Wrigley Field: The Long Life and Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines

Wrigley Field: The Long Life and Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines

by Stuart Shea

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In spring 1914, a new ballpark opened in Chicago. Hastily constructed after epic political maneuvering around Chicago’s and organized baseball’s hierarchies, the new Weeghman Park (named after its builder, fast-food magnate Charley Weeghman) was home to the Federal League’s Chicago Whales. The park would soon be known as Wrigley Field, one of the most emblematic and controversial baseball stadiums in America.

In Wrigley Field: The Long Life and Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines, Stuart Shea provides a detailed and fascinating chronicle of this living historic landmark. The colorful history revealed in Wrigley Field shows how the stadium has evolved through the years to meet the shifting priorities of its owners and changing demands of its fans. While Wrigley Field today seems irreplaceable, we learn that from game one it has been the subject of endless debates over its future, its design, and its place in the neighborhood it calls home. To some, it is a hallowed piece of baseball history; to others, an icon of mismanagement and ineptitude. Shea deftly navigates the highs and lows, breaking through myths and rumors. And with another transformation imminent, he brings readers up to date on negotiations, giving much-needed historical context to the maneuvering.

Wrigley Field is packed with facts, stories, and surprises that will captivate even the most fair-weather fan. From dollar signs (the Ricketts family paid $900 million for the team and stadium in 2009), to exploding hot dog carts (the Cubs lost that game 6–5), to the name of Billy Sianis’s curse-inducing goat (Sonovia), Shea uncovers the heart of the stadium’s history. As the park celebrates its centennial, Wrigley Field continues to prove that its colorful and dramatic history is more interesting than any of its mythology.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226134307
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 03/07/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
File size: 13 MB
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About the Author

Stuart Shea is an editor and contributor to The Baseball Encyclopedia: The Complete and Definitive Record of Major League Baseball, The Emerald Guide to Baseball, Who’s Who in Baseball, and SABR’s Baseball Research Journal. He lives in Chicago, twenty-four blocks north of Wrigley Field.

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Copyright © 2014 The University of Chicago
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-226-13430-7




Before there was Wrigleyville, there was Lake View.

When Joseph Sheffield, founder of the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad, founded Lake View in 1837, he envisioned it as a quiet community removed from the city in which he made much of his money. He was, essentially, a proto-suburbanite who didn't want to live near his customers and could afford not to.

The town of Lake View sat north of the city of Chicago, which was far smaller in area and population than it is now. It stretched from Fullerton Avenue (twenty-four blocks north of downtown Chicago) up to Devon Avenue (sixty-four blocks north) and from Lake Michigan to what is now Western Avenue, 2400 West.

The area had been home to mostly Illinois and Pottawatomie Indians, although Sac, Algonquin, Fox, and Kickapoo also were resident. The first white resident of Lake View was Conrad Sulzer, who purchased a hundred acres of land in 1837. The Lake View Town Hall and Courthouse, built at Addison and Halsted Streets in 1872, would be converted into the Town Hall police station in 1907; this site has figured into Wrigley lore a number of times in the years following its conversion. In the 1850s, Wunder's and Graceland cemeteries opened along Clark Street several blocks north of where Wrigley Field now stands. At the time, a trip to Lake View from downtown Chicago took half a day by wagon, and by 1853 the Lake View House hotel and several restaurants had opened to serve cemetery visitors and others.

Following the Civil War, some of Chicago's richest citizens began following Joseph Sheffield's lead and built homes in the area. Lake View grew after the great 1871 fire, as dispossessed citizens headed north. Enough families came to the area to warrant construction, in 1874, of Lake View High School, the first township high school in the state, at Irving Park Road and Ashland Avenue.

Lake View became a freewheeling, growing, exciting place where families, businessmen, fun seekers, and rich folks building summer homes on the lake gathered cheek by jowl. Prime shopping areas developed at Lincoln and Belmont Avenues as well as at Clark Street and Diversey Avenue, and these intersections remain among the busiest in the city.

And the new area's denizens didn't shy from a drink. One important gathering spot was the Bismarck Gardens at Halsted and Grace Streets. According to nineteenth-century resident Edward Walsh, John Berringer ("Beer John") opened a beer garden at Clark and Diversey in the 1860s. Foremost among the imbibers were the Germans settling in the neighborhood, although other ethnic groups liked their alcohol as well. Although it has decreased somewhat, a German presence survives in the businesses of Lake View and nearby Lincoln Square.


During the 1880s, Chicago sought to annex the town. "It is a locality peculiarly fitted for the homes of the working classes. Cable cars and steam roads, and fresh clean property at low prices invite such people here," said David Goodwillie, an advocate for the annexation. Polish Catholics and others of that faith had begun to settle there, as had Belgians.

Annexation increases a city's population and, therefore, its tax base. With more revenue, a city can provide more extensive services for its citizens, such as sewers—something Lake View citizens demanded in the wake of a cholera epidemic in the 1880s. (Lake View's own revenue came from sources such as tollgates on several street corners, including Clark at Waveland Avenue, where pedestrians and drivers of horse carriages had to pay to get through.) By 1900, Chicago was the second-largest city in the country in population and the largest in area, due in no small part to aggressive annexation of surrounding communities.

Members of the Lake View government—who knew that their power would disappear if Chicago swallowed their town—didn't submit to the 1889 annexation without a fight. Lake View mayor William Boldenweck got permission from his board of advisers to seize $3,200 of the town's assets to legally fight the annexation order. And yet, "about the only people who were against annexation were public officials," said Richard C. Bjorklund, onetime president of the Ravenswood–Lake View Historical Association. Eventually, Judge John Peter Altgeld (later governor of Illinois) ruled that the City of Chicago had the right to take over the community.


By 1913, Lake View was less remote than it had been, as new forms of public transportation were by then serving the North Side of the city. There had, earlier, been cable cars to the area, but those had stopped running in 1906, replaced by much faster streetcars. In addition, commuter train lines, which had run downtown and on the South and West Sides since 1893, were joined by elevated tracks built all the way up the North Side close to Lake Michigan. By 1908, these tracks reached Evanston, a prosperous northern lakefront suburb. What would later become the Chicago Transit Authority built a series of train lines, some aboveground, some beneath, and some down alleyways.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the power of the city lay on the South Side, and some North Siders felt like second-class citizens. An article in the Chicago Daily Tribune on December 1, 1913, stated: "Complaints had been made to the Tribune that while the south side trains are making better time than before through routing, the Northwestern [service toward Evanston] service is slower. This was denied by Mr. [Bratten] Budd [of the Chicago Elevated Railways system], who insisted the same running time from terminus to loop of each line is being made today, although more trains are run." The North Side, though, was beginning to feel its oats. People were moving north to build homes on inexpensive land, and companies were constructing factories on this unplowed and undeveloped real estate. In addition, the lakeside area around Wilson Avenue, the Uptown neighborhood, had become a hopping entertainment district.

Chicago historians Harold Mayer and Richard Wade note that "the preeminence of the South Side began to diminish after the [1893 World's] Fair. The supremacy of that area had stemmed largely from the excellence of its transit facilities. But the completion of elevated transit lines into other sections of the city, coupled with the electrification and expansion of street railways, substantially reduced this advantage in the decades after 1893. The North and West sides now enjoyed the stimulus of good connections with downtown, and both witnessed spectacular growth."


And yet, Lake View remained in many ways a quiet retreat. One hundred and thirty years ago, the land on which Wrigley Field now sits hosted a seminary.

William Alfred Passavant (1821–94) was among the most famous and successful American Lutheran missionaries. Born in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, Passavant was interested in the spiritual from a very young age. He directed his efforts toward public service and spent much of his life founding benevolent institutions, including the Pittsburgh Infirmary, the first Protestant hospital in the country. In 1865, he founded Passavant Hospital of Chicago, which was destroyed six years later in the Great Fire. Passavant Hospital reopened in 1884 and immediately became one of the city's top hospitals due to its excellent staff and facilities. Eventually, it merged with Wesley Hospital and became Northwestern Memorial, still as one of the area's premier health centers.

Passavant also edited religious journals and established orphanages. When he inherited a parcel of land in Lake View, he envisioned the bucolic, tree-lined area as a seminary for young men to study and contemplate. Passavant began to develop the grounds in 1868, although the Theological Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church did not open until 1891. Four seminary buildings occupied the site: a dormitory, two homes for professors, and a home for the seminary president. These buildings all stood on the outer perimeter of the property, two on Waveland Avenue, one on Addison Street, and one on Sheffield Avenue.

Even in the 1890s, however, the land was not exactly quiet. The Peter Connors coal yard stood north of Addison on Clark Street, separated from the seminary only by tracks for the Chicago/ Evanston Rail Road, which ran up what is now Seminary Avenue. The railroad, used both for freight and commuter travel, crossed Clark Street near Addison. The railway transported gravel, coal, and sand to local builders, while ice and milk were brought in for local residents. Streetcars and elevated trains raised the noise level.

Within only a few years after the seminary opened, everyone concerned decided that the area had become too busy for contemplative study. As noted at the time by Marjory R. Wing, representing the school, students were constantly bothered by "smoke, dust, grime, soot, dirt, [and] foul gases; railroading by night and day; whistles, ding-donging of bells late and early and in between times, and the ceaselessness of undesirable traffic incidental thereto that is growing more unbearable every week." The 1908 opening of the Ravenswood elevated line only increased the number of people and trains in the area.

The next year, the Lutheran church finally got an opportunity to address the problem. Charles Havenor of Milwaukee, a baseball man, offered to buy the land, and the church accepted in a heartbeat. The July 8, 1909, issue of Leslie's Weekly gives the details. Charles S. Havenor, of the Milwaukee Baseball Club of the American Association, has bought for $175,000 the eight-acre tract in North Clark Street, Chicago. This property is considered the best vacant location in Chicago for a baseball park, and the purchase on its face appears to portend the entrance of an American Association club into that city, with a big baseball war as the result. It has been known that the American Association at various times in the last few years has cast covetous eyes on Chicago territory, and at one time last fall plans were all set for an invasion, but later abandoned. It looks as if the sports pages will be full of "baseball war" talk again this winter as in the past.

The seminary moved to west suburban Maywood, though it returned to Chicago (this time on the South Side) in 1967. Though the seminary moved, many Lutherans stayed in Lake View, as evidenced by the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, which moved to the area in 1914 and stands just two blocks west of Wrigley Field.

Some sources erroneously report that the land went directly from the church to the Chicago Cubs. Others opine that the land wasn't sold to the Cubs but to the Federal League's Chicago club, which first inhabited the park. In fact, however, a three-year period passed between when the Lutheran Church sold the land and when a man named Charley Weeghman purchased it.

What happened between 1910 and 1913? Who was Charley Weeghman? Who was Charles Havenor? Who owned the land, and why did they want it? Here is where the story of Lake View and baseball really begins.


In 1909, baseball's biggest leagues were the "majors," the American League (AL) and National League (NL), each of which had ten clubs. Below them on the food chain were the so-called minor leagues, associations of independently owned clubs that could sell their players to the major leagues if they wished but were not required to. The "organized" major and minor leagues had territorial agreements but no direct links.

The American Association (AA), at the time baseball's top minor league, represented eight Midwestern cities: Columbus, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Louisville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Toledo. The AA was no scrub league; the Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis teams all drew more fans in 1909 than the American League's Washington Senators or the National League's Boston Rustlers. Unlike today, minor league teams were not affiliated with big league organizations, so there was more direct competition among them.

Chicago already had American League and National League teams, but the AA's more ambitious owners thought that the time was right to expand and that the Windy City could support three professional clubs. Chicago in 1910 was the second-largest city in the country, having grown nearly 30 percent in the previous decade. A few enterprising businessmen began exploring. The White Sox owned the South Side, playing at Thirty-Ninth and Wentworth while readying a new park at Thirty-fifth and Shields. The Cubs played at the West Side Grounds, located at Polk and Wolcott Streets on the near Southwest. The burgeoning North Side—with Lake View's single-family homes and taste for beer and song, Uptown's swinging night life, and a new public transportation system—seemed a potentially excellent location.

On January 23, 1914, the Tribune's Harvey Woodruff related the history of the Clark and Addison site: "The property which figured in the lease was bought several years ago from a Lutheran Evangelical college by the late Charles Havenor of Milwaukee, the Cantillons, and [Edmund] Archibault, at a time when the American Association was considering placing a third club in Chicago." Archambault was a relative by marriage of the Cantillons, while Charles Havenor's first wife, Agnes, owned the AA's Milwaukee Brewers. The Havenors and the Cantillons, Joe and Mike—owners of the rival Minneapolis Millers—worked together to scope out the location and hoped to sell the land to a new franchise. But in order to break into Chicago, the league was required to get approval from 60 percent of the teams in the leagues already present in the market, and the Cubs and Sox worked in concert, lobbying the other clubs to block the AA's efforts. Frustrated, Havenor gradually divested himself of his share of the land, selling out to Archambault and the Cantillon brothers before passing away in April 1912. But this was only the beginning of the story that led to the creation of Wrigley Field.


The American Association was not the only rival of the major leagues. Between 1910 and 1912, several entrepreneurs founded new associations. These "outlaw" leagues, which did not fall under the control of organized baseball, often came and went in the blink of an eye.

One of these, the United States League, had in 1912 a Chicago franchise, the Green Sox. The team played at Gunther Park at Clark Street and Leland Avenue, eleven blocks north of where Wrigley Field is now located. Between 1906 and 1913, local clubs, under the unswerving guidance of well-known semipro gadfly Billy Niesen (also involved in the United States League), also played at Gunther Park, a nice-looking if small field with a well-built grandstand. Burt Keeley, a native of Wilmington, Illinois, who had pitched for the Washington Senators in 1908 and 1909, signed on as skipper of the Green Sox (which, within a few weeks, were being called the "Uncle Sams" in the local papers). Despite high hopes, some former major-league players, and decent media coverage, overall attendance was low and the league disbanded on June 24, 1912. The United States League's Chicago franchise ended its brief tenure with a 17–15 record. Gunther Park, now known as Chase Park, has several baseball diamonds, but no marker indicates that a professional baseball team ever played there. Despite their heavy losses, however, United States League owners' dreams died hard. Several of them, led by John T. Powers, tried again in 1913 with another "outlaw" organization they initially named the Columbian League before settling on the Federal League. They opened for business in six cities, including Cleveland, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Saint Louis, Chicago, and Covington, Kentucky, though this last team quickly relocated to Kansas City. The Chifeds, as the Chicago team was named (short for the Chicago Federals), played their 1913 games at the athletic fields of DePaul University, twelve blocks south of Addison street. With Keeley again at the helm, the Chifeds finished fourth in the six-club loop at 57–62. Though attendance records for the 1913 Feds are not available, the league did survive.


Excerpted from WRIGLEY FIELD by STUART SHEA. Copyright © 2014 The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Myths in Concrete
Chapter 1 A New Place, a New Park
Chapter 2 Opening Day at Weeghman Park: April 23, 1914
Chapter 3 Heady Days: Weeghman Park, 1914–1917
Chapter 4 1918: Weeghman and the War
Chapter 5 No Depression: Cubs Park/Wrigley Field, 1919–1932
Chapter 6 Last Hurrahs: Wrigley Field, 1932–1945
Chapter 7 Postwar Blues
Chapter 8 New Wine in Old Bottles: Wrigley Field, 1966–1981
Chapter 9 The Empire of the Tribune: Wrigley Field, 1982–2009
Chapter 10 The Cubs Way, 2009 and Beyond

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