Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field — the most human park in baseball — turns 100-years-old


Happy birthday, Wrigley Field! Or as it was known when it opened on this date in 1914, Weeghman Park, home to the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. Today it hosts the Cubs and Diamondbacks, who may be better than the Chicago Whales, but that’s not saying much given that all of the Whales players would be, like, 130-years-old today. If you think the Dbacks are gritty . . .

Anyway, there shall be a grand celebration. There is a 400-pound cake. Bud Selig will be there. The crowd will likely sing to the ballpark and 100 years of memories — most of them sad or dubious in terms of baseball greatness — will be shared.

It’s the dubiousness of those memories which give some Cubs fans mixed feelings. Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo is one of them. Today he expresses the ambivalence many Cubs fans have about a park with zero in the way of championship history to celebrate. A park which has defined the organization far more than any one of the teams it has hosted has. Which makes all of this weird. Parks tend to be remembered for what has happened within their walls, not simply because the walls haven’t fallen down after all of this time.

Still, there’s no denying that Wrigley is worth celebrating. As I said when I visited Wrigley last year, it’s hard to say anything about Wrigley Field that hasn’t already been said. And that almost everything that has been said about it, no matter how superficially contradictory, is pretty much true. It is charming. It is a dump. It is a great place to watch baseball. It contains a whole hell of a lot of people not watching baseball. I can’t think of a park which has the whole of baseball experiences in it, both bad and good, like Wrigley Field does.

RELATED: Photos of Wrigley through the years

Lately we’ve been talking a lot about its renovation. It’s decaying in many ways and has to get that renovation. It’s not some Field of Dreams-style jewel that must be preserved lest baseball lose its very soul, but if it doesn’t get carefully preserved, baseball will certainly lose something. The essence of the place is right. The Cubs may not have given their fans a championship since moving in, but they have done a great job of presenting a nicely unadorned baseball game in an urban setting. Some teams, like the Braves, are leaving urban areas because they think it’s too much hassle or that they can’t make enough money there. Most other teams are sticking in or returning to urban areas, but have totally forgotten the part about the games being best when unadorned. In Wrigley there are a lot of post-college drunkards and party people, but there’s also a nice ratio of sunshine and baseball and organ music to nonsense on the scoreboard and over the P.A. system. There is so much value in that.

Wrigley is more like a person than anything else. A person you have to admire and love. It’s old, it’s not in as good a shape as it could be and it hasn’t witnessed nearly as many accomplishments in its life as it hoped to when it was young. But if anything, it’s easier to love that kind of person than that old guy who has aced life, is richer than Croesus and looks 25 years younger than he actually is. Far more of us are like Wrigley Field than Fenway Park.

So happy birthday, Wrigley Field. You got a lot of mileage on you and your life has been defined by missed opportunities more than goals achieved, but in this you’re like a lot of us. Here’s hoping we’ve all seen as much as you when we get — if we get — to your age.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.

Marlins announcer Tommy Hutton was let go because he was “too negative”

marlins logo wide

We heard earlier this week that Marlins television analyst Tommy Hutton was let go after 19 seasons on the job. By all accounts, he’s well-liked and respected, so it smelled a little fishy with a team that has owner Jeffrey Loria calling the shots. Well, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald was told by a source close to the Marlins that Hutton was let go because he was “too negative.”

Jackson was also able to get in touch with Hutton, who provided some details about how things went down.

“I know there were times I was negative, but I thought those times were called for,” he said. “Ninety percent of what I said was positive. I tried not to be a homer, but you could tell I wanted the Marlins to do well.”

After being told that his salary wasn’t a factor in the decision, Hutton suspected that his candid, blunt analysis might be the impetus for his ouster.

So after learning his fate on Monday, he asked that question – whether they thought he was too negative — to both a Fox producer (at a meeting at Starbucks) and the Marlins’ vice president/communications (by phone).

He said the question was met with silence by both executives.

“I couldn’t get a yes or a no,” he said.

Hutton said there were three incident in recent years where he was told the Marlins were uncomfortable with something he said. He disclosed one example where he was exasperated at the ballpark’s dimensions after former catcher John Buck flew out to the warning track for the final out of a game. He was told by a Marlins vice president after the game that Loria prefer he not talk about the ballpark’s dimensions. Of course, the team is moving in the fences this winter.

To be clear, Hutton said he was told it was a “mutual decision” between the Marlins and FOX to let him go, but Jackson’s source hears that the concern about his “negativity” came from the team.

Hey, do you know the best way to prevent “negative” talk about your team? Fielding a winning baseball team without a dysfunctional ownership and front office. Crazy idea, I know, but it could be cool?

Report: Indians have been in touch with Shane Victorino

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 01:  Shane Victorino #18 of the Los Angeles Angels makes a catch for an out against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 1, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Outfield is a glaring need for the Indians, but they aren’t expected to shop for any of the big names on the free agent market. Instead, they are looking at potential bargains on short-term deals. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that Shane Victorino falls under this classification and that the veteran outfielder is among many names the Indians have contacted.

Victorino, who turns 35 on Monday, has been limited to just 101 games over the past two seasons due to injury. Coming off back surgery, he batted just .230/.308/.292 with one home run and seven RBI over 204 plate appearances this past season between the Red Sox and Angels while battling calf and hamstring injuries. It’s hard to see the upside at this point, but the Indians could promise him regular at-bats, especially with Michael Brantley likely to miss the start of the 2016 season following shoulder surgery.

The Indians have also reportedly discussed trading either Danny Salazar or Carlos Carrasco for a bat, which represents their best chance of adding a big name to their outfield this winter.

Korean slugger Byung-ho Park is reportedly traveling to Minnesota

Byung-ho Park

Could the Twins and Korean slugger Byung-ho Park be close to finalizing a contract?

According to Naver Sports (via a translated report from Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press), Park is scheduled to travel to the United States on Sunday. The 29-year-old is expected to make a quick stop in Chicago to meet with his agent, Alan Nero, before coming to Minnesota to see Twins officials and take a physical exam. If all goes well, a contract could be finalized as soon as next week.

The Twins bid $12.85 million last month to secure exclusive negotiating rights with Park. The deadline to complete a deal is December 8. If a deal is not worked out, Park would remain with the Nexen Heroes in the KBO (Korea Baseball Organization) and the Twins would not have to pay the posting fee.

Right now, it’s unclear how far along the two sides are in negotiations. However, Berardino hears that a guarantee in the range of $20-30 million is reasonable to expect.

Park, a two-time MVP in the KBO, has amassed 105 home runs in 268 games over the past two seasons. It’s hard to tell how those numbers will translate, even after the success of Jung Ho Kang this season, but the Twins are hoping he can be a middle-of-the-order force.