Sunday, March 30, 2014

Baseball’s holy ground

Set aside the cares of the world for a few minutes, and imagine yourself in the “friendly confines” of a major league baseball stadium.

The smell of freshly cut grass, the crack of a bat, the roar of the crowd, and the taste of a ball park hot dog can chase away a lot of tension, and make you believe (at least for a while) the words intoned by James Earl Jones in the movie “Field of Dreams”:

“it reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again”.

the master speaks

The very next scene in this movie, incidentally, may well bring a tear to your eye, because that is exactly what happened to me when I watched it again:

Doc Graham comes to the rescue

I’ve watched major league baseball games at Met Stadium in Minneapolis (before it got torn down to become the Mall of America), Milwaukee County Stadium in Milwaukee (before it got replaced by Miller Park) , and at the “old” and the “new” Comiskey Park (now called U.S. Cellular Field) in Chicago. I’ve even been to the actual field of dreams, in Dyersville, Iowa. However, my favorite professional stadium is Wrigley Field in Chicago, the second oldest major league stadium in professional baseball.

Although the oldest ball park in the country (Fenway Park) has been called “a shrine” by former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee, it literally is true that Wrigley Field is “sacred ground”. Obviously, that statement requires more explanation, as well as a little baseball history.

For starters, the original location of Wrigley Field wasn’t even in Chicago - it was in south Los Angeles. The stadium opened in 1925, and was named for William Wrigley, Jr., who owned the first tenants of the stadium, the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. After the Pacific Coast league folded, the field was used for a variety of other purposes, and it became the home stadium for the American League Los Angeles Angels in their 1961 inaugural season.

After their first season, the Angles moved to Dodger Stadium, and Wrigley Field, once again, was put to other uses (including a 1963 civil rights rally featuring Martin Luther King Jr.). Demolition on the ball field started in March of 1969 to make way for a new recreation facility, which is now host to Wrigley little league baseball and softball.

The professional baseball park that opened in Chicago in 1914 was named Weegham Field, and was the home field of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League.

A year later, the Federal League folded, which led the Whales owner to form a syndicate with William Wrigley Jr. to buy the Chicago Cubs from Charles P. Taft. Mr. Weegham immediately moved the Cubs from their existing location to his new stadium, William Wrigley bought controlling interest in the club in 1918, and the team’s home field was called Cubs Park from 1920 through 1926, when it was renamed Wrigley Field.

Before Weegham Field was built, however, the property that is bounded by Clark, Waveland, Sheffield, and Addison was owned by a land developer named Joseph Sheffield. It eventually was purchased by Lutheran minister William Passavant, who build St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on the site. Passavant’s dream, though, was to build a seminary, and the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary opened its doors in 1891. By 1910, the seminary outgrew the property, and the property was sold to Charles Havenor, who owned a minor league baseball team in Milwaukee. Havenor’s dream of a major league baeball club in Chicago never bore fruit, and the location was leased to Charles Weegham in 1913, and now you know “the rest of the story”.

The start of the 2014 professional base ball season actually started on March 22, when the Arizona Diamondbacks played the Los Angeles Dodgers in Sydney, Australia. The North American part of the season will start today, March 30.

Since baseball is a sport that is long on tradition, the 2014 season won’t bring any major changes to the sport. Due to political correctness, though, you’ll no longer see either one of the symbols shown below:

Chief Wahoo, long the logo for the Cleveland Indians, will be replaced by a logo that looks something like this:

The pirate logo for the Pittsburgh Pirates will be replaced by the gold “P” that is already on their caps.

The Cubs, though, are true believers of tradition ( Wrigley Field was the last major league stadium to get lights), and will wear commemorative patches to mark the 100th anniversary of their home field.

What are you waiting for? Buy your tickets NOW !!

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