If you have any appreciation for major-league baseball history and lore, then you “get” this lyric from rocker Eddie Vedder’s musical love letter to the Chicago Cubs:
When you’re born in Chicago, you’re blessed and you’re healed. The first time you walk into Wrigley Field.
Vedder was far from the first to romanticize the anachronistic old baseball park in popular culture. Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ home since 1916, has long been sentimentalized in music and literature, usually portrayed as a symbol of baseball’s enduring virtues. Millions of fans worldwide (besides those of the rival Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals) cherish the park and what it represents, even those who’ve never seen it in person. It’s one of the best sports venues anywhere, well worth adding to—and checking off—your vacation bucket list.
Originally called Weeghman Park, the sports landmark opened in 1914 as home to the Chicago Whales of a then-third major league, the Federal League, which lasted just two seasons. Though the Cubs haven’t won a World Series in the first 99 years as its main occupant, Wrigley Field has been home to some of the game’s legends (Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown, Ernie Banks, the immortal Harry Caray), legendary moments (Babe Ruth’s Called Shot, Gabby Hartnett’s Homer in the Gloamin’) and greatest gaffes (“The Bartman Game”). Its famous nickname, “The Friendly Confines,” came from Banks himself, the beloved “Mr. Cub.” It’s where Banks hit his 500th home run, a momentous feat in Chicago sports.
The ballpark’s signature features—intimate size, neighborhood setting, ivy-covered, brick outfield walls fronting iconic bleachers—harken to a lost generation of parks such as Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, and the only other survivor from that era, Fenway Park in Boston.
And until recently, as you may have heard (probably from White Sox and Cardinals fans), some of the old park’s physical infrastructure and amenities—especially its antiquated men’s restrooms—also harkened to that era.
But those facilities and other age-related shortcomings were remedied in 2015 in one phase of ongoing renovations. The project has been Wrigley Field’s first major update since 1988 when the park became the last in the majors to add lights for night games. The 2015 phase also included expansion of concession areas and the bleachers, plus left- and right-field video boards that flank, and actually dwarf, the original hand-operated scoreboard in center field.
In other words, if you’re a sports fan who’s never been to Wrigley Field, don’t worry about what you’ve missed. Now is the best time ever to see the park, It’s never been more fan-friendly. And the baseball team—which most years has been an incidental secondary draw for fans actually coming to experience the ballpark—is creating actual excitement rather than corny “Wait Till Next Year” Cub fan optimism.
If the Cubs are in town, enjoy a sunny afternoon or warm evening in the bleachers. If they’re on the road, enjoy a behind-the-scenes stadium tour.
Baseball fans from all over the country make Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona an essential stop on their spring training vacations. That’s testimony to an enduring national fascination with the Cubs and their unique lore.
For 100 years, Wrigley Field in Chicago has been the fountain of that lore. Which makes it a venue that not just baseball fans, but all sports fans, should experience.