May 26, 2003: Chicago, Illinois
The second leg of the Windy City Ballpark Tour took place on Memorial Day and was a day I will never forget. Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, is one of the two crown jewels left in Major League Baseball (Fenway Park being the other). Until recently, Wrigley Field was like no other modern-day ballpark; there was no advertising on the playing field, or video scoreboard in the outfield. Spending a day (you have to attend a day game!) in the Friendly Confines bleachers (you have to sit in the bleachers!) was like taking a baseball time machine back to when it was just a game. Mike and I arrived at Wrigley over three hours before the first pitch. We waited on line to enter the bleachers, which is first-come, first-serve. We were lucky enough to sit in the front row, close enough to touch the famous green ivy, first planted by Bill Veeck. I caught my first baseball at a game, ever, when Pirates relief pitcher Solomon Torres threw one up to the screen during batting practice. I had to fight off a few fans for the ball, but it was worth the effort. While waiting for the game to begin, Mike and I made friends with the security guard, Matt. He was a fun guy who told us many stories about the ballpark, the Cubs, and their Hall of Fame announcer Harry Caray. The game was a sellout of 40,225; fans were treated to a pitching duel between Cub Kerry Wood and Pittsburgh Pirate Josh Fogg. The Cubs were coming off a 13-game road trip and did not bring their bats with them. Wood kept the Cubbies in the game through 7 by striking out 10 and allowing only one hit, but Josh Fogg matched Wood for 7 innings of shutout ball. The Pirates exploded for nine runs in the 8th inning to put the game away 10-0.
Since my first visit to the Friendly Confines, the Cubs have been sold to the Ricketts Family and announced a four-phase renovation project to modernize Wrigley beginning at the conclusion of the 2014 season. “Just because baseball season is over doesn’t mean the excitement is ending at Wrigley Field. This offseason, the long-awaited ballpark expansion and restoration, now known as The 1060 Project, is underway. This upgrade is designed to ensure the viability of the ballpark for future generations of Cubs fans, while preserving the beauty, charm and historic features fans have come to know and love.”
As the Ricketts Family oversees Wrigley’s transformation they have hired Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations to transform the Cubs on the field. Ironically, Epstein was the architect of the Red Sox team that ended their 86-year World Series drought, while Fenway Park underwent its own modernization during the early 2000s. Cub fans are hoping history will repeat itself and the Cubs can call a World Series their own after last winning one in 1908, 108 long years ago.