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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why I Don’t Really Care that Wrigley Field is 100 Years Old in 2014

The Cubs’ home opener is an annual tradition of mine.  I attended my first in 1978 as a kindergartner, went again in 1981 and starting in 1993, have been to every one since.  Regardless of the number of times I have been able to watch my beloved Cubbies at the Friendly Confines over the years, however, there is still a certain awe I feel as I ascend the steps and the field unfolds in front of me. 

As I approached the corner of Clark and Addison this year, a gigantic banner announced that 2014 is going to be “The Party of the Century.”  Not because the Cubs are projected to contend this year, but because Wrigley Field is 100 years old.  Yay? 

Beginning at the 2014 Cubs Convention, it was clear that the organization was going to be making a huge deal about Wrigley Field’s 100th year as they unveiled a slick branding campaign and a slate of throwback uniforms, promotions and food choices (very loosely) associated with the various decades.  Really, who doesn’t immediately think of deep-fried mini corn dogs when asked about life in the 1940s? 

The first of 10 bobblehead giveaways.  
Frankly, however, I really don’t care and here is why:

Wrigley Field was not even originally built for the Cubs and they have only played there for 98 seasons. 

The ballpark was built by Charles Weeghman as the home ballpark for his Chicago team in the outlaw Federal League.  Completed just prior to opening day in 1914, Weeghman Park saw its first action on Thursday, April 23, 1914, as the Chicago squad beat the Kansas City Packers 9-1 in front of 21,000 people.  The league, however, ultimately failed in their attempts to establish themselves as a third major league. 

A settlement agreement in late 1915 with the National and American Leagues saw the dissolution of the Federal League, payment to the Federal League team owners and the transfer of the Cubs to Weeghman, who immediately moved the Cubs to his modern Northside ballpark to begin the 1916 season.
The giveaway for April 20, 2014 was this toy train for the 1910s weekend.
My son played with this for about five minutes before it broke.
I refuse to acknowledge the apparent metaphor.
The Cubs have never won a championship during their tenure at Wrigley Field 

Essentially, the “Party of the Century” is just a gigantic tribute to the team’s futility and a manifest reminder that 100 years have now passed without a World’s Championship.  In fact, at the time of the last World Series victory in 1908, the Cubs played at the West Side Grounds near where the Eisenhower expressway now runs.

If you are less than 68 years old, you have not even been alive for a World Series game played at Wrigley Field.  In perhaps an unintended acknowledgement as to the paucity of significant events that have taken place at Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ own website places Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” at the top of the amazingly short list!

Stickers given to the kids.
The woeful state of the current Major League team

The Cubs’ marketing department has certainly seized on the 100th anniversary thing with gusto.  The season-long celebration regarding the age of the building that the team calls home is about the only thing the Cubs are going to have to celebrate this year and I could not feel any more apathetic.  Who really cares that Wrigley Field is 100 years old?  I sure don’t and frankly, it would be much nicer to have something to cheer about on the field this year. 

While Cubs ownership and management are preaching continued patience as we wait for the recent draft classes to mature and we hold our collective breath for Javier Baez’s arrival, I am having trouble reconciling a marketing push and merchandising money grab surrounding the 100th year of Wrigley Field as the “Party of the Century.”
Mini-helmet ice cream bowls sporting 100th Anniversary logo.
It is too bad that the Cubs didn't think to print up promotional materials on edible paper so that they could literally cram the 100th Anniversary down our throats.  Sorry Cubs, but you oversold this one. 

As fans, we all know what the “Party of the Century” will actually be.  Let’s just hope it happens this century.

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