Wrigley. After a lengthy battle where the park owners planned to construct obstructions to non-ticket-buying spectators, an agreement was reached and the Cubs-sanctioned Ballpark Rooftops organization was born. Member rooftops pay 17% of earnings to the Cubs, and in return, fans get one of the most unique experiences in major league ball.
Cubs baseball is as much about the fans as the players. Come see a game!
From journal Chicago for the Non-Tourist
by Coach Dad
December 10, 2003
The Cubby Bear is advertised as "the place" for Cubs' post-game partying. It seemed that a good number of the crowd that were leaving Wrigley Field headed in that direction. Within minutes the place was packed. I was not impressed. It seemed very dirty and kind of smelly. There were no tables available, so we waited in line at the bar for a cold one. All they served were domestics and the basic imports. The Cubby Bear is not a brew pub. That was enough for me. I was thankful that my friends were in agreement. I can now say that I experienced The Cubby Bear after a Cubs’ game, but there are much better places just down the road.
Just a few blocks down on Clarke Street is Goose Island Beer Company. It was pretty crowded, but there were still a few tables available. When I visit local brewpubs, I always try the India Pale Ale (IPA). Goose Island’s IPA was above average, but it was just a bit too hoppy for my taste. I next tried one of their darker beers. The Honest Stout is brewed with caramel malt and has a robust, roasty flavor. I really enjoyed the taste. The creamy body was very rich and satisfying. Goose Island’s flagship is their Honkers Ale. I think the Honkers was everyone’s favorite. It had a nice rich taste with a gentle hop finish. We spent a couple of hours at the Goose Island Beer Company and had a great time. There were several good friends, plenty of nice conversation, and an endless supply of ice-cold brew.
Wrigleyville is also filled with many shops. There are the usual souvenir shops and those hocking Cubs’ clothing and memorabilia. And there are some unconventional shops as well. There was one shop that featured vintage Roaring 20s dresses and clothing in its window.
This was probably one of the best nights that I have experienced while traveling on business. I first went and watched the Cubs play at Wrigley Field. Then spent the rest of the evening with good friends in a fun and exciting locale like Wrigleyville.
From journal Training Week In Chicago
December 8, 2003
We had quite an adventure on our way to the ballgame. We jumped on the "L" downtown. From there, it is only a short ride on the Red Line, which stops directly at Wrigley Field at the Addison Station, except when there is a fire on the track. Our train moved forward about 50 feet, then retreated back into the station. Every train in the downtown area was stopped and evacuated. It was a weekday about 6pm, so there were thousands of people coming up from the subway. There were no available taxis, so we jumped on a waiting bus. After about 45 minutes, we had moved maybe a mile. The bus driver gave us directions to Wrigley Field. We had no choice except to walk the remaining couple of miles. We arrived at the game in the bottom of the fourth inning.
We had just purchased our tickets on the internet earlier in the day and we had great seats. We were on the field level, about 15 rows behind home plate. I was amazed to see that the screen protecting the fans from foul balls was made of old, rusty chicken wire. I probably missed the first few pitches by just looking around and soaking up the wonderful, old-fashioned ballpark atmosphere.
The walk to Wrigley Field had left me quite hungry and thirsty. I quickly found my way to the pizza and beer. I am used to normal mediocre ballpark food. I was pleasantly surprised that the Chicago style pizza was so good. The beer was frosty cold and really hit the spot.
On the field, the Cubs were hosting the San Diego Padres. Sammy Sosa hit his eighth home run of the early season to help the Cubs defeat the Padres 8-3. My heart was pounding when I sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the Seventh Inning Stretch.
Wrigley Field has been the site for many of baseball’s historic moments. Babe Ruth’s "called shot" during the 1932 World Series; Ernie Banks’ 500th career home run; and Pete Rose’s 4,191 career hit, which tied him with Ty Cobb for the most hits in history, all happened at Wrigley Field.
Without doubt, this was my best baseball experience ever.
May 8, 2003
Just the name of the street --- Astor --- conveys an image of prestige and power. Indeed, Astor St. WAS the home of many of turn-of-the-century Chicago’s wealthiest families, and some of their mansions still stand. Strolling past them is a great way of unwinding after a day of power shopping on Michigan Ave.
The southernmost block of Astor St. now contains many high-rise condos and isn’t as attractive as it used to be. So, let’s start our walking tour at Division St. and North State Parkway and admire a mansion with a different sort of notoriety: The conjoined buildings at 1336-1340 N. State are the former Playboy Mansion --- the late Hiugh Heffner’s infamous "Bunny Hutch".
Continue north to Schiller and turn toward the lake. At the intersection of Schiller and Astor is the Charnley House, built in 1892 by the firm of Louis Sullivan, an employer and mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright. Walk north along Astor and imagine yourself living in one of the magnificent old greystones you’ll pass. The Patterson-McCormick Mansion, 1500 Astor, is an even statelier example of Prairie School design. (The "McCormick" was Cyrus R., who reaped a fortune from inventing the first successful mechanical grain harvester.) This isn’t a Wright building, but there are several of his works --- including his own home --- in nearby Oak Park.
Admire the parkway gardens --- gardening is a competitive sport here --- as you continue north to The Cardinal’s Residence. This angular brick mansion, with nearly a score of chimneys, has been the official residence of Chicago’s Roman Catholic archbishops for a century and a half. In the late 1970s, I watched the then-Pope address congregants from its balcony.
If it’s a pleasant day, you can enjoy magnicient views of Navy Pier, the north end of the Magnificent Mile, and the Chicago skylne by walking a block east to the lake, through a pedestrian underpass beneath Outer Lake Shore Drive, and as far out as you care to venture onto the breakwater at North Ave. Beach.
The quirky Museum of Surgical Science is in the 1500 block of Inner Lake Shore drive, just south of the pedestrian underpass. It normally charges admission to its collection of centuries-old medical tools and memorabilia, but is free on Tuesdays.
You can walk back along the lakefront seawall to Michigan Ave. or swing back west through the Gold Coast for some garden-walking.
Chicago’s Latin motto, Urbs in Horto means "City in a Garden." Some of Chicago’s finest private gardens are along North Dearborn Parkway, a block west of State and the Cardinal’s Residence. You can follow Dearborn back to Division St. and catch a subway train back to the Loop, or, better yet, turn back north and visit Lincoln Park
From journal Chicago from 20' Up: The El & Other Inexpensive Diversions
January 9, 2002
From journal The non-trite Chicago Guide
Kansas City, Missouri
May 16, 2001
Most games start at 1.20pm. Some start later. The best way to kick off a day in Wrigleyville is to arrive early and preparty in the neighborhood. The stadium is practically surrounded by bars and restaurants. The Cubbybear is probably the most famous, but it's also the most touristy. On game day, a can of Miller Lite will be four or five bucks. Go a block away to Texas Star Fajita Bar for some decent Tex-Mex. On Sheffield (beyond the right field wall) there are two bars: Murphy's and the Sports Corner. Both are good places to primer.
If you have the prized bleacher seats, you might want to enter the gates early (at least 1 hour before game time) if you actually want a decent seat. On hot days in the summer, the most comfortable "seat" is to simply stand against the chain-link fence in right or left field, behind the seating area. You're simply a few feet farther away from the field, and you get a decent breeze.
Stick around through at least the seventh inning - sometimes someone halfway famous will sing. I've seen Jimmy Buffett do the seventh-inning stretch in the past. If anyone halfway cool is in town for a concert, there's a decent chance they'll sing at Wrigley. Always fun to see who it will be (just hope it's not Da Coach).
After the game, postparty in the neighborhood or walk a couple blocks away for any one of the good restaurants in the area. Sheffield's in a fun place...a few blocks south on Sheffield.
Note about tickets: Bleacher tickets can be hard to get, especially if a division rival is in town or if there's a good pitching matchup (i.e., Kerry Wood vs. Anybody). In fact, bleacher seats to almost all of the premium games sell out before the season even starts. If you are serious about attending a Cubs game, try to line up your tickets ahead of time, either by buying them the day the go on sale (in Feb. 2002), picking one of the rare games with tickets will available (Marlins, etc.), or get seats to the game you want via an online broker (at a premium, of course). If you really want to experience Wrigley, I would definitely advise getting into the bleachers, but I would not advise relying on the (semi-illegal) scalping scene on game day to get your tickets. It can be done, but if you show up on a Friday and it happens to be Wood vs. the Unit, you will be watching the game from Murphy's. The bleachers may not be suitable for young children, as it can be quite a debaucherous and well-hydrated crowd.
From journal My Kind of Town
May 6, 2001
From journal Big Chicago