Nobody would have thought that chewing gum would become so important in baseball. In fact, the name Wrigley is synonymous with two things: gum and a beautiful baseball park. Originally named Weeghman Park for its first seven years of existence, Wrigley Field originally hosted the Chicago Whales of the quickly-defunct Federal League before becoming the home of the Cubs in 1916. Wrigley Field is now celebrating its 100th anniversary of hosting ball games.
Located on the corner of Clark, Addison, Waveland and Sheffield, Wrigley has seen a lot of great history, but the tenants have not brought home a championship to the North Side park. In addition to the Cubs, the Cardinals and Bears of the NFL played home games at Wrigley. Famous for the ivy covered walls, the red marquee and its refusal to host night games until ownership reluctantly agreed in 1988, the park truly stands out amongst its peers.
The Cubs have not won the World Series since their move to the friendly confines, and it doesn’t look like their first will come too soon. Whether you blame a billy goat, a black cat or Bartman for the Cubs’ century of ineptitude, the team’s lack of talent is currently to blame. Under the tutelage of new manager Rick Renteria, the Cubs will improve on their last place finish, but don’t expect them to climb out of the cellar just yet. The future is bright in Chicago (for the White Sox as well), but the road ahead is tough. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer know that future success will come at a price, and the lackluster roster now proves that. I expect the Cubs to reach the Fall Classic within the next decade, with the hope that the Cubs will win a championship in Wrigley, preferably in the daytime.
The Cubs will be celebrating the anniversary of the park all year long by sporting commemorative jersey patches, having special events in the ballpark and wearing throwback uniforms from each decade in Wrigley. On April 23, the actual anniversary of the first game there, the Cubs will wear the 1914 Chicago Federals jerseys.
I was recently asked who the best baseball player of all time is, and I immediately responded with Babe Ruth, who made his major league debut on July 11, 1914. Of course, the young Babe was a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Before smashing basically every batting record, Ruth started his career with an impressive display of pitching and helped the Sox win three championships. He entered the Major Leagues 100 years ago, and baseball was never the same since then.
The National League Boston Braves shared Fenway Park, the only current stadium older than Wrigley, with Ruth’s team in 1914. Previously known as the Beaneaters, Doves and Rustlers, the Braves struggled between mediocre and abysmal seasons., losing 100 games from 1909 to 1912. They improved in 1913 when they finished fifth in the eight-team league but started in last place at the beginning of the 1914 season.
Then the miracle happened. Over their final 89 games, Boston won 70 times, playing spectacularly enough to win the pennant by 10.5 games. Its hot streak continued as they swept the Philadelphia Athletics and forever became the Miracle Braves.
The Braves never regained the miracle-in-a-bottle season they had in 1914 and wouldn’t win the World Series again until 1957 when they played in Milwaukee, but that underdog squad remains one of the most famous teams of all time and a great inspiration for all big league clubs.