This season marks the 102nd year that Wrigley Field has been an American fixture. The endearing cathedral has a rich history that spans across the world of sports. While the iconic stadium may lack championships, it makes it up in heart. Learn about some interesting tidbits and facts about one of the true gems of Chicago.
Wrigley Field was built in 1914 and originally named Weeghman Park after fast food mogul Charles Weeghman and owner of the Chicago Chi-Feds, which were later called the Chicago Whales of the the Chicago Federal League who played there. It was then named Cubs Park between 1920 and 1926 before being renamed for the Cubs team owner and chewing gum tycoon, William Wrigley, Jr.
The Cubs have never won a championship at Wrigley Field. When the Cubs won their two championships in 1907 and 1908 they called West Side Park their home. The Chicago Whales however did bring a championship to Wrigley, winning the Federal League Championship in 1915.
Wrigley’s famous ivy was planted in 1937 by Bill Veeck, who later owned the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Chicago White Sox. It was originally 350 bittersweet plants and 200 Boston ivy plants, but the ivy eventually took over the entire outfield wall.
Before the Bears played at Wrigley, Joa the Cub did. A live bear cub, greeted fans at the first National League game at the stadium in 1916. Local zookeeper Cy Devry led Joa around the park and even to home plate.
No baseball has ever hit the Wrigley Field scoreboard. However a golf ball has. In 1951 Hall of Fame golfer Sam Sneed teed off from home plate with a 4-iron and a 2-iron and two golf balls and actually hit the scoreboard. Another golf ball sailed over the scoreboard.
Wrigley Field did not get lights until 1988. They were scheduled to receive lights in the early 1940’s, but P.K. Wrigley donated the materials to the war effort. Originally the city of Chicago issued an ordinance against night games because the lights would be a nuisance to people that live nearby. A resolution was finally agreed upon and the first night game at Wrigley occurred on Aug. 8, 1988 when 91-year-old Cubs fan Harry Grossman turned on the lights.
There are stories that players would hide baseballs in the ivy in case they couldn’t find the actual ball in play. Cubs slugger and “Mayor of Wrigley,” Hank Sauer used the ivy to hide pounches of chewing tobacco.
Many movies have been filmed in or around Wrigley Field including The Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, About Last Night, A League of Their Own, Rookie of the Year, The Break-Up, and The Babe. Meanwhile these television shows feature scenes set at Wrigley, ER, Crime Story, Chicago Hope, Prison Break, Perfect Strangers, My Boys and Family Guy.
Harry Caray’s famous seventh-inning stretch rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” almost never happened. Radio producer and broadcaster Jay Scott asked Caray about singing the song, but Caray wouldn’t do it. So one game Scott sneakily turned the mikes on in the announcer’s booth without telling Caray and that is how the magnificent tradition began.
On June 13, 1956 during a game between the Cubs and the Giants, a fan’s car was hit by not one but by two home run balls. The fan had the misfortune when he parked his car outside the ballpark on Waveland Avenue. Eddie Miksis of the Cubs and Giants Willie Mays both hit the parked car with home runs.
Babe Ruth’s infamous “Called Shot” allegedly happened at Wrigley. During the 1932 World Series with score tied at four in the fifth inning Ruth apparently pointed to centerfield to gesture where he was going to hit the ball. With two strikes on him Ruth smashed a curveball that went at least 440 feet to the deepest part of center field near the flag pole.
Wrigley was the first place that started playing the Star Spangled Banner before sporting events.