The restless ghosts of Cubs past are at peace this afternoon.
In front of about 100 fans, assorted dignitaries and a five-piece band playing music from a century ago, the memory of the Chicago National League Ball Clubs of 1893-1915, who played on the near West Side of Chicago at the nearly forgotten -- until today -- West Side Grounds, was hallowed forever. A permanent marker memorializing the site was unveiled this morning at 912 S. Wood St. in Chicago on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago, now home to the Neuropsychiatric Institute of UIC.
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This project was started several years ago by UIC graduate Mike Reischl, who knew that there had been a major league baseball park on the site but didn't know quite where. He formed the Way Out In Left Field Society, dedicated to getting permanent recognition for this great era in Cubs history, a park where they won five pennants and the only two World Series -- so far -- in their history.
Thanks to UIC and the Illinois State Historical Society, there is now a prominently placed marker, pictured here, immortalizing the feats of Tinker, Evers (properly pronounced "EE-vers", not "eh-vers"), Chance, Brown, Steinfeldt and the rest of the Cubs who won 100 games four different times and 99 one other year. Speakers included Mike Reischl and Brian Bernardoni from the Society, a couple of UIC officers, 2nd Ward Ald. Robert Fioretti and Mike Lufrano from the Cubs; a recital of a Ring Lardner article written after the Cubs left the West Side for good in 1915 read by Bill Savage, and the grand unveiling, performed, appropriately, by Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. Stories were told of Cubs owner Charles Murphy, who was disliked in much the way that Sam Zell has gotten criticized today, and how he had originally planned to build a new park on the site of West Side Grounds, only to see the club sold to Charlie Weeghman and moved to Weeghman's brand new North Side ballpark, where the Cubs still play today. Others in "attendance" included "President William Taft", in period costume, and a man dressed as former Cubs PA announcer Pat Pieper, introducing each speaker with a megaphone.
Ernie Banks speaks at the dedication ceremony on Saturday, September 6. Standing to his left is Mike Reischl of the Way Out In Left Field Society; seated, facing camera, is Mike Lufrano of the Cubs and at left, Dutchie Caray.
I post here the three or so minutes of cellphone video I took of the unveiling itself. The quality is surprisingly good, but I cannot for the life of me get it converted to a more Internet-friendly format. If any of you know how to do this, download it and email me the converted file and I'll repost it. Clicking here will open a .3g2 file which you can then save and convert.
Here is another page from the snazzy eight-page program they handed out at the event, showing the location of West Side Grounds in the current street map:
Many other old ballparks have been honored in this way, notably Forbes Field at the University of Pittsburgh. It has been nearly ninety-three years since a major league baseball game has been played on the West Side of Chicago; on October 3, 1915, the Cubs beat the Cardinals 7-2 before "not more than 3,000 fans", according to the account in the next day's Tribune. It is far past time to honor them. Kudos to Mike Reischl and all involved for the ceremony this afternoon. I may have more photos available later today; if so, I will add them to this post.
And now, on to the business of winning in 2008.
UPDATE: More photos from the event, taken by David Sameshima.
Ernie Banks unveils the historic marker