The Mets will attempt to lick their wounds from losing two of three to the Yankees when they open a three-game series tonight at Wrigley Field, still a charm after all these years.
Built in 1912, the same year as Fenway Park, Wrigley Field remains a captivating place. It’s not an easy venue for a writer to work, but that’s our problem. It’s also not a comfortable place for players with small clubhouses and a cramped dugout.
For the visitors to get to the dugout, they must walk down a couple of flights of stairs and then weave their way through several halls (you could call them tunnels), the last two usually stank and wet.
But, the old time charm is what makes it worthwhile. The ivy on the brick walls, the rooftop seats across the street (a windfall for the building owners and the Cubs), the manually operated scoreboard in center field. All that takes us to a different time.
When you look past the center field bleachers you can see downtown Chicago. But, in that park you’ve escaped the hustle of today to a quieter, gentler time.
The seating for the fans is cramped and often obstructed, but Wrigley Field is still a tradition baseball and the Cubs are not willing to sacrifice. It’s been said in most years if you traded the Cubs roster for the White Sox roster there likely wouldn’t be a dramatic shift in attendance or fan support, because the real star is Wrigley Field.
(This year the Sox are significantly better, so that theory might not apply. But, we’re talking years when the teams have roughly the same record).
The fans are closer to the field than most parks (Fenway is the same), which generates a different feel and ambience. It’s like you’re a part of something. When a 10-year old can actually exchange a hello from a player during the game, that’s special.
In a concession to today’s economic realities of television advertising, the Cubs are playing more night games than ever. Although it has been decades since their last World Series appearance (they last came close in 2003 and would have made it had it not been for Steve Bartman), they have had playoff teams so it’s not an impossible concept.
Even without the luxury boxes other teams deem vital for their survival, the Cubs plod along. Once owned by the chewing gum company and later the syndicate that owns the Chicago Tribune, and now owned by the family trust of billionaire Joe Ricketts, the money is there to spend if they truly wanted.
They don’t jump into the deep end of the salary pool because the main attraction is an ancient stadium that is always filled, so what incentive do the Cubs have to spend more?
They build it and the people came, and they are still coming.