Wrigley Field is the 2nd-oldest park in the majors, and by far the oldest in the National League (with Dodger Stadium, 48 years newer, being next), and much of what made Wrigley a great park is apparently still there.
Before You Go. These series will be played in mid-July. So ignore all the stories you’ve heard about Chicago being cold: You’re going to Wrigley to see the Yankees play the Cubs, not to Soldier Field to see the Giants or Jets play the Bears. More likely than not, it's going to be hot, with no cold blast of air coming in off Lake Michigan producing "Bear Weather."
The Chicago Tribune is predicting temperatures to be in the low 90s during daylight, and the high 70s at night. They're also predicting thunderstorms for Monday and Tuesday, which could present problems. The Chicago Sun-Times backs up its rivals' temperature predictions, but is more optimistic about the chance of rain.
While most Cub home games are now played at night, they still play several day games a year. The Monday and Tuesday games will be at 6:05 PM local time (7:05 in New York) -- Chicago is in the Central Time Zone, so it'll be an hour earlier than you're used to. The Wednesday game will be at 1:20 their time (2:20 ours).
Wait until you cross into Illinois to change your clocks. Indiana is one of 2 States, Arizona being the other, where Daylight Savings Time is an issue; however, the State now uses it throughout. Once you approach the Chicago suburbs and edge cities such as Gary, you'll be moving from Eastern to Central Daylight Time.
Tickets. In spite of the White Sox normally being the better team on the field, the Cubs have had the better attendance. Last season, the Cubs averaged 36,540 for home games, the White Sox just 21,947. This season, with the Sox struggling and the Cubs having one of the best records in baseball, the Cubs are averaging 38,163 for home games, while the Sox are getting a mere 20,520. There's a Twitter feed titled "Empty Seats Galore," and it seems as though there's a picture of U.S. Cellular Field there every night.
In fact, the Cubs have had a higher attendance than the White Sox in every season starting in 1994, even though the Sox were then in a very good period, and have actually won a Pennant and a World Series since. Even in their title season of 2005, the Sox trailed the Cubs in per-game attendance by plenty, 24,437 to 39,138. The Sox' single-season record is 36,511 in 2007, a season in which the Cubs had 39,040.
So, as you might guess, getting tickets to Cubs games isn't easy. Like Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, scalpers swarm the streets, asking, "Anybody buyin'? Anybody sellin'?" Like Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, you should avoid them.
Also like Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, even from legitimate sources, you’re probably going to pay a bundle. These prices will go up even further as the Mets' being the opponent makes "Dynamic Pricing" kick in.
Lower-level seats go for $1990 for Club Box Infield, $149 for Field Box Infield, $149 for Club Box Outfield, $139 for Field Box Outfield, $99 for Terrace Box Infield, $79 for Terrace Box Outfield, $59 for Terrace Reserved Infield, $56 for Terrace Reserved Outfield, $79 for Infield Upper Deck Boxes, $59 for Upper Deck Box Outfield, $42 for Terrace Reserved Outfield, $39 for Upper Reserved Infield, and $39 for Upper Reserved Outfield.
Forget the Bleachers: Those are $99, far more than you would expect in a stadium whose bleachers aren't legendary, and are sold out well in advance.
As for seats on the rooftops on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues, price and availability depends on the landlord. But as cool as it looks, why would you go all the way to Wrigley Field and not be in Wrigley Field to watch the game? So don't do it unless you're planning on "going to" 2 games.
Getting There. Chicago is 789 land miles from New York, and Wrigley Field is 809 land miles from Citi Field. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.
Unlike some other Midwestern cities, this is a good idea if you can afford it. If you buy tickets online, you can get them for as little as under $400 round-trip. O'Hare International Airport (named for Lt. Cmdr. Edward "Butch" O'Hare, the U.S. Navy's 1st flying ace who was nevertheless shot down over the Pacific in World War II), at the northwestern edge of the city, is United Airlines' headquarters, so nearly every flight they have from the New York area’s airports to there is nonstop, so it’ll be 3 hours, tarmac to tarmac, and about 2 hours going back.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line train will take you from O’Hare to the downtown elevated (or "L"”) tracks that run in "The Loop" (the borders of which are Randolph, Wells, Van Buren and Wabash Streets) in 45 minutes. From Midway Airport, the Orange Line train can get you to the Loop. Both should take about 45 minutes.
Bus? Greyhound’s run between the 2 cities, launched 5 times per day, is relatively easy, but long, averaging about 18 hours, and is $150 round-trip -- but can drop to as low as $92 on Advanced Purchase. Only 1 of the 5 runs goes straight there without requiring you to change buses: The one leaving Port Authority Bus Terminal at 10:15 PM (Eastern) and arriving at Chicago at 2:30 PM (Central). This includes half-hour rest stops at Milesburg, Pennsylvania and Elkhart, Indiana, and an hour-and-a-half stopover in Cleveland.
The station is at 630 W. Harrison Street at Des Plaines Street. (If you’ve seen one of my favorite movies, Midnight Run, this is a new station, not the one seen in that 1988 film.) The closest CTA stop is Clinton on the Blue Line, around the corner, underneath the elevated Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway.
Greyhound station, with Sears/Willis Tower behind it.
It doesn't look like much, but it's very efficient.
Train? Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited (formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station) leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:40 every afternoon, and arrives at Union Station at 225 South Canal Street at Adams Street in Chicago at 9:45 every morning. It’s $337 round-trip.
But since you've come all this way, it makes sense to get a hotel, so take a cab from Union Station or Greyhound to the hotel – unless you're flying in, in which case you can take the CTA train to within a block of a good hotel. There are also hotels near the airports.
If you decide to drive, it’s far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. The directions are rather simple, down to (almost but not quite literally) the last mile. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key.
Note that the dividing line between Eastern and Central Time on I-80/90, the Indiana Toll Road, is between Exits 39 (in LaPorte County) and 31 (in Lake County).
If you were going directly to Wrigley Field (not a good idea, as it has that one awful trait that all the pre-1930s ballparks had, minimal parking), you’d take Exit 48B for State Route 64/North Avenue, turn right onto North, turn left on Sheffield Avenue, and then turn left on Clark Street. Wrigley is bounded by Clark Street (3rd base), Addison Street (1st base), Sheffield Avenue (right field) and Waveland Avenue (left field).
If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, and half an hour in Illinois before you reach your hotel. That’s 13 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter both Ohio and Indiana, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Chicago, it should be no more than 18 hours, which could save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not on flying.
Once In the City. A derivation of a Native American name, "Chikagu" was translated as "Place of the onion," as there were onion fields there before there was a white settlement. Some have suggested the translation is a little off, that it should be "Place of the skunk." Others have said, either way, it means "Place of the big stink."
Founded in 1831, so by Northeastern standards it's a young city, Chicago's long-ago nickname of "the Second City" is no longer true, as its population has dropped, and Los Angeles' has risen, to the point where L.A. has passed it, and Chicago is now the 3rd-largest city in America. But at 2.7 million within the city limits, and 9.5 million in the metropolitan area, it's still a huge city. And its legendary crime problem is still there, so whatever precautions you take when you're in New York, take them in Chicago as well.
The "Loop" is the connected part of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)'s elevated railway (sometimes written as "El" or "L") downtown: Over Wells Street on the west, Van Buren Street on the south, Wabash Street on the east and State Street on the north. Inside the Loop, the east-west streets are Lake, Randolph, Washington, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson and Van Buren; the north-south streets are Wells, LaSalle (Chicago's "Wall Street"), Clark, Dearborn, State and Wabash.
The city's street-address centerpoint is in the Loop, at State & Madison Streets. Madison separates North from South, while State separates East from West. The street grid is laid out so that every 800 on the house numbers is roughly 1 mile. As Wrigley is at 1060 West Addison Street, and on the 3600 block of North Sheffield Avenue, now you know it's a little more than a mile west of State, and 4 1/2 miles north of Madison.
The CTA's rapid-rail system is both underground (subway) and above-ground (elevated), although the El is better-known, standing as a Chicago icon alongside the Sears Tower, Wrigley Field, Michael Jordan, deep-dish pizza, and less savory things like municipal corruption, Mrs. O'Leary's cow and Al Capone. The single-ride fare is $2.25, a 1-day pass is $10, a 3-day pass (if you're going for an entire series) is $20, and a 7-day pass (if you're going for all 6 games) is $28.
I was actually in Chicago on the day they switched from tokens to farecards: June 1, 1999. It took me by surprised, as I had saved 10 tokens from my previous visit. I was able to use them all, because I'd gotten there 2 days before.
Illinois' State sales tax is 6.25 percent, but in the City of Chicago it's 9.25 percent -- higher than New York's. So don't be shocked when you see prices: Like New York, Boston and Washington, Chicago is an expensive city.
ZIP Codes in the Chicago area start with the digits 60. The Area Code is 312, with 708 and 847 in the suburbs.
Going In. Wrigley Field opened under the name Weeghman Park in 1914, as the home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. That team was owned by Charles Weeghman, owner of a chain of lunch counters that were a precursor to fast-food joints. When the FL folded, "Lucky Charlie" bought the Cubs, and moved them into Weeghman Park. But Charlie's luck ran out: He fell on hard times, due to World War I taking a lot of his customers, and in 1918 he sold the team to chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr.
In 1921, Wrigley renamed the stadium Cubs Park, and the NFL's Chicago team moved in, changing their name to match the Cubs: The Chicago Bears. William Wrigley Jr. renamed the park Wrigley Field in 1926, having built a Western replica for the Pacific Coast League's Los Angeles Angels the year before, which was the first park with the name Wrigley Field. He added an upper deck in 1927.
He died in 1932, and his son Philip K. Wrigley owned the team until his death in 1977, all the while keeping the stadium spruced up, and advertising "Beautiful Wrigley Field" and "The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field" as much as the team or the sport. It's because his gum money went into the ballpark that it reached a 100th Anniversary, while the perennially cash-poor White Sox could never afford to keep Comiskey Park in good shape, and it died shortly after turning 80. But it's also because P.K. Wrigley put the money into the stadium and not the team that they went without a Pennant for his last 32 years of ownership.
His son William sold the team to the Chicago Tribune Company in 1981. The Trib sold the team to Tom Ricketts in 2010, after presiding over the team's most profitable, yet most frustrating, era.
The official address of Wrigley Field -- borrowed by Dan Aykroyd for his role in The Blues Brothers -- is 1060 West Addison Street. Although it opened, as Weeghman Park, for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League in 1914, the Cubs moved in for the 1916 season, making this the 100th Anniversary of the Cubs' tenure in the park.
To get to Wrigley from downtown, do not drive. If you drove into Chicago, leave your car at your hotel. Driving around Wrigley is ridiculous, and parking around Wrigley, while probably safe due to a large police presence, is a fool's errand. Take the Red Line train to Addison. It's about a 20-minute ride, making it faster than from Midtown Manhattan to Yankee Stadium or Citi Field.
The area around Wrigley, originally known as Lake View (even though Lake Michigan isn't really in view) but known as Wrigleyville almost continuously since the Cubs' 1969 "September Swoon" season, should look and feel familiar, as it is reminiscent of a lot of neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, and North Jersey. The first time I visited, I thought I was in Newark, Bloomfield, Belleville -- only nicer.
You'll be most likely to enter by the right field gate at Addison & Sheffield (if you came by the L), or the home plate gate at Clark & Addison, under the legendary marquee.
Renovations have been ongoing since the 2014 centennial, and have expanded the Bleachers, added the park's first video boards, and raised seating capacity from about 39,000 to 41,268.
The field, of course, is natural grass. The distances are 355 to the left field pole and 353 to right, 368 to both power alleys (making it hard for a pull hitter but great for an alley hitter), and 400 to dead center, although the farthest point is a little to the right of that, as Wrigley is not symmetrical.
The ballpark faces northeast, away from downtown and the city's skyscrapers. If you're expecting a nice view, forget it: The cityscape beyond the outfield fence looks rather ordinary. Besides, at Wrigley, "the view" is the ballpark itself: The support poles, the brick wall surrounding the field, the ivy on the outfield wall, the bleachers, the old scoreboard.
The ivy and the scoreboard were both put up by Bill Veeck, future Browns, Indians & White Sox owner, when he worked for the Cubs in 1937. His father, also named William Veeck, had been a Chicago sportswriter and a Cubs executive. Previously, ivy had been on the walls of Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and the park of Indianapolis' Triple-A team.
Considering that everybody else has a night game -- or a "NITE GAME" --
I suspect that this picture was taken on a Monday.
So the park's 3 best-known features -- the ivy, the bleachers, and the big hand-operated scoreboard -- "only" go back to 1937. This means that, while they were there when the Yankees played there in the 1938 World Series, they were not there in 1932 when Babe Ruth… well, you know what they say he did there in that Series.
Photo taken during the 1935 World Series.
Note the difference in the Bleachers and the scoreboard.
Which brings up the question: What is the longest home run in Wrigley Field's 103-season history? The Babe's "called shot" was suggested to be the longest home run ever hit in Chicago to that time (in any of the city's ballparks). It's also been suggested that, had the 1937-present scoreboard been up at the time, the ball he hit then would have hit it. If this is accurate, it would have been at least a 475-foot shot. No batted ball has ever hit that scoreboard, with Roberto Clemente supposedly coming the closest, sending a ball within inches of grazing it.
But the Cubs have had a lot of sluggers sending balls out onto Waveland and Sheffield Avenues, and a lot of opposing sluggers have done the same. In 1976, playing for the Cubs, Dave Kingman crushed one out onto Kenmore Avenue, which extends north from Waveland, and for years people talked about it as having gone 620 feet; the person who found it was later found, and he showed where it landed, and it was measured at 530 feet -- still a tremendous blast, and the longest ever officially measured at either Chicago ballpark. (Although a few balls cleared the roof at the old Comiskey Park, Mickey Mantle hit one over it in 1955; it was not measured, but may have gone around 550 feet.)
Wrigley is supposedly a hitters' park, due to the close power alleys and the wind. Don't be fooled by this: Half the time, the wind is blowing in, and when that happens, it becomes a great pitchers' park. The Cubs have never been worth a damn without good pitching; when they have had it, such as in 1945, 1969, 1984, 1998 and 2003, and have taken advantage of the true nature (literally) of Wrigley Field, they've been tough to beat. So why haven't they won a Pennant since 1945 or a World Series since 1908? The answer, my friend, may just be blowin' in the wind: All too often, like the Red Sox until the current regime took over in 2002, they relied on one-dimensional players, the single dimension being power hitting -- "oafish clout," some have called it.
The Chicago Sting of the old North American Soccer League played there from 1977 to 1984, beating the New York Cosmos in the title game, the Soccer Bowl, in 1981. (That game was played on neutral ground, in Toronto.) In 2012, AS Roma played Zagliebie Lubin in a preseason "friendly" -- not a surprising choice of teams, given the large Italian and Polish communities in Chicago.
A few concerts have been played at Wrigley, most notably a 2013 show by Pearl Jam, a band previously named Mookie Blaylock for a basketball player, and featuring a lead singer from nearby Evanston, Eddie Vedder, who remains a Cubs fan. The concert was delayed 2 hours by lightning.
Food. As one of America's greatest food cities, in Big Ten Country where tailgate parties are practically a sacrament, you would expect the Chicago ballparks to have lots of good options. The White Sox do.
The Cubs? Not really. In fact, aside from not being car-friendly, I think Wrigley's biggest flaw is its food. The food is okay, but nothing special like the Sox have always had. Considering that the park's builder, Charlie Weeghman, was a restaurateur, this is a bit surprising.
There are concession stands all over, including one in the upper deck, an open patio right over the famed marquee. The Sheffield Grill and the pricier Captain Morgan Club are in the right field corner (Sections 137 to 140). They have a hot dog stand called "The Works Loaded Dogs" at Section 121, a pizza stand called the Italian Hot Spot at 112, and CC’s Frozen Drinks at 115 – not connected to CC Sabathia.
According to a recent Thrillist article on the best food at each big-league ballpark, the best thing to eat at Wrigley is sweet sausages from Hot Doug's, available behind the Bleacher scoreboard.
Team History Displays. In front of the home plate marquee is a statue of Ernie Banks. Outside the center field bleacher entrance is one of Ron Santo. At the right field gate is one of Harry Caray, who broadcast for the St. Louis Cardinals (1945-69), the White Sox (1971-81) and the Cubs (1982-97).
Ernie at the dedication of his statue
Harry is posed as if he's leaning out of the press box window, his microphone catching the sound of the fans as they sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with him in the 7th Inning Stretch. (On my first visit, in 1990, he was leaning so far out of the press box, I thought he was going to fall out. He didn't, and kept broadcasting for the Cubs until he died just before the 1998 season began. The statue went up shortly thereafter, and was there on my 1999 return visit.) The base of his statue is a replica of Wrigley itself.
Banks, a.k.a. Mr. Cub, may still be the most popular athlete in Chicago history, ahead of Walter Payton, Bobby Hull and even Michael Jordan.
The Cubs used to have a Walk of Fame outside the home plate entrance at Clark & Addison, but they've removed it. There are 48 uniformed men with Cub connections in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but surprisingly few, given the franchise's 141 seasons of play (only the team now known as the Atlanta Braves has played longer), elected mainly on the basis of their Cubs service:
* From the 19th Century, starting with their founding as the Chicago White Stockings in 1876: owner William Hulbert, pitcher and owner Al Spalding, 1st baseman and manager Adrian "Cap" Anson, catcher Mike "King" Kelly, and pitchers James "Deacon" White, John Clarkson and Clark Griffith (better known as the longtime owner of the Washington Senators).
* From the 1906-10 dynasty: 1st baseman and manager Frank Chance, 2nd baseman Johnny Evers, shortstop Joe Tinker (the only joint election in HOF history; Tinker is a very dubious election, Evers may also be, and Chance was elected mainly as a manager), and pitcher Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown.
* From their 1929-38 stretch, their last real golden age: Manager Joe McCarthy (managed the 1929 Pennant but was fired after 1930, making him available to the Yankees), catcher and manager Charles "Gabby" Hartnett, 2nd basemen Rogers Hornsby and Billy Herman, center fielder Lewis "Hack" Wilson and right fielder Hazen "Kiki" Cuyler.
* From their 1945 Pennant winners: Nobody, although Phil Cavarretta and Stan Hack probably should be in.
* From the 1950s and 1960s: Banks, Williams, Santo and Jenkins.
* From the 1970s: Pitcher Bruce Sutter.
* From the 1984 Division Champions: Sandberg and pitcher Dennis Eckersley.
* From the 1989 Division Champions: Sandberg, Maddux and right fielder Andre Dawson.
Eight World Championships have been won at Wrigley -- but all were by the NFL's Bears: 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946 and 1963. The Giants lost NFL Championship Games to the Bears there in 1933, 1941 and 1963.
Wrigley Field in its Bears configuration.
The date given on this photo is November 17, 1963,
5 days before President Kennedy was assassinated,
and 6 weeks before they won the title there against the Giants.
There are no notations in the field area for their 1907 and 1908 World Championships, or for the National League Pennants they have won: 1876, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1885, 1886, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945. That's right: The Chicago Cubs have won 16 Pennants. True, they haven't won any since the demobilization from World War II, but they have won them. They also won NL Eastern Division titles in 1984 and 1989, the NL's Wild Card berth in 1998, and NL Central Division titles in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2015. There are no notations for these, either.
Wrigley (still known as Cubs Park) was also home of the Chicago Tigers, who played in the NFL only in its 1st season, 1920.
Stuff. Clubhouse stores are located on the first level of the park, behind home plate and at each outfield corner. The usual items that can be found at a souvenir store can be found there. Lots of souvenir stands are also around the stadium on the outside, just like at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.
I would have thought that, by now, the Cubs would have sold Cubs caps with little bear ears on them, a la the Mickey Mouse hats sold at Disney World and Disneyland. They don't, but they do sell wool-knit caps with little bearlike ears on them. They don't seem to sell the yellow hard hats that the Bleacher Bums wear.
As one of those supposedly "cursed" teams, and playing in a literary city (Chicago has produced a lot of great writers), there are probably more books written about the Cubs than any team except the Yankees, the Mets, the old Brooklyn Dodgers and the Red Sox.
Peter Golenbock, who wrote the oral histories Dynasty about the 1949-64 Yankees, Amazin' about the Mets and Bums about the Brooklyn Dodgers, wrote Wrigleyville, which includes first-person accounts going back to the beginning of the franchise in 1876, thanks to writings left behind by early Cubs greats like Spalding, Anson and Kelly, and 1940s interviews with the famed infielders Tinker and Evers (Chance having died in 1924 without having left a memoir) and pitcher Brown.
Available DVDs include Chicago Cubs: The Heart and Soul of Chicago; Chicago Cubs: We Believe, a variation of a similarly-titled video about the Red Sox, including reminiscences of some of the many singers and actors who came from the Chicago area and are Cub fan; the Harry Caray tribute Hello Again Everybody; and the tribute video Ron Santo: A Perfect Ten. (Since he wore Number 10.)
Only once since the official World Series highlight films started have the Cubs won a Pennant, so if you want to see them on an official WS film, you’ll have to get the Detroit Tigers’ package that includes the 1945 World Series.
Instead of titling a package The Essential Games of Wrigley Field, they have Chicago Cubs Legends: Great Games Collector's Edition. This box set includes the entire TV broadcasts of Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game in 1998, Sammy Sosa hitting his 61st and 62nd homers of the 1998 season, Maddux's 300th win in 2004, and a 5-for-5 game by Derrek Lee in 2005, plus a few extra clips such as Banks' 500th home run in 1971, and the final outs of their 1984, 1989, 2003 and 2004 Division clinchers and the 1998 Wild Card Playoff.
During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" listed Cub fans as 7th out of 30 -- 1 rank more intolerable than Met fans, but 3 less so than Yankee Fans. It cites the many kinds of fans you find at Wrigley when the Cubs are doing well (as they did in 2015 and have thus far in 2016):
Girl from Lincoln Park in the tight pink shirt (purchased that afternoon) in a shockingly good seat who hasn't looked up from her phone in three innings? Check. The "been through it all" fatalist who overreacts wildly to every pitch? Check. The recent Iowa grads who grew up on the Des Moines-based Triple-A squad, all the while planning to one day move to an apartment on Sheffield and drink enough to ruin the lives of everyone they encounter? Check.
But, the thing is, last year kinda snuck up on everyone. This year, expectations are through the roof, which means everyone has had a full off-season to gear up for peak horribleness.
Wearing Milwaukee Brewers gear might be a problem, as the Bears-Packers rivalry might kick in (although Brewers fans hate the Cubs much more than vice versa). St. Louis Cardinals gear definitely would. Will you have to worry about wearing Met gear in Wrigley Field? Actually, you might. Especially since the Monday and Tuesday games will be night games. I've been to a day game at Wrigley and a night game there, and the difference, due to the extra time to drink, does have an effect. So not going out of your way to provoke Cub fans is a good idea, especially at night. Especially given the history between the 2 teams.
All 3 games in this series will be promotions: Monday will be Cubs Ear Buds Night, Tuesday will be Cubs Pajama Bottoms Night, and Wednesday will be Jake Arrieta Bobblehead Day -- in each case, given to the 1st 10,000 fans who arrive.
Wayne Messmer was the longtime public address announcer at Wrigley Field, and frequently still sings the National Anthem, having also done the Anthem for Chicago Blackhawks hockey games. Until 2014, the Cubs never had a costumed mascot (with Harry Caray around from 1982 to 1997, they didn't really need one), and then introduced Clark the Cub, named for Clark Street.
After getting beaten up by Cardinal fans (the Cards won Pennants in '67 and '68), one of them came to the next game wearing a bright yellow construction worker's hard hat. Soon, lots of fans were wearing those, and some of these can still be seen in the Bleachers today, even though yellow is not a color worn by the Cubs.
These guys started the tradition, no longer allowed at any other ballpark, of throwing back home runs hit by opposing players. This can be seen in the 1993 film Rookie of the Year. By the way: Thomas Ian Nicholas, who played Henry Rowengartner in that film, just had his 36th birthday. He played another Chicago "star," Abbie Hoffman, in The Chicago 8. He still acts, and is also a professional singer)
On my 1st visit in 1990, Dale Murphy, then with the Phillies, hit one out off Rick Sutcliffe, and it went onto Waveland. Not a seat-seeking missile, a street-seeking missile. I figured, That'll prevent it from getting thrown back. Wrong! A guy on the street threw the ball into the Bleachers, "hitting the cutoff man," if you will, and then it was thrown back onto the field! These people are dedicated.
A fan you might see is Ronnie "Woo-Woo" Wickers. Harry Caray called him "Leather Lungs" for his ability to yell, "Cubs, woo! Cubs, woo!" for hours at a time. Although he's black and not quite as old (he'll be 75 in October), and doesn't have a pan and a spoon, it's fair to say he's the Cubs' answer to the late Yankee Fan Freddy "Sez" Schuman.
Another fan you might see is Jerry Pritikin, who calls himself the Bleacher Preacher, and was called "the world's greatest Cub fan" by Caray. He wears a pith helmet with a solar-powered propeller on top (not a "beanie," as has often been said). To new Cub fans, the Preacher lays his hands on them, and baptizes them, "In the name of the father, Bill Veeck Sr.; the son, Bill Veeck Jr., and the Cubs’ holy spirit, Charlie Grimm." (Grimm was a Cub player, manager, and all-around ambassador, managing them to the 1932 and '35 Pennants.)
A fan you will almost certainly not see is Steve Bartman. You know the details; he's the anti-Jeffrey Maier. He was sitting in Section 4, Row 8, Seat 113. Along with the red seat in Fenway Park's bleachers, where Ted Williams hit the (official) longest homer the park's history, it's probably the most famous single seat in baseball.
To his credit, Bartman asked Marlin fans offering him gifts, including money, to send it instead to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Cubs' official charity (due to Santo's involvement, having dealt with the illness himself). Bartman was once offered $25,000 to autograph a picture of himself after the incident, and he turned it down.
Where is he today, and what is he doing? Apparently, he's still in the Chicago area, still working in the financial consulting industry, and still coaching youth baseball. However, by all accounts, he has never been back to Wrigley.
Due to WGN cameras focusing on attractive women in the stands in the iconic 1984 season, the Cubs may have the highest percentage of female fans of any team. But don't quote me on that: Both times I was there, Wrigley didn't exactly have an overly feminine atmosphere. It wasn't like a WNBA game or a figure-skating meet. But there have been times when the Friendly Confines seems like the world's largest singles bar. (I'm not the first person to make that observation. It's also been called "the world's largest fern bar." As opposed to the old Comiskey Park, which Bill Veeck famously nicknamed "The World's Largest Saloon.")
For years, but no longer, Cub radio broadcasts began with the Harry Simeone Chorale (interestingly, based in Newark, New Jersey) singing "It's a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game," which can be heard at the beginning of some of the World Series highlight films of the 1960s.
The Cubs have a semi-official theme song, sung by then-broadcasters Jack Brickhouse and Vince Lloyd during their ultimately failed 1969 Pennant run, invoking both men's catchphrases: "Hey Hey! Holy Mackerel! (The Cubs Song)." It went, "Hey hey, holy mackerel, no doubt about it, the Cubs are on the way... " Yeah, I know, it's not much better than "Here Come the Yankees" or "Meet the Mets," and not nearly as good as the crosstown team's "Let's Go, Go-Go White Sox."
Caray started his tradition of leaning out the window of the press box and leading fans in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th Inning Stretch at the old Comiskey Park when he was doing White Sox games in the Seventies. Sox owner Bill Veeck heard this, and suggested to Harry that he keep the radio mike on, so that everyone could hear it. Harry took the tradition with him to Wrigley, and when they made their Pennant run in 1984, on WGN, one of the nation’s first cable "superstations," suddenly, everyone knew about it.
That season, that station, that song, and that broadcaster saved, if not the Cubs, then certainly Wrigley Field for at least one more generation: Had that Playoff run not happened, there's a very good chance the Cubs and Bears could now be sharing some antiseptic dome out in the suburbs, maybe out by O'Hare. (The Allstate Arena, formerly the Rosemont Horizon, is out there.)
With Harry gone, celebrities were invited to take turns singing the song. In the first season after Harry’s death, 1998, opposing broadcasters were the most frequent singers, including the Phillies' Harry Kalas, the Cardinals' Jack Buck (Harry's former partner) and the Dodgers' Vin Scully. (I don't think any of the Mets' broadcasters did; if they had, it would have been put on the local news. And, of course, being in the American League, no Yankees broadcasters did it.)
Chicago and Chicago-area sports legends have taken their turns, including Banks, Sandberg, Mike Ditka, and, the last time I visited, former Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps. (Notre Dame Stadium is in South Bend, Indiana, 94 miles from the Loop, which is considerably closer than Indianapolis is.) However, after a few years of some celebrities screwing up the song and/or the ceremony -- most notably an unintelligible Ozzy Osbourne (who, to be fair, did not grow up in a baseball-loving country) -- starting in 2013, the Cubs stopped the tradition. Now, only on occasion will they do it, and only with a Chicago-based celebrity.
Traditionally, when the Cubs win, a white flag with a dark blue W goes up on the flagpole behind the scoreboard, underneath the Stars & Stripes. When they lose, it's a dark blue flag with a white L. Chip Caray, Harry's grandson and now a Cub broadcaster, waits for the last out, and says, "White Flag time at Wrigley!" This caught on, and now fans bring their W flags to games.
In 1984, Goodman wrote and recorded "Go, Cubs, Go," and was invited to sing the National Anthem before one of their Playoff games. But his illness called him out, and he died late in the season. His recording of "Go Cubs Go" is now played after every win.
After the Game. The neighborhood should be safe after a day game, but after a night game – they still play only 18 night games a year there, to keep the tradition going – with all that extra time to drink, it can get a little rough. You probably won't get anything more than a little verbal, but be on your guard.
Of the surrounding bars, I liked Murphy's Bleachers the best, but I wouldn't recommend going to any of them after the game. Better to try one of them before the game, when Cub fans are less likely to be agitated (positively or negatively) over the game.
If you want to be around other New Yorkers, I found listings of 4 Chicago bars where New York Giants fans gather: Red Ivy, just south of Wrigley at 3519 N. Clark Street at Eddy Street; The Bad Dog Tavern, 4535 N. Lincoln Avenue at Wilson Avenue (Brown Line to Western); Racine Plumbing Bar and Grill, 2642 N. Lincoln Avenue at Kenmore; and Trinity, at 2721 N. Halsted Street at Diversey Parkway (Brown or Purple Line to Diversey for either Racine or Trinity).
And I found these 3 which show Jets games: Rebel Bar & Grill, also just south of Wrigley at 3462 N. Clark at Cornelia Avenue; Butch McGuire's, 20 W. Division Street at Dearborn Street (Red Line to Clark/Division); and Wabash Tap, at 1233 S. Wabash Avenue, at 12th Street. Red Line to Roosevelt.
If your visit to Chicago is during the European soccer season (which gets underway in about a month), the best place to watch your favorite club is at The Globe Pub, 1934 W. Irving Park Rd., about 6 miles northwest of The Loop. Brown Line to Irving Park.
Sidelights. Chicago is one of the best sports cities, not just in America, but on the planet. Check out the following – but do it in daylight, as the city's reputation for crime, while significantly reduced from its 1980s peak, is still there.
* U.S. Cellular Field. Home of the White Sox since 1991, and originally named the new Comiskey Park, they've made the Playoffs 4 times since, including winning the 2005 World Series. 333 W. 35th Street at Shields Avenue (a.k.a. Bill Veeck Drive), off the Dan Ryan Expressway. Red Line to Sox-35th.
UPDATE: On November 1, 2016, the naming rights to this stadium were sold, and it became Guaranteed Rate Field. No more "The Cell," it's "The Rate" or "G-Rate." Yeah, I know, not the best thing to do when the Cubs have just won the World Series.
* Site of old Comiskey Park. The longtime home of the White Sox, 1910 to 1990, was at 324 W. 35th Street at Shields Avenue (a.k.a. Bill Veeck Drive), and is now a parking lot, with its infield painted in. This was the home field of Big Ed Walsh (the pitcher supposedly helped design it to be a pitchers' park), Eddie Collins, Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the "Black Sox," Luke Appling, the great double-play combination of Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox of the '59 "Go-Go White Sox," Dick Allen, the 1977 "South Side Hit Men" of Richie Zisk and Oscar Gamble, and the 1983 Division Champions of Carlton Fisk, Ron Kittle, LaMarr Hoyt and Harold Baines.
The NFL's Chicago Cardinals played there from 1922 to 1959, and the franchise, now the Arizona Cardinals, won what remains their only NFL Championship Game (they didn't call 'em Super Bowls back then) there in 1947. And in 1979, during what was supposed to be intermission between games of a White Sox vs. Tigers doubleheader, was Disco Demolition Night. Today, it's called a fiasco, but the sentiment was right: Disco really did suck. But the biggest music event there was the Beatles' concert on August 20, 1965.
* Previous Chicago ballparks. The Cubs previously played at these parks:
State Street Grounds, also called 23rd Street Grounds, 1874-77, winning the NL's 1st Pennant in 1876, 23rd, State, and Federal Streets & Cermak Road (formerly 22nd Street), Red Line to Cermak-Chinatown.
West Side Park I, 1885-91, winning the 1885 and '86 Pennants. Congress, Loomis, Harrison & Throop Streets, now part of the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Blue Line to Racine. I can't find a photo.
South Side Park, 1891-93, just east of where the Comiskey Parks were built. I can't find a photo.
West Side Park II, 1893-1915, winning the 1906 and 1910 Pennants and the 1907 and 1908 World Series, the only World Series the Cubs have ever won.
Prior to the original Comiskey Park, the White Sox played at a different building called South Side Park, at 39th Street (now Pershing Road), 38th Street, & Wentworth and Princeton Avenues, a few blocks south of the Comiskey Parks.
* United Center and site of Chicago Stadium. From 1929 to 1994, the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks played at Chicago Stadium, "the Madhouse on Madison," at 1800 W. Madison Street at Wood Street. The NBA’s Bulls played there from 1967 to 1994. The United Center opened across the street at 1901 W. Madison at Honore Street.
At the old Stadium, the Blackhawks won Stanley Cups in 1934, '38 and '61, and the Bulls won NBA Titles in 1991, '92 and '93. At the United Center, the Bulls won in 1996, ’97 and ’98 and the Blackhawks have won the 2010, '13 and '15 Cups. The city's 1st NBA team, the Chicago Stags, played there from 1946 to 1950, and reached the 1st NBA Finals there in 1947. It will host the NCAA Frozen Four next year.
The Democrats had their Convention at Chicago Stadium in 1932, '40 and '44, nominating Franklin D. Roosevelt each time; the Republicans also had their Convention there in '32 and '44, nominating Herbert Hoover and Thomas E. Dewey, respectively. The Democrats held court (or rink) at the United Center in 1996, renominating Bill Clinton in their first Convention in Chicago since the disaster of 1968.
Elvis Presley gave concerts at Chicago Stadium on June 16 and 17, 1972; October 14 and 15, 1976; and May 1 and 2, 1977 -- meaning he was singing while burglars were breaking into the Watergate complex in Washington, and while Chris Chambliss as hitting a Pennant-winning home run for the Yankees.
* Soldier Field. The original version of this legendary stadium opened in 1924, and for years was best known as the site of the Chicago College All-Star Game (a team of graduating seniors playing the defending NFL Champions) from 1934 to 1976.
It was the site of the 1927 heavyweight title fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, the famed "Long Count" fight, which may have had what remains the greatest attendance ever for a U.S. sporting event, with figures ranging from 104,000 to 130,000, depending on who you believe. It definitely was the site of the largest football crowd ever, 123,000 to see Notre Dame play USC a few weeks after the Long Count; in spite of various expansions, the universities of Michigan and Tennessee and Penn State still can't top this. The 1926 Army-Navy Game was played there, in front of over 100,000.
The Chicago Rockets of the All-America Football Conference played at Soldier Field in 1946, '47 and '48, changing their name to the Chicago Hornets in '49. They were not admitted into the NFL with their AAFC brethren in Cleveland, San Francisco and Baltimore.
Games of the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women's World Cup were also held at the old Soldier Field. MLS' Chicago Fire made it their 1st home ground, and 14 matches of the U.S. soccer team have been played on the site, most recently a 2016 win over Costa Rica. The U.S. has won 7 of these games, lost 4 and tied 3. An NHL Stadium Series game was played there earlier this year, with the Blackhawks beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1.
Amazingly, the Bears played at Wrigley from 1921 to 1970, with the occasional single-game exception. The story I heard is that Bears founder-owner-coach George Halas was a good friend of both the Wrigley and Veeck families, and felt loyalty to them, and that’s why he stayed at Wrigley even though it had just 47,000 seats for football.
But I heard another story that Halas was a Republican and didn't like Chicago's Democratic Mayor, Richard J. Daley (whose son Richard M. later broke his father's record for longest-serving Mayor), and didn't want to pay the city Parks Department a lot of rent. (This is believable, because Halas was known to be cheap: Mike Ditka, who nonetheless loved his old boss, said, "Halas throws nickels around like manhole covers.") The real reason the Bears moved to Soldier Field in 1971 was Monday Night Football: Halas wanted the revenue, and Wrigley didn't have lights until 1988.
A 2002-03 renovation demolished all but the iconic (if not Ionic, they're in the Doric style) Greek-style columns that used to hang over the stadium, and are now visible only from the outside. It doesn't look like "Soldier Field" anymore: One critic called it The Eyesore on the Lake Shore. Capacity is now roughly what it was in the last few years prior to the renovation, 61,500. And while the Bears won 8 Championships while playing at Wrigley (8 more titles than the Cubs have won there), they've only won 1 more at Soldier Field, the 1985 title capped by Super Bowl XX. The Monsters of the Midway have been tremendous underachievers since leaving Wrigley, having been to only 1 of the last 30 Super Bowls (and losing it).
1410 S. Museum Campus Drive, at McFetridge and Lake Shore Drives, a bit of a walk from the closest station, Roosevelt station on the Green, Orange and Red Lines.
* Site of Chicago Coliseum. There were 2 buildings with this name that you should know about. One hosted the 1896 Democratic National Convention, where William Jennings Bryan began the process of turning the Democratic Party from the conservative party it had been since before the Civil War into the modern liberal party it became, a struggle that went through the Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt years before it finally lived up to its promise under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
It was here that Bryan gave the speech for which he is most remembered, calling for the free coinage of silver rather than sticking solely to the gold standard: "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."
Now a part of Jackson Park, at 63rd Street & Stony Island Avenue. 63rd Street Metra (commuter rail) station.
The other was home to every Republican Convention from 1904 to 1920. Here, they nominated Theodore Roosevelt in 1904, William Howard Taft in 1908 and 1912, Charles Evans Hughes in 1916 and Warren Harding in 1920. When TR was maneuvered out of the nomination to return to office at the 1912 Convention, he held his subsequent Progressive Party Convention was also held there.
It was also the original home of the Blackhawks, from 1926 to 1929 and briefly again in 1932. In 1935, roller derby was invented there. In 1961, an NBA expansion team, the Chicago Packers, played there, becoming the Zephyrs in 1962 and moving to become the Baltimore Bullets in 1963 (and the Washington Bullets in 1973, and the Washington Wizards in 1997).
The Coliseum hosted a few rock concerts before the Fire Department shut it down in 1971, and it was demolished in 1982. The Soka Gakkai USA Culture Center, a Buddhist institute, now occupies the site. East side of Wabash Avenue at 15th Street, with today's Coliseum Park across the street. Appropriately enough, the nearest CTA stop is at Roosevelt Avenue, on the Red, Yellow and Green Lines.
* Site of International Amphitheatre. Home to the Bulls in their first season, 1966-67, and to the World Hockey Association's Chicago Cougars from 1972 to 1975, this arena, built by the stockyards in 1934, was home to a lot of big pro wrestling cards. Elvis sang here on March 28, 1957. The Beatles played here on September 5, 1964 and August 12, 1966.
* Site of International Amphitheatre. Home to the Bulls in their first season, 1966-67, and to the World Hockey Association's Chicago Cougars from 1972 to 1975, this arena, built by the stockyards in 1934, was home to a lot of big pro wrestling cards. Elvis sang here on March 28, 1957. The Beatles played here on September 5, 1964 and August 12, 1966.
But it was best known as a site for political conventions. Both parties met there in 1952 (The Republicans nominating Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Democrats the man was then Governor of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson), the Democrats in 1956 (Stevenson again), the Republicans in 1960 (Richard Nixon), and, most infamously, the Democrats in 1968 (Hubert Humphrey), with all the protests. The main protests for that convention were in Grant Park and a few blocks away on Michigan Avenue in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, one of the convention headquarters (now the Chicago Hilton & Towers. 720 S. Michigan).
The Amphitheatre, torn down in 1999, was at 4220 S. Halsted Street, where an Aramark plant now stands. Red Line to 47th Street. This location is definitely not to be visited after dark; indeed, unless you’re really interested in political history, I'd say, if you have to drop one item from this list, this is the one.
Elvis also sang in Illinois at Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois in Champaign on October 22, 1976, and at Southern Illinois University Arena in Carbondale on October 27.
* Northwestern University. Chicago's Big Ten school is just north of the city, 16 miles from the Loop, in Evanston. Dyche Stadium/Ryan Field, and McGaw Hall/Welsh-Ryan Arena, are at 2705 Ashland Avenue between Central Street and Isabella Street. (Purple Line to Central.)
* Northwestern University. Chicago's Big Ten school is just north of the city, 16 miles from the Loop, in Evanston. Dyche Stadium/Ryan Field, and McGaw Hall/Welsh-Ryan Arena, are at 2705 Ashland Avenue between Central Street and Isabella Street. (Purple Line to Central.)
While Northwestern's athletic teams have traditionally been terrible, the school has a very important place in sports history: The 1st NCAA basketball tournament championship game was held there in 1939, at Patten Gymnasium, at 2145 Sheridan Road: Oregon defeated Ohio State. The original Patten Gym was torn down a year later, and the school's Technological Institute was built on the site. Sheridan Road, Noyes Street and Campus Drive. Purple Line to Noyes.
Welsh-Ryan, under the McGaw name, hosted the Final Four in 1956: Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, soon to be Boston Celtics stars, led the University of San Francisco past Iowa. These are the only 2 Final Fours ever to be held in the Chicago area, or in the State of Illinois.
* DePaul University. Led by legendary coach Ray Meyer, and then his son Joey Meyer, the basketball team at this "mid-major" Catholic school has featured eventual pro stars George Mikan, Bill Robinzine, Mark Aguirre, Terry Cummings, Dallas Comegys, Quentin Richardson and Rod Strickland.
The Blue Demons' longtime home court was Alumni Hall, until 1979. It was demolished in 2000, and DePaul's new student center was built on the site. 1011 W. Belden Avenue. Red Line to Fullerton. Starting in 1980, they moved out to the Rosemont Horizon, now the Allstate Arena, in the suburb of Rosemont, out by O'Hare Airport. 6920 N. Mannheim Road. Blue Line to Rosemont, then Bus 223 to Touhy & Pace. In the Autumn of 2017, they'll move into the new Wintrust Arena, at the McCormick Place Convention Center. 2201 S. Indiana Avenue, at Cermak Road. Green Line to Cermak-McCormick Place.
* National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame. Appropriately in Chicago's Little Italy, west of downtown, it includes a state uf Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio. Other New York native or playing baseball players honored include Joe Torre, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Vic Raschi, Tony Lazzeri, Dave Righetti, Frank Crosetti, Roy Campanella, Sal Maglie, Mike Piazza, Bobby Valentine, John Franco, Carl Furillo, Frank Viola, Jim Fregosi, Ralph Branca, Rocky Colavito, broadcaster Joe Garagiola, and the last active player to have been a Brooklyn Dodger, Bob Aspromonte, and his brother Ken Aspromonte. 1431 W. Taylor Street at Loomis Street. Pink Line to Polk.
* Museums. Chicago's got a bunch of good ones, as you would expect in a city of 3 million people. Their version of New York’s Museum of Natural History is the Field Museum, just north of Soldier Field. Adjacent is the Shedd Aquarium. On the other side of the Aquarium is their answer to the Hayden Planetarium, the Adler Planetarium. And they have a fantastic museum for which there is no real analogue in New York, though the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia is similar: The Museum of Science & Industry, at 57th Street & Cornell Drive, near the University of Chicago campus; 56th Street Metra station. The Art Institute of Chicago is their version of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at 111 S. Michigan Avenue, just off the Loop.
* Ferris Bueller's Day Off. If you're a fan of that movie, as I am (see my 25th Anniversary retrospective, from June 2011), not only will you have taken in Wrigley Field, but you'll recognize the Art Institute as where Alan Ruck focused on Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
Other sites visited by Ferris, Cameron and Sloane were the Sears Tower, then the tallest building in the world, 1,454 feet, 233 S. Wacker Drive (yes, the name is Wacker), Quincy/Wells station in the Loop; and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, 335 S. La Salle Street, LaSalle/Van Buren station in the Loop. (That station is also where Steve Martin & John Candy finally reached Chicago in another John Hughes film, Planes, Trains and Automobiles). The Steuben Day Parade goes down Lincoln Avenue every September, on or close to the anniversary of Baron von Steuben's birth, not in the spring as in the film.
While the Bueller house was in Long Beach, California, the Frye house is in Highland Park, north of the city. Remember, it’s a private residence, and not open to the public, so I won't provide the address. And the restaurant, Chez Quis, did not and does not exist.
Nor did, nor does, Adam's Ribs, a barbecue joint made famous in a 1974 M*A*S*H episode of the same title. Today, there are 18 restaurants in America named Adam's Ribs, including two on Long Island, on Park Boulevard in Massapequa Park and on the Montauk Highway in Babylon; and another on Cookstown-Wrightstown Road outside South Jersey's Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base. But only one is anywhere near Chicago, in Buffalo Grove in the northwestern suburbs.
Not far from that, in the western suburbs, is Wheaton, home town of football legend Red Grange and the comedic Belushi Brothers, John and Jim. John and Dan Aykroyd used Wrigley Field in The Blues Brothers, and Jim played an obsessive Cubs fan in Taking Care of Business. Their father, an Albanian immigrant, ran a restaurant called The Olympia Cafe, which became half the basis for John's Saturday Night Live sketch of the same name, better known as the Cheeseburger Sketch: "No hamburger! Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger... No fries, chips!... No Coke, Pepsi!"
Don Novello, an SNL writer who played Father Guido Sarducci, said the other half of the inspiration was the Billy Goat Tavern, originally operated by Greek immigrant William "Billy Goat" Sianis, originator of the supposed Billy Goat Curse on the Cubs, across Madison Street from Chicago Stadium, from 1937 until 1963. At that point, Sianis moved to the lower deck of the double-decked Michigan Avenue, since it was near the headquarters of the city's three daily newspapers, the Tribune, the Sun-Times, and the now-defunct Daily News. Mike Royko, who wrote columns for each of these papers, made it his haunt and frequently mentioned it in his columns.
Novello and Bill Murray, Chicagoans, were regulars at the Billy Goat, but John Belushi later said he'd never set foot in the place, so while the others may have drawn inspiration from it, his came from his father's restaurant.
Sam Sianis, nephew of the original Billy, still serves up a fantastic cheeseburger (he was there when I visited in 1999), he deviates from the sketch: No Pepsi, Coke. It's open for breakfast, and serves regular breakfast food. It looks foreboding, being underneath the elevated part of Michigan Avenue, and a sign out front (and on their website) says, "Enter at your own risk." But another sign says, "Butt in anytime." 430 N. Michigan Avenue, lower deck, across from the Tribune Tower. Red Line to Grand. The original location near Chicago Stadium has effectively been replaced, at 1535 W. Madison Street.
The Tribune Tower is a work of art in itself. Its building, Tribune publisher "Colonel" Robert R. McCormick, had stones taken from various famous structures all over the world: The Palace of Westminster in London, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon. (He must've paid a lot of people off.) These can be seen at near ground level, but the building itself is so grand that it doesn't need it.
The building is also the headquarters of the TV and radio station that McCormick named for his paper: WGN, "The World's Greatest Newspaper," a line that has long since disappeared from the paper's masthead. 435 N. Michigan Avenue. Red Line to Grand.
The Wrigley Building is right across from it, at 400 N. Michigan. The block of North Michigan they're on is renamed Jack Brickhouse Way, and Brickhouse's statue is on the grounds of the Tribune Tower.
You may notice some other film landmarks. The Chicago Board of Trade Building was used as the Wayne Tower in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. And Chicago stood in for Metropolis in the Superman-themed TV series Lois & Clark, with the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower as standout landmarks.
TV shows set in Chicago include The Untouchables, about Eliot Ness and his Depression-era crimebusters; Good Times, set in the infamous, now-demolished Cabrini-Green housing project; the related sitcoms Perfect Strangers and Family Matters (Great shows? Well, of course, they were, don't be ridiculous!); Married... with Children, Fox's longest-running non-cartoon (though the Bundy family was pretty darn cartoonish); the 1990s hospital dramas ER and Chicago Hope; Boss, the current show with Kelsey Grammer as a corrupt Mayor; and The Bob Newhart Show, with Bob as psychiatrist Dr. Bob Hartley.
Nearly every one of these shows was actually filmed in Los Angeles, and the exterior shots were also mostly L.A. sites, so don't bother going to look for them. However, a statue of Newhart is at the Navy Pier, near its amusement rides, between Grand Avenue & Illinois Street at the lake.
Ernie Banks and Cubs founder William Hulbert are buried at Graceland Cemetery. So are Heavyweight Champions Jack Johnson and Bob Fitzsimmons, 19th Century reform Governor John Peter Altgeld, Mayors Carter Harrison Sr. & Jr., Supreme Court Chief Justice Melville Fuller, farm equipment inventor Cyrus McCormick, newspaper publisher and Mayor Joseph Medill, department store founder Marshall Field, meatpacking magnate Philip Armour, detective agency founder Allan Pinkerton, film critic Roger Ebert, and architects Daniel Burnham, Wiliam Le Baron Jenney and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. 4001 N. Clark Street, 5 blocks north of Wrigley Field. Red or Purple Line to Sheridan.
* Quad Cities. Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, are, together, known as the Quad Cities. Together, these cities and adjoining smaller towns have a population of about 475,000. (Davenport about 100,000, Moline 44,000, Rock Island 39,000 and Bettendorf 35,000). Not big enough to be major league -- but some people tried.
The 5,000-seat Douglas Park was the home of the Rock Island Independents from 1907 to 1925, including 1920 to 1925 in the NFL. In fact, it was the site of the 1st NFL game, on October 3, 1920, a 45-0 Indys win over the Indiana-based Muncie Flyers. It was also home to a minor-league baseball team, the Rock Island Islanders, from 1907 to 1937, winning Class D Pennants in 1907, 1909 and 1932. West side of 10th Street between 15th and 18th Avenues in Rock Island, 180 miles west of Chicago.
One of the oldest surviving pro basketball teams is the Atlanta Hawks. They began as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (they dropped Bettendorf from the "Quad Cities" description) in 1946. They weren't very good, and moved to Milwaukee in 1951, St. Louis in 1955, and Atlanta in 1968. They played at the 6,000-seat Wharton Field House, which opened in 1928 and still stands. 1800 20th Avenue.
There is a minor-league baseball team in the Quad Cities, but it's been known by various names since its inception in 1879 as the Davenport Brown Stockings. They've won 10 Pennants, previously in Class B, and in what's now Class A: In 1914, 1933 and 1936 as the Davenport Blue Sox; in 1949 as the Davenport Pirates; in 1968 and 1971 as the Quad City Angels; In 1979 as the Quad City Cubs; in 1990 again as the Quad City Angels; and in 2011 and 2013 under their current name, the Quad Cities River Bandits.
Since 1931, they have played at a stadium right on the Mississippi River, which proved a problem during the 1993 flood. The 4,024-seat ballpark was known as Municipal Stadium until 1971, then as John O'Donnell Stadium until 2008, when it became Modern Woodmen Park, as the fraternal organization bought naming rights. 209 S. Gaines Street in Davenport.
No President has ever come from Chicago, and none has a Presidential Library anywhere near it -- Abraham Lincoln's is 200 miles away, in the State capital of Springfield -- although many have Presidential connections. Most notably, the 1st true Presidential Debate, between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, was held on September 26, 1960, at the old CBS Studio, home to WBBM, 780 on your AM dial and Channel 2 on your TV. 630 N. McClurg Street. The building is no longer there. Red Line to Grand, then an 8-minute walk.
In the early days of American politics, any temporary meeting structure was called a "Wigwam," which is a Native American word for a temporary dwelling. Chicago’s first Wigwam was at what is now 191 N. Upper Wacker Drive, right where the Chicago River splits into north and south branches. Abraham Lincoln was nominated there at their 1860 Convention. A modern office building is on the site today. Clark/Lake station in the Loop.
Another Wigwam stood at 205 East Randolph Street, in what was then called Lake Park, now Grant Park. The Democrats held their Convention there in 1892, nominating Grover Cleveland for the 3rd time. The Harris Theater is on the site today. Randolph/Wabash station in the Loop.
In 1864, the Democrats nominated General George B. McClellan at The Amphitheatre, 1100 South Michigan Avenue. A Best Western Hotel is on the site today. Red Line to Roosevelt. In 1868, the Republicans nominated Ulysses S. Grant at Crosby's Opera House, 1 West Washington Street. A modern office building is on the site today. Blue Line to Washington.
The Interstate Industrial Exposition Building, a.k.a. the Glass Palace, was where the Republicans met and nominated James Garfield in 1880, and both parties met in 1884, the Republicans nominating James G. Blaine and the Democrats nominating Cleveland for the 1st time. 111 South Michigan Avenue. The aforementioned Art Institute of Chicago is on the site today. Adams/Wabash station in the Loop. And in 1888, the Republicans met at the Auditorium Building, 430 South Michigan Avenue. It still stands. Harold Washington Library station, a.k.a. State-Van Buren station, in the Loop.
Every American should visit Chicago. And every baseball fan should see a game at Wrigley Field. Along with Fenway, it's the last ballpark standing from before World War I -- and now, one of the last two still in major league use from before the JFK years. It's the last ballpark in which Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson played, and along with Fenway one of only two left in which Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Rogers Hornsby, Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams played.