I went to my first baseball game at Wrigley Field this weekend, and I have to say, I was pretty impressed. It's a gorgeous stadium just steeped in history. Here are 10 facts everyone ought to know about this Jewel Box park.
1. The famous ivy backdrop was planted by Bill Veeck in 1937. It was originally 350 bittersweet plants and 200 Boston ivy plants, but the Boston ivy eventually took over. If a ball gets lost in the ivy, it's considered a ground-rule double as long as the outfielder raises his hands to indicate that the ball is lost. If he doesn't, it's considered fair play. There used to be Chinese elm trees leading up to the scoreboard, but the leaves kept blowing off and the trees kept dying, so the idea was eventually given up.
2. The scoreboard has been around since 1937 too, and is still manually operated. Despite it's prominent placement, it has never been struck with a batted ball. Golfer Sam Snead teed off from home plate and hit it once, though.
3. Fans inside and outside of the park sweetly return any home run ball hit by the opposing team. They're thoughtful like that. I did see this happen "“ a ball was hit out into the street and was promptly returned to the outfield.
4. Wrigley Field used to be Weeghman Park. William Wrigley was an investor and kept increasing his shares, then eventually bought out Weeghman in 1918. He was full owner by 1921 and expanded the park in 1922.
5. Lights weren't added to Wrigley until 1988. They were scheduled to be added in the early "˜40s, but P.K. Wrigley donated the materials to the war effort instead of having them installed. The City of Chicago issued an ordinance against night games at Wrigley because the lights would be distracting to people that actually lived in the neighborhood, but the organization and the city came to an agreement in time for the '88 season.
6. The first night game was supposed to be against the Phillies but it got rained out. While waiting on the rain delay, some of the Cubs took the opportunity to act out a scene from Bull Durham and played slip-and-slide on the tarp covering the field. The players who participated were fined $500 each.
7. The Bears played at Wrigley from 1921 to 1970. They were called the Staleys for the first season but then renamed themselves to coordinate with the Cubs.
8. It's one of the only ballparks where neighborhood residents can sit on the roof and watch the game. This wasn't really a problem for the Cubs organization until the 1990s, when owners of the apartments built bleachers on their roofs and started charging people to come watch the game from their stands. The owners of the apartments agreed to share some of the proceeds with the Cubs and the Cubs agreed not to block the view with a fence.
9. Babe Ruth's famous Called Shot happened at Wrigley. During the 1932 World Series, The Babe pointed to centerfield to indicate exactly where he was going to hammer the next ball. And he did. It's much argued among baseball fans as to whether Babe Ruth actually called the shot or if he was pointing at the pitcher or if he was gesturing to the Cubs bench. Whatever he did, it happened at Wrigley.
10. Harry Caray's famous seventh-inning stretch rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" almost never happened. Radio producer and broadcaster Jay Scott approached Caray about singing the song before, but Caray declined. So, during one game, Scott turned the mikes on in the announcer's booth without telling anyone and a tradition was born.
I know I haven't hit on everything, so if you've got some stadium factoids (Cubs or not), let's hear "˜em in the comments.