4/22 Wrigley’s 100th anniversary
On Wednesday, Wrigley Field will celebrate it’s 100th anniversary, and Cubs catcher John Baker will think about all the other players who have stood on the field in the last century.
“This field is kind of like a soldier — it’s lasted for so long,” Baker said. “More than anything, I think about the privilege to step out on to it. Rarely in baseball do you get the chance to stand on the same spot where the all-time great players have stood on and played on the same field.
“One of the special things about golf is people can go to St. Andrews and Augusta and play,” he said. “In baseball, you think of the new stadium in Washington and the new stadium in Miami and Shea Stadium is gone, and that was new in the ’60s. This place and Fenway Park are one of the few places left where you can walk out and stand at home plate and be at the same place Babe Ruth stood and Ted Williams stood. I think that’s the most special aspect of this entire ballpark.”
The Cubs and Diamondbacks will wear throwback uniforms to reflect the 100-year anniversary, although neither will be wearing jerseys from their respective club. The Cubs will wear the Chi-Feds jerseys to represent the first team that played at Wrigley, which was then Weegham Park. The Diamondbacks will wear versions of the Kansas City Packers’ uniforms. The Chi-Feds played the Packers on April 23, 1914.
Fans will be asked to sing “Happy Birthday” in the fifth inning, and several Cubs alums, including Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Billy Williams, will return for pre-game festivities.
“There’s a little kid in every one of us that comes out when we see former players who have been here,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “Their experiences are unique.”
However, no team has celebrated a championship at Wrigley Field. Is there anything about the ballpark that makes Renteria think that can’t happen?
“No,” Renteria said. “The game is defined and starts and ends with the players. Hopefully, when we’re coaching and managing, we’re able to help direct and stay out of the way when we have to.”
Theo Epstein knows about historical ballparks, having spent so much time with the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“When it comes to the 100th anniversary, for me, I think of how Wrigley is the epicenter of fans’ connection to the Cubs and it represents something so important to this franchise and the fans,” Epstein said. “It not only connects Wrigley to the fans of the team, but also generations of fans to one another. … It’s the epicenter of the fan’s connection to the team and for a lot of families, it’s an important familial place because of so much bonding and so many good times have gone on here despite the losing.
“We all look forward to the day when the crowd and the energy in the ballpark is focused on the ninth inning comeback the Cubs are going to have instead of the seventh inning stretch,” he said.
For Chicago’s Carlos Villanueva, pitching at Wrigley Field is a little surreal.
“This park, it’s a different aura,” Villanueva said. “I was fortunate in my first year to start a game here in September. You grow up in the Dominican and you get WGN-TV back home, and we watched the Cubs games, and it looked so much different on TV. You see the ivy and the wind and the people.
“The fact that I was here, it’s almost like I didn’t want to pitch, I just wanted to sit and watch a game as a fan,” he said. “I couldn’t believe I was actually in this park. You start thinking about all the people and everyone has seen the videos of years ago and the people who were playing here. It’s crazy.”
It’s been 100 years of baseball at Clark and Addison streets.
“Obviously, the dimensions, the ivy, the basket, how more people come for day games than night games, the rooftops — it’s definitely special and it’s something you can’t replicate,” Villanueva said of Wrigley Field. “I always joke around and tell people nobody can understand what it feels like to be a Cubbie unless you’ve been one. Wrigley is all part of it. We get a little renovations done and it’ll be around for 100 more years. In this next century, let’s have at least 25 championships.”
— Carrie Muskat