Title: Wrigley Field: The Unauthorized Biography
Author: Stuart Shea
Publisher: Brassey’s Inc
Take me out to the ballgame
Take me out to the crowds
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks
I don’t care if I ever get back
-Take Me Out to the Ballgame, the perfect song for Cubs fans in the bleachers
Wrigley Field has always presented itself as the perfect place to catch a ballgame. An Old Style in one hand (soda pop for those under 21) and the other hand holding that faded mitt, the Friendly Confines has been a place for fans to go to watch the Cubs as well as some great baseball. In other words, the entire experience is storybook.
However, fans that know the story behind Wrigley Field are few and far between. Most fans know that the field was constructed in the early 1910s, but how many know the Cubs weren’t the first team to play there? How many fans know who Charley Weeghman, the first George Steinbrenner, was? How could a restaurant owner have given baseball the most fabled stadium in the major leagues?
Stuart Shea, in his book Wrigley Field: The Unauthorized Biography, tells the entire story and he answers every question. His must read is appropriately divided into nine chapters that detail the history of the ballpark on the corner of Clark and Addison.
The story always begins with a man that has a big dream. Fast food creator Charlie Weeghman is just that guy. He bought a parcel of land in an expanding area we now call Wrigleyville. Here he built a stadium named after himself and began to compete against the Cubs and White Sox for fans’ hearts.
Weeghman’s idea was a simple one: give the fans an experience they’ll never forget. Ballparks in the day were dirty, rarely cleaned to look pristine. For the fans that wanted to dress in a suit and tie, Weeghman made his park the cleanliest of them all. Among another of his added features was the concession stand, located on the concourse behind the seats. Whenever a major league fan walks around the ballpark and buy a hot dog, he or she never thinks of whom brought that to them.
Slowly Weeghman’s team, the Chicago Federals or Chifeds, slowly evolve into one of the best clubs in the Federal League. They draw around eighteen thousand fans in the beginning of their lives, outdrawing the major league Chicago Cubs, in fact. Weeghman, always a big shot, dreams of owning a major league ballclub and quickly earns the right, by purchasing the Cubs. Leaving behind a decrepit stadium on the west side of town, the Cubbies move into Weeghman Stadium, later renamed Wrigley Field after the owner of the Cubs. The rest, as the old saying goes, is history.
From the first page, this is an excellent historical account of the lifespan of Wrigley Field. This historical landmark has not lived a boring life of many cookie cutter stadiums we see today, but rather 90 years of amazing events. I doubt that a single factoid escaped Shea during the writing process. The author put together quite well, starting at the beginning of Wrigley Field’s story and then ending with the present time. No matter how you slice it, this should be the authorized biography of Wrigley Field.
I rate this book 3.5 balls on a scale of four for the baseball fan. For those of you holding that ice cold Old Style underneath the Chicago sun, this one goes all the way: four out of four, the definition of a must read.
Our Rating System is based on a four ball system as follows:
One Ball: Average. It has something to say but is nothing special.
Two Balls: Something men usually have - also means its a cut above average, and worth reading/owning.
Three balls: Stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Four Balls: More than just what two men have when hanging out together, it means it is an exceptional book that truly earns a walk - straight to the local book store to get a copy.