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
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.
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.
to the Wrigley Field!
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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
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.
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
courtesy of LOC
at WRIGLEY FIELD
Kansas City Packers 1,
Chicago Whales 9
Bill Brennan, Barry
Joe Tinker, Whales
George Stovall, Packers
Claude Hendrix, Whales
Chief Johnson, Packers
Chicago Corp. Counsel
Chet Chadbourne (ground
John Potts (single)
Ted Easterly, Chet
Art Wilson (04/26/1914)
Hack Wilson (06/23/1930
Mike Prendergast, Doc
Hit by Pitch
Pete Henning hit Max
Fred Toney (05/02/1917
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
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
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.
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
William Hale Thompson throwing first ball
for Whales, Chicago Federal League
baseball team, baseball game at Weeghman
Park in 1915.
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.
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.
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
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,
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
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
December 12, 1965 Chicago Bears back Gale Sayers runs for a
record-tying six touchdowns, as the Bears rout the San Francisco 49ers
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
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.
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