Wrigley Field – An Oral and Narrative History

Baseball is riddled with history, memorable characters, iconic moments, and of course incredible venues. A baseball fan is not only focused on the current time and teams. Many of us look at the present time and try to compare it with bygone eras and long forgotten players to put context around how the game has evolved.

But it’s not just the teams and the players who have made this game great. In many cases it is the stadiums and venues that leap to the top of our heads when someone mentions the word baseball.

Wrigley Field An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Chicago CubsMajor League Baseball has seen a renaissance of marrying great architecture with the game we love. Many will point to the construction of Camden Yards in Baltimore as the beginning of this trend.

For most of my childhood baseball stadiums consisted of large concrete structures that were “multi-purpose” housing baseball and football teams. Many of these structures had artificial turf, artificial facades, and in some cases artificial teams.

In contrast there were a few stadiums that brought almost a sense of religious enlightenment when you visited them. It’s no coincidence that when teams began to dream of new stadiums that they took their design cues not from the domed homogenized cookie-cutter venues but instead looked to emulate the great ballparks from when baseball like the country was just finding their ways.

Perhaps at the top of every serious baseball fan’s list of must-see places before you die is Wrigley Field in the north side of Chicago. As the oldest ballpark in the National League, this stadium has stood the test of time and in the process has become a national treasure.

I recently was provided a copy of Wrigley Field: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Chicago Cubs by Ira Berkow (ISBN-13: 978-1-58479-915-3) thanks to my good friends at Press Box Publicity. I had expected a coffee table book filled with some of the countless photos of this stadium during the past century. What I didn’t expect was the rich details that Berkow provided to the readers.

Berkow is a sports columnist and feature writer for The New York Times. His writing style and incredible ability to tell a story works well in this book. He not only talks about the field but describes some of the most incredible moments in baseball history that have taken place within the “friendly confines”.

Some of the stories include Babe Ruth calling his shot during the 1932 World Series and how Ernie Banks became not only “Mr. Cub” but also the first black player in the franchise history. No book on the Cubs or Wrigley Field would be complete without a story on the bad luck that has befallen the team over the years.

There is a the historical curse of the Billy Goat, the trauma of losing what seemed like an insurmountable lead to the 1969 Miracle Mets, the drama and unexplainable loss to the 1985 San Diego Padres, and of course the Bartman incident in 2003. All of these are put in the context of the ballpark to give clarity to how a simple stadium could become almost a cult hero to baseball fans everywhere.

There are of course great photos as you would expect in a narrative of Wrigley Field. The book flows very well and baseball fans will find it hard to put it down. It was especially sentimental for me since Wrigley Field will always hold a special place in my heart as the place where I saw my first Major League Baseball game in person.

I remember watching from the upper deck above first base as the wind changed directions turning the game from a pitcher’s duel to a hitter’s paradise. That game led to others and included the first night game in history being played there in 1988.

The book goes into detail about why the stadium held out for so long installing lights and playing night games. It gives you a glimpse into how Wrigley Field is not just a baseball field but a neighborhood park to those in the neighborhood.

With Wrigley Field celebrating it’s 100th anniversary in 2014 it is the perfect time for baseball fans everywhere to get reacquainted (or newly acquainted for those who have never seen it before) to what is an amazing structure.

The book has made me want to take a trip to Chicago this year and take in another game. With all of the interesting information contained within its covers I have a new appreciation for the old stadium and the history that has unfolded there.

Whether you are a Cubs fan, a baseball fan, or just a fan of historical architecture, Wrigley Field An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Chicago Cubs is a great book and I would highly recommend it to everyone.

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