Originally named Weeghman Park, Wrigley Field celebrates its centennial in 2014, countless pitches, spirals, and concerts since the park opened in 1914. Award-winning baseball historian and Chicagoan Les Krantz chronicles the park in his new book, Wrigley Field: The Centennial, a full-color ode to the friendly confines.
Today, the ivy-covered park is the country’s second oldest (after Fenway). Krantz pays homage to the park—not just to the Cubs—in this heavily illustrated gift book, a documentary of Wrigley’s first century. Krantz’s work has previously appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine, and Esquire, and he is the author of several sports titles, including Dark Horses and Underdogs, Reel Baseball, and Yankee Stadium: A Tribute.
In these pages, Krantz has put together a winning tribute of Wrigley. Cubs fans will enjoy leafing through its colorful pages, reading the many vignettes, and studying the numerous images. Arranged chronologically, the book examines Wrigley’s history, from its early twentieth-century beginnings through 2013. Readers will find stories about the park’s original owner, Charles Weeghman; early Cubs players such as Grover Cleveland Alexander, Lefty Tyler, and Hippo Vaughn; and memorable occasions such as Babe Ruth’s famous “called shot,” Lou Gehrig’s “epic” prep school game, and the freezing-cold 1937 NFL Championship Game featuring the Bears against the Redskins. More recent highlights include Ryne Sandberg’s career-making game on June 23, 1984; the first Cubs night game on August 8, 1988; the 1998 “season of thrills” featuring Sammy Sosa’s slugfest; and, of course, the Bartman ball incident.
Packed with numerous photographs and sidebars, Wrigley Field: The Centennial is peppered with sharp details about particular seasons and specific games. Krantz shares the story of Wrigley in strong, colorful, accessible writing that sometimes can feel overly effusive (many an exclamation point punctuates these pages). This is no objective story of Wrigley or about the Cubs. It is a verbal lovefest, a love letter to the players, coaches, managers, and games that have colored the history of the beloved northside venue.
Each chapter consists of a number of vignettes, each of which stands on its own. Readers could easily flip through the book and land on those stories that appeal to them the most, skipping those that are of less interest. Indeed, the formulaic approach to the book can make for a tedious experience when reading straight through from cover to cover. Most of the chapters contain exhaustive information told in an abridged play-by-play style, though the last chapter, “Modern Times (2000–2013),” feels rushed and relatively anemic. The book would benefit from an index, and it would have been nice to see more information about the various concerts and nonsporting events that have taken place at Wrigley over the years. And, while most fans and readers will enjoy the stories throughout the book, die-hard fans may find at least something to quibble with among the countless bits of trivia packed in these pages. Even so, however, they likely will enjoy hunting for any factoids they can argue with.
In addition to the full-color hardcover, Wrigley Field: The Centennial is accompanied by a DVD narrated by Lou Boudreau, Jr., and Ron Santo, Jr. The DVD features footage from about eighteen events that have taken place at Wrigley over the years, as well as exclusive interviews with the likes of Jack Brickhouse, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Ryne Sandberg.
Wrigley Field: The Centennial successfully documents the history of one of America’s iconic ballparks. Cubs fans, Bears fans, and sports fans alike will find something to like in these pages.
November 2013, Triumph Books
$25.95, hardcover + DVD, 184 pages
Learn more about Wrigley Field: The Centennial
—Reviewed by Kelli Christiansen