For Wrigley, it’s party of a century
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO — For Wrigley Field, it really was the party of a century.
Exactly 100 years after the Chicago Federals pounded the Kansas City Packers in the first game at Wrigley, the famed ballpark got quite the birthday bash on Wednesday afternoon. Hall of Famers such as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Andre Dawson were on hand, and so were Bears greats Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.
The Cubs and Diamondbacks went retro, wearing throwback 1914 jerseys, and the famed scoreboard listed Kansas City and Chi-Feds in their place.
Yes, it was quite an afternoon, a day of celebration. A day of reflection, too. The memories, the stories, flowed like runs in a big rally.
“It just gives me goose bumps because I had a chance to play here,” Williams said. “I often said this was my playground during the summer for so many years. So I have enjoyed it and I still enjoy it.”
The celebration came as Cubs ownership and the neighboring rooftop owners remain in a standstill over proposed renovations. The $500 million project, which includes a giant Jumbotron, is on hold because the Ricketts family wants assurances that it won’t be sued over obstructed views.
“You can’t ask a team to be competitive and you can’t ask people to do things and then tie their hands and their legs,” Commissioner Bud Selig said. “It’s just wrong. Somebody has to say it so I’m happy to say it.”
It’s also worth mentioning that the rooftop owners, who charge fans to sit in bleachers atop their buildings, have a contract under which they share 17 percent of their revenues with the Cubs. The Tribune Co., the previous owner, signed it.
“This ownership didn’t,” Selig said.
He said the treatment the current owners — the Ricketts family — has received is “beyond unfair” and that he will do everything he “possibly can” to help them. He also said the Rickettses have not approached him about moving, that they’re committed to renovating Wrigley and staying there.
“They know the right thing to do for this franchise and this sport is to preserve this, just like the Red Sox preserved Fenway,” said Selig, who made his first trip to the ballpark in May 1944.
Ushers wore party hats. Fans received birthday cupcakes and throwback jerseys. There was a replica Wrigley Field cake from Carlo’s Bakery, setting of the hit TLC show “Cake Boss,” near the statue of Banks outside the ballpark. A portion was to be served to guests at the charity event at Chicago’s Field Museum.
On his way in from suburban Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Williams thought about all the events besides baseball games that have taken place at Wrigley Field over the years.
The ballpark has hosted everything from boxing to soccer to pro wrestling to the circus to the rodeo to concerts to a Chicago Blackhawks game. There was even this: On back-to-back weekends in January 1944, ski jumpers leapt from scaffolding covered in snow and ice and landed behind second base.
In many ways, Wrigley Field has seen everything but a Cubs championship. Of course, they haven’t won one since 1908 — eight years before they started playing at what was then known as Weeghman Park.
Of course, the Bears celebrated a few at Wrigley. They won NFL championship games there in 1933, 1941, 1943 and 1963 before they moved to Soldier Field in 1971.
Williams recalled watching the Bears at Wrigley, back when Sayers and Butkus and Mike Ditka were playing and when George Halas was running the club.