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.