The Cubs played in the ballpark you see above before they were even known as the Cubs, beginning in 1893. When the century turned, they began the greatest period of baseball dominance in team history, and one of the greatest ever by any team -- winning four pennants in five years and two World Series, and winning 104 games in the year they didn't win the pennant (1909).
After "Lucky" Charlie Weeghman bought the Cubs as one of the results of the settlement of the Federal League lawsuit, he moved them, in 1916 into the park he had built for his Federal League Chicago Whales, two years earlier. Charles Murphy, who sold the Cubs to Weeghman, kept his West Side ballpark, which would host amateur games and even the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show:
In 1919, Murphy sold the park and the land to the State of Illinois for $400,000 and the stands, mostly made of wood, were sold for scrap. The state built a medical building now known as the UIC Medical Sciences Building on the site.
And for more than 90 years, there has been nothing at that location to commemorate the Cubs and baseball history that happened there a century ago.
Tomorrow, that changes. Mike Reischl and The Way Out In Left Field Society has worked for several years to try to get an historical marker remembering the history of the Cubs at West Side Grounds, and tomorrow, Saturday, September 6, there will be a dedication ceremony beginning at 10 am at 912 S. Wood in Chicago. I'm going to be there and will post some photos tomorrow afternoon. Here's Mike's explanation of how the phrase "Way Out In Left Field" originated:
The phrase "way out in left field" has evolved to mean an eccentric, odd, misguided or peculiar statement or act. Although the origin of the phrase has been challenged and debated over the years, the most logical and realistic explanation comes from an extinct baseball park called West Side Grounds that the Chicago Cubs called home from 1893 to 1915. As legend has it, a mental hospital called the Neuropsychiatric Institute was located directly behind the left field wall. The Institute housed mental patients who could be heard making strange and bizarre comments within listening distance of players and fans. Thus, if someone said that you were "way out in left field," the person was questioning your sanity and comparing you with a mental patient.
Whether you believe that or not, kudos to Mike Reischl and the Society for working hard to right this historical omission. It's way past time.
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