Focus; Wrigley Field: the Unauthorized Biography
While here in the Midwest right at the moment we're experiencing some fairly chilly temperatures for this time of year. And as you have just heard in the newscast of course there are other parts of the country that are really struggling to get out from under winter where it's been very cold and very snowy hasn't been all that bad here but I'm sure that here as well as there are a lot of places around the United States people are getting kind of tired of winter and they're starting to look forward to spring and to summer end. So here's a bit of information that perhaps will give you some hope. There are only 26 days six hours 57 minutes and currently 46 seconds until Opening Day. My source there is the website of Major League Baseball and the clock is continuing to count down this morning in this part of focus 580. We will talk a little bit about. A ballpark that many people consider to be the most perfect place for baseball in the United States and place we're talking about is Wrigley Field it was built in 1914. It will be playing host to Major League Baseball for the 90 second season this year and to the Cubs for the 90th year that's remarkable longevity for a ballpark. If you go back to the very beginning some of the important features won't be there at the beginning there was no ivy on the walls. In fact there was no scoreboard there were no bleachers. There were no lights. There were no Cubs. However it is remarkable how little the ballpark changed once its basic features got put into place and in fact our guest for this part of focus 580 Stuart Shea says perhaps if we could go back in time and we could take a Cubs fan from those early years and bring him. Into the future and show in the park he wouldn't really notice very much in the way of important differences the skyline of course would be different but the park itself in a lot of respects wouldn't be that different. We're talking this morning with Stuart Shea about his book Wrigley Field the authorized biography brassy is the publisher of Stuart she is a former baseball columnist for total sports and also America Online He served as associate editor for Barnes and Noble's baseball encyclopedia and he coauthored two editions of the USA Today Baseball Weekly insider and he makes his home in Chicago he's talking with us by telephone as we talk of course questions are welcome here in Champaign Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. We do also have a toll free line that is good to anywhere that you can hear us. Certainly if you're listening in Chicago or any place around the Midwest here 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5 in fact if you might happen to be listening on the internet as long as you're in the United States you can use that toll free line. So again locally 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5.
Mr. Shea Hello how are you doing. Good thanks yourself. I'm great. Very good only up here.
Yeah well it's kind of down here. But as I said it when when you heard about what was happening in the northwest I guess or the Northeast I guess we should say well OK maybe it's not too bad.
Yeah. Here in our part of the country and yet we're good.
With the spring training games on radio that everything seems much warmer to me absolutely is.
Is Wrigley Field the the the park that has been has the distinction of being the park has been in the longest continuous use.
My understanding is that it's the second oldest meaningless ballpark after Fenway. OK it's it's amazing when you think about the fact that really there are only three or four parts left in the major leagues. There's Wrigley first and went to St.. Fourth Oh the ballpark not your state park is only a little more than 40 years old which is it's rather amazing to me that the stadium is something we sort of associate with six states and with the Dodgers moving from. Brooklyn to the west coast and already that has the fourth longest seniority of any part of the park.
Yeah it is kind of remarkable I think when you you think about the demands now and recently on big sports stadiums what it is that people think you've got to have that Wrigley should have in in so many ways be so like it was in 1914 I mean yes it's true there are lights now and and I'm sure that there are a lot of amenities that the park has now that it didn't but as I think you say in the book in a lot of ways it hasn't changed and it seems really remarkable that it for such a long time essentially it has remained the same place.
I think you raise a really good point and I think that what this tells me what the success of places like Fenway Wrigley Yankee Stadium and a lot of people at places like Tiger stand right every county state more rocky when actually it's my second favorite park. I think those things indicate that really what people want out of baseball is very different than what people might.
Right out of football or hockey or basketball as far as what they're going to say I think that the reason that Facebook continues to be popular is it is nothing like American life of the words it has nothing to do with the way that we live now with it is fast paced quick cutting sort of reliance on the whims of the moment. They spoke of different than that it rewards careful and patient attention there. And magazines up here at the service of Wrigley Field community of the heckler shirts that they sell that say baseball isn't boring you are and I think that that's an attitude people a lot of people who are manic The fans have in their words people who say baseball is boring are just missing the point.
And that any attempt to make baseball more like other sports tends to sort of miss the point of baseball which is that it's open ended very very much planning for things that have lasted a long time. Games very similar to the way it was back then and Wrigley Field has a park that is in many ways similar to the way it was 90 years ago as a perfect representative that people love things that remind them of the good things about the homes before you had to worry about things like designer drugs. And Rick and Wrigley field really is a place that has a hold on people the way few other sports arenas do. Because you really feel like you're walking into a piece of the past and you still have that feeling people still have that effect.
Back at the beginning it was not called Wrigley Field and the Cubs didn't play there.
Well let's talk about the guy who actually built Wrigley Field this is a story in itself in fact but instead a new proposal to write a book about a man named Charles we commit troll Sweetman was a guy from Indiana who had big dreams of making the city of Chicago on the way to hundreds.
He got a phone a train with five bucks in his pocket. Within 10 12 years he was a millionaire. He got a tap in a restaurant called Charlie King. Lupin and soon became head waiter in a very very popular figure with all the people who went to the restaurants in those states which were this show people the newspaper people and the camp lawyers politicians and he opened up his own string of like lots of restaurants out there and fast food to office workers basically and made a million bucks in 10 years. Wanted into baseball so he bought a stake and an independent make pain whales were in the Federal League and he built a new path. For them baseball had never been played on a professional basis on the north side of Congo before 1914. But the Wales built a park and Wrigley Field which then was called Lakeview and it was sort of an office only recently built neighborhood it was a place where people who had money were going to buy sort of weekend residences because it was 30 blocks north which was still sort of a distance and it would sort of conquer virgin land to a certain extent at that time and it was cheap land and it was where it's sort of happening Gogo places were open.
So this was very much an adventurous place to build a ballpark or set the Cubs at that point were playing in the west side west of downtown at the Lapp Central Park West grounds after the Federal Bank played for two years and this thing got to be played in this park. We can that was allowed by the Cubs as part of the agreement. It's been the Federal League the reason the midweeks wanted to get it. The Federal League is because having an extra baseball weekend there was driving up salaries. If there is more competition for the players so we can have the most powerful and rich donor of the Federal it was allowed by the Cubs. You move the Cubs to the park for 1916 and the rest is history.
Yeah as you mention his he was first involved in this league called the Federal League and his team I guess at one point was just called the Chicago Federals the shy feds and barely people call that a lot of other things too. Before it was called the whales and I guess that just kind of tickles me that why a team located in the the center of the United States a long way from salt water.
Why would you name your baseball team the whales but that it was actually a very. Decision to name the team the whale was actually a very forward thinking piece of oak by weakness. He actually sponsored a contest and the winner of the contest got tickets. So after the 1914 statement and let the newspapers know that he would like very much to have people send in their suggestions and the payment This weekend was a very very well known restaurant owner a lot of the names of people that sent were things like the buns in the donut like things that that seemed so quaint and ridiculous to us for the night. The baseball team but even the whale had apparently sort of a backyard food reference because we've been with famous for his sandwiches which were very large and I don't know if you remember the Burger King used to have a fish sandwich called the way it works.
Oh yeah if you're back in the day after that I think that in some ways it was sort of the same idea that this was sort of a big sandwich so that sandwiches were thought of as whales. But there was also the context that they sort of when in fact came up with saying well whales drop their opponents they're big and strong and they're the biggest creatures in the sea and we you know Congo is the greatest city in the action and we want to have the best. So there was sort of that that part of it that appealed to I think we meant sense of adventure and strength.
You know build a story like is that apparently the the site of Wrigley Field was at one point occupied by a seminary.
Yeah you religious I mean I think this was in fact a Lutheran seminary with a theological seminary and the community there that wanted to study and contemplation thought this land and didn't really figure on it becoming a big crazy industrial area with bars and restaurants and train tracks. Very sort of dairy distributor to plant cattle and railway crossings. So after a fairly short time it became very clear that nobody was going to be able to get any studying done here and so the seminary moved to the southwest side of the city. I believe it's now in the suburbs but there is still a strong Lutheran presence in the neighborhood so a lot of churches and the guy who owned that land also actually founded the first private hospital in Congo which is now one of the biggest hospitals. So there's there's it's a very fascinating story just I mean you could you could probably write a whole book on the history of that piece of land itself because organized baseball did an awful lot to try to keep trolls Wiegman from building a ballpark on that piece of land and the Major Leagues American actually did not want the federal bank to exist because it would drive up their salaries. They'd have to pay their players more to keep from jumping to a rival league. There were all sorts of actions to keep tweaking and being able to buy the land and build the park.
The Chicago politics.
Oh yeah for sure he made most of wanted in baseball awful bad because he'd spent an awful lot of money. He spent a lot of money building the park and then when he bought controlling interest in the Cubs he cording to your book paid a half a million dollars which is the most anybody had ever paid for a major league team and I'm sure that in 1015.
Million dollars five hundred thousand dollars was real money in those days.
You can hardly live on that now but yes that that that was a huge transaction and a lot of people believed at the time I think that we couldn't have been suckered in I think in a way it was.
But we've been with the kind of guy who had a bit of a chip on the shoulder.
He was a self-made man to the extent that he came here with five bucks and 10 years later had a million and he won it in the baseball very badly he had tried to buy teams before and that the fact that he had been rebuffed was one of the reasons that he really enjoyed sticking it's organized baseball by making the federal the again successful as it was and basically forcing his way into the game.
So fortunately we've been turned out not to be the world's greatest businessman that when things were going bad we went to hell in a bucket for him.
Or influence epidemic I don't have for spending on the baseball team and I don't have a personal lifestyle. And after losing his money fairly quickly and that the stuff seems to really get Brigley the Wrigley gum company by 1980 we have a caller here someone who's calling from Chicago let me introduce Again our guest We're talking with Stuart Shea.
He's a baseball writer Sports writer former baseball columnist for total sports in America Online. He's the author of the book Wrigley Field the authorized biography it's published by brassy So if you're interested in baseball if you're a Cubs fan you might want take a look at the book here in Champaign Urbana if you'd like to call in 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. We do also have a toll free line that's good anywhere. You can hear us. Eight hundred to 2 2 9 4 5 5. Let's talk with this caller in Chicago. Lie Number 4.
Well I can you hear me OK. Yeah just fine.
OK great. Enjoying the discussion of actually that kind of a tortured existence Friday I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and I was a cop friend so. Life that two comments and a question I hang up because I'm on the cell phone. OK I'll be on the West Side Park if I understand it correctly being an alumni from UIC is actually not all the street is actually on the medical grounds. The Medical College for us. For you I see. And I was wondering also too with the changes at Wrigley Field and the one thing that I just read the most I guess I know it's a necessary evil are the baskets because I remember I'm 50 years old I can remember back in the sixties still absolute which was a center fielder making these headlong plunges into the lot and with the baskets to keep the litter off the field a lot of those plays off the lot of course. I don't mark and then one other question I had is a long standing argument I have with a friend of mine he contends that the Cubs were playing on the day of the Little Big Horn when custard was a mess or could not last and I said nah nah nah there was no basket. No baseball back then and he can said no no no that was a headline so I don't the author can speak to any or all of those topics but again I'm enjoying a discussion thank you.
All right very good thanks for the calls.
Well you take those in whatever order you want but I think that he does a really good point for sauce I feel for the guy obviously he can't. That's a very tough existence. Saying grew up on the south side there's a great change Shepherd routine actually about being a White Sox fan on the north side.
Do you know what it's like to be in a world North siders. Candy you know into Congo it really is. It's as intensive as saying what church do you go to. What neighborhood you live in what team do you call for and I think probably not where you are so there's a lot of rivalry between Cubs fans and cardinals to me Oh absolutely.
As far as the baskets the baskets were put up in 1970 after there was a ruckus on opening day. A lot of fans jumped out of the plea to get out of the field Opening Day 1970 at Wrigley Field was really sort of won the 16th of Wrigley. There were a bunch of people in town for a political protest and a lot of fans were just crazy and drunk and God knows what else. And it was basically a riot on the field after the game. It's out there on the field in the bleachers ran out and started knocking players and you know for you know things like that. So shortly after that the couple put in this basket to try to keep people from jumping over the wall and it is worth as much as you know I mean I don't know physically the basket itself which would see if anybody's really had that idea of doping from jumping but it seems to be sort of the cycle. Logical Detroit remember where you are here you are at a park here to watch the game. But it has taken away as your caller noted the ability to just sort of reach over and make these amazing catches. Plucking the ball off the top of the opening date nights if you have Curt Flood the right center field of the particles to catch that hearing Kerry was broadcasting the game said that he had never seen anything like that. And it was a classic Atlanta time on the cover of Sports Illustrated and it's the kind of case you can't make now because the benefit is just a bit of it. Let's see. As far as the Little Big Horn I'm just trying to look up the date of that right now to see if they're actually there was a junior eight hundred seventy eight hundred seventy six yeah.
Yeah well the Cubs. Well the Chicago white stockings which was one of the charter franchises in the National League was playing in 1876. You know I would assume that at that point I could go to the record heat website here by the way if you're a baseball history fan. The one of the greatest websites in the world was retro or it has scored box scores specific for games going back to 1871. That's completely free. It's a really unbelievable website that helped me a lot in my work. PUNE 25 1876 with the Sunday and the Cubs were not playing that day or the. White Stockings went up but they did play the day before and the day after. So technically I think you're the coords friend that's right in that state. The franchise was playing at the time with the Little Big Horn which is really kind of incredible.
Yeah I guess I wouldn't have thought I would have had the same thought that said well no it didn't. Baseball doesn't it didn't go back that far but the answer is No. Yeah it did.
And really the history of professional baseball in this country believe they began truly in 1871 with the National Association. Most people believe now that the first true professional league was the National League which began in 1876 but the Cubs worked harder member of that lake. They did play in what is now the University of Illinois Chicago Medical Campus in a city called Pillar theory which Congo is famous for being a neighborhood full of fantastic Italian restaurants. So they plan to work street and word street is where the ball park was and after the cubs left the Westside grounds really that was sort of the beginning of the end of the Westside which was hit hard by the war it was hit hard by the Eastland disaster and when the Cubs left the neighborhood Ruth sort of sent the death knell for that part of the city at one time was called glorious West Side and actually was the one of the most money there is the city and that point it went into a cycle of despair for about 40 50 years. Well it shows the effect that a major league baseball park in half the neighborhood in a city after the cubs began playing at Wrigley Field. The neighborhood really went into a very very sharp upturn that lasted until the. Let's say the mid to late 50s.
And that's yet another one of the things about the park that's been that's really interesting is the integration of the park in the neighborhood and the fact that people think people think about well it should. Well they call it Wrigley ville. It has it has really shaped the neighborhood in the idea of I'm sure again that there's not a lot of places where you're where you know have a major league ballpark and you and it is surrounded like that with a residential area.
That's one of the terms of Wrigley Field I believe in one of the very important factors in the park. I tend to put the history of Wrigley Field and the history of the neighborhood into three very separate sections. I would say that from but 1914 to say 1945 was the era of growth of the ballpark the team in the neighborhood. Cubs were a great franchise in the 1920s 30s. They won nationally and it's 29 30 to 35 38 and through some very aggressive marketing on the part of the Wrigley and very fan friendly policies started with Charles weakness I think it would have relieved that even more. The Cubs were winning it was a beautiful ballpark that tricked families at that time that was not something that was a rule of thumb that baseball baseball would still see in the tens and twenties kind of a course not suitable for families or women and really helped change that to a very liberal policy of lady's stance which created a strong female fan continued and that really continues to this day month after the war really the second the fates of Wrigley Field and the Cubs begins which is a cycle of failure that went on for almost 40 years. People started moving out of the neighborhood after the war to the suburbs and the neighborhoods went down economically at the same time that the Cubs were really rethinking the sort of reaping the consequences of not having spent money on a farm system not signing black and Latin players. So in the fifties and sixties the pubs were a very poor team and they were drawing very badly and the neighborhood really was sort of going down slowly subset a flurry in the late 60s in which they became competitive for about seven years and they didn't win and they won. I think that the hood would have taken it up. Even earlier it was only in the early 80s when the Tribune Company bought the team and started pumping more money into Wrigley Field that people moved back to to Wrigley and that at that time some real estate developers began buying the plant renaming the area of Wrigley ville and sort of staging this place it's a place where young people could buy cheap property and live in a hip neighborhood and the Cubs became good almost immediately and since then attendance upon up almost every year.
So I really think it's the integration of the ballpark the neighborhood the city itself and the people who live in that neighborhood. It's critical to understanding the history of Wrigley Field.
Let's talk with somebody else where a listener here in Indiana on our toll free line right here below.
Well remember a few years ago the bricks fell off the building. Hitting people or something. What have they done about the and structural integrity of building or the real structure of that that's that old you know just from certain stuff the you know the mortar and everything and just wonder what's going on there.
Very important question good question. One of the reasons that Kaminski.
Park which was built around the same time historically a few years earlier one of the reasons that miscue park had to come down in the early 90s is because literally the park had not been taken care of in the early years. What I'm told is that architecture a way to preserve a building for the long term you have to really take care of it in the early years in which it's built in the first 10 to 20 years are absolutely critical and the promise that after the White Sox threw the 1919 World Series and the Sox went into the dumper basically as far as the standings and as far as attendance the committee can stop spending money on maintaining the ballpark in the 20s so that by the the 60s the park was sort of dilapidated and all of you know in I believe it was Opening Day 1987 or 88 a big chunk of concrete fell out of the upper deck and right field and almost frame somebody and that at that point it became clear that the park really couldn't stand for much longer. Wrigley Field on the other hand was take care of much much better in its first 10 to 20 years because every year the Wrigley's would repeat the ballpark they had a huge crew people keeping it clean in fact keeping the ball park clean pristine every year was part of their marketing plan. Most other ball teams didn't see the park as an asset but the Brooklyn did they knew that you couldn't necessarily guarantee a winning team but you could guarantee a clean ballpark and a great experience for people. So keeping the ballpark in good. It was a huge part of their plan. But that being said the park is 90 years old and there are structural issues in any park that old there are going to be structural issues. They have the upper deck and put in 1026 and 1027 and over the years they have reinforced the concrete several times they had a huge campaign in the 50s and 60s to do that in the late 80s when they built the luxury boxes in France for the press back to the upper deck. They had to do some reinforcement as well. But last year there were some instances of chunks of concrete falling. Nobody got hit by them but they were large enough that that this was a problem the fact that I worked at Wrigley Field about 45 50 games a season as a reporter for Major League Baseball's website and I found that the size of a razor blade. It's a phone. It's my path as I was walking up the ramp to the upper deck. I reported it and I certainly have an interest in not wanting to go down in a crumbling ballpark. So I thought it was definitely a concern to me as someone who spent a lot of time there as it would be for anybody who is a fan. My understanding is that they would but spending the offseason reinforcing the concrete trying to get rid of some of the ugly joins between old concrete yeah rusted out. I think that that that a lot of that work in the last year or so. My understanding is that it's being done to everyone's satisfaction that the reason the Cubs are now able to move along with their current expansion plans is because they have done a good job responding to the concerns about that. I think that at some point there is a possibility the Cubs may have to vacate Wrigley Field for a year so something can be rebuilt. If they did that they would probably have to play a miscue for a lot of Cup fans would probably be a disconnect and the level of playing in St. Louis or something.
Our guest he's former baseball columnist for total sports in America Online. He served as associate editor for Barnes and Noble's baseball encyclopedia he coauthored two editions of the USA Today Baseball Weekly insider. He makes his home in Chicago and is the author of the book Wrigley Field the authorized biography published by brasseries incorporated so if you if you like baseball if you're a Cubs fan. It's a book I'm sure that you would enjoy. Questions are welcome here 2 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5.
We're talking a little bit ago about the relationship between the neighborhood and the people who live there and the park and the team and I'm thinking about one of the bits of information I think is pretty interesting given all the kind of hoo ha over the last few years about people watching the game from rooftops surrounding rooftops that in fact it until the end of the Second World War you couldn't do that and people were actually arrested from their own roofs right where arrested rooftops.
It would see that being upset to be out of rooftop even if it was over the top there were stories about. So you know you might just fall off and break your neck. So I think there were also questions about structural safety building and what seems to have happened after World War 2 after people have been risking their lives in the Pacific and in Europe for a few years it seems like a lot of the rules and regulations that it's sort of died at 30. You know we broke the rules about something as minor as sitting on your roof. It seems to like that kind of just dissipated. People didn't really pay much attention to it anymore. It's by the 50s 60s one of the benefits of living in that. Ever notice you could just take a lawn chair and sit on your roof. What about. But before that it was it was just not done or arrested. Even as late as 1984 there's a great book called Who thought that your dogs instead of white Frank that was the first book really to be sort of a chronicle of taking part tour around the country there are a lot of books like that now dismissed.
First even at 90 minutes or when that book was done there was a very strong reaction from Wrigley Field fans about people selling the space on top of the roof and it was only later on in the 90s that people began to sort of challenge that idea again and say well you know there's money to be made here. Let's open up a club in the Cubs as they always do. It's not a great way to turn the situation to their advantage which is now that they've made the roof top 40 partners that basically threatened to sue them and to see it in use that leverage to become partners of the rooftop owners take a cut of the business as sort of a licensing rights.
They are now part of the coalition of rooftop owners. It's a rather amazing story of how you it's a quest for the populace as embodied by their dad that would keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer.
Well let's talk with someone here listening down in our area in Danville nearby community lie number four.
Hello good morning. I've missed unfortunately the first 10 minutes of this and I've just been fascinated with the description of the history and physical aspects of Wrigley Field but I've been a longtime Cubs fan and I have wished that I could someone would talk about the logistics of operating the current team how many uniforms they each player gets who takes care of them who makes the accommodations for travel to other places and all just a host of things and I do hear the because I mostly listen to the games on the radio but they do say that the starting pitcher gets to choose the uniform of the day.
Is that true another.
Have both teams and I'd be if this is beyond the purview of what you say you've selected for today's topic I have but if it is I sure hope we develop a whole hour on those aspects of a baseball team and particularly the Cubs.
Well I expected something that our guest knows about and I bet you talk about that.
I can certainly speak to some of those issues. I think those are actually great questions because it just sort of wonder who takes care of all that stuff. It's first team travel there is it every team has a traveling secretary who is responsible for getting flights chartered airplane flights chartered and getting all the hotels booked into passing out the dealing meal money and things like that.
They actually get envelopes with their sort of daily purging and you know money. They get coupons for their hotel. All this is under the purview of the traveling secretary that is a job that has been.
There's been a traveling secretary in baseball for I'd say at least 80 to 90 years because there has always been a need to have travel back in the old days it was train travel of course but they also had hotels and back in the old days players used to actually have to room together to save money and now I believe players get their own room or else if they're really together they're rolling it suites rather than back in the old days. They actually had to sleep in the same bed. There's a very silly story about a year old Philadelphia Athletics in the Under 20s which I believe there was a catch Shrek and ghosts too had a habit of eating crackers in bed and his roommate wanted a clause put in his contract that he would not have to room with a truck and both if he continued to eat crackers in bed. So right now this is not something that has the players have to worry about there is going to be something in their bed eating crackers as far as the uniforms. The Cubs do allow the starting pitcher for the day to choose which uniform tops they want to wear which is why their whatever problem brought on the pitching. You will see the Cubs for in their dark blue uniforms whether they're at home or on the road. I believe that Kerry would like the white jersey. Mark Pryor likes the blue jersey. Last year I think mathematics like the blue curious you know I think Greg Maddux prefers the white tigers. Yes that is that it's sort of a rarity I think in baseball. It's a lot of teams don't have out at home to receive except on things like special days or Sundays and as far as the number of Jersey players get I think they get several different uniforms and the everything about the clubhouse and if you're responsible for taking care of those things there are in every boat park not only home clubhouse manager but also a visiting clubhouse manager who takes care of every visiting team. Oh and I think that it's a very difficult job because you have to take care of equipment and lockers for that many different teams come to town in the year. Actually there are 15 teams that come to Wrigley Field plus whatever it's really games they have. So the being a visiting clubhouse manager especially you know if it's in a clubhouse that it's cramped and all of that when the field is a very difficult job of guys are paid very very well.
There were lots of interesting questions. Do you I don't suppose you would know offhand something like if you if you looked at the the budget for the team how much that how much was spent and to maintain the team and if you took out salaries and then if you also took out the amount of money that they spent to to maintain the park to try to keep it in shape and cut the grass and you know all that kind of stuff. What what how much money would be left with other things like that on uniforms or example and travel and all the sort of incidental things that's not salary and that's not park infrastructure.
Those are good questions. I think a lot of the equipment is fought on both bases you know the teams get it feel it or think it's like in Athens are often provided to the players for free or for very low cost as multiple tools.
You know Franklin is able to say where they fit in to supplier to cover your Louisville slugger says we provide the best to you know to the major leagues or whatever. And really good players and you know the Barry Bonds and so never have any of their clubs or bats or anything.
So a lot of that cost is actually absorbed through the sort of way that business is done I will tell you that the people who work in baseball and I know this from having asked a lot of them you know most people who work in based on the administrative side of the front offices even the managers coaches these people that make that much money is business what almost all of the salary is front loaded. In other words if it's spent on talent it's very much like Hollywood.
Like most other entertainment industries which contracts are afoot the talents because the understanding is that people are going to come out to watch the talent they don't care as much about the infrastructure they just want to work. But you know they don't really have any concern about sort of a parity in salaries. People who work in the front offices make a pittance of what they could make if they were to use their skills in a regular sort of business.
Let's talk again with another caller here. Let's go to champagne flowing in one hello.
Hello yes my mother is ninety nine currently and she has been a Cub fan for over 80 of those years. And I'm wondering if she can watch the games. Her eyesight is well enough and she has cable too. To see the games currently but she doesn't read well because of her eyes and do you it is your book on tape by any chance. So we went at it.
That's a wonderful question and one that we had been thinking about that as of yet have not developed plants to do it. I would very much I will I will. What I'll do is I'll talk.
The publisher today okayed that point because though I'm sure there's a lot of people out there that are Cub fans and they have the time and they would just love to read your book or hear your book.
Question I really appreciate answers because I would that the whole point of writing the book was to really connect with people who care about the history of the theme of the park and the history of baseball in the history of Congo South. You know your theory. OK thank you I hope that I really hope that this year that that's what there is for.
All right well thanks for the call. Other comments or questions are certainly welcome. The number here in Champaign Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. Toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5 and our guest is Stuart Shea.
He's a baseball journalist he's the author of a book that looks at the history of Wrigley Field and the title of the book is Wrigley Field the an authorized biography brassy Incorporated is the publisher of the book. There's just so many little fascinating stories in things about the park that make it special and. Just another one I'm interested in having you talk about is the scoreboard because the scoreboard that's there it was built in the 30s. It's still barely there. The original scoreboard and it still operated by hand. I don't.
Are there any others like that in Major League Baseball on the scoreboard and the Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston still has a lot of the numbers of the inning by any score on the batter. Those are operated by hand in fact I'd say probably that the Left Field scoreboard in Fenway Park even more spartan than the war that Wrigley Field they will occasionally have a TV theater going in back of the Green Monster. What the environment is like back there are there are there have been rats there and things like that I don't know if they've ever had rats in the Corporate of regular tickets raised to a pretty high level off the ground. But the scope of rhythms built in 1938. Rather open in 1938 for opening day and it was just up at the Times looked at this thing around you know the crown jewel of any park in the country that scoreboard for sort of the final scene of the perfection that was the year that as Wrigley Field at that time it was for that for that time was a huge scoreboard that was seen as its not only functional but also truly beautiful you know. It's still really fun to convert me the way.
Maybe only two or three other physical entities can define the Wrigley Field scoreboard. You have a column Soldier Field you have the Wrigley building itself the John Hancock Building. These are things that screen cargo. One of the things that the that Piquet Wrigley did in the 1930s was he really had an idea of the aesthetic value of the park to make it a place where people really wanted to be good. Beautiful Reuben field was not just a not just a marketing slogan that was the real philosophy of the team. They could sell the ballpark make itself beautiful Wrigley Field as much as they could sell baseball.
Were there times along the years when people argued strenuously for a different a more modern electronic scoreboard.
Well there have been times when people said well be better if we did that with that of the other things they put on the electronic auxiliary scoreboard along the third base upper deck sort of facing of the third base separate back in the 60s.
And that remains there now and in the early 80s they put a small electronic message board on the bottom of the scoreboard and that remains there. But I think that's about as electronic as people seem to want to be. I think people go to. Feel because they want a reminder of the fact that life wasn't always as crazy and complicated as it is now of course life always runs complicated but it's all the changes that have happened over the field or the changes that have happened in 60 or more years ago except for the right. I tend to think that we look at Wrigley Field as a symbol of the past that was less complicated and more cancer to understand and I really truly believe that baseball is in the diametric opposition to the pace of American life. That's what makes it special to people that's why people love it because it really feels like an escape you know.
Well let's talk about the lights for a second because this in my mind is dating that this year will mark only the 18th year of night baseball at Wrigley the lights waning in one thousand eighty eight. Why did it take so long for them to put in the lights.
The question it's certainly worth it. If they didn't want to sully Wrigley Field with evening events you go back to 1914 the first year of the park they actually at times brought in portable lighting. You have things like fireworks shows Rockville shows even there were actually vaudeville shows on the infield of Bergenfield and there were things like basketball games and boxing matches and wrestling that is if you show up in tournaments at the religious gatherings of all sorts of things were done at Wrigley Field all the way up to the 15th and a lot of them were done at night. So they're bringing portable lighting.
I think the solution to the question why didn't the Cubs have lights for night baseball was in the character. Because everybody was a very quiet man unlike his father Bill who was very communal and far the kind of people that people never leave the quiet. Interests are very self-motivated and builds back in an ethic later all of the White Sox who spent a lot of his youth working of Wrigley Field says that he said that he thinks that Pickett really didn't want to have played because he didn't think of it first. And in some points that's a little unfair but I think the pivot we did have that sort of character of wanting to be his own man didn't want to do things just because other people that you know weren't said he didn't want to father the neighborhood with like the fact that they did other thing as it is and it's like sort of makes me question the sincerity of that. There is the story that the Cubs ordered a lighting system. For two seasons and they were all ready to start installing it on December 8 which would have been a Monday. Unfortunately December 7th was Pearl Harbor and at that point Wrigley decided to donate all the materials that were going to be used for lighting systems or department and I don't believe that I believe that story is true because it came from the former general manager Jim Gallagher and it was a top general 70 or so I believe that story that really didn't really want to do the right thing and we wanted to do it as a last resort because trying very well but he was happy to have an excuse to not do it.
You mentioned there in passing is Bill back and certainly his name is an important name associated with Chicago baseball as you say and what a lot of people will think of as the White Sox but he did before that have an association with the Cubs and with Wrigley Field and the story is apparently that he's the guy ultimately the guy that we have to thank for the ivy.
Well this is the story and how it fascinated me because I've never been able to find any concrete evidence that the planting of the ivy happened as he described it in his own Achrafieh is baccy back as a rock. He talks about planting it overnight because Phil really wanted to have some friends and. Beautiful new ivy but the evidence doesn't point to that truth. The evidence points to the as the ivy being planted late at the 1937 scene but certainly not completely strung in there overnight and certainly not looking like we think it does now. The photos from late 1937 in fact early in the 238 show that there was ivy planted in the ground that was working its way up the outfield wall but not necessarily that it was planted from the top down and certainly not done overnight. The way that we would think I would assume that what happened is that that bill back and some some guys from the cleaving nursery up and I believe Woodstock Illinois came in and planted some things in the ground for before the day that rigorous books cover the sea.
It's progress but there was no sort of covert flashlight wielding bunch of gardeners who came and planted entire 400 foot range of ivy the way we think of it now it was much more I think of a slow operation because it took the time for not only the ivy but really the bittersweet which was planted before they got it going to grow quicker. Catch. I think it's a great piece. Of mythmaking bill back basically and and the truth to me it's much more interesting because the idea of seeing the picture of at that time you see in the newspapers of these little strands of ivy growing up the outfield walls. To me it's kind of interesting because that to me would be much stranger than just coming in saying the whole thing being planted overnight that took several months for this religious approach to what we know of now but I think Bill back is to it is to his credit that he came up with the idea of doing this. Implementing it sort of surprised his employer because Bill back was very much into promotion. It really wanted to sell. He was even more interested in selling Wrigley Field the steak at Wrigley was. Beck wanted to do things that really never would have stood for one thing that did do what I know that I'm running out of time here. If he was responsible for having the little blue and white lights outside of the Wrigley field bleachers that indicate whether the Cubs won or lost that thing.
We are coming down to maybe having a minute or two left. There are so many stories connected with the park and also with things that happened in the park great historic moments in baseball and you know and other things as well. Is there anything that among all of those things most say let's just talk about history a baseball thing the things that that have occurred in that park that stands out in your mind as being a really iconic kind of baseball story.
That's that's a very question I would say that Wrigley Field is the first place that fans were allowed to keep. This was not done in the early days of baseball because baseball is more expensive but you know we went in the 16th started the Strand whereby he allowed fans to keep our ball was the rule.
Think of the time that it was just more about public safety for the Cubs Cubs Ross one of the first teams to have radio broadcasting of their games. The Wrigley believed in radio when he thought it would be great promotion for the Cubs put the games on the radio and let fans know what they're missing by not being out the park. Those are two classic things for me. Another funny thing is that people don't realize that Pickett Wrigley actually considered installing artificial turf in the 1960s because of what happened.
Luckily he abandoned that idea fairly soon so we didn't have the padding or we failed.
Well we're going to have to wrap it up but there is much much more in this book and again I want to make sure that people who are listening if you are Cubs fans or if you're just fans of baseball I'm sure that you would enjoy reading the book and it's all about the history of Wrigley Field and the title is Wrigley Field The Unauthorized Biography brasseries Incorporated is the publisher by our guest Stuart Shea baseball journalist has written about baseball for total sports America Online and he's joining us from his home in Chicago. Stuart thanks very much for talking with us.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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Guest: Shea, Stuart
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Producing Organization: WILL (Radio/television station : Urbana, Ill.)
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- Chicago: “Focus; Wrigley Field: the Unauthorized Biography,” 2005-03-09, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 21, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-fn10p0x66b.
- MLA: “Focus; Wrigley Field: the Unauthorized Biography.” 2005-03-09. WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 21, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-fn10p0x66b>.
- APA: Focus; Wrigley Field: the Unauthorized Biography. Boston, MA: WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-fn10p0x66b