This is a new weekly feature in which I (and maybe you, too, readers) detail the various reasons for hating your ballpark. This week: The Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field.
Confined: In 1914, Weeghman Park was built quickly and on the cheap — by the same architect who designed Comiskey Park, only Weeghman was done at half the cost and in two months' time — for the doomed Chicago Whales of the Federal League. Many, many years later, under a new name and with a new tenant, the place became a massive, rollicking Sigma Chi in which one could, if one wanted, occasionally glance toward the green expanse in the middle to enjoy some epochally bad baseball. Wrigley Field is now what passes for a shrine in baseball. It's altogether apt that the ballpark was built on the former site of a Lutheran seminary and just down the street from a German-style beer garden. Wrigley Field now exists somewhere between the twin poles of piety and unholy, shit-faced crapulence. It's fitting, too, that Wrigley was where, in everyone's favorite overrated baseball film, The Natural, Glenn Close chose to stand her white ass up in a shaft of God's own sunlight, not just because the place is famous for its obstructed views, but because in the modern age Wrigley has laid claim to the sort of virginal purity that Close's character idiotically represented. "Wrigley Field," as architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote in The New York Times in 1988, "is a place that is innocent of instant replay, of vast electronic scoreboards as cluttered with advertising as Times Square, of baseball as a business." It is infallible. A brick-and-ivy pope of a ballpark. This accounts for the hue and cry any time someone reveals Wrigley to be the big, ringing cash register it's always been — when, for instance, the odious Sam Zell suggests selling naming rights to the joint, or when someone cooks up the outrageous idea of playing baseball there after sunset. Don't touch Wrigley, everyone cries out. Leave it be. And meanwhile great hunks of concrete come raining from the rafters.
A story about the fans: A 26-year-old youth-baseball coach goes to a baseball game in October. He is an asset to his community, by all accounts. He is wearing a ballcap and headphones. It is 2003, and this is a very important baseball game, which helps explain why, in a matter of hours, six cop cars will be stationed outside his home for protection, and why the Illinois governor will himself suggest that the young man enter the witness protection program. Steve Bartman is about to become the greatest, non-bovid villain in Cubs history, simply for the crime of making a play on a foul ball that, not incidentally, would've been a routine out in any stadium with enough sense to build some foul territory. But this isn't a story about Wrigley. This is a story about Wrigley's fans — the ones who drove a youth baseball coach and an asset to his community into deep seclusion, the ones who wallow in the subjunctive (what might've happened had Moises Alou come down with the ball?) while blithely ignoring what actually did happen in that Game 6, in that very inning, in fact. What happened was this: Shortstop Alex Gonzalez and his frying pan of a glove booted a dead-certain, inning-ending double-play ball onto Addison Street. The Cubs lost that game because of a bad baseball play, not because fate, in the shape of 26-year-old kid wearing headphones, wanted to consign them to more years of exquisite suffering. Any Cubs fans who think otherwise aren't worth the troughs they have to piss in.
The view from the stands (everything sic'd): "I half expected to find the Ark of the Covenant before I found my seats, and the smell was like taking a Fantastic Voyage inside a penis." (The Gentile Golem) ... "Wrigley Field is a complete dump. I usually don't make it a point to agree with Ozzie Guillen, however, he is right that Wrigley Field needs to be demolished. ... The crumbling upper deck that drops chunks of concrete to the lower levels (a net was installed to protect people), the piss stains everywhere you look, and the absolutely horrendous food that is a blight on Chicago's good name. Wrigley, like the Cubs, is a complete loser." (Erik T.) ... "unless you memorize the stadium layout, you have a 30% chance of purchasing an obstructed view seat. the concourse smells like piss. most importantly, wrigley has its own scalping company, so tickets are absurdly expensive ... the village people perform annually" (Aaron B.)
"My dad took myself and my younger brother to a game in the bleachers (I was 22 and my brother was a naïve 13 year old at the time). About three innings into the game the woman in the row next to us passes out then wakes up abruptly and throws up all over the guy in front of her, I'm talking an explosion that would make the Catalina wine mixer clear out. The woman gets ejected and as she's being dragged out starts slurring "Don't eat the hot dogs! Let me go its your hot dogs that made the throw up! I buy this stadium every game!" The crowd spends most of the inning watching this. One inning later another intoxicated gentleman arrives searching for a seat, he notices the two vomit soaked benches in front of him being the only open seats in the section so of course he should turn away and look elsewhere. Of course not, the guy disinfects the seat with some beer and wipes off the romance with his bare hand, sits down and spends the rest of the afternoon soaking it all in." (Andy S.)
Next up: Angel Stadium. Got any horrible experiences to share? Send them to email@example.com.