Wrigley Field. What can we say? Delightfully (and accurately) referred to as “The Friendly Confines,” this one-of-a-kind venue was completed in 1914 as Weeghman Park, has been home to the Chicago Cubs since 1916, and is the second oldest ballpark in the majors behind Boston’s Fenway Park (a whopping two years older). Maybe it’s the charming neighborhoods that flank Wrigley’s irregular city block on all sides, maybe it’s the lush ivy-covered brick outfield wall (the only major league field without padded outfield walls, grandfathered in after a MLB rule change), maybe it’s the iconic bright-red marquee behind the home plate entrance, maybe it’s the hand-turned scoreboard that’s been in place since 1937, maybe it’s the complete and utter absence of a single parking lot, or maybe it’s the fact that lights weren’t even added for baseball after dark until 1988. Bottom line for us: there’s no better place to watch America’s game. Period.
The atmosphere of Wrigley Field strikes you when you are still blocks away from 1060 West Addison Street. The area immediately around the ballpark is affectionately known as “Wrigleyville” and sports all the bars, eateries, and otherwise fun establishments you could ask for. One even has a batting cage inside! As we approached Wrigley across the street, and the red light from the marquee bounced off our faces, the crowds were happy (even with a short rain delay before our first on 9/25/18), the sky was clear, and we were giddy. We found the ballpark personnel to be friendly and ever-present, the venue was easy to navigate, and boy oh boy was the ivy green and full. Everything about this ballpark feels small and old, but you easily forgive the former because of the latter. As a matter of fact, you quickly fall in love with the limited concession options inside the venue, the irregular ramps and catwalks to the upper sections, and yes, even the troughs in the men’s restrooms. The whole place is a time machine.
We enjoyed taking in the game from the outfield seats with the infamous “Bleacher Bums” (with whom we’d gladly affiliate) as well as from the top level behind home plate, and the ballpark is really split between these two areas: first come, first served general admission bleacher seats across the entire outfield, and two levels of seating between the foul poles (a deep, gently sloped lower section and a shorter, steeper top section). Because this ballpark is so old, the “club” or “suite” level was a literal afterthought, and that’s awesome. Hard to believe it seats in excess of 40,000 people when every seat has a decent view and you can leisurely walk around the outside of Wrigley in about 7 minutes…which we of course did.
We enjoyed Chicago-style hot dogs, fries, nachos, and Pepsi in generic souvenir cups (the one and only disappointment). The rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was livelier than we’ve ever experienced, the blue in the crowd was overwhelming, and you simply can’t help but grin from ear to ear when the home team wins and 40,000 Chicagoans sing Steve Goodman’s “Go Cubs Go!” That corporate singing is followed by the playing of the classic “Sweet Home Chicago” during which you realize the game ended minutes ago and no one wants to leave. It’s a party. And it’s Thursday.
On this particular night, the Cubbies beat the Pirates 3-0 on the backs of a solid start by Jon Lester, and some timely offense. Truth be told, the beauty of Wrigley is that, in some ways, what happens on the field is superfluous to why you’re there. The world stops for three hours. The crack of the bat, the green of the ivy, and the smell of beer and hot dogs overwhelms your senses like never before, and you’re simply spending an evening in a park with green grass. A baseball game just happens to be why you’re all there.
We made our way behind home plate, tried three different times to get a decent picture taken of us by someone sober enough to do so (each failed attempt as pleasant as can be), and then begrudgingly gathered up our things and walked out, not knowing the next time we’d be back. But knowing we both would. How could one not? With the bright red marquee at our backs shining with “Cubs Win,” one can always remember this: when nothing seems right in the world, baseball still gets played at Wrigley Field…and it’s magical.