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Book Review: "Wrigley Field: The Unauthorized Biography"

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Today, we rest. The team is resting -- Dusty Baker says he's gone fishing.

We've stewed enough about Wood and Prior.


So it's time to take a bit of leisure, and something I heartily recommend to start reading today is Stuart Shea's "Wrigley Field: The Unauthorized Biography."

Unauthorized is right. There's no way a team-sanctioned book would reveal some of the things this one does, and that's a good thing. I am a lifelong Chicagoan and have attended literally hundreds of games at Wrigley Field, and yet I learned many, many things from Shea's breezily-styled book -- each chapter is a different era, but within each chapter, rather than a straight narrative, it's a series of anecdotes.

In doing the book, Shea specifically sets out to explode what he terms in the introduction, "Myths In Concrete":

Wrigley Field was built for the Cubs.
There has never been advertising on the walls at Wrigley Field.
Wrigley Field has always been nothing but an open-air bar.
In the old days, Wrigley Field didn't have music blaring.
William Wrigley invented Ladies Day in the 1920's.
P. K. Wrigley would never have permitted lights in his park.
Wrigley Field never had a night game until 1988.
P. K. Wrigley never disturbed his neighbors at night.
Fans have always sat on the rooftops across from Wrigley Field.
P. K. Wrigley always left others in charge of baseball and concentrated on the ballpark.
P. K. Wrigley never came to see the Cubs play.
P. K. Wrigley hated artificial turf.
Bill Veeck planted the ivy at Wrigley Field overnight.
Wrigleyville has always been a yuppie haven.
Wrigley Field stands alone against the grim forces of modern baseball, resisting the money-driven changes of the modern era.

Shea patiently exposes all of these as false, and tells a lot about not only the history of the Cubs and the ballpark, but of the city of Chicago and how it grew in the early parts of this century.

There are lots of little anecdotes, stories about things happening on particular dates, stories about how scalpers were operating even in times like the World Series the Cubs were in during the 1930's, and Cub efforts to stop them, and how the Cubs became somnolent after World War II, and how they awakened in the '60s, to crowds that at the time were the largest in twenty, thirty, forty, years.

There are a few little mistakes -- the mayor of Chicago in the '60s is identified twice as "Richard M. Daley" rather than his father, Richard J. Daley, and Shea also says the NL had 12 teams after expanding in 1962, but I'm nitpicking. This was clearly a labor of love, and rather than give you all the details of how he trashes all the myths I quote above, I'll just tell you that you should run out and buy this book.

Personal note: George Castle, who wrote the chapter on non-baseball events at Wrigley Field, used to sit with us in the bleachers in the late 1970's and early 1980's. His scorecard -- a scorecard I became very familiar with sitting out there -- for the famous 23-22 game with the Phillies in 1979 is reproduced among the photos in the middle of the book, some of which I had never before seen.

I'll report from Phoenix tomorrow.