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Chicago's Wrigley Field

By Wikipedia

Wrigley Field is a sports stadium in Chicago, Illinois which was built in 1914 for the Chicago Federal League baseball team, the Chicago Whales and which became the home of the Chicago Cubs in 1916. It was also the home of the Chicago Bears of the National Football League from 1921-1970.

With its unique ivy-covered, brick outfield walls, Wrigley was the last Major League Baseball stadium to install lights. You can read about the first night game at Wrigley, and the controversy behind the decision to use them, here.

At a glance...
WRIGLEY FIELD
Facility statistics
Location 1060 West Addison Street
Chicago, Illinois 60613
Broke ground March 4, 1914
Opened April 23, 1914
Replaced West Side Grounds
Owner Charlie Weeghman (1914-16)
Chicago Cubs (1916-)
Surface Merion Bluegrass & clover
Construction
cost
$250,000
Architect Zachary Taylor Davis
Former names
Weeghman Park (1914-1919)
Cubs Park (1920-1925)
Tenants
Chicago Whales (Federal League 1914-15)
Chicago Cubs (MLB, 1916-)
Chicago Bears (NFL, 1921-1970)
Seating capacity
14,000 (1914)
18,000 (1915)
20,000 (1923)
38,396 (1927)
40,000 (1928)
38,396 (1938)
38,000 (1939)
38,396 (1941)
38,690 (1949)
36,755 (1951)
36,644 (1965)
37,702 (1972)
37,741 (1973)
37,272 (1982)
38,040 (1986)
38,143 (1987)
39,600 (1989)
38,710 (1990)
38,765 (1994)
38,884 (1997)
38,902 (1998)
Dimensions
Left Field - 355 ft
Left-Center - 368 ft
Center Field - 400 ft
Right-Center - 368 ft
Right Field - 358 ft
Backstop - 60 ft

The ballpark was originally named Weeghman Park for the Whales' club owner, Charles Weeghman, who obtained a 99-year lease on the property from the city. The field became the home of the Chicago Cubs following the 1915 season when the Federal League was disbanded. Weeghman had gained part ownership of the Cubs, and moved the club to his new north side facility, abandoning legendary (and wooden) West Side Park.

William Wrigley, Jr., the chewing gum magnate, was part of that group of investors, led by Weeghman, which purchased the team. Wrigley gained full ownership in 1919 after Weeghman suffered financial setbacks and had to sell his shares. The field was then called Cubs Park from 1920 to 1925 before it was expanded and named after Wrigley in 1926. "Cubs Park" is still sometimes used as an alternate name.

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It is one of two parks that was named for William Wrigley; there was a Wrigley Field in Los Angeles that was home to the Los Angeles Angels, a Pacific Coast League team which Wrigley also owned. The park was used for a short time by the expansion California Angels.

Located in the residential neighborhood of Lakeview, Wrigley Field sits on an asymmetric block bounded by Clark and Addison Streets, Waveland and Sheffield Avenues. As every fan of the movie The Blues Brothers knows, the ballpark's mailing address is 1060 W. Addison Street. During Cubs games, Cub fans will stand on Waveland Avenue, waiting for home runs literally hit out of the park. (However, Cubs fans -- whether inside or outside the park -- will promptly return any home run ball hit by an opposing player.)

Wrigley Field is nicknamed The Friendly Confines, a phrase popularized by "Mister Cub", Hall of Famer Ernie Banks. With a capacity of under 40,000, Wrigley is the third-smallest ballpark being used in 2005. It is the second oldest active major league ballpark (behind Fenway Park) and the only remaining Federal League park. Wrigley Field had an original seating capacity of 14,000 and cost $250,000 to build.

Ivy Covered Walls

As with so many other "innovations," you can thank Bill Veeck (as in wreck) for the ivy. Wrigley Field is known for the ivy planted against the outfield wall, which Veeck had planted in 1937. The manual scoreboard beyond center field is also a Veeck creation (though it pales in comparison to the exploding one he had built for Comiskey Park). No batted ball has ever hit the scoreboard, though Sam Snead did manage to hit it with a golf ball teed off from home plate.

For some time prior to 1937, the Wrigley outfield was rather more spacious, though not initially. The early history is explained well in A Day at the Park, by William Hartel, 1994. There were other buildings on the west side of the property in 1914, and this compelled the designers to squeeze the structure between those buildings, resulting in the ballpark having a short right field, some 298 feet to the outer wall. The only bleachers were in the left and center field areas. The stands were single-decked, and also narrower than they are now, with the box seat railing being some 7 or 8 feet above ground. This was the park's configuration for its first 9 seasons.

During the off-season between 1922 and 1923, with the extraneous buildings cleared off, engineers took the unusual move of slicing the single-deck grandstand in two places, and rolling those stands 60 feet to the west. The gap was filled in with more seating, resulting in the noticeable "dog leg" in the stands on the first base side, barely visible at the lower right of the "friendly confines" photo accompanying this article. The diamond and the foul lines were rotated 3 degrees counterclockwise, providing room for additional rows of box seats all around foul ground, but resulting in a shallower left field. So the bleachers were removed from that area and re-installed across right field. It was then about 360 feet to the outer right field wall, but an inner fence was constructed to cut the distance to 321.

Weeghman Park!

View of construction taking place at the Federal League ballpark to be called Weeghman Park (later renamed Wrigley Field) located at 1060 West Addison Street and bounded by West Waveland Avenue, North Seminary Avenue, North Clark Street, and North Sheffield Avenue in the Lake View community area of Chicago, Illinois. Men are standing on the grounds, and a horse-drawn wagon is visible in the foreground..

Photo courtesy of LOC


FIRSTS at WRIGLEY FIELD
Game
04/23/1914 Kansas City Packers 1,
Chicago Whales 9
Umpires Bill Brennan, Barry McCormick
Managers Joe Tinker, Whales
  George Stovall, Packers
Starting Pitchers Claude Hendrix, Whales
  Chief Johnson, Packers
Ceremonial Pitch Chicago Corp. Counsel Sexton
Attendance 21,000
Batting
Batter Chet Chadbourne (ground out)
Hit John Potts (single)
Run Dutch Zwilling
RBI Jack Farrell
Single John Potts
Double Rollie Zeider
Triple Rollie Zeider (04/25/1914)
Home Run Art Wilson
Grand Slam Rollie Zeider (05/06/1914)
IPHR Harry Swacina (05/17/1915)
Stolen Base Ted Easterly, Chet Chadbourne
(04/26/1914)
Sacrifice Hit Jack Farrell (04/25/1914)
Sacrifice Fly Art Wilson (04/26/1914)
Cycle Hack Wilson (06/23/1930 NL)
Pitching
Win Claude Hendrix
Loss Chief Johnson
Shutout Mike Prendergast, Doc Watson
(05/04/1914)
Save (unknown)
Hit by Pitch Pete Henning hit Max Flack
(04/26/1914)
Wild Pitch Dwight Stone
Balk (unknown)
No-Hitter Fred Toney (05/02/1917 NL)
Firsts are in Federal League unless marked NL.
Primary research by Jim Herdman & David Vincent
Courtesy of Retrosheet
.

During the mid-1920s, the ballpark was upper-decked in two stages, the third-base (shady) side first, and then the first-base (sunny) side. But the bleachers were set. By the early 1930s, distance markers were posted: left field line, 364 feet; left-center against the outer wall, 372; left center, corner of bleachers, 364; deep center field, 440; right center, 354; right field line, 321.

In 1937, the Cubs announced plans to rebuild the bleachers in concrete instead of wood, to be fronted by brick that would soon be covered in ivy, and to build a new scoreboard. To make the outfield look more symmetrical and graceful, the plans called for extending the left field bleachers to a point closer to the corner. The gentle curves between the ends of the left and right field bleachers would become known as the "wells". That summer, the Chicago Tribune ran a series of articles about major league ballparks, and the writer sharply criticized the Cubs for a remodeling that he suspected would result in too many "cheap" home runs. The writer later retracted when he saw that the final plan was somewhat more spacious than originally announced. But the results in subsequent decades speak for themselves, and it is fair to say that the Trib's original assessment was correct.

Be that as it may, construction went on behind a temporary fence during the summer, and the finished product was unveiled in time for the last month of the season. Bill Veeck's famous ivy was planted not long after, but it would be another year before it fully took hold. Another part of the arboretum was to be a series of Chinese elms on the large "stairsteps" up to the scoreboard. According to Veeck's own biography, Veeck as in Wreck, that plan did not fare so well as the winds kept blowing the leaves off. Management finally gave up, so the trees are long gone, leaving just the large bare steps. Another mistake was putting bleachers in straightaway center, which looked nice as long as you were not batting. That area has been off-limits for spectators for decades now, last used during the 1962 All-Star game. The area is now occupied by juniper plants, complementing the ivy nicely.

So by the end of 1937, the dimensions we all know and love were set: 355 feet to the left field corner, a few feet behind where the foul pole kisses the corner wall; 368 to fairly deep left-center; 400 to the deepest part of center; 368 to right center; and 353 to the right field foul pole. There are other intriguing distances, never posted. In the original Encyclopedia of Baseball, by Hy Turkin and S.C. Thompson, 1951, it revealed measurements of 357 feet to the left field "well" and 363 to the right field "well". That would put the closest point of the left end of the bleachers no more than about 350 feet from home plate, a fact many pitchers have cursed over the years. Left-center in general is shallow. Straightaway center is probably about 390. Deep center and the right field area in general are better balanced.

Wind's Blowin' Out, Wind's Blowin' In

At no other current major league ballpark does the weather affect game play as much as at Wrigley Field. In April and May the wind often comes off Lake Michigan (less than a mile to the east), which means a northeast wind "blowing in" to knock down potential home runs and turn them into outs. In the summer, however, the wind often comes from the south and the southwest, which means the wind is "blowing out" and has the potential to turn normally harmless fly balls into home runs. A third variety is the cross-wind, which typically runs from the left field corner to the right field corner and causes all sorts of interesting havoc.

Wrigley Field!
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Wrigley Field
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Many Cubs fans check their nearest flag before heading to the park on game days for an indication of what the game might be like; this is less of a factor for night games, however, because the wind does not blow as hard after the sun goes down.

With the wind blowing in, pitchers can dominate, and no-hitters have been tossed from time to time, though none recently; the last two occurred near the beginning and the end of the 1972 season, by Burt Hooton and Milt Pappas respectively. In the seventh inning of Ken Holtzman's first no-hitter, on August 19, 1969, Henry Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hammered one that looked like it was headed for Waveland, but the wind caught it just enough for left fielder Billy Williams to leap up and snare it in "the well".

With the wind blowing out, some true tape-measure home runs have been hit by well-muscled batters. Sammy Sosa and Dave "Kong" Kingman broke windows in the apartment buildings across Waveland Avenue several times. Glenallen Hill put one on a rooftop. Batters have occasionally slugged it into, or to the side of, the first row or two of the "upper deck" of the center field bleachers. Sosa hit the roof of the center field camera booth on the fly during the 2003 NLCS against the Florida Marlins, some 450 feet away.

But the longest blast was probably the one that Kingman hit on a very windy day in 1976, while with the New York Mets. There is a north-south street called Kenmore Avenue that T's into Waveland. On that one day, Kingman launched one that landed on the third porch roof on the east (center field) side of Kenmore, a shot declared with only slight exaggeration to be 550 feet on the fly.

No matter the weather, many fans congregate during batting practice and games on Waveland Avenue, behind left field, and Sheffield Avenue, behind right field, for a chance to catch a home run ball. The Cubs still play the majority of their home games during the day, though they are scheduled to play as many as 30 of their 81 home games in 2005 at night.

Da Bears

The Chicago Bears of the National Football League played at Wrigley Field from 1921 to 1970 before relocating to Soldier Field. The team had transferred from Decatur, and retained the name "Staleys" for the 1921 season. They renamed themselves the "Bears" in order to identify with the baseball team, a common practice in the NFL in those days.

Initially the Bears worked with the stands that were there. Eventually they acquired a large, portable bleacher section that spanned the right and center field areas. This "East Stand" raised Wrigley's football capacity to about 46,000. After the Bears left, it would live on for several years as the "North Stand" at Soldier Field, until it was replaced by permanent seating.

The football field ran north-to-south, i.e. from left field to the foul side of first base. The remodeling of the bleachers made for a very tight fit for the gridiron. In fact, the corner of the south end zone was literally in the visiting baseball team's dugout, which was filled with pads for safety, and required a special ground rule that sliced off that corner of the end zone. One corner of the north end line ran just inches short of the left field wall. There is a legend that Bronko Nagurski, the great Bears fullback, broke through the line, head down, and ran all the way through that end zone, smacking his leather-helmeted head on the bricks. He went back to the bench and told Coach "Papa Bear" George Halas, "That last guy gave me quite a lick!" That kind of incident prompted the Bears to hang some padding in front of the wall.

The Bears are second only to the Green Bay Packers in total NFL championships, and all but one of those came during their tenure at Wrigley. After a half-century, they found themselves compelled to move, because the NFL wanted every one of its stadiums to seat at least 50,000. The Bears had one experimental game at Dyche Stadium on the Northwestern University campus, but otherwise continued at Wrigley until they transferred to the lakefront, finally ending their long and glorious run on the north side.

In another brand of football, the professional soccer team called the Chicago Sting called Wrigley their home for awhile during the Awesome80s. Their games occurred during the baseball season, so there were no special stands in evidence, just added wear-and-tear on the field.

Up on the Roof

Old-time ballparks were often surrounded by buildings that afforded a "freebie" look at the game for enterprising souls. In most venues, the clubs took steps to either extend the stands around, or to build "spite fences" to block the view. Perhaps the most notorious of these was the one at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, which caused a rift between the residents and the team that never healed. The Cubs themselves had built a high fence along right field at West Side Park, to hide the field from flats whose back porches were right next to the outer fence of the ballpark.

But at Wrigley it was different somehow. The flat rooftops of the apartment buildings across Waveland and Sheffield, which actually pre-date the ballpark, were often populated with a reasonable number of fans having cookouts while enjoying the game for free. The Cubs tolerated it quietly, until the 1990s, when some owners of those apartments got carried away: they began building little bleacher sections, and charging people to watch the games. That was a whole different ball game, and the Cubs management became very vocal in expressing their displeasure, threatening legal action. In 2003 they went so far as to line the screens that top the outer walls with opaque strips, to block the best exterior sight lines. That was the closest thing to a spite fence that Wrigley had seen.

This led to meetings and to a peaceful settlement among the various parties. The building owners agreed to share a portion of their proceeds with the Cubs, and the Cubs obtained permission from the city to expand the bleachers out over the sidewalks and do some additional construction on the open area of the property to the west, bordered by Clark and Waveland, and to close the remnant of Seminary Avenue that also existed on the property.

First Pitch!

Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson throwing first ball for Whales, Chicago Federal League baseball team, baseball game at Weeghman Park in 1915.

Photo courtesy of LOC


Amidst this debate, a potentially more serious problem arose. On at least two separate occasions during the summer of 2004, small chunks of concrete fell from the upper deck, nearly injuring spectators. The city ordered an inspection of the 90-year-old park, and there was much concern about whether the structure was falling apart. It turned out that the pieces that fell were merely shielding around wires, not part of the main structure. To improve safety, netting was strung under the upper deck to catch any more pieces that might fall.

Wrigley on the Silver Screen

As indicated earlier, Wrigley Field had a brief cameo in the movie The Blues Brothers starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as Jake and Elwood Blues. Elwood lists 1060 W. Addison as his fake home address on his Illinois driver's license.

The ballpark was featured in a scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, starring Matthew Broderick.

An early 1990s film about Babe Ruth had the obligatory scene in Wrigley Field about the "called shot". A scoreboard similar to the one existing in 1932 was used, atop the ivy wall which of course did not exist until later in the decade.

The Natural, starring Robert Redford, had a scene set at Wrigley but it was actually filmed at All High Stadium in Buffalo, New York. The other baseball scenes in that movie were also shot in Buffalo, at the since-demolished War Memorial Stadium.

Wrigley Field was also used for a lengthy establishing scene in A League of Their Own, a Hollywood account of the women's baseball league which the eccentric but visionary Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley had, in fact, championed during World War II. Garry Marshall (older brother of the film's director Penny Marshall) has a cameo as "Walter Harvey", P.K.'s fictional alter ego. The big sign behind Wrigley Field's scoreboard was redone to read "Harvey Field".

Wrigley Field was also heavily featured in the 1993 film, Rookie of the Year. The movie is about a young boy who becomes a Cubs relief picture after injuring his arm. The injury seemed to cause a strong tension in the boy's rotator cuff, which consequently allowed him to throw a 100 mile-per-hour plus fast ball.

Pilgrimage

The Red Line stop at Addison is less than one block from Wrigley Field. The stadium was originally built where it is due to its proximity to the train tracks. At the conclusion of games the scoreboard operators will raise to the top of the scoreboard either a white flag with a blue "W" to signify a Cubs victory, or a blue flag with a white "L" to signify a loss; this is done to allow passengers on the train heading home from the Loop to see the outcome of the game.

Parking in the area remains scarce, but that does not seem to bother fans who want to come to this baseball "Mecca", which drew over 3 million fans in 2004, averaging to a near-sellout every day of the season, even with those many weekday afternoon games.

Wrigley Field has continuously evolved over its 90-plus seasons. There is relatively little left of the original that is visible to the casual viewer. One of the more obvious originals would be the brick portions of the outer bleacher wall, visible in the "back of Wrigley Field" photo that accompanies this article. It is unclear whether that wall, or a portion thereof, will be incorporated into the Cubs planned expansion of the bleachers.

Historic Moments

  • October 3, 1915 The Chicago Whales clinch the second (and last) Federal League pennant, winning the second game of a doubleheader against Pittsburgh, 3-0.
  • May 2, 1917 Jim "Hippo" Vaughn and the Cincinnati Reds's Fred Toney both pitch nine-inning no-hitters before Jim Thorpe drives in a run in the 10th inning for a Reds victory.
  • August 29, 1918 With the season ending early due to war restrictions, the Chicago Cubs clinch the National League pennant with a 1-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley. Pennant clinching dates cited herein are taken from Day by Day in Chicago Cubs History, by Art Ahrens and Eddie Gold, 1982.
  • June 26, 1920 In a high-school "inter-state championship" game between New York City's Commerce High and Chicago's Lane Tech, just-turned-17 New York boy Lou Gehrig slugs a grand slam home run to lead his team to a comeback victory.
  • August 25, 1922 The Chicago Cubs defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 26-23 in what remains the highest-scoring game in major league history (49 runs total).
  • September 18, 1929 The Chicago Cubs clinch the National League pennant, losing their game, but the second place team also loses and is eliminated on the same day.
  • September 20, 1932 The Chicago Cubs clinch the National League pennant, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2.
  • October 1, 1932 Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees hits his famous "called shot" in the 5th inning of Game 3 of the World Series.
  • September 28, 1938 Gabby Hartnett hits the "Homer in the Gloamin'" to deal a fatal blow to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had led the National League for much of the summer. The actual pennant clinching comes in St. Louis 3 days later.
  • December 29, 1963 The Chicago Bears win the NFL Championship over the New York Giants, 14-10, on a bright, clear and frigid Sunday afternoon.
  • December 12, 1965 Chicago Bears back Gale Sayers runs for a record-tying six touchdowns, as the Bears rout the San Francisco 49ers 61-20.
  • May 12, 1970 Ernie Banks hits his 500th career home run against Pat Jarvis of the Atlanta Braves.
  • September 8, 1985 Pete Rose hits his 4,190st career hit to break Ty Cobb's record. (Note: Ty Cobb's hit total was actually 4189, not 4191 meaning that Rose actually broke Cobb's record in Wrigley Field.)
  • May 6, 1998 Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs strikes out 20 Houston Astros to set the National League record and tie the major league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game; the Cubs win 2-0 as Wood gives up only one hit.
  • September 13, 1998 Sammy Sosa hits home runs 61 and 62 to pass Roger Maris and tie Mark McGwire for the all time single season home run record. McGuire would win the race 70 to 66.
  • September 28, 1998 The Chicago Cubs clinch the National League wild-card berth, defeating the San Francisco Giants in a one-game playoff, 5-3.
  • September 27, 2003 The Chicago Cubs clinch the National League Central division title, with a 7-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • October 14, 2003 In the top of the eighth inning of Game 6 of the NLCS, lifelong Cubs fan Steve Bartman attempts to catch a foul ball that leftfielder Moises Alou was attempting to catch. This incident is soon followed by walks, hits, and shortstop Alex Gonzalez's crucial error on a potentially inning-ending double play. The 8-run inning results in a Cubs loss in that game. The Cubs would also lose Game 7 to the eventual World Series-winning Florida Marlins.

Related Books for Wrigley Field:
A Day at the Park: In Celebration of Wrigley Field by William Hartel and Susan Smith.
Wrigley Field: A Celebration of the Friendly Confines
by Mark Jacob, Stephen Green and Ernie Banks.
Wrigleyville: A Magical History Tour of the Chicago Cubs by Peter Golenbock.

Related Books on Ballparks
The Ballpark Book: A Journey Through the Fields of Baseball Magic by Ron Smith and Kevin Belford.
Ballpark: The Story of America's Baseball Fields by Lynn Curlee
Ballparks: A Panoramic History by Marc Sandalow and Jim Sutton.
Ballparks by Robert Von Goeben and Red Howard.
Ballparks: Then & Now by Eric Enders.
Baseball Vacations: Great Family Trips to Minor League and Classic Major League Ballbarks Across America by Bruce Adams and Margaret Engel.
Blue Skies, Green Fields: A Celebration of 50 Major League Baseball Stadiums by Ira Rosen.
Diamonds: The Evolution of the Ballpark by Michael Gershman.
Fields of Dreams: A Guide to Visiting and Enjoying All 30 Major League Ballparks by Jay Ahuja
Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of All Major League and Negro League Ballparks by Philip J. Lowry.
Joe Mock's Ballpark Guide by Joe Mock.
Lost Ballparks: A Celebration of Baseball's Legendary Fields by Lawrence S. Ritter.
Roadside Baseball: A Guide to Baseball Shrines Across America by Chris Epting.
Take Me Out to the Ballpark: An Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present by Josh Leventhal and Jessica Macmurray.
The Ultimate Baseball Road-Trip: A Fan's Guide to Major League Stadiums by Joshua Pahigian and Kevin O'Connell.
Video: Story of America's Classic Ballparks
Video: Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns

Economics of Stadiums
:
City Baseball Magic: Plain Talk and Uncommon Sense about Cities and Baseball Parks by Philip Bess.
Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit by Joanna Cagan and Neil deMause.
Public Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle over Building Sports Stadiums by Kevin J. Delaney and Rick Eckstein.
Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums by Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist.

General Stadium Reference:
Sports Staff of USA Today. The Complete 4 Sport Stadium Guide. Fodor's, 1996.

Stadium Design and Financing References:
Philip Bess. City Baseball Magic: Plain Talk and Uncommon Sense about Cities and Baseball Parks. Knothole Press, 1999.
Joanna Cagan and Neil deMause. Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit. Common Courage Press, 1998.
Mark S. Rosentraub. Major League Losers: The Real Cost of Sports and Who's Paying for It. HarperCollins, 1997.
Kevin J. Delaney, Rick Eckstein. Public Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle over Building Sports Stadiums. Rutgers University Press, 2004.
Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist. Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums. Brookings Institution, 1997.
Dean V. Baim. The Sports Stadium as a Municipal Investment. Greenwood Publishing, 1994.
Stadia: A Design and Development Guide by Geraint John and Rod Sheard. Architectural Press, 2000.
Michelle Provoost, Matthjis Bouw and Camiel Van Winkel. The Stadium: Architecture of Mass Sport. NAI Publishers, 2000.


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FRIENDLY CONFINES

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USGS Photo

Year by Year statistics: for Wrigley Field


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