Tuesday, May 21, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois

Wrigley Field is home to the Chicago Cubs of the National League. It is the second oldest major league baseball stadium still in use, only Fenway Park in Boston is older. They won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908. It’s now been 105 years since they did it. Chicago is known as the hard-luck team, probably best personified by the vilification of Steve Bartman , a fan who caught what could have been the second out ball in the 8th inning of game 6 of the 1998 league championships. They were winning over the Florida Marlins, who quickly rebounded to win the game and the series.

It’s been like that for Cubs fans.

Big names who have called The Friendly Confines home over the years include Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, Joe Tinkers, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance (Tinker to Evers to Chance), Rogers Horsnby, Dizzy Dean, and Sammy Sosa. Legendary broadcaster Harry Caray also called the press box home.

If you’re a baseball fan in Chicago and root for the Cubs, you’re a Northsider. Southsiders follow the White Sox. Currently, the team is ahead of only the Houston Astros in the National League Central Division.

Here are the stats…

Year opened: 1914
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $250,000
Capacity: 42,157
Field dimensions: Left field – 355 ft.; left center – 368 ft.; Center field – 400 ft.; right center – 368 ft.; Right field – 353 ft.
Home teams: Chicago Whales(Federal League) 1914-1915; Chicago Cubs (National League, MLB) 1916 –present; Chicago Tigers (APFA –football) 1920; Chicago Bears (NFL) 1921 – 1970
Events attended: one game

Wrigleyville is a lively, kind of middle to upper class neighborhood just north of downtown Chicago. It’s got a great vibe with restaurants, bars, and such. Just seems like a nice place to hang out. In the middle is Wrigley Field, named after chewing gum magnate and former team owner, William Wrigley, Jr.

I’m kind of amazed that the capacity is so high, it seems so much more intimate with only two decks and a bit of bleacher area in the outfield. I would have guessed 36-38,000, not 42,000.

Since it’s such an old stadium, there are plenty of obstructed views…your ticket will note it if it is. Old stadiums are nice in a historical, museum kind of way…especially when it still used as it was intended. However, historical places like this can leave a lot to be desired for disabled customers.

Wheelchair seating is sparce but it didn’t seem hard to get. Wrigley has no written companion seat restriction policy…we had no problem getting 4 companion seats. The way the accessible seating here is done is that a couple of regular seats have been removed here and there from the top row of the lower deck and a wheelchair goes in instead. There is also one area right behind home plate that is served by one of those lifts that are attached to the staircase railing. Not too bad for an antique like this. Tickets are now priced dynamically and range from $20 for upper deck reserved against cellar dwellers to  over $300 for club seats against the premiere teams like the Cards. You are paying a bit of a premium for seeing such a popular and historic park…there is also a 12% entertainment tax on top of that.

Transit is excellent with an accessible El station right next to the stadium.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Kathy (kthypryn) under CC-BY license

Wrigley is also know for the apartment buildings across the street that set up bleachers on the roof to watch the games.  After some years of contention, the stadium has agreements from some of the owners to share in the ticket prices that they charge.  Some of them are also wheelchair accessible, see the sites for the team endorsed rooftops here (check the amenities and FAQs to see which are accessible).

Food is pretty much standard ballpark fare but they also have Italian beef sandwiches available.

Unfortunately, I can’t comment too much on the beer selection because we didn’t have any and all the snack bars, save for one, in our area were closed. The one that was open was serving Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The coffee wasn’t bad, though…

The one thing you do not want to do is come here on a cold day. We did. 26 degrees with a wind chill of 16 degrees. That and the fact that there is no cold like Chicago cold made for a challenging day at the ball park at best.

It had snowed the day before (this was around April 20th). The pitcher could only throw meatballs and, even though Sammy Sosa hit one out, the Cubs ended up losing. In a post game interview, the pitcher said he couldn’t feel his fingers anymore. We bought furry Cubs blankets from the gift shop and huddled together. It wasn’t enough…we left in the bottom of the 4th to retire in front of the heater in our hotel room.

Of course, this experience cannot be typical. I feel like I really didn’t get the full effect from Wrigley so I’m not going to hold the bad weather against it. I’d really like to go back someday in the summer to really experience it.

I am, however, ready to put it slightly ahead of Fenway because the accessible seats are better, as is the accessible transit. Neither of them would rise to the level of old Yankee stadium…which I know is nowhere near as historic but did have a very historic feel to it…but even with their accessibility challenges, I hope they never get rid of these absolutely gorgeous old ball parks. That puts Wrigley at number 4 on our list.

Every baseball fan, disabled or not, should visit Wrigley sometime in their life.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated 2013

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