Opening Up Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field) in 1914

The Chicago Federals were the home team on April 23, 1914, when Weeghman Park hosted its first game. Where were the Cubs? At West Side Park, playing the Cincinnati Reds–they didn’t move over to Weeghman until mid-1916. And Weeghman didn’t become known as Wrigley until 1926. It was called Cubs Park from 1920 through 1925. Anyway, on April 23, the Federals (a Federal League team, of course, who were later named the Whales), were playing against the Kansas City Packers. The Feds had opened the season by losing five of their first seven games.

Here’s some of how the Chicago Tribune described opening day:

“Chicago took the Federal League to its bosom yesterday and claimed it as a mother would claim a long lost child. With more more frills and enthusiasm than had prevailed at a baseball opening here Joe Tinker and his Chifeds made their debut before a throng of fans that filled the new north side park to capacity, and the Chicago Feds trounced George Stovall’s Kansas City team, 9 to 1. All Chicago cheered and the north side was maddened with delight.

“It may not have been the largest crowd that ever saw an opening game in Chicago, but conservative estimators placed the attendance at about 21,000. The new park is said to have a seating capacity of 18,000. . . . every seat in the place was taken, a great many were standing up in the back of the grandstand, and more than 2,000 were on the field in the circus seats placed there for the occasion.

“The windows and roofs of flat buildings across the way from the park were crowded with spectators. The surface and elevated trains leading to the north side were overhanging with people in the early afternoon and three or four separate and distinct automobile parades unloaded several thousand gaily decked rooters at the gates. Owners Weeghman and Walker of the north side club and President Gilmore of the new league were so overjoyed with the spectacle that they almost wept, and there is little doubt that it was an epochal day in the history of the national game.

“The weather was far from suited to the occasion, too. A chilling wind was coming off the lake and one needed winter furs to be comfortable. . . . Although it was the first game for the new Chicago club, the progress was executed with admirable precision and dispatch, largely due to the efforts of the experienced business manager, Charles G. Williams, who served more than twenty-five years with the local National League club.

“The North Side Boosters’ club, numbering more than a thousand, held a parade. The Bravo el Toro club, numbering about 100, came leading a fatted steer from the stockyards, and the members intended to put on a burlesque bullfight on the field. The fatted steer refused to get mad and the bullfight was a fizzle. There were the Charley Williams Boosters, who came out in hordes. Before the game a squad of women from the Ladies of the G.A.R [that is, Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, from the Civil War] marched upon the field bearing large American flag. Led by a band and followed by the members of both ball clubs, the women carried the national color to the flag pole in far center field. Rockets and bombs [a 21-gun salute, that is] were fired as they approached it. . . .

“With the flag pole ceremonies over, the band led the paraders to the home plate, where there were several cart loads of flowers in the form of horseshoes and bundles of American beauties. Most of them were for Manager Tinker.

“The game itself was too one sided to be intense, but the fact that the home team was on the long end of the score made everybody happy. However, before the game had gone into the third inning organized ball stepped in with the hand of the law and yanked one of the “outlaws” from the ranks. Chief Johnson, who started as pitcher for Kansas City, was served with legal papers at the close of the second inning, enjoining him temporarily from playing ball with the Federal league. Manager Stovall of the visitors rushed another hurler to the slab and the game went on just as if nothing had happened.”

Claude Hendrix, a spitballer, got the win with a five-hitter, though he allowed a solo homer by Ted Easterly in the eighth. Dutch or “Little Aleck” Zwilling hit the first double (he may have had the first hit too), and scored the first run. Here’s the Tribune’s box score:

P1030874

A picture of the G.A.R. ladies carrying the flag to center field, and a shot of Artie “Home-Run” Wilson, who hit Wrigley’s first two homers in this game:

P1030875

A play at the plate in the third:

P1030876

And Chifeds manager Joe Tinker, better known as the start of the Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance Cubs double-play trio:

P1030877

A sidebar in the Tribune added:

“The significant part of the affair to the new owners was the large number of women present. It was not a long jump from De Paul field, where the lowly Feds played last year, to their modern home at Addison avenue, but a glance at the wonderful setting for yesterday’s combat brought the thought that some one must have rubbed Aladdin’s lamp to effect such a magical transformation. The brand new grandstand, packed to the limit with fans wearing Chifeds caps of all shades and colors, looked like a huge floral horseshoe. . . . The stand was a blaze of color. Thousands of spectators donned the little caps distributed by the local management, while others waved Chifed pennants. Forming a centerpiece to this decoration were nearly 3,000 members of the Bravo el Toro club, whose gold and red sashes blended well with the mass of coloring on each side of the field.”

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hello, I am unable to see the attached photographs with this article. Is there any way you could send them to me via email? My great grandfather was the Charles G. Williams mentioned in the article, and his mother was in the G.A.R.

  2. [...] built in 1914 and became the home of the Chicago Cubs in 1916. The first name of Wrigley Field was Weeghman Park and served the Chicago Whales. Between 1920 and 1926 it was called Cubs Park. Then it became known [...]


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