Thursday, 21 July 2011

Baseball Memories at Wrigley Field

If you visit Chicago and you’re a sports fan, a visit to Wrigley Field is a must. This is the home of the Chicago Cubs or the ‘Cubbies’ as they are affectionately known here. Certainly I can’t lay claim to any in depth knowledge of baseball, but a few years ago I bought a book on the history of baseball after watching a brilliant Ken Burns documentary and it was from there that I learned of this iconic sports stadium. Built in 1914, this is one of the last of the old time ‘ball parks’ which still remain in the US and can be found in the northern suburban neighbourhood of Lakeview. It retains many of the original features such as its famous Art Deco marquee entrance sign, the traditional hand turned metal scoreboard and ivy covered out field walls (the last professional ballpark to do so). The dimensions of the stadium have not changed since 1934, however the crowd attendance has been expanded over the years with local residents building small bleacher stands on the rooftops of the surrounding buildings, providing yet another unique feature to Wrigley Field. During my visit I joined one of their regular tours of the ground that provides you with a great insight into both this historic ground and the Cubs. Our guide entertained us with numerous stories of the traditions, glory days and disappointments of Chicago’s favourite team. While its cross town rivals the Chicago White Sox have had more recent success, Cubs fans seem to out number them. This conclusion is not statistical, but simply based upon the amount of t-shirts you see being worn around town and the attention they appear to get in the media. However, their popularity is certainly not based upon their success, after all it is 102 years since they actually won a world series! It seems that they have a long tradition of breaking their fans hearts, but still they stay loyal and in fact the fan base continues to grow. As witnessed on my tour, it is a family club that retains its ties to simpler times. At each home game the crowd still sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ before every game; just one of the many other traditions that still that hold firm. Support for the club is certainly generational, as fans reassure themselves that if or when a national championship victory finally arrives, the long wait will make it all the more sweeter. There appears to be no resentment towards the club for their lack of success, the fans clearly love it and celebrate the many happy times spent at Wrigley Field. They certainly won me over and I will be joining their legion of loyal supporters, if only from afar.

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