Lakefront Park, West Side Park, and South Side Park played host to the White Stockings starting in 1878. The franchise won five pennants at the parks as the White Stockings before becoming the Chicago Colts, Orphans, and, eventually, the Cubs in 1903. Pennants at West Side Park in 1906, 1907, 1908, and 1910, as well as back-to-back World Series titles in 1907 and 1908, stand as the most success the franchise has had at any one venue.
Wrigley Field Comes To Life
Chicago lunch counter owner Charles Weeghman's was an early baseball fanatic. Made wealthy by his thriving business ventures, a bid for the controlling interest in the St. Louis Cardinals in 1911 was his first foray into the sport. Though the attempt was unsuccessful, Weeghman remained determined. In 1914, with the formation of the short-lived Federal League, he founded the Chicago Whales at the newly built Weeghman Park. A deal struck between the three leagues the following year merged the Cubs and the Whales, and Weeghman emerged as the controlling stock-holder of the renovated team.
Constructed from steel and concrete, Weeghman Park was the state-of-the-art venue among contemporary major league baseball diamonds. A 99 year lease guaranteed a stable home for the Chicago Cubs, who had not had a proper stadium in their 45 year history. The name was changed to
Cubs Park in 1920 as Weeghman's influence in the club began to diminish, and by 1926, when ownership was transferred to chewing gum mogul William Wrigley Jr., the name was had again been changed to Wrigley Field.
An expansion in 1927 raised the capacity at the stadium to 38,000, about what it remains to this day. The limited seating is one of the draws of the historic diamond, which has been known to delay upgrades and renovations for years. Just two major renovations have taken place at Wrigley Field in its 100-year past. The most recent, in 1988, finally added lights for night games. The first renovation, in 1937, planted the seeds of what is now the iconic ivy-covered outfield wall.
Other iconic features at Wrigley Field include :
- Rooftop seats on high-rise buildings surrounding the stadium
- One of just two still manually operated scoreboards in major league baseball
- The refusal by the franchise to add multiple video screens inside the stadium
- Famous red marquee entrance
Despite the antiquated décor, Wrigley Field boasts all the modern amenities of any 21st century ballpark. Ample concessions with traditional Chicago fare is offered throughout the venue and is served in any of the number of private suites. Four merchandise shops can help any fan find the right gear and the small jewel-shaped seating design guarantees great views anywhere in the stadium. Even game-day tours are available for the baseball history buff.
Wrigley Field Beyond Baseball
The Chicago Cubs sister team at Wrigley Field for five decades were the NFL's Chicago Bears. Renamed in 1922 from the Staleys to represent their ties with the baseball team, the Bears played all their home games at the stadium from 1921 to 1970. In 1920, in the league's first year, the Chicago Tigers played seven home football games at Wrigley Field, including one against the future Bears, then the Decatur Staleys. The Tigers became the first NFL team to fold at the end of that season as a result of a bet made by the team's head coach and a rival coach with the Chicago-Racine Cardinals.
The 50 seasons the Bears played at Wrigley Field still stand as the second most any NFL team has played at a single venue; the Packers have played 57 seasons at Lambeau Field. Seating capacity requirements and stricter dimension standards enacted by the NFL forced the Bears out of Wrigley in 1970. Injuries to players who would run into the brick wall behind the south-end zone, which was two-yards shorter than its northern counterpart, also prompted the move. The Bears won eight NFL Championships at Wrigley Field.
Collegiate football at Wrigley Field has been rare. The DePaul Blue Devils hosted their home games at the stadium in 1938, and it wasn't until 72 years later that the Northwestern Wildcats and Illinois Fighting Illini met at the site for the only game since.
Following the departure of the Bears in 1970, Wrigley Field would only again host a permanent home team other than the Cubs from 1977 to 1984. The Chicago Sting played in the North American Soccer League at the venue during this time, though they split their games equally between Wrigley, Soldier Field, and Comiskey Park. A friendly match between European clubs A.S. Roma and Zagłębie Lubin in 2012 has been the only other soccer played at Wrigley Field since the Sting became defunct.
The NHL's Chicago Blackhawks took on the Detroit Redwings in the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field and Pearl Jam was the most recent concert held there in summer 2013. Over 50 films and TV shows have used Wrigley Field as a film site.