In the world or sports nostalgia, there has long been an unwritten list of venues that true aficionados must see, sites steeped in tradition and untarnished by the numerous waves of reconstruction and cookie-cuttering that defiled most historic sports refuges between 1970-1990. With the tragic 2008 destruction of Yankee stadium, only two such venues remain in the world of baseball—Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.
After an impromptu, long overdue trip to Chicago on Wednesday morning, I can now scratch the second of the two sites off my list. In most ways, the Friendly Confines lived up to the billing of a must-see sports venue.
The Nostalgia: The innards of the stadium (very much like that of Ohio Stadium in Columbus or Nippert Stadium here in Cincinnati) are old, bare, and unassuming. And that’s okay. As great as the amenities and designs of Great American Ball Park are—and they are fantastic by all standards—it was a unique experience to be inside of a stadium that’s remained untouched for the simple purpose of being able to say so. With the exception of minor alterations over the years, it’s the same ballpark it has always been. I understand why so many Cubs fans are up in arms about the major renovations and “improvements” slotted for post-2013. Sometimes, cold and outdated can be a beautiful thing. Speaking of cold…
The wind: On previous trips to Chicago I scoffed at the “Windy City” mantra. I was wrong. Dead wrong. Never in my life have I shivered at a mid-August baseball game. Forgetting to pack shorts may indeed have been the best mistake of my young life, as the wind blowing in from left field froze my already chilled Old Style Lager to my hand. I’ve never seen a stadium more confused by a homerun than this stadium after Todd Frazier’s 1st-inning dinger gracefully floated out to left
The Old Style: AWFUL. It’s not the absolute worst beer I’ve ever had, but it’s right there in the conversation. I understand that this beer is a staple of Chicago, but if there is one aspect of Wrigley Field’s nostalgia that could and should go by the wayside, it’s this PBR-mixed-with-musty-water concoction that they’ve canned and tricked people into buying. In the battle of stadium beer selection, GABP defeats Wrigley by a margin comparable to that of the Red’s record at Wrigley this year: 9-1.
The Ole’ Ball Game: Never in my athletic life, competitor or spectator, have I been more humbled as a visiting fan than during the seventh-inning stretch Wednesday afternoon. The friendly tune of ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was never intended to be an intimidating song, but when old men put off much-needed bathroom breaks, crying children snap to attention, and 33,000ish Chicagoans of every race, age, and creed rattle the old bones of Wrigley field with poorly pitched, slightly intoxicated chants for Cracker Jacks and their beloved Cubbies, it puts things into perspective. It’s a crime punishable by death to be caught seated or to try and sneak away for another beer. Like Wrigley itself, the fans are old school. It’s about being from somewhere, standing up for that somewhere. These people, despite more than 100 years of cursed anguish, love this team and this place. The ivy clad walls and famous red sign are sights to see, but these people are what makes Wrigley Field a must visit. Even if it’s another 100 years before the Cubs win a World Series, Wrigley will still be there, still rattling with voices during the stretch.