Take the Tour of Wrigley Field
I am a seasoned veteran of the Wrigley Field experience. I’ve forgotten the number of times I’ve sat in the sunbaked bleachers, the covered upper deck, or near the “Ferris Bueller” seats down the third base line. If you’ve spent a lot of time in a ballpark do you consider the ballpark tour still worth it? I headed to Chicago to find out.
If you haven’t been to Wrigley Field in recent years, you might not recognize the place. The team’s new business offices and a hotel, currently under construction, on the west side are some of the big differences to greet you when you arrive.
The tour began with our guide, Robert Daniels, asking us to have a seat in the stands for a quick history lesson. For the next few minutes he proceeded to tell us many interesting stories and went over the features of the ballpark. Our group heard many stories; from the reasons for the ivy that adorns the outfield walls, to the iconic scoreboard in center field, to some shady dealings by the original owners in order to get more money out of the fans.
Perhaps the most interesting story was the origin of the phrase “that came out of left field.” Legend has it that this phrase was born at the West Side Grounds. Which is the ballpark the Cubs played at before Wrigley was built. Beyond the left field wall was a psychiatric hospital. The building was without air conditioning, so in the summer the windows would be open. Some of the patients would watch the game and some would occasionally make strange noises that, to the fans….came out of left field.
From the stands we headed to the visitor’s locker room. To say the locker room was underwhelming would be an understatement. It was just the basics, with a couple of televisions up on the walls. One of the great stories to come from this humble stop is the fact we were in the last existing locker room that Jackie Robinson put on his number 42.
A quick football story involved legendary Bears coach George Halas (the Bears played at Wrigley Field from 1921 to 1970). Word is that he despised the Packers so much that he ordered someone to turn off the hot water in the showers whenever they visited Wrigley to play the Bears. At one point in its history, the locker room was so small that Major League Baseball wouldn’t allow Wrigley Field to host an All-Star game until a few improvements were made.
The press box was the next stop. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the press box other than it truly gives a spectacular view of the ballpark and the surrounding buildings on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues. There are some nice photos of legendary broadcasters Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse along with many of the celebrities that have visited the booth over the years.
The high point of visiting the bleachers was the story of the bleacher bum races. These particular races involved one “bum” starting at the left field line and the other “bum” at the right field line. Under the scoreboard in center field was a pretty woman holding a cold beer. Once the race started, the bums would run on the wall to center field and then up the stairs. Whichever fellow got to the beer first, he was able to drink it. Running on top of a brick wall wasn’t exactly easy, especially a few drinks into the game. The impending disasters are the reason there are now baskets that run from foul line to foul line.
The tour wrapped up with a visit to the home team dugout. Most people took the opportunity to get pictures sitting where their heroes like Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Ryne Sandberg all sat during their careers.
The tour took 90 minutes and the time flew by. Walking around the old ballpark was an enjoyable experience. Cubs fan or not, Wrigley Field veteran or not, a tour of Wrigley Field should be on any sports fan’s schedule next time they visit Chicago.
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