In 1870, an independent professional baseball team was born by the name of the Chicago White Stockings. With no organized league to join in 1870 they made their business by playing against other independent ball clubs that would play them and charge and admission to watch. They played their home games at Ogden Park and Dexter Park Race Course. The Chicago White Stockings joined the National Association at its beginning in 1871 and played at Union Baseball Grounds.
Dimensions of Union Baseball Grounds
Left Field – 375 ft
Center Field – Unknown
Right Field – 375 ft
However, on October 9, 1871 the Great Chicago Fire burned the Union Baseball Grounds along with all of the teams equipment and possessions to the ground. They were forced to sit out the 1872 and 1873 seasons because they did not have a home field to play at and were suffering from extreme financial problems from losses in the fire. In 1874 the Chicago White Stockings were able to play again as they had been able to replace all of the lost equipment and found a stadium to play at, known as the 23rd Street Grounds.
THE NEW BASE-BALL GROUNDS AT CHICAGO, ILLINOIS”, published in “Harper’s Weekly” May 1883
The Chicago White Stockings left Twenty-Third Street Park and relocated to Lakefront Park near the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. The same location that Union Baseball Grounds had stood before The Fire. The ballpark opened on May 14, 1878 with a 3:45 pm “game between the Indianapolis nine (Blues) and the home nine.” The Chicago Inter Ocean said:
Although the day was very chilly and exceedingly unpleasant for out-door sports, fully 2,500 people assembled to witness the game and listen to a very ‘queer’ band, provided by President (William) Hulbert to officiate at the opening and funeral services of his white-hosed boys.
The ballpark was expanded after the 1882 season and remained the White Stockings’ home until they moved to West Side Park in 1885, but not before they won championships in 1880, 1881 and 1882.
Dimensions of Lakefront Park
Left Field – 186 ft
Center Field – 300 ft
Right Field – 196 ft
1885 West Side Park Opening Day Program
West Side Park #1 (1885-1891)
West Side Park was the name used for two different baseball parks that formerly stood in Chicago. They were both home fields of the team now known as the Chicago Cubs of the National League. Both parks witnessed championship baseball. The latter of the two parks, home of the franchise for nearly a quarter century, is best known as the site of the last World Champion Cubs team (1908), the team that won the most games in major league history (1906), the only cross-town World Series in Chicago (1906), and the immortalized Tinker to Evers to Chance double play combo. Both ballparks were what are now called wooden ballparks.
The first West Side Park was the ball club’s home from 1885 through 1891, and succeeded Lakefront Park. Although the park’s useful life turned out to be as short as the ball club’s stay at the Lakefront (seven years), it was also memorable, as the team won the National League pennant in each of their first two seasons there.
The park was located on a small block bounded by Congress, Loomis, Harrison and Throop Streets, with the diamond toward its western end. The elongated shape of the block lent a decidedly bathtub-like shape to the park, with foul lines reportedly as short as 216 feet. The park held roughly 10,000 fans. In addition to the diamond, the park held a bicycle track which encircled the playing field, at the height of the contemporary bicycle craze.
Dimensions of first West Side Park
Left Field – 216 ft (1 ft. over then-legal minimum)
Center Field – Unknown
Right Field – 216 ft (1 ft. over then-legal minimum)
West Side Park
1886 Robinson Fire Map
West Side Park #2
1906 World Series
October 11, 1906
West Side Park #2 (1893-1915)
In May 1893, the club opened their second West Side Park a few blocks west-southwest of the first one; on a larger block bounded by Taylor, Wood, Polk and Lincoln (now Wolcott) Streets. They split their 1893 schedule with South Side Park, then moved into the new ballpark full-time the following year. Some sources state that the club moved to this location to gain attendance from the World’s Columbian Exposition, as South Side Park was within walking distance of the 35th Street station of the then-new South Side Rapid Transit line, which reached the exposition grounds at Jackson Park.
West Side Park #2 (1893-1915)
Facing Toward Polk Street and Old Cook County Hospital Behind Grandstand.
The second West Side Park is now also sometimes called West Side “Grounds”, but during its active life, it was most often called a “Park”. Home plate was in the northwest corner of the field, at the Polk and Lincoln intersection. The right field fence paralleled Taylor, with flat apartments between the high fence and the street. There were also flats across Wood Street to the east, behind left field, giving the park (for a few years, at least) a degree of the ambiance that Wrigley Field would later be famous for. Cook County Hospital was across the street to the north, i.e. behind third base. Like the first West Side ballpark, the new facility was hemmed in by the streets around it, creating a somewhat rectangular playing area. The foul lines were originally reported as 340 feet, while the deepest part of center field was initially reported as 560 feet. Although that sounds symmetrical, the left field side in general was much more spacious, and the distance to center was really the diagonal of the rectangle. The remainder of the block, to the south (right field), was occupied by flat apartments just outside the fence that ran along right to center field. The original grandstand was reportedly double-decked, and the park held about 16,000 patrons. As with other parks of the era, fans were often permitted to stand along the outer perimeter of the playing field itself, so the park frequently drew well in excess of its official capacity.
Boys peeking through the fence at West Side Ball Park #2 around 1905.
As the park entered the new century, it featured a small covered grandstand behind home plate. Behind the home plate stands, the team and ticket offices were housed in a fairly ornate two-story brick building topped with statues of baseball players. Uncovered bleachers extended along both foul lines and into left field. Beyond left-center field, the bleachers gave way to a small clubhouse. The right-field bleachers were only five to ten rows deep, sitting underneath a free-standing billboard that ran above the length of the bleachers. The billboard frequently featured large ads for the sports pages and the sportswriters of local newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Daily News. A scoreboard was located on the extreme right end of the billboard, toward the right field corner. Much like today at Wrigley Field, several of the rooftops beyond the outfield bleachers offered bleacher seating of their own, at least for a few years.
The ballpark expanded with the club’s rising fortunes. For 1905, several rows of private box seats were built on top of the original grandstand roof behind home plate. That same year saw the construction of a new two-story brick clubhouse structure, fronted by columns, out in far left-center. After just two seasons, jury-box bleachers were built directly in front of and over the clubhouse. During the 1908 season, the bleachers along the first and third-base lines were gradually covered and topped by more private box seating.
West Side Park #2
Chicago, Cubs vs. Giants, Aug. 30, 1908
West Side Park #2
Chicago, Cubs vs. Giants, Aug. 30, 1908
By the early 1910s the wooden ballpark was showing its age, in large part due to neglect by Charles Murphy, the unpopular owner of the Cubs (one of whose alternate, media-driven nicknames was the unflattering “Murphy’s Spuds”). In 1910, the neighborhood view beyond the right field outfield wall was blocked off by an enormous, unsightly billboard. By 1912, the left field view was similarly obstructed by a large billboard which also served as the new scoreboard. The enclosure of the park was completed with the installment of billboards in dead center. At this time, the jury box bleachers in left-center field were removed, adding to the new claustrophobic feel of the outfield. With gambling becoming an increasing problem in baseball, starting in 1911 the playing field was adorned with large signs (as with some other major league ballparks) reminding fans “No Betting Allowed.” Additionally, the dilapidated park found itself competing unsuccessfully with new steel-and-concrete baseball venues. The Chicago White Sox inaugurated Comiskey Park in 1910. Four years later, the upstart Federal League placed a franchise on the North Side and began play in Weeghman Park. By 1915, the Cubs were the third most popular team in a three-team city.
When the Federal League collapsed after the 1915 season, Charles Weeghman, owner of the now-defunct Chicago Whales, was allowed to buy a substantial interest in the Cubs. One of his first acts was to abandon West Side Park and move the Cubs to Weeghman Park for the 1916 season. Weeghman Park survives today as Wrigley Field.
Dimensions of West Side Park #2
Left Field – 340 ft.
Center Field – 442 ft.
Right Field – 316 ft.
Cubs versus Tigers World Series at West Side Grounds
October 9, 1907
Standing Room Only
West Side Park #2
Chicago Tribune, April 20, 1916
ELEGY WRITTEN IN A WEST SIDE BALL YARD.
The whistles sound the knell of parting day,
The toilers travel slowly home to tea,
I’ve got to write a parody on Gray,
Though it be painful both to you and me.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight.
Save for the chatter of the laboring folk
Returning to their hovels for the night,
All’s still at Taylor, Lincoln, Wood, and Polk.
Beneath this aged roof, this grandstand’s shade,
Where peanut shucks lie in a mold’ring heap,
Where show the stains of pop and lemonade,
The Cub bugs used to cheer and groan and weep.
The adverse guess of Mr. William Klein,
The miscalled strikes of Eason and of Orth,
No more shall rouse the fire of hate in them—
They yield to their successors over north
Where Anson used to hit ’em on the pick,
Where Lange was went to grab ’em off the grass,
Where Dahlen used to kick and kick and kick,
Where Danny Friend was worked for many a pass.
Where games won by Callahan and Griff,
Where long home runs were knocked by Danny Green;
Where, later, Bill Maloney used to whiff,
Where Reulbach used to wound ’em in the bean.
Where Artie Hofman pulled his circus stunts,
Where Sheckard drove and caught ’em on his brow,
Where “Schlitz” was banished from the fold (just once),
Where Heine started many a healthy row.
Where Joe got coverage to go on the stage,
Where Brownie did his own and others toll,
Where Evers used to brew his boiling rage,
Where Chance cussed John McGraw and Larry Doyle.
Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble bleats,
The moles, untroubled, now dig up the turf,
And gnats and roaches occupy the seats
That other bugs once filled, to help out Murf.
“To help Murf? And who was he?” you say,
I answer with a melancholy sigh:
“Approach and read (if you can read) the lay
Graved on the door we used to enter by”;
He was the one real Fox of modern time;
He had competitors all licked a mile.
He gave to baseball all he had—a dime.
He gained from it (’twas all he wished)—his pile.
No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode.
Let him enjoy his well deserved repose
At 6157 Sheridan Road.
Weeghman Park (1914 – Present)
The park was built in six weeks in 1914 at a cost of about $250,000 ($5.3 million in 2011 dollars) by the Chicago lunchroom magnate Charles Weeghman, who owned the Federal League Whales. (The club signed a 55-year lease to use the park for approximately $18,000 per year.) It was designed by the architect Zachary Taylor Davis (who four years earlier had designed Comiskey Park for the Chicago White Sox), incorporating the new “fireproof” building codes recently enacted by the city. According to some sources, when it opened for the 1914 Federal League season, Weeghman Park had a seating capacity of 14,000. The opening day drew a crowd of 21,000 as some fans stood and others took extra seats in the outfield; that figure doesn’t include the crowds on the rooftops along Waveland and Sheffield!
In late 1915 the Federal League folded. The resourceful Weeghman formed a syndicate including the chewing gum manufacturer William Wrigley Jr. to buy the Chicago Cubs from Charles P. Taft for about $500,000. Weeghman immediately moved the Cubs from the dilapidated West Side Grounds to his two-year-old park. In 1918, Weeghman sold the Cubs and the ballpark to William Wrigley. In 1926, renovation work was done on Cubs Park and was then named after the team owner, Wrigley Field.
Aerial rendering of the proposed expansion of Cubs Park, circa 1922.
In 1927 an upper deck was added, and in 1937, Bill Veeck, the son of the club president, planted ivy vines against the outfield walls.
The famous sheet steel scoreboard was built in 1937 under the watch of Cubs General Manager Bill Veeck, Jr. The scoreboard exterior was originally red brown, the color of a sunset at sea. “The Cubs played a lot of 3 o’clock games,” Cubs historian Ed Harting said. “The sun reflected off the scoreboard and back toward home plate. Green knocked the sunlight down, so owner P.K. Wrigley painted it green in 1944.”
Although Wrigley Field has been the home of the Cubs since 1916, it has yet to see the Cubs win a World Series, even though it has hosted several (1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945, the last time the Cubs appeared in a World Series), the last World Series win by the Cubs (1908) happened while the Cubs called West Side Park home.
First World Series Game at Wrigley Field
October 8, 1929
In 2010, Curtis M. Hubertz, then 93, made the drive from his southern Wisconsin home to Wrigley Field.
The Chicago native wasn’t going to see a game, Instead, he was delivering some parts for the ballpark’s famous scoreboard, which his family’s electronics company had installed in the 1930s.
“After cleaning out his garage, he came across a big box filled with spare parts for the scoreboard,” said his daughter Judy Kompare. “He got in his car and drove to the park. He wanted them to have those parts.”
Hubertz had those parts because he and his father had been commissioned by P.K. Wrigley to design the now-famous (and landmarked) scoreboard in 1937:
“They brought it to the ballpark to be tested one day,” said close friend Bud Newton, a dentist and former tour guide at Wrigley Field. “When the game ended, Mr. (Phil) Wrigley motioned them over to his box and asked if they could make the letters and numbers bigger — from 36 inches high to 48 inches — and also add a few extra digits to make it easier for people to understand.
“They made the changes, and the rest is history.”
After Hubertz Electronics closed in the 1960’s, Mr. Hubertz continued to service the scoreboard, which now has landmark status
“Whenever there was a glitch in the system, one of the first people they’d call was Curt,” Newton said. “He’d get over to the park and have that scoreboard working just fine in no time.”
Original dimensions of Weegham Park
Left Field – 327 ft
Center Field – 425 ft
Right Field – 298 ft
Current dimensions of Wrigley Field
Left Field – 355 ft
Center Field – 400 ft
Right Field – 353 ft
July 22, 1956