Wrigley Field is celebrating a milestone this year.
The home of the Chicago Cubs will begin marking a century of memories Friday, when the team plays its home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Built in 1914, the ballpark’s first major league game was played April 23, 1914, when the Chicago Federals took on the Kansas City Packers.
The Federals played in the Federal League, and the new stadium was called Weeghman Park, in honor of team owner Charlie Weeghman.
When the Federal League went out of business in 1915, Weeghman became part owner in the Chicago Cubs, who played in the National League. The Cubs moved from a site on Chicago’s West Side to the corner of Clark and Addison streets.
In 1920, the Cubs were owned by chewing-gum magnate
William Wrigley Jr., who changed the name of the stadium to Cubs Park and then to Wrigley Field six years later.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The Friendly Confines have seen a lot of baseball since then, as well as concerts, NFL and college football games, and even a NHL Winter Classic hockey game.
In other words, Wrigley Field holds 100 years of memories.
To commemorate the milestone, several area authors have put together books to capture the history and atmosphere of one of Major League Baseball’s oldest and most-beloved ballparks.
“W is for Wrigley: The Friendly Confines Alphabet,” written by Brad Herzog and illustrated by John Hanley, Sleeping Bear Press, $16.95.
Crystal Lake artist John Hanley has been fortunate to work with a number of professional sports teams, including the Cubs, to produce commemorative limited-edition prints.
But Hanley, a Cubs fan since he was 6 years old, was happy to be able to do another book about his favorite team.
“It was pretty cool to work on,” Hanley said.
“W is for Wrigley,” which presents the history of the Friendly Confines in an alphabet form, is anything but a children’s book.
“It’s not your average children’s book,” he said. “The artwork is not geared toward children.”
The lushly illustrated publication combines short poems for each letter along with additional historical information that bring the ballpark to life.
The 28 illustrations, which Hanley did in mixed media of oil and acrylic paints and colored pencils, took four months to create.
Hanley’s favorite, called “Late Afternoon at Wrigley Field” and corresponding to the letter “A” in the book, depicts the whole outfield in three panels. The original is 53 inches wide, and limited-edition prints are available for purchase.
One challenge in creating the book was the illustration for “Z,” which tells the story of Zachary Taylor Davis, the architect behind Wrigley Field.
Hanley couldn’t find a picture of him anywhere, he said. Eventually, he found the architect’s great-grandson living in Chicago who had a photo from which Hanley could work.
“He was the first architect to use concrete and steel for baseball stadiums,” Hanley said of Davis.
Like most Cubs fans, Hanley isn’t too optimistic about this year’s team, but he sees good things on the horizon.
“I love the direction they’re going in, but it’s going to take awhile,” Hanley said.
As for the Ricketts family’s plan for renovating Wrigley, Hanley is all for it.
“It’s time has come,” he said. “No one drives a 100-year-old car.”
“Wrigley Field: The Centennial,” by Les Krantz, Triumph Books, $25.95.
Lake Geneva resident Les Krantz, who is a longtime sportswriter, filmmaker and book publisher, has been going to Cubs games at Wrigley Field for 46 years.
But the motivation for “Wrigley Field: The Centennial” can be seen in the book’s dedication: “To my favorite companions at Wrigley Field, Ryan and Isabel (‘Issy’) Krantz.”
“Yeah, it’s a legacy,” Krantz said of his grandchildren. “I wrote the dedication to them.”
The book, which shares highlights of the history of Wrigley Field, is his way of passing along the history of the team to another generation.
“The book is all about the generations,” he said, “how it carries on from one to the next.”
What sets Krantz’s book apart is the accompanying DVD documentary that features rare historic footage and interviews with Cubs greats. It includes footage from all five World Series played at Wrigley Field, Krantz said, as well as rare footage of Babe Ruth pitching.
The documentary is hosted by Lou Boudreau Jr. and Ron Santo Jr. – yes, the sons of the Cubs legends.
“That’s what makes my book special,” Krantz said.
Also special is Krantz’s own connection to many of the stories told in the book. For instance, Krantz remembers being at the ballpark on the day broadcaster Harry Caray started the seventh-inning stretch tradition of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
“Someone was pointing to the broadcast booth,” Krantz said. “And Harry comes to the edge of the booth and leans forward… That was the first time he sang it.”
Then there was the time Krantz went to Wrigley Field in 1969 and found that a classmate was pitching.
“Wrigley Field is one huge memory,” Krantz said, relating how he often wonders when he is at the ballpark what it was like in 1945 or in 1932 when Ruth played there.
In addition to the history of Wrigley, Krantz also appreciates the atmosphere and camaraderie one finds at the Friendly Confines.
“The thing I like about Wrigley Field is that you can be sitting next to a total stranger and talk to them like they are family,” he said. “They like baseball, they like the Cubs and they like Wrigley Field.”
Win or lose, the Cubs and the historic ballpark will draw Krantz back again.
“It’s been magic for 100 years,” he said.
“Wrigley Field: 100 Stories for 100 Years,” by Dan Campana and Rob Carroll, The History Press, $19.99.
When longtime Cubs fan Rob Carroll was asked by his friend Dan Campana to help with a book to commemorate the 100th year of Wrigley, he readily agreed.
Carroll, who is the digital managing editor at Townsquare Media in Rockford and a former Northwest Herald employee, has been a Cubs fan since childhood.
Campana, a freelance writer and former Shaw Media employee, had written a previous book and was familiar with the publishing process.
The pair’s goal was to assemble 100 stories that would tell Wrigley Field’s story from a variety of viewpoints.
“We wanted to paint a picture of Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville,” Carroll said.
So they made up a master list of players, former managers, people in the neighborhood, local vendors and the like. And they also spent countless hours at the ballpark to interview fans.
One special entry comes from former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood, who relates his feelings of being at Wrigley for his first major league game as well as his last.
Wood’s story kicks off the stories after an introduction by WGN-TV sports director Dan Roan.
Other big names, such as NBC broadcaster Bob Costas, who relates a story about the “Sandberg Game” in 1984, and former Cubs pitcher Mitch Williams, who tells of his first day in the National League, also make appearances.
“I think the way it’s laid out, you get some surprises in it,” Carroll said. “At the same time, you don’t have to read it cover to cover.”
Carroll’s favorite story doesn’t even include a Cubs fan, he said.
On a visit to Wrigley, he ran into a St. Louis Cardinals fan who was waiting to get into the bleachers with his brother, a Houston Astros fan. The siblings had been separated for years and had only reconnected recently.
“He had great stuff to say about the ballpark,” Carroll said.
The bleachers also are Carroll’s favorite place to watch a game.
“It’s a unique perspective of the ballpark,” he said. “You can’t beat that.”
As for the future of the franchise, Carroll is trying to remain patient, he said.
“On paper, it looks great,” he said. “I have a good feeling about the future. That’s what being a Cubs fan is all about.”
For more information
All three books are available at Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock, or at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble (BN.com) online.
“W is for Wrigley”: For information about prints from the book or for a signed copy, visit www.johnhanleyartist.com or call Hanley’s studio at 815-459-1123.
“Wrigley Field: The Centennial”: For information about the book, visit www.wrigleyfieldthecentennial.com.
“Wrigley Field: 100 Stories for 100 Years”: Authors Dan Campana and Rob Carroll will be in Wrigleyville autographing copies of their book at 8 p.m. Thursday(April 3) at Deuce’s and The Diamond Club, 3505 N. Clark St., Chicago. The event is presented by Pat Brickhouse, wife of legendary WGN sportscaster Jack Brickhouse.