By Randy Richardson
When the Cubs come home to Wrigley Field on Monday, it will mark their 100th year playing in the Friendly Confines, a timeless ballpark beloved by fans and players alike in spite of the fact that it has not been all that friendly to its home team. It is of course well-chronicled that in those 100 years of playing at Wrigley, the Cubs have not won a single World Series.
Still, all season long the Cubs will be celebrating a century of playing at Wrigley Field. Tomorrow’s Home Opener will be the team’s 100th at the iconic ballpark. Throughout the 2016 season the team will wear a commemorative patch featuring a version of the team’s 1916 logo in modern colors on home uniforms. On Wednesday, July 6, vs. the Cincinnati Reds, both teams will wear 1916 throwback uniforms and the Cubs will give away up to 30,000 replica throwback jerseys to fans in attendance.
If you’re a Cubs fan and thinking that you’ve been to this party before, there’s good reason for that feeling of déjà vu all over again. In 2014, the Cubs hosted the “Party of the Century” to commemorate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday. Those festivities included decades-themed homestands and promotional items featuring yet another commemorative logo. For Cubs fans who suffered through a dismal 73-89 record that season, the hangover probably carried over until the next spring.
So those same fans might reasonably be wondering: How is this party different than the last one, and why are we celebrating again?
Well, for one, the team is much better, so presumably the anniversary celebration will be more of a side story rather than the main narrative.
But there are historical distinctions as well. The first 100-year celebration was for Wrigley Field, which was built and opened in 1914, first as home to the Chicago Federals (and later the Chicago Whales) of the Federal League. Then the ballpark was named Weeghman Park, after the Chi-Feds owner Charles Weeghman. After the Federal League folded in 1915, William Wrigley Jr. purchased the Cubs and moved them to Weeghman Park. On April 20, 1916 the Cubs beat the Reds, 7-6, in the first NL game at Weeghman Park, which was renamed Cubs Park in 1920 and eventually Wrigley Field in 1926. So this season marks 100 years of the Cubs playing at Wrigley.
Now the Cubs host the Reds again, looking to repeat that winning performance of a century ago. There will be several thousand more fans in the stands to see it. The neighborhood surrounding the ballpark will not look much like it did back when they first met there. And as much as we like to think of Wrigley Field as a time capsule, in reality it has been in a state of perpetual change since it was built in 1914. This metamorphosis saw the installation of the upper decks in 1927 and 1928, the planting of the ivy and the erection of the hand-operated score board in 1937, the addition of the basket to the outfield wall in 1970, the affixing of the light towers in 1988, the construction of the press boxes and luxury boxes in 1989, and of course the erection of a massive Jumbotron over the left field bleachers in 2015.
But the basic architectural framework, while touched up over the years, remains in the same place at the corner of Clark and Addison streets where it was built 102 years ago. The ballpark has been a construction zone since November, as the finishing touches are still being made on renovations that will mix modern-day necessities with historical styles. In addition to the new metal detectors at the entrance gates, fans will get their first glimpse of a Wrigley Field whose exterior is being restored to the way it looked in the 1930s, complete with ornamental grill work topped by terra cotta roofing panels.
Until the Cubs and their fans can finally celebrate that elusive party to end all parties, the one they’ve been waiting for since 1908, this one will have to do. So don the party hats, and keep root, root, rooting for the home team.
Randy Richardson is the author of the Wrigleyville murder mystery, Lost in the Ivy, and a regular contributor to Wrigleyville Nation.