How the Chicago Cubs Came to Play at Wrigley Field

Back in 1986, the Chicago Tribune’s David Ibata described the history of the Cubs’ journey around Chicago, playing in a variety of ballparks before settling on Wrigley Field. He wrote about how the one-time site of the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary became Weeghman Park and then Wrigley Field:

The Federal [League]s’ Chicago franchise went to Charles Weeghman, known as the “Lunchroom King” for his chain of low-cost eateries. Weeghman named his team the Whales and selected a site in the North Side neighborhood of Lakeview for his new ballpark. The site, at 1060 W. Addison St. on the northeast corner of Addison and Clark Streets, one day would be “Beautiful Wrigley Field.”

When Weeghman leased the land from a certain Edmund J. Archambault, though, it was anything but beautiful.

The Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary occupied the land from 1891 until 1910, giving Seminary Avenue west of the ballpark its name. Then the school moved to Maywood. It came back to the city, to 1100 E. 55th St., in 1967. Today it’s the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

The school produced this letter from its archives to explain the move from Lakeview:

The writer, Marjory R. Wing, says the seminarians were escaping “the smoke, dust, grime, soot, dirt (and) foul gases; railroading by night and day; whistles, ding-donging of bells late and early and in between times, and the ceaselessness of undesirable traffic incidental thereto that is growing more unbearable every week.”

Wing referred to a rail line that skirted the west side of Wrigley Field and ran up the middle of Seminary Avenue to a private right-of-way north of Irving Park Road. It was built in the late 19th Century by the Chicago & Evanston, a steam-powered freight and commuter railroad. The Milwaukee Road acquired the C&E around the turn-of-the-century. By 1910, Addison Street had become a key way station on the line.

Wing wrote of “coal yards, gravel yards, sand yards, ice stations and milk stations” that received freight trains and wagon teams “with the unsanctified men in charge sending the unsterilized particles, odors and speech into the homes, eyes and ears of the seminary habitants.”

The late Bill Veeck, whose father was president of the Cubs, was born in 1914, the year Weegham built his stadium; and attended his first baseball game there in 1920, when he was 6 years old. In an interview before he died, Veeck said Weeghman built the stadium where he did “to get away from the White Sox and the Cubs. He was opening up new territory on the North Side.

“I also have to think (Weeghman) was able to get a piece of land he could afford,” Veeck said. “Bear in mind, one wouldn’t put a ballpark next to a coal yard by choice.

“The requirements for a ballpark in those days were quite different than now,” Veeck said. “You wanted public transportation, because there weren’t any automobiles to speak of. You had to get people there, and they wouldn’t all be from the neighborhood. Clark and Addison was an ideal location because the streetcar and elevated lines were nearby.”

Weeghman Park was designed by architect Zachary Taylor Davis, who four years earlier had designed Comiskey Park on the South Side for the White Sox. The North Side stadium had a single-level grandstand and left and right field bleachers totaling 14,000 seats. To build it required 500 tradesmen, 4,000 yards of earth, four acres of bluegrass and $250,000.
Led by Joe Tinker–of “Tinkers to Ever to Chance” fame–the Whales captured the Federal League pennant in 1915. Then the league folded.

With the National League’s blessing, Weeghman put together a 10-man syndicate to buy the Cubs from the Tafts and move the team to his North Side park. One of those investors was the Chicago chewing gum magnate, William Wrigley Jr.

The deal was closed on Jan. 20, 1916, and the team played its first game at Weeghman Park on April 20.

Published in: on February 26, 2011 at 4:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Cubs’ First Game at Weeghman Park/Wrigley Field

Here’s some of the Chicago Tribune’s description of the Cubs’ first game at Weeghman Park/Wrigley Field on April 20, 1916: “It was another epochal day in the history of baseball and quite convincing that the Cubs have found a welcome to the north side. There was a newness and a curiosity to things. It was the first time many of the players and doubtless many of the fans had ever seen the north side ball park. New seats for the occasion had been build on the field behind the diamond and a double row of benches circled the outfield. A half hour before the game started the crowd spilled out of the fright side of the stand upon he field. A hit into the crowd was good for two bases. The players took great delight in driving the ball into that circle of fans, nine of them turning the trick. Besides, Big John Beall, who once wore a White Sox suit, drove one over the right wall and clear across Sheffield avenue on to the front porch of a flat building.

Because of the many side features, the teams were delayed in starting the contest. The big auto parade which formed downtown carried hosts of the box seat patrons to the field, for the parade was about a mile long, every car bearing banners. At the grounds [Cook County] Judge Thomas F. Scully had to make a speech that no one could hear. There were at least a half dozen bands there, and they even played while the judge was talking.

The Cincinnati rooters, number about 200, took part in the parade and occupied field seats in front of the Reds’ dugout. There were bundles of roses to be presented to favored ball players and an immense floral horseshoe for Manager Tinker and another for Heine Zim [Heine Zimmerman, the Cubs’ third baseman]. There were bombs exploded in the corner of centre field while the American flag was being raised. There was a live donkey brought into view by a host of Twenty-fifth ward Democrats, and there was a live and active black cub bear led to the home plate to do tricks in front of the movie camera.”

Claude Hendrix, the winner of the first game ever at Weeghman/Wrigley, started this game too for the Cubs and Joe Tinker, but when the game went 11 innings it was reliever Gene Packard who got the win, and Heine Schulz got the loss for the Reds. A double by Cy Williams and run-scoring single by Vic Saier won the game for Chicago. As the Tribune noted, Johnny Beall of the Reds had the first N.L. homer at Wrigley. And the first pitch, by Hendrix, was hit by Wade “Red” Killifer into left for a single. Killifer [as the newspaper spelled it; it’s actually Killefer] scored the first run on a Texas leaguer by Beall.

The game notes included this: “Several hundred snipers saw the game from the roofs and windows of flat buildings across the street from the ball park.” “Besides drawing a large bundle of American beauties, Manager [Buck] Herzog was presented with a walking stick and an umbrella.” “In the seventh inning [Bill] Fischer ran over a small boy while catching a foul fly on the edge of the crowd, but neither the boy nor the player was hurt in the clash.”

Here’s a Tribune cartoon making fun of the Reds:


More cartoon images of the Cubs’ first Wrigley game:

The top of the box score:


The bottom of the box score (notice all the doubles and other hits):


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:


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:


A play at the plate in the third:


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


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.”