Top Favorites of the Ballpark
Everyone has their favorite things about their team’s ballpark, whether it’s the green monster at Fenway, the sausage race at Miller Park or the memories from Shea stadium. Everyone thinks their ballpark is the best. I can probably name 100 things about Wrigleyfield that make it one of the best places in the country to watch a game at, but I’ve narrowed it down to what I think are at the top, or worth giving a tribute to. So what is the best thing about your ballpark? Can it beat these below?
The outside scoreboard. The screen that always says “Cubs Welcome” on it and whoever the Cubs are playing is displayed underneath. The same sign that gives you the score as you drive by the stadium if you aren’t lucky enough to be inside. The same sign that kindly and unwillingly congratulated the 2005 White Sox after they won the WS, because the northsiders are not sore losers. The same sign, that will some day, SOME DAY bost the beautiful words “CUBS WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS,” but for now, a picture of the Cubs sign with my name on it, a gift given to me by a pal at the corporate office. And no, that isn’t photoshopped…it’s the real deal.
The Bleachers. Need I say more? The bleachers are the biggest party scene in the city. They bleed tradition and gave birth to the trademark name “bleacher bum,” of which anyone would be proud to be called. The bleachers are home of the invention other ballparks have copied – the infamous opposing team HR ball return. Anytime and everytime an HR is hit by another team, a bleachers fan is expected to throw the ball back onto the field. This is a time-honored tradition, which hasn’t been broken, and has indeed been copied by other ballparks. It’s a sign to the other team that we care more about the Cubs than a HR ball for a keepsake. The bleachers are an entirely different experience at Wrigleyfield than sitting in one of the regular seats. You can meet your future spouse in the bleachers, make a life-long friend, or sit next to a 90 year old woman with her scorecard who will reminisce with you over an icy cold beer over the days when a ticket was just a quarter. You can cool yourself on a hot summer day in the 7th inning with the spray from the gigantic hose that helps cool the crowd. You can heckle the other team to see just how razzled you can make the outfielders, and taunt the other bleacher fans by seeing who is loudest. The bleachers are home to having one of the greatest views of Wrigleyfield. There is simply nothing better than watching the Cubs hit a grand slam against the White Sox, while you are sitting in the bleachers, and you see that beautiful baseball hurling out over your head, past the bleachers onto Addison, causing your team to win the game and a celebration that will last well into the early hours. The bleacher seats bring chills when you face the flag during the national anthem, and that old school mentality when you look up at the manually operated scoreboard and kick your feet that lay dangling over one of the cement stairs that you are sitting on because the bleachers are first come first serve. The Wrigleyfield bleachers is one of the best experiences you can have in Chicago, if you haven’t experienced it you are missing out.
The Scoreboard. One of the only manually operated scoreboards left in MLB. It’s the true essence of what Wrigleyfield has always been, a pure ballpark with out all of the bells and whistles. I’ve heard it gets really hot back there, where 2 people change the score during the Cubs game for all of the teams in the National and American League that are playing at the same time. Often times the crowd will cheer when they see the final score of another game that may have helped the Cubs advance in the standings. It’s traditions like the manually operated green scoreboard that make Wrigleyfield so unique and special.
The Vendors. Not just another pretty vendor face, most of the vendors that work during the season are true veterans, that have been working at the field for years, sometimes decades. Vendors sell pretty much anything, and will actually go and get you something if you are nice enough. You know you are a die-hard fan when you give your vendors a hug at every game and know everything about their family. I personally have seen the same vendors every season, and they know that I sneak in a flask of Captain Morgan and always order a diet coke to mix it with in my seat. They know that I run out of the flask around the 4th inning and generally take a break from drinking. They know when I hug them goodbye at the last home game of the regular season and I consider them my second family. The vendors are all die-hard fans that consider Wrigleyfield a home away from home.
The Budweiser Roof. You don’t have to have ever been to the ballpark to recognize this. It’s the red Budweiser covered rooftop that has been around for what seems like forever. It’s been in many movies, including “About Last Night,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Break-Up,” to name a few. Any MLB fan knows when they see that roof in any picture that it’s Wrigleyfield in the back-drop.
The Bars. Do I really need to say more? Of course. The neighborhood bars that surround Wrigleyfield are the reason why pre & post-game parties are some of the greatest times a fan can possibly have. There are nearly 2 dozen bars with in a 2 block radius of the park, but the ones that align the same streets as Wrigleyfield each have their own personality and crowd. The most popular places that people talk about, and flock to when they visit the windy city are Cubby Bear, Sluggers and Murphy’s Bleachers.
The Cubby Bear, a bar I bartended at in 1998 has 3 floors, great bar food, and a history of being known for the hook-up scene post-game. If you ever visit ask the manager about the photobooth that used to be near the basement bathrooms. A lot went down in there after a game. Cubby Bear is so serious about the Cubs that they even fly in girls from Sweden to work the season, and as a former employee I made more money than I ever thought possible in one season. Go there and ask an employee about Mike, the former manager who had twins during the 99′ season and named them “Clark” and “Addison” after the street corners that Wrigleyfield sits on. Now that’s a true fan.
Sluggers has been around since the beginning of time it seems. It boasts an upstairs game room and batting cage and stripper pole, that seem to be more fun post-game. Go figure. The same managers of Sluggers still exist, and they keep around the same, friendly staff each season. If you go there ask for Zack the manager, or David the famous bartender. They’ll make you do a shot of whiskey chased with pineapple juice. It’s tradition.
Then there’s Murphy’s Bleachers, outside of the entrance to the bleacher seats. It’s small, loud and fantastic, and pre-game it’s one of the best places to people watch as the line to get into the bleachers increases. This bar is home to corporate outings to games, where inappropriateness is bound to show up among your colleagues. Hey – Vegas isn’t the only place that can boast that saying. What happens at a Cubs game…well it stays at a Cubs game.
The Old-Time Cubs Band. They’re old. They wear Cubs uniforms, and they play good time music pre-game right outside the entrance to the park and then through out the entire game in different sections. They aren’t loud enough to be annoying, and friendly enough to put a smile on your face, even if the Cubs happen to be losing. A game at Wrigley would be lost with out the band.
Eamus Catuli Sign. It’s beneath one of the rooftops that boasts letters and numbers. The Lakeview Baseball Club is home to the famous Eamus Catuli sign. (Eamus Catuli is latin for Let’s go Whelps… but essentially means, Go Cubs!). The other sign (in this picture as AC0063100) stands for Ano Catuli 00 63 100. Ano Catuli means, “In the year of the Cub” the first two digits are how long it’s been since the Cubs won a division title. The second set of two digits are for how long it’s been since the Cubs won the NL Pennant, and the final numbers (now three digits) are for how long it’s been since the Cubs won the World Series. Some day that number will be a zero at the end. Some day.
The ivy. The only ballpark in the world that has the ivy. What makes it special? How it changes. You can always tell how early or late in the baseball season it is just by the color of the ivy. In the spring the ivy is barely green, still recovering from the Chicago winter of ice and wind. In the middle of the season it’s a bright green, lush and glowing in the sun. In late season it turns a dark green, and if we’re lucky enough to see it in post-season it boasts beautiful Fall colors of oranges and reds – the best colors a fan can see.
The Rooftops. One of the priciest tickets in town, a rooftop game includes all you can eat and drink (including these amazing soft chocolate chip cookies) premiere seat where you can view the entire game with a personal waitress to make you drinks and food whenever your tummy growls. The Rooftops are mostly owned by the bar owners, including Cubby Bear, which owns two rooftops and sells them out every season. If you’ve got the dough and want to have a completely personalized Cubs game experience, rent out a rooftop and invite your closest friends. They’ll never forget the experience.
The Miller Lite Billboard. It’s brilliant. Every series boasts a new billboard, sitting high above the bleachers next to the rooftops. The billboard boasts a saying that represents whoever the Cubs are playing or the standings at the time. I dated a guy once who actually had a poster that showed every single billboard up until 2005. I’d love to get my hands on that. Maybe he’s still single? Ha.
Not a New York state of mind, this billboard showed up in the Mets series at home in 2007.
Post-season. If only it would treat us well just once.
Can you guess what team we were playing?
A dig at the sausage races held at Miller Park. This billboard displayed during the Brewers series.