10 Fast Facts About Wrigley Field
Originally opened in 1914, Chicago's Wrigley Field—home of the Chicago Cubs—is the second oldest ballpark in America (second only to Boston's Fenway Park). So it's hardly surprising that the field, which was renamed after chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. (who bought the baseball club in 1918 and renamed the park in 1927) is steeped in history. Here are 10 things everyone ought to know about this jewel box park.
1. THE FAMOUS IVY BACKDROP WAS PLANTED IN 1937.
In 1937, Bill Veeck Jr., the son of the Cubs's president, planted ivy vines against the outfield wall. It was originally 350 Japanese bittersweet plants and 200 Boston ivy plants, but the Boston ivy eventually took over. If a ball gets lost in the ivy, it's considered a ground-rule double as long as the outfielder raises his hands to indicate that the ball is lost. If he doesn't, it's considered fair play.
2. THE SCOREBOARD HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE 1937, TOO.
The old-school scoreboard is also still manually operated. Despite its prominent placement, it has never been struck with a batted ball. Golfer Sam Snead teed off from home plate and hit it once, though.
3. THERE ARE RULES FOR HOME RUN BALLS.
When a player for the Cubs hits a home run, the lucky fan who catches the ball doesn't take it home as a souvenir: tradition dictates that he or she return it to the player. (Cubs fans are thoughtful like that.) If it's a player on the opposing team who hits the tater, it will usually be promptly thrown back onto the field (even if the person who catches it is outside of the stadium).
4. WRIGLEY FIELD USED TO BE WEEGHMAN PARK.
Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley was an investor in the Cubs and kept increasing his shares, then eventually bought out Weeghman in 1918. He was full owner by 1921 and expanded the park in 1922.
5. LIGHTS WEREN'T ADDED TO WRIGLEY UNTIL 1988.
On August 8, 1988, Wrigley Field was lit up for the first time. They were scheduled to be added in the early 1940s, but one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, P.K. Wrigley donated 165 tons of steel to the war effort instead. The City of Chicago issued an ordinance against night games at Wrigley because the lights would be distracting to people that actually lived in the neighborhood, but the organization and the city came to an agreement in time for the 1988 season.
6. THE FIRST NIGHT GAME AT WRIGLEY FIELD GOT RAINED OUT.
The first night game was supposed to be against the Phillies, but it got rained out. While waiting on the rain delay, some of the Cubs took the opportunity to act out a scene from Bull Durham and played slip-and-slide on the tarp covering the field. The players who participated were fined $500 each.
7. IT'S ONE OF THE ONLY BALLPARKS WHERE NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENTS CAN SIT ON THEIR ROOFS AND WATCH THE GAME.
This wasn't really a problem for the Cubs organization until the 1990s, when owners of the apartments built bleachers on their roofs and started charging people to come watch the game from their stands. The owners of the apartments agreed to share some of the proceeds with the Cubs and the Cubs agreed not to block the view with a fence. The team's owners have also scooped up some of these apartment buildings for themselves on occasion.
8. THE BEARS PLAYED AT WRIGLEY FIELD FROM 1921 TO 1970.
They were called the Staleys for the first season, but then renamed themselves to coordinate with the Cubs.
9. HARRY CARAY'S FAMOUS SEVENTH-INNING STRETCH RENDITION OF "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME" ALMOST NEVER HAPPENED.
While Harry Caray was still announcing for the White Sox, radio producer and broadcaster Jay Scott approached him about singing the song for the audience, but Caray declined. So, during one game, Scott turned the mikes on in the announcer's booth without telling Caray and a tradition was born—a tradition that Caray brought with him to Wrigley Field when he became the team's official broadcaster in 1982.
10. BABE RUTH'S FAMOUS CALLED SHOT HAPPENED AT WRIGLEY.
During the 1932 World Series, The Babe pointed to centerfield to indicate exactly where he was going to hammer the next ball. And he did. It's much argued among baseball fans as to whether Ruth actually called the shot or if he was pointing at the pitcher or simply gesturing toward the Cubs's bench. Whatever he did, he did it at Wrigley.