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Book Review: 'Wrigley Field Year By Year'

Read about this terrific Wrigley Field book and find out how you can win a copy!

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Before Wrigley Field (then Weeghman Park, as constructed by Chicago Whales owner Charlie Weeghman) was even constructed, it was the subject of a lawsuit:

Resistance sprung up immediately. A 16-by-100-foot parcel of land on the property nearly broke the deal when someone tried to purchase it. Weeghman paid $15,000 to keep the site viable for his ballpark. Soon after, a petition against the proposed ballpark circulated throughout the neighborhood. Mr. Herman Croon, of 3649 Sheffield Avenue, spoke for the neighbors, saying, "None of the property owners want the park. They know that a park of the kind will decrease the value of their real estate 25 to 50 per cent and practically kill good rental because of the kind of people that such a park will bring into the locality."

In March, the property owners filed an injunction to stop construction.

Obviously, the ballpark was eventually built, and the above is just one of the interesting facts you will learn in "Wrigley Field Year By Year", a coffee-table size book which I find the best of the 100th-anniversary books I've seen this year.

And I'm not just saying that because I have about half a page worth of citations in the bibliography (both for BCB and "Cubs By The Numbers"), nor am I saying it because Sam Pathy, the author, is a regular BCB commenter (known here as "FrostyMalt"). This is a well-researched, well-written history.

Pathy has divided his book into "innings," nine of them, to represent the eras of the ballpark from its 1914 opening through last year, with chapter headings such as "League Leader," "Middle Age," and "New Appreciation." In each chapter, one for each year, Pathy lists changes to the ballpark, a summary of the Opening Day game and attendance, a "best game" for each season, and then terrific little anecdotes of things that happened both to the team and the ballpark. You'll see as the years progress, how Wrigley went from being viewed as the most beautiful park in the major leagues (in the 1930s after the bleachers and ivy went in), to "ancient" as it was neglected through the 1950s and 1960s, and then to its revival as the team revived under Tribune Company in the 1980s.

Many of the stories you've seen here at BCB and elsewhere; even so, I learned things I didn't know before. For example, you've probably seen (either in "Cubs By The Numbers" or elsewhere) that in the early years of uniform numbers, most players didn't wear the same number for very long, not even the star players. Charlie Root, for example, probably the best pitcher in franchise history, wore five different numbers. Pathy's book tells us why that was so, in entertaining fashion.

And then there was this item that caught my eye, from 1947:

The city took the owners of the building at 3701 Kenmore to court, claiming they charged visitors to watch Cubs and Bears games from their upstairs window. In addition, a city inspector claimed the owners erected a bleacher inside the window that threatened to collapse the building. The owners admitted they once charged fans. Now, they just allowed friends and residents to watch for free. The building still stands on the corner of Waveland and Kenmore Avenues. It's the one with the roof sign.

Bobby Dorr [the head groundskeeper] claimed that for $10, scouts of opposing NFL teams could view Chicago Bears practices from the windows of the buildings across Waveland and Sheffield avenues. Dorr said the coaches knew this and their insistence on practicing in areas out of view of the apartments made his spring field preparation more difficult.

It's stories like this that fill this book, along with rare photos, some of which (especially the ones of the bleacher construction in 1937) I had never seen before. I give this 100th-anniversary book my highest recommendation. Go get one!

Or -- take your chances on winning a copy! There will be a trivia-question contest posted at noon CT today for your chance to win one of these books.