A Nice Little Place on the North Side: A History of Triumph, Mostly Defeat, and Incurable Hope at Wrigley Fieldby George Will
In A Nice Little Place on the North Side, leading columnist George Will returns to baseball with a deeply personal look at his hapless Chicago Cubs and their often beatified home, Wrigley Field, as it turns one hundred years old. Baseball, Will argues, is full of/i>/b>/i>
“George Will on baseball. Perfect.”—Los Angeles Times
In A Nice Little Place on the North Side, leading columnist George Will returns to baseball with a deeply personal look at his hapless Chicago Cubs and their often beatified home, Wrigley Field, as it turns one hundred years old. Baseball, Will argues, is full of metaphors for life, religion, and happiness, and Wrigley is considered one of its sacred spaces. But what is its true, hyperbole-free history?
Winding beautifully like Wrigley’s iconic ivy, Will’s meditation on “The Friendly Confines” examines both the unforgettable stories that forged the field’s legend and the larger-than-life characters—from Wrigley and Ruth to Veeck, Durocher, and Banks—who brought it glory, heartbreak, and scandal. Drawing upon his trademark knowledge and inimitable sense of humor, Will also explores his childhood connections to the team, the Cubs’ future, and what keeps long-suffering fans rooting for the home team after so many years of futility.
In the end, A Nice Little Place on the North Side is more than just the history of a ballpark. It is the story of Chicago, of baseball, and of America itself.
More than just about a ball park with a powerful mystique, Will’s (Men at Work) book on Wrigley Field offers a rich history of the city of Chicago through its hapless baseball team. In celebration of the ballpark’s 100th year, Will compiles a random batch of anecdotes and history about the franchise that inhabits this much loved though antiquated structure with its famous ivy-covered walls. (“It is not a good sign for fans when their team’s venue is better known for the attractiveness of its flora than for the excellence of the athletes who have played there,” Will quips.) Broad-ranging topics include beer and its legendary importance in baseball, the long-standing resistance to installing lights for night games, personality quirks of the father-son owners, chewing gum kings William and P.K. Wrigley, and colorful takes on famed Cub Ernie Banks and (mostly) beloved sportscaster Harry Caray. The reader will learn about numbers––attendance, beer prices, stadium stats, monies paid for the team—and enjoy reflections by the author, who understands firsthand the trials and tribulations of being a Cubs fan. Rooting for the Cubs, he writes, is “a lifelong tutorial in delay gratification.” As Will illustrates in his book, there’s plenty for Cubs fans to celebrate from the past 100 years, even if a world series isn’t one of them. (Apr.)
“Fond yet surprisingly hard-hitting…an intelligent, tough little book.” –USA Today
“George Will is as serious about baseball as he is about the Constitution or foreign policy…. A Nice Little Place on the North Side is replete with the amusing trivia that in baseball constitutes lore.”—Wall Street Journal
“America’s leading poet of baseball” –Chicago Tribune, Printers Row Journal
“George F. Will’s wonderful book A Nice Little Place on the North Side reads like a history of a ballpark, but it’s really a fan’s interrogation of the most harrowing riddle: Why can’t the Cubs win?...[Will is] one of the great baseball writers.” –Commentary
“Will’s bow-tied, button-down prose wears quite well in this, his third insightful book about baseball, after Men at Work and Bunts. His eye for the game remains warm and acute, as do his conservative instincts.” –New York Times Book Review
“George Will is the most elegant of today’s political essayists, and with 'Men at Work,' 'Bunts' and this tribute to Chicago, the ballpark that graces it, and the fans who pack it to root for its hapless team, he can be counted among the best baseball writers to come down the pike…” –The Washington Times
“[Will’s] latest, A Nice Little Place on the North Side, will sit solidly on the bookshelf with his previous baseball classics…. As is always the case with Will, readers are treated to a mix of history, anecdotes, vignettes, cultural analysis, various informative diversions, and much wry humor.”—The American Spectator
“George F. Will is as eloquent on baseball as he is on politics.” –AARP Bulletin
“Required reading” –New York Post
With his characteristic wit and wry perspective intact, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist Will, an Illinois native, delivers what is effectively a color commentary on his beloved Cubs and their home. A good color man enhances the play-by-play with choice anecdotes, digressions, stats, allusions (including literary and political), and deductions; Will doesn't disappoint. With offerings both broad (the author knows his baseball and can effectively recall stats with the best of 'em) and local (he digs into Chicago history), Will is an enjoyable tour guide through the Cubs' ups and all-too-frequent downs. Though he keeps the tone light, he never shies from reflections, such as the "why" behind the psychological rationale of fans whose love has endured countless irritations and vexations. In doing so, Will sheds light on the uniquely transformative power of sports. VERDICT This is for all North Siders, naturally, but also for baseball fans who like to wax more literary. Though it certainly satisfies on its own (particularly if you know the Cubs' history), it resonates most effectively as a companion piece to the other Wrigley anniversary books reviewed here. [See Prepub Alert, 10/15/13.]—BM
Veteran conservative political pundit Will (One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation, 2009, etc.) writes an affectionate birthday card to the home of his beloved Chicago Cubs. The author, who has written often about baseball (Bunts: Pete Rose, Curt Flood, Camden Yards and Other Reflections on Baseball, 1997, etc.) as well as issuing his periodic poundings of liberals and celebrations of conservatives, traces his Cub fandom back to 1948, when he was 7. He notes that since his birth, the Cubs are nearly 700 games below .500, a sad record that in a perverse way unites their fans. (Will compares the Cubs to Miss Havisham, the jilted bride in Great Expectations.) This is not a traditional, chronological history but an emotional one; in fact, greedy readers will find little about the construction of the place—though there is a nice little section about the decision to plant ivy to crawl along the outfield wall. Along the way, readers will learn about a baseball-related shooting that inspired Bernard Malamud's The Natural (1952), some history of the odd Wrigley family, the relationship between beer and attendance at baseball games, some discoveries by baseball statistician Bill James, the surprising news that Jack Ruby (yes, he who shot Lee Harvey Oswald) once was a vendor at Wrigley and that the Cubs used to train on Santa Catalina Island. Of course, it wouldn't be George-Will-on-baseball without allusions to Dickens, Aristotle and some other luminaries. He dispels a few myths along the way. For example, the famed double-play combo (Tinker to Evers to Chance) actually turned two very rarely, and he waxes philosophical a bit, ruminating about how fandom is like tribalism. Digressive, amusing, anecdotal, legend-shattering, self-deprecating and passionate—just what you want in a friend sitting beside you at the ballpark.
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Meet the Author
GEORGE F. WILL is one of the most widely read writers in the world, with his twice-weekly syndicated column appearing in more than five hundred newspapers and online news sources. He is a Fox News contributor and the author of thirteen books, including Men at Work, With a Happy Eye But . . ., Bunts, The Woven Figure, and One Man’s America. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary and the Bradley Prize for outstanding intellectual achievement, he lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
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Once upon a time, when my day started with a quick run or a dog walk around the neighborhood, and every day was sunny but not too hot, I would occasionally stop at the ticket window to see if they had any of those $15 day of game bleacher tickets. And more often than not, certainly more often than I should have, I would buy one and spend my afternoon, not in my broom closet turned office doing work that I actually hated, but in the beautiful bleachers at Wrigley Field, with 3,000 others who also hated their job or were happily unemployed.* My mornings no longer start with a run, the dog died, my job is not so bad and bleacher tickets cost over $50; I hardly spend anytime at Wrigley, a very nice place just down the street, my favorite place to be on a summer afternoon. George Will shares my love of Wrigley, which he writes about in A Nice Little Place on the North Side. Will, conservative columnist and Cubs fan, ambles through the history of Wrigley Field with the pace of a lazy summer day. His anecdotal tour of Wrigley, and the Cubs, is a delightful and engaging read, the past easily building the story of modern day Wrigley. Will, born a Cubs fan, covers not only the history of the ball park but how that history plays a key part in the Cubs consistently dismal summer standings. Only one other team in Major League Baseball is so closely tied to a stadium, and they seem to have figured out how to win, not so the Cubs. Is it true, that the beauty and experience of Wrigley, the friendly confines, contributes in part to the Cubs consistently lackluster performance? Will's writing is engaging and clever, and full of arcane stories that all come together to create a historical portrait of a beloved team playing in an equally beloved ballpark. Will's story is not just a birthday card, it's a delightful romp through one hundred years of baseball, Wrigley, Cubs and heartache. Through Blogging for Books, I received a review copy of this book. *See Elia's infamous tirade, "don't these people have jobs?"
I thoroughly enjoyed tis book. A fascinating history of baseball itself & even some laugh out loud moments. A little heavy on the facts & figures, but Will is a newspaper man. I now understand why we ( the Cubs) have been "rebuilding" for 100 yrs.
As a diehard Cubs fan, I eagerly anticipated this sojourn into Wrigley Field. Will presents a multitude of Wrigley Field tidbits, but misses the essence of the story. Will jumps around too much in relating a story, and I could not pass second base. I remember the joys of Ladies' Day and the hoopla of the seventh inning stretch. Ernie Banks would wander throughout the stadium before a game. Of course, the breeze from lake Michigan would send chills throughout your body in the late afternoon. Will drilled home the facts of the players, but missed why the fans have been so loyal after all these years.
Walked by on way to school L.V. '45
A very good book with lots of interesting History of Wrigley Field, several Cub and other players and just Chicago in general. I highly recommend it for Baseball Fans.