Back from St. Louis, where I saw the Cubs win the last two games of that series in exciting fashion, I was again struck by how lucky we are to be fans of the team with the most wonderful ballpark anywhere in North America.
Busch Stadium is nice. Just “nice.” It’s a fine place to watch a game, sightlines are generally good, it’s got the St. Louis Arch in the background from many seating areas so it defines the view as “St. Louis,” but in many ways it’s kind of generic.
I’ve been to 43 big-league parks. That’s 26 of the 30 currently in use (still need to get to Petco, Safeco and the two in Florida) and 17 past ballparks and stadia.
There are some apart from Wrigley I really like. PNC in Pittsburgh and AT&T in San Francisco come to mind — thoughtfully designed for players and fans and woven into the fabric of their cities despite being less than 20 years old.
But nothing compares to Wrigley Field, because inside and out, the park’s popularity came about organically. The bleachers, brick and ivy-covered, were designed deliberately to create a “park-like atmosphere” and they were an attraction before they became the hottest ticket in the park. Even though there are some grandstand (I refuse to call it the “bowl”) seats that have partially- or fully-obstructed views, most of the seats at Wrigley have excellent sightlines and you are closer to the field (no matter where your seat is) than in pretty much any other big-league park.
The fan baseball viewing experience at home these days is better than it’s ever been, if you have a bigscreen HDTV. You get many more angles than the four-camera shoots I grew up watching on WGN, you get replays, you’re warm and dry in your house... I surely get why people like watching on TV, especially if you live far from Wrigley Field or ticket prices have soared beyond your ability to afford many games.
But there really is nothing like being in the ballpark, sharing your afternoon or evening with 40,000 others, most of whom are as passionate about the Cubs as you are. Talking baseball with friends, maybe finding new friends — most of my closest friends now are people I have met over the years in the bleachers — even discussing baseball with fans of other teams who make pilgrimages to Wrigley. You might diss Cardinals fans, but I have never had a bad experience at Wrigley talking baseball with them. They love their team and are passionate about baseball.
And then there are the times when apparent losses turn into amazing wins. How could you not want to be there when this happens?
It’s all great fun. If you can do it at all, even once a year, you should try to make it to Wrigley Field. It’s a special place that’s being upgraded into the 21st Century while still having its best features kept as they are. It’s worth your time and money.
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