ONE COULD MAKE THE ARGUMENT THAT WRIGLEY CEASED TO BE WRIGLEY when the Tribune Corporation bought the Cubs, or when they in turn sold it to Sam Zell, or certainly when Zell sold it to the Ricketts family. Baseball ain’t what it used to be, and however quaint we try to make it in our minds, Wrigley is basically just an ivy-covered dump. True, it’s a really nice ivy-covered dump, but a dump is still a dump, and after one has made a trip to Camden Yards or AT&T field, it is apparent that charm only goes so far, and that good sight lines and comfortable seats might, in the course of 81 games, be even more important.
Wrigley Field was cool, but that ended with lights in 1988. Baseball played at night is just another reason that some think it’s declining. Time was when everyone watched the World Series and didn’t quit watching when the hometown bombed out (which was every year in Chicago). But a weekday game in the sunshine–that’s an excuse to turn on the TV at work or just light out and play hooky.
Wrigley Field was really cool when they had to share the field with the Bears. On a rainy Sunday the football players would get covered in mud as they made runs up the middle through the grassless baselines infield. It was cool to walk to Wrigley Field from my grandmother’s home on Cornelia and the lake (they lived previously lived at Pine Grove and Addison, but then they moved up in the world), past LeMoyne Elementary where my dad went, by that time covered with Latin Kings graffiti, showing that the old neighborhood wasn’t what it once was. My dad, though only in his early 30s, had season tickets–they weren’t so expensive then–and they were almost the worst seats in the house. We sat a row or two from the very top at the south end zone. The vortex of lake winds formed by the bowl of the stadium had us huddling under blankets, thermoses in hand.The season highlight, the Bear-Packer game, was in December every year. I froze my ass off and loved every minute of it.
Season tickets? Unless it’s a St. Louis game, where busloads of Missourians (and Southern Illinoisans) come to gloat (do they ever get tired of it?) at the misery that is Cubs baseball, tickets can generally be had out front at less than face value, especially at the beginning of the season, when the weather is more suited to Bear-Packer games or outdoor hockey, or at the end of the season, when even the faithful realize that rare Chicago days of warmth and sunshine can be enjoyed with beers that cost less than $8.50.
A sign of the times is that the Cubs organization was actively recruiting season ticket holders. I was called on the phone multiple times by a salesman attempting to get me to buy in by relying on my out-of-date feelings about the game. I got on the waiting list for season tickets, probably around 5 years ago. I was sort of interested until I realized that it would set me back at least several thousand dollars to get middling seats. I’d never be able to break even, unless of course the Messiah came and the Cubs made it above 85 wins (well, it has happened around 35 time–since 1874). Attendance at Wrigley has been falling for 6 years, even as the seating expands. I confess to having fantasies about selling the tickets a profit to benefit the nonprofit (PAZ), and then being first in line for NLCS tickets (the World Series is too much to hope for). I am not in a position in life to indulge fantasies at the cost of several thousand dollars. Leave that to the corporati in their luxury boxes, or those who believe that a trip to the ball park with the family should cost as much as a weekend vacation.