[UCP Books]: Wrigley Field: The Long Life and Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines

"Amid Wrigley Field’s birthday revels much will be reported about its vines, its scoreboard, its goat, its very origin—much of it not quite so. More than any other American institution, baseball most wholeheartedly welcomes half-baked history and curdled lore. But more often than not the real stories are even more delicious, and no one has gathered more of them than author Stuart Shea. His book is an unceasing delight"—John Thorn, official historian, Major League Baseball

Wrigley Field

The Long Life and Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines

By Stuart Shea

US Publication Date: March 25, 2014 Foreign Publication Date: April 7, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-226-13427-7 Paper $20.00/£14.00

 

 

Wrigley Field: The Long Life and Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines is a detailed and fascinating chronicle of a living landmark. The colorful history revealed by Chicago local Stuart Shea shows how the stadium has evolved through the years to meet the shifting priorities of its owners and changing demands of its fans. While Wrigley Field today seems irreplaceable, we learn that from game one it has been the subject of endless debates over its future, its design, and its place in the neighborhood. To some, it is a hallowed piece of baseball history; to others, an icon of mismanagement and ineptitude. Shea deftly navigates the highs and lows, breaking through myths and rumors. And with another transformation imminent, he brings readers up to date on negotiations, giving much-needed historical context to the maneuvering.

Wrigley Field is packed with facts, stories, and surprises that will captivate even the most fair-weather fan. As the park celebrates its centennial, Wrigley Field continues to prove that its colorful and dramatic history is more interesting than any of its mythology.

Stuart Shea is an editor and contributor to The Baseball Encyclopedia: The Complete and Definitive Record of Major League Baseball, The Emerald Guide to Baseball, Who’s Who in Baseball, and SABR’s Baseball Research Journal. He lives in Chicago, twenty-four blocks north of Wrigley Field.

SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT WRIGLEY FIELD

 

Wrigley Field was not built for the Cubs
Wrigley Field, the National Leauges’s oldest park, was first named Weeghman Park; Charley Weeghman, owner of the then-unnamed Chicago club in the new Federal League, bought the land and constructed the park in 1914. After the Federal League folded in 1915, Weeghman bought the Cubs and moved them from the West Side Grounds to the North Side. Gum magnate Bill Wrigley bought the team in 1919 and later renamed the park.

 

A horse once lived at Wrigley Field
In 1914, Charley Weeghman built a small stable under the third-base stands, where he kept Queen Bess, an old mare that had previously pulled a downtown pie wagon. Occasionally, Bess pulled the lawn mower when the ballpark grass needed to be cut. At nights, with the team out of town, the mare had the run of the diamond.

 

Fans weren’t always allowed to keep foul balls
In 1916, as Cubs owner, Charley Weeghman started to allow fans to keep fouls. Previously, National League rules had prohibited the practice.

 

Wrigley Field was the site of many Labor Wars
The construction of Wrigley Field in 1914 was delayed by a builders’ strike. On Sunday night, April 15, 1923, after nonunion contractors refurbished Cubs Park’s plumbing system, a wrecking crew affiliated with a local union busted into the park and did $10,000 worth of damage, destroying the facilities and scattering the scabs’ tools.

 

Beer was not sold at Wrigley until 1933, and it wasn’t sold before prohibition
Surprisingly, alcohol was not sold at Wrigley Field in the old days. A city ordinance may have prohibited ballpark beer; the White Sox had never sold alcohol at Comiskey Park, which opened in 1911, only vending suds after the repeal of prohibition. By 1933, everyone had had enough of over-regulation, and beer sales flourished.

 

Wrigley Field once had cigarette vendors
Forget today’s no-smoking ban. In 1933, the Cubs employed young ladies in white dresses, high heels, and bonnets to sell cigarettes to box seat patrons.


Wrigley Field almost had lights in the early 1940s
Cubs owner P. K. Wrigley was finally ready to install lights in Wrigley Field for the 1942 season. Only the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor kept this from occurring. Wrigley, always ambivalent about lights, instead donated the steel and electrical equipment to the War Department.

 

Despite the lack of lights, Wrigley Field hosted all sorts of evening events
Despite P.K. Wrigley’s claim that he didn’t want to disturb the neighborhood with night baseball, club management used temporary lighting to put on various evening shows from 1914 through the 1950s, including vaudeville, basketball, girls’ baseball, religious gatherings, fireworks, and even ski jumping.

 

“The Star-Spangled Banner” was not played regularly at Wrigley until the 1960s
Many, including Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley, felt that playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before something as trivial as a baseball game was disrespectful, especially during peacetime.

 

P. K. Wrigley considered installing artificial turf in the late 1960s
Wrigley, always seeking efficiency, used artificial turf to pad the dugouts and the center-field hitting background during the sixties. For economic reasons, he also considered laying it on the playing surface. It took the White Sox’ failed artificial turf experiment in the late 60s and early 70s to convince Wrigley to stay with the real thing.


From Wrigley Field: The Long Life and Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines by Stuart Shea, University of Chicago Press
 

 

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