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There are two major league ballparks in the city of Chicago...

...but only one that carries a significant place in Baseball history...

**(I'm starting a new occasional feature here on Da Box called "A Day At The Ballpark", where I recount an experience I have had at a baseball field. It won't necessarily be a major league park or even a field where a professional team plays. We'll see how this goes)**

Wrigley Field. The Friendly Confines, the home of the ivy walls and the bleachers on rooftops across the street from the ballpark. It is a rare place in that it has changed so very little in the span of a century. This is about to change, however, as the current Cubs ownership are planning a massive, half-billion dollar renovation to Wrigley that is likely to drastically change the entire ballpark experience there. Luckily I was fortunate enough recently to have the opportunity to see Wrigley in it's current un-modernized form.

While the Chicago subway does stop right outside Wrigley Field, Mrs. Eephus and I decided on taking the bus to the stadium. Coming from quiet Logan Square, we caught the Kimball bus to Addison and awaited that bus to go eastbound. It was a hot, sunny afternoon in the Windy City (surprisingly unwindy) and I was trying to hide under some fleeting shade without success. The bus arrived and was packed with the blue shirts and red Cs of Cubs fans, so many so that we weren't sure the two of us would even fit on the bus. Fortunately, the driver was no stranger to shuttling large crowds to the ballpark and let us on so long as we went as far back as we could.

This particular bus was filled with Rizzo jerseys (he had recently been named to the all-star team). I was wearing my Jays hat (I figured my Reds hat would be too cheeky) which evoked no reaction from the folks surrounding us (it's not like the Cubs and Blue Jays have any kind of history). During the ride I eavesdropped on a moment in a conversation between two Cubs fans:

"It seems like all the criminals or gangsters you see wearing baseball gear, it's always Yankees or Sox, Braves or Dodgers even. Never anything Cubs."
"Yeah, Cubs gear is definitely the least threatening in all of sports."

Never thought of it that way. Anyhow, the traffic on narrow Addison was extremely backed up with tons of folks either heading to the game or trapped in the current of people trying to get there. For a moment I wondered why such a small street was a primary way of reaching a large sporting venue until I remembered: Wrigley is really old. Probably older than most of the neighborhood around it. Cars were a fairly new invention when this place opened up. I guess that makes sense.

We still arrived at the park with plenty of time to spare before first pitch. Once we got off the bus and found our bearings, an incredible sensation overtook me that I'm certain has claimed many thousands of others throughout the decades: a physical rush of being in a place with so much history and so many stories that the moment you are there seems to be in several different places at once. People have been coming to this park for a hundred years to watch some of the greatest players to ever wear a uniform. When one tries to imagine such a place, the natural inclination is to visualize it so monstrously large that it feels impenetrable. Wrigley Field is nothing like that. The south part of the ballpark is surrounded by something like a bustling seaside marketplace: shops and streetside vendors selling Cubs hats, shirts, programs and bottles of water (only a dollar!) to all of the fans off to see the game. Once the bus rolled off, the famous red marquee welcomed us to Wrigley Field, Home of the Chicago Cubs, yet it was the two of us from another country who felt at home.

We went inside and wandered about the concourse for a bit. There are typical concession-type things like beer vendors, hot dogs, popcorn and all that. There was a booth for people to get certificates of "My First Game At Wrigley Field" where they would write your name and the date for you. They misspelled my name (happens a lot) and Mrs. Eephus and I chuckled about it. Also chuckle worthy was a banner on the first level with "Emilo Bonifacio, 64" with a picture of our old utility player ready to crush a pitch. Oh, if only they had known. Eventually the first pitch was minutes away so we climbed up to the second level and found our seats.

One could describe Wrigley as the Spiderman of big league stadiums: just your friendly neighborhood ball park. And really, the surrounding neighborhood is such a big part of what this place is. Other parks I've been to like Citi Field, Oakland Coliseum and our Dome here in Toronto are all fine parks to watch a game (okay, not Oakland) but those stadiums are primarily what that little section of town is about. If those parks were dropped in from the sky, Wrigley was grown from the ground with the buildings around it: you really can't imagine one without the other. What excited me most beforehand about seeing a game there (aside from being able to tell people I'd seen a game there, heh heh heh) was to look off into the outfield and see the famous rooftop bleachers across the street. The first sight of that did not disappoint. Again, to watch a major league game and see something like that makes you feel like you're not in a sporting venue, you're in an actual park open to everybody, even if you've gotta pay to get in.

The game itself looked good on paper: Travis Wood against Julio Teheran. For some reason I thought Wood was a lot better than he was (his 2014 has been very rough) so once the Braves were up 8-0 after three innings that little notion of mine quickly changed. For much of the day I was keeping an eye on the great green scoreboard in centerfield to see how the Reds and Blue Jays were doing (Cincinnati beat the Pirates while Toronto could not even manage a whimper against David Price). While I can understand the difficulty in labor and lack of necessity of using a manually operated scoreboard in such a digital age, it just looks so darned cool. The suspense of waiting for a number to change in either of those games was extremely fun, especially since it doesn't say how many outs there are. I found myself often thinking: "the Jays have been batting for a while now. That's a good sign!" Also interesting was for the White Sox game, they were simply listed as "CHI" and not "Sox". Those guys could play on a different planet, for all Wrigleyville cares.

Down 10-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, Chicago rallied for a couple to make it 10-4. Then in the bottom of the eighth, the Cubbies put another rally together. They drew a trio of walks around a single to make it 10-5. Suddenly, the tying run was on deck with one out. Atlanta pitcher Jordan Walden threw a pitch that bounced several feet away from catcher Gerald Laird and Starlin Castro came charging home. Laird recovered and made a quick flip to Walden covering home, who tagged Castro out. The play was reviewed (remember, there's no big video board at Wrigley) but Castro remained out. (Actually, where we were sitting there was a television above us which was broadcasting the game. He was probably out.) It proved costly for the Cubs as that batter, Jeff Baker, ripped a double that scored the remaining two runners on base. It was 10-7 but Chicago could not get anything more that inning. Worst of all, now it was Kimbrel time.

"Kimbrel Time?" I said aloud to myself. "I gotta get close and see this!"

We slipped down to about ten rows back of home plate (we were right behind there anyway) and watched as the great Braves closer warmed up. There are so many different perspectives to watch a pitch travel that I feel it's extremely difficult to fully appreciate how hard these men throw. Watching on television you are likely to think these balls aren't traveling quite as fast as they actually are, likewise if you're watching a game from the outfield bleachers or from the upper deck: the distance skews our perception of it. I've played a bit of competitive baseball and the hardest throwing pitcher I ever faced probably hit eighty to eighty-three on a good day, in other words Mark Buehrle velocity. But let me tell you, a baseball thrown at eighty miles-per-hour comes on you so quick you've got to start your stride before the ball even leaves the pitcher's hand. Being in the batter's box is the closest you can possibly be to truly gauge how hard a pitcher throws (being a catcher is a close second, home plate umpire a very close third) As a batter I will never have to face Craig Kimbrel in my life, and I am extremely happy that is the case.

Watching the warmups I thought "Okay, he throws hard. But I knew that anyway. Watching him on TV and their radar guns have told me that." Once he actually took the rubber to face his first hitter (Anthony Rizzo I think), his first pitch hissed through the strikezone with such ferocity I'm sure from ten rows up that I flinched. For me, facing a pitcher who throws eighty is uncomfortable enough, but at least you can see the ball for maybe half of a second before it hits the catcher's mitt. I could barely see Kimbrel's fastball that long from a hundred feet away. And it doesn't help that the guy looks in for the catcher's signs like an enormous hungry cat waiting to pounce on you. After a diet of hard fastballs that Rizzo struggled to keep up with, Kimbrel put him away with an evil slider down and in. Can't blame the Cubs star for that one.

The Braves won it 10-7 and while the game was exciting at times, what I'll remember a long time from now isn't that result but the experience itself, an experience that Wrigley Field itself provides. Despite all of the history, all of the great players and great moments that have happened in this cathedral of baseball, Wrigley does not intimidate or make you feel small. It simply whisks you away with its many charms.

Let's call it, Ten ivy covered walls out of ten.

Here are some pictures while we're at it:

(If anyone else has a Wrigley experience to share, please do so below.)

A Day At The Ballpark -- Wrigley Field | 22 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
jerjapan - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 06:18 AM EDT (#291327) #
very enjoyable read eephus!  i look forward to this feature and suddenly feel an urgent need to visit chicago .... when is the rebuild taking place?
ISLAND BOY - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 06:52 AM EDT (#291329) #
I don't follow the Cubs so when I saw the picture with the Hector Rondon banner I thought they were honoring players from the past, but then I saw the Emilio Bonifacio poster and I thought, " Ooohh ...... "
mathesond - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 07:23 AM EDT (#291330) #
I remember my first 2 games at Wrigley. In the first, the Cubs hosted the Phillies (Harry Kalas did the 7th inning honours), and the Cubs jumped to an early 7-1 lead after 4. The Phils scratched and clawed their way back, eventually trailing 7-6 in the top of the ninth. As per Cub tradition, a couple of boneheaded plays (dropped ball, Rod Beck failing to cover first on a grounder), and it was 8-7 Phillies. But wait - the bottom of the 9th was yet to be played! Sammy Sosa managed to make it to first (this was late May of his 66 HR season), and Mark Grace followed with a shot down the line. As Sammy approached 3rd, the coach signaled for him to stop, but not our Sammy, oh no! Instead, he barreled past 3rd, headed for home, realized he would be toast if he continued, tried to go back to third base only to fall down at get tagged out. Naturally, the Cubs were unable to cash on Grace, and as I left the park, I could only marvel at the fact that everything I had ever heard or read about the Cubs and their displays of futility was true.

Next day, they hosted the Braves. This was Kerry Wood's first game at Wrigley since his 20K masterpiece, and their was a definite buzz in the air. My sister and I arrived shortly after game time, and as we hurried past the vendors hawking their "Who needs viagra? We've got Wood" t-shirts, we heard a roar from the stadium. "What was that for?", my sister asked, and I replied that it probably meant Kerry had struck out a batter. Just then an even louder road erupted, and I said that was definitely a strikeout. We took our seats down the left field line, and sure enough, every time Wood got to 2 strikes on a hitter, all forty-thousand plus (or so it seemed) in attendance rose to their feet. Kerry didn't disappoint, striking out 13 in 7 innings (2 in every inning except the 7th, he must have been tiring), Walter Payton led us in "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", and Brant Brown was the hero in the 11th inning, homering off John Rocker as the Cubs pulled one out.
Mike D - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 08:01 AM EDT (#291331) #
I've been lucky enough to have been to Wrigley twice. It actually is the Friendly Confines -- the concession staff and ushers are tangibly friendlier than at any other stadium I've been to.

Mathesond, a quick Chicago question for you. I'll be in town when the Jays are in a week and a half. Do White Sox scalpers sell for less than the box office these days?
Lugnut Fan - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 08:04 AM EDT (#291332) #

I used to go to Wrigley every year and I love that ballpark.  It can be painful getting in and out of if you drive there, so I recommend taking the L train.

Wrigley is one of the only ballparks left that you have to be concious of where your seats are.  You can be seated behind a post or if you get to high, you can have half the field blocked by the overhang from the upper deck.  I haven't been there since the Ricketts family bought the team and I don't really care for what he has done in the years since. 

As far as the "other" ballpark in Chicago "affectionately and adequately referred to as The Cell", there is one endearing piece you can find on the outside.  If you look hard enough in the parking lots, you can find the old home plate from Comiskey Park.

mathesond - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 10:34 AM EDT (#291337) #
Hi Mike,

I actually moved away from Chicago in 2004, so I can't say for sure - but I suspect there shouldn't be much of an issue getting tickets either way. Be forewarned, the steps in the upper deck at the Cell are very steep!
Lylemcr - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 10:50 AM EDT (#291338) #


The thing I liked about Wrigley was that people entertained themself with watching baseball.  No gimics like racing sailboats,etc. 

Left field sucks!

Gerry - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 11:09 AM EDT (#291342) #
Sorry to disagree Lyle but when I was there people entertained themselves by drinking beer.

I have two major memories of my trip to Wrigley. One is that there were always 3-4 beer vendors in the aisle, getting between me and watching the game. That led, a few innings later, to people standing to go to get rid of the beer. I couldn't say I had an uniterrupted view of the game.

The second memory is that when I first came out from the concourse it felt like you were on top of the field. I can't describe why, but it seemed like you were almost beside the players who were stretching at the time. Wrigley and the old Tiger stadium give me a feeling of being really close to the field.
#2JBrumfield - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 11:35 AM EDT (#291344) #
My first game at Wrigley was late in the 2002 season when the Cubs played the Reds and lost 8-2. I just remember former Jay Alex Gonzalez homering for the Cubs, Sammy Sosa doing nothing, Hee Sop Choi batting clean-up and Ryan Dempster firing a complete game for the Reds. Checking the box score, Matt Clement really stunk out the joint by giving up four homers. It was one of those rare nights when the Cubs and White Sox were both in town that same night but when I called the Cubs ticket office to see if tickets were available, the choice was easy to make. Singing Take Me Out To The Ballgame that night was Chicago native George Wendt, aka Norm from Cheers. I sat to the right of the press box in the upper deck for most of the game before sneaking down to the first base side in the ninth.

My other trip to Wrigley was in 2007 as my younger brother got bleacher seats for this game between the Brewers and Cubs, a battle of the top two teams in the NL Central. The Brewers crushed the Cubs 13-4 that day but the Cubbies would get the last laugh by eventually winning the division. I remember it being hot as hell that day and I was never more thankful for a beer in my life when my brother bought one for me. A lot of Brewer fans made the trip. I also remember a sign at a bar before the game behind the stadium saying absolutely no Miller products were sold there. Now that's a rivalry! The bleacher experience is pretty cool and should be experienced by every fan.
Dewey - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 12:27 PM EDT (#291346) #
Very nice appreciation, Eephus.  Brought back several memories.  I’ve mentioned a few on here before;  so I won’t repeat them.  But there are a couple of features of the park that seldom get mentioned.  One is the ‘wells’ or recessed parts of the outfield corners -- more so in right than in left.  The wall juts in about 10 feet or so in right (less in left?) for maybe 75 or 80 feet.  And there is a service door built into the wall there (in right).  Hard liners can ricochet around in that corner very unpredictably, depending on where exactly they hit, and how.  This makes for a lot of triples; and exciting throws from right-fielders attempting to throw out would-be triplers.  Lotsa fun.

As Gerry says, when you walk into the park from the main gate, and up the steps to the concourse, you are above the playing field and very close to it.  Never fails to impress.  (Roger Angell described this sort of entry to a ballpark in one of his superb essays.)

The second memory is triggered by your photo of the ramps going up from the concourse.  Way back in the 1940’s there used to be a row, or two(?) of seats suspended under the overhang to the second deck along the third-base side, called (then)  “mezzanine” seats.  I don’t remember how you got one of those seats, but they were great -- almost like having a private box.  I think now that’s what they are, in fact, gussied up ‘suites’ for the very well-to-do.

It’s a wonderful ballpark, partly because of the relative absence of incessant ‘music’ and phony ‘contests’ and scoreboard ‘excitements’.  It’s certainly worth visiting and exploring a bit if possible.  Yes there can be drunks.  Just like at the Dome.  And potty-mouthed bozos of all sorts.  Just like at the Dome.  Great park anyway.  Thanks for the write-up.

BTW, I saw Rip Sewell pitch at Wrigley Field more than once.  And I want very much to believe that I saw him throw an eephus pitch.
JB21 - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 12:30 PM EDT (#291348) #
Been to Wrigley twice. The first was a Friday afternoon game in August. Absolutely perfect day. Three of my buddies and I sat in the left field bleachers (right field sucks!) and arrived early to get a good seat and to watch Pujols, Glaus, and Ludwick put on a show playing pepper with the buildings on Waveland ave. Jim Edmonds hit two bombs (for the Cubs) and they ended up wih a walk off win (Henry Blanco single!). All in all probably my favourite Baseball park experience, especially with the couple hours after the game spent in Wrigleyville.

The second I was in town for work and for the first time in my life decided to buy one ticket and go alone. I sat right behind the plate and watched the Cubs beat the Brewers 1-0 on a sac fly! Surprisingly fun game though, perfect summer night weather. Couldn't ask for more.

I'm going to Minute Maid and Globe Life next week and that will only leave 6 parks left for me to hit. And while PNC may be the nicest (I haven't been to AT&T yet...) Wrigley is probably the best to watch a game.
JB21 - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 12:32 PM EDT (#291349) #
very enjoyable read eephus! i look forward to this feature and suddenly feel an urgent need to visit chicago .... when is the rebuild taking place?

Now! Javy Baez is being called up today to make his major league debut.
Mike Green - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 12:35 PM EDT (#291350) #
Thanks, eephus.  Never have been to Wrigley or Chicago (aside from O'Hare).  I'll have to fix that.

we caught the Kimball bus to Addison

I had no idea that the Addison Russell acquisition was bashert.  How many rookies arrive with a street already named for them?  Will Front Street be renamed Edwin Avenue or The Way to Jose or Brett Boulevard before too long?

JB21 - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 01:19 PM EDT (#291354) #
Addison is actually the subway/train stop at Wrigley as well.

No pressure or anything...
thenewguy - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 04:58 PM EDT (#291373) #
Crazily enough, I was at the exact same Cubs game as you, Eephus. And, I caught this home run:

AND, it was my wedding day! We live in Edmonton but made the trip down to Chicago for the wedding to escape my extended family and take in some baseball. I've pretty much got the coolest wife ever.

Anyway, it was a pretty great day. :)
Mike Green - Tuesday, August 05 2014 @ 05:14 PM EDT (#291375) #

AND, it was my wedding day! We live in Edmonton but made the trip down to Chicago for the wedding to escape my extended family and take in some baseball. I've pretty much got the coolest wife ever.

Only two words for that- holy cow!
Alex Obal - Thursday, August 14 2014 @ 12:52 AM EDT (#291956) #
This was great. I too have a sudden urge to visit Chicago as soon as possible. (And the fact I just remembered I have some pictures doesn't help…)

Wrigley's innards are lit by ceiling lamps:

We're not kidding about the pillars:

No modern concourse upstairs - you get to the washrooms by a bridge between the actual seating area and the ramps:

These are the skyboxes:

Incongruous TVs in the second deck:

There is almost zero foul territory deep in the corners. There's a centimetre or two of concrete outside the foul line. Dive at your own risk:

If you like the lingering sense of despair in Toronto, Wrigley may be for you:

You'd think the Jays might be able to decorate the Dome with these kinds of memorabilia somewhere, though maybe they're pointedly not marketing themselves as a nostalgia trip. Anyway, this is cool:

So's this:

Fire department across the street - in case the bullpen outdoes itself?:

The upper deck starts to feel a bit rickety as you go down the baselines. Uneven stairs:

There's a net hanging under the ceiling in the second deck for some reason:

Possibly the best wheelchair seats in baseball:

Before each game, visitors flock to this seat:

… and most of them do this:

If we ask nicely?:

And this isn't from inside Wrigley itself, but reason #207 why Chicago is my favourite place in the US:

Mike Green - Thursday, August 14 2014 @ 09:20 AM EDT (#291959) #
Great pictures, Alex.  I especially love the last one.  I do have to go there.  Let's see Lansing, Chicago, Pittsburgh, NYC, Buffalo for the summer of 2015.  Hmm.

The Cubs' bumper crop in the farm has me taking a closer look at their organization.  In the mythical Pythagorean standings for 2014, they are 9 games out.  They've lost Samardzija and Hammel, but still have Arrieta, Wada and Wood in the rotation.  Hector Rondon is a good ace.  They will be adding Bryant and Soler to the lineup, and they should have some money to spend in the off-season.  If it doesn't happen for them in 2015, the future after that is even brighter- with Addison Russell and a boatload of talent in full-season A ball. 

TangledUpInBlue - Thursday, August 14 2014 @ 09:32 AM EDT (#291961) #
Great pictures, Alex. Gives those of us who've never been there a real flavor of what it's like.
Alex Obal - Friday, August 15 2014 @ 12:43 AM EDT (#292013) #
Hey, thanks. Spoiler alert for anyone planning a baseball road trip: New York shouldn't be a high priority. I'm degenerate enough to have seen 18 parks and I have the Yankees' and Mets' ranked 14th and 17th respectively. Lansing's a bigger deal...

Wonder if the Cubs would be interested in trading one of their prospects for one of the Jays' arms. I wouldn't mind seeing Alcantara in Toronto.
smcs - Friday, August 15 2014 @ 01:30 AM EDT (#292014) #
I'm degenerate enough to have seen 18 parks and I have the Yankees' and Mets' ranked 14th and 17th respectively.

Now I'm curious. What is 18th?
Alex Obal - Friday, August 15 2014 @ 06:36 AM EDT (#292015) #
It's in a class by itself.
A Day At The Ballpark -- Wrigley Field | 22 comments | Create New Account
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