As this is the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, there is a surfeit of books being released this year on the subject. I'm here to help you sort out the various books so you can decide which one(s) to add to your baseball library. There will be more of these reviews coming as I have a backlog of these books to get through.
"Wrigley Field: An Oral And Narrative History Of The Home Of The Chicago Cubs" is an awfully long title, but there's a reason for that. Both types of history are included in this coffee-table size book, which has hundreds of beautiful photos. You might recognize the name of the author, Ira Berkow, from his 26 years of writing for the New York Times and the 20 books he's written. But he comes by his Cubs knowledge honestly -- he grew up in Rogers Park, attended Sullivan High School, and went to Wrigley Field frequently in his youth, which encompassed many of the worst years of the franchise (the late 1940s and early 1950s).
So his writing about Wrigley comes not just from his knowledge gained as a sportswriter, but from personal experience. That's a winning combination, and you'll read both stories you do know and some that you don't -- I learned things I hadn't known before from reading this book, which is a recommendation. Kerry Wood wrote an introduction, which told a lot about how he felt both during the 20-K game, and his last game at Wrigley in 2012.
Josh Noel, the co-author who did a number of interviews for the oral history portion of the book, is described in the press release I received along with the review copy as someone who "writes about travel and beer for the Chicago Tribune." Okay then! I'm not sure who chose the oral history subjects, but they are a real odd mix, going from the famous (author Scott Turow, actor Joe Mantegna) to the infamous (Rod Blagojevich and, believe it or not, HWSNBN). For comic relief, he included Ozzie Guillen, talking about rats at Wrigley.
I can recommend this book for the photos alone -- the cover photo, which you see above, is a cool shot of Wrigley just before Game 1 of the 2008 NLDS. (Of that NLDS, enough said.). The writing is solid.
But there is one thing that made my jaw drop. Whoever edited the photo captions... well, to be kind, I'll just say they made a few horrific mistakes.
One caption, of a photo of Dizzy Dean making what was termed "his first start for the Cubs" at Wrigley, was dated "April 31, 1944". Uh... April 31? Not to mention that Dean was long gone from the Cubs by 1944 (his first Wrigley start as a Cub was April 24, 1938, and I believe the photo is from that game, where Dean threw a four-hit shutout against his former team, the Cardinals).
Another photo shows a Cubs batter hitting against Tom Seaver in Shea Stadium in 1969, the night that Seaver nearly no-hit the Cubs. You can clearly see the number "14" next to "AT BAT" on the scoreboard, and Ernie Banks' well-known stance at the plate. The player is identified in the caption as "Ron Santo."
Two other photos show Cubs wearing the uniform with the Illinois sesquicentennial patch -- that was worn in 1968. It says "1968" on the patch. The captions for both say the photos were taken in 1969.
There are more of these, but you get the idea. The book is worth having and the photos are terrific, but you'll have to self-edit the photo captions.