The Friendly Confines, three words that conjure up images of sold-out games, fans watching from rooftops, the ivy on the outfield wall, and visiting home runs being thrown back. The place is Wrigley Field, of course, now celebrating its 100th year of hosting baseball on Chicago’s north side. In honor of this historic occasion, Major League Baseball and Lionsgate have released a documentary, 100 Years Of Wrigley Field.
While Wrigley Field has been the home of the Chicago Cubs since 1916, it was originally the home of the Chicago Whales of the long-defunct Federal League. The stadium was originally known as Weeghman Park, after owner Charles Weeghman — a man who made his fortune through fast-food restaurants and who introduced the idea of the concession stand to professional baseball stadiums. After the Federal League folded, Weeghman bought the Cubs and promptly moved them to his new stadium. After the sale of the team to chewing-gum magnate, William Wrigley, Jr., the stadium got its familiar name, one that has stuck through ownership changes.
The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and haven’t played in one since 1945, yet they sell out every game and Wrigleyville is always booming on game day, but it wasn’t always like this. In the early 1980s, the stadium and the area had fallen on tough times. The documentary cites the team’s 1984 season as the beginning of Wrigley Field and the surrounding area, Wrigleyville’s, turnaround. That year’s playoff run, with popular players such as Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe, energized the team and the area. While the team hasn’t been a playoff contender every year since, the positive effects of that season have carried on through the years.
The documentary is also a treasure trove of archival footage, showing famous events such as Babe Ruth’s supposed “called shot,” Mike Schmidt’s four home runs, and a 45-run game between the Cubs and the Phillies from 1979. Former players, such as Ferguson Jenkins, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Andre Dawson, and Sandberg are interviewed, along with famous fans such as actor Joe Mantegna and wrestler CM Punk. Everyone interviewed cites the ballpark and the area as the reason why people keep coming back, regardless of how good the Cubs are that season.
100 Years does a fine job of showing all the things that give Wrigley Field its charm. Wrigley was the last stadium to install lights, still has a manual scoreboard, still uses a real organ with minimal music otherwise, and features one of the world’s most famous marquees. It is the second-oldest stadium in Major League Baseball and the only remaining Federal League Park. In an era of modern ballparks with giant digital jumbotrons, it is a refreshing throwback to baseball’s glory years. It’s most famous aspect may be the singing of “Take me Out To The Ballgame,” however. Started by former Cubs announcer, Harry Caray, it has become a seventh-inning tradition that continues to this day with guest singers filling in for the late announcer. Included footage of Ozzy Osbourne attempting the song has to be seen to be believed. Bonus features on the DVD include the Ernie Banks statue dedication, as well as the number retiring ceremonies for Ron Santo, Ferguson Jenkins, and Greg Maddux.
100 years later, Wrigley Field is as popular as ever. It is one of the last stadiums of its era and remains a must-see tourist attraction for visitors and locals alike. 100 Years Of Wrigley Field is a fine look at what makes this ballpark special.