I was never good at it, but I’ve always been a fan of the great American pastime—baseball.
We played ball in the street or at Violet Field — an empty sandlot commandeered by some neighborhood kids who turned it into a ball field. With a makeshift backstop and metal garbage can lids for bases, we spent many warm summer days in our field of dreams.
I grew up watching Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Nellie Fox, Yogi Berra, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, Wille Mays, Ron Santo, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, and many more than I can list here.
I cheered on the 1959 “Go Go” White Sox and filled my cheek with a ball of raisins pretending to be chewing tobacco just like my hero, second baseman Nellie Fox.
I’m also a diehard Cub fan, and a Wrigley Field addict. There’s something about nostalgic baseball that makes me feel young again and there is nothing more nostalgic than sitting in the “Friendly Confines” on a hot, sunny day, with a hot dog in one hand and a cold drink in the other. The scene is symbolic to American culture.
Built in 1914, it is the second oldest major league ballpark in the country. Wrigley was the first ballpark to build a permanent concession stand — first to install an organ — the first park that allowed fans to keep foul balls — first to have a Ladies Day and the first to have all of its games televised to its hometown audience. It was the last to install lights for night games. In 2007 the American Institute of Architects ranked Wrigley at No. 31 among the top 150 buildings of “America’s Favorite Architecture.”
While almost every other major league team has been modernized with new stadiums, Wrigley Field is a genuine article of living history and the guardian of baseball’s hallowed ground. Legends like Hack Wilson, Gabby Hartnett, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Dizzy Dean, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson, and countless others have graced the green grass between her baselines. Only Boston’s Fenway Park can make the same claim.
One of the most revered moments in baseball history occurred at Wrigley when Babe Ruth hit his “called shot” home-run in the 1932 World Series.
On a bright summer day in 2008, WGN broadcast the first few innings of a throwback game at Wrigley Field. Airing in black and white, the teams donned 1948 uniforms. WGN employed the same camera angles and basic graphics used in 50s era television. It stirred up memories of Violet Field and baseball card collections. I wanted to beat my fist against the pocket of my old leather mitt and grip my Louisville Slugger just one more time.
I, unfortunately am a baseball fan in a city with two teams of which both have been mediocre at best—experiencing only ten World Series appearances in the last one-hundred years. But this year’s young and talented Chicago Cubs have raised my hopes.
These “Lovable Losers” may just discard their underdog status as they challenge the guard of the National League Central Division. Even better—they make me feel like a kid again.
(a Latin phrase which loosely translates to — Lets Go Cubs)