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A Nice Little Place on the North Side

A Nice Little Place on the North Side by George F. Will

Social and political commentator George F. Will has written a splendid and entertaining book on the history and people surrounding Wrigley Field.  With glimpses into the lives of Philip Wrigley, Hack Wilson, and Scott Joplin, George outlines the way Wrigley Field shaped the imagination and psyche of so many luminaries.  Centering his narrative around the rise and fall of the Cubs, including many disastrous years, Will writes with an eye towards the way Wrigley shaped its many players and attendees.

George gets into a time when owner Philip Wrigley wanted to advertise for the sole purpose of bringing more women to the ballpark.  From a doggerel in a Chicago Paper,

“I saw a wounded baseball fan tottering down the street.
Encased in bandages and tape, wounded from head to feet,
And as I called the ambulance, I heard the poor guy say:
“I bought a seat in Wrigley Field, but it was ladies’ day (36).”

The goal for Philip Wrigley was to get as many women into the stands to not only boost sales but bring the whole family to the ballpark.  Will writes, “In 1930, the twelve ladies’ days drew 240,000 women…(35).”  Although the free or less admission price for women went away, Wrigley was invested in advertising to reach the masses for a product on the field that wasn’t always the best.

Under the ownership of Bill Veeck Jr. the beauty of Wrigley blossomed in its appearance.  Borrowing an idea from Perry field in Indianapolis, Veeck decided to plant ivy on the outfield to enhance the greenery of the ballpark.  Veeck made many changes during his tenure as owner of the Cubs, eventually buying up the White Sox as well.

Will gets into movement to integrate baseball with the coming of Jackie Robinson into baseball in the 40’s.  Will writes, “Why had so many people flocked to Wrigley Field to see their Cubs lose their fifth in a row?  Well, this was the arrival of Jackie Robinson, 46,000 fans crammed into Wrigley to see Jackie play ball (72),

You get a sense of the desperation and the torrid losing that the Cubs have endured through the years.  Yet, the book is also filled with years when the Cubs were in contention.  Will has written not so much a book about Wrigley particularly, but of the people who have shaped and influenced Wrigley and the Cubs.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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