World Series After 71-year wait, Wrigley Field hosts its first game

The Cubs can snap America's longest sports title drought by winning their first crown since 1908

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Chicago's Wrigley Field was built by Charles Weeghman for $250,000 and opened in 1914 play

Chicago's Wrigley Field was built by Charles Weeghman for $250,000 and opened in 1914

(AFP/File)
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Iconic Wrigley Field, the 102-year-old home ballpark of the Chicago Cubs featuring a hand-operated scoreboard and ivy-covered outfield walls, plays host to its first World Series game in 71 years on Friday.

The Cubs, level with Cleveland at 1-1 in Major League Baseball's best-of-seven final, can snap America's longest sports title drought by winning their first crown since 1908 with triumphs Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the stadium nicknamed the "Friendly Confines."

"To get to this moment and have your fans have the opportunity to witness a World Series game here -- not lost on me whatsoever. It's going to be an absolute blast," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I know people have been waiting for this for a long time."

"Hopefully on our part we can do something to really make it even better."

Whether cursed, unlucky or just so-called loveable losers, the Cubs have not played in a World Series since 1945.

They are only 2-10 in World Series games at Wrigley Field, winning 8-7 in 12 innings over Detroit in game six in 1945 and 3-1 in game five over Detroit in 1935.

Relishing the moment

How hungry are Chicago's long-suffering but devoted supporters?

More than 300,000 people jammed into the ballpark's northside neighborhood -- known as Wrigleyville -- after the Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to reach the World Series.

That's why more than 1,000 police and law-enforcement officers will be in the area to keep order this weekend.

"I watched when they clinched to go to the World Series and how crazy it was, seeing the fans in the streets where they had to have police escorts," said Cleveland first baseman Mike Napoli. "You could just see the crowd just part ways. So it's going to be fun.

"The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable."

Even visiting players will be excited with the buzz and electricity of screaming Cubs fans watching history unfold.

"It's just something that gets you going, even though you're in a visiting park," Napoli said. "How loud they get, it's to the point where you can't even think. It's just crazy.

"It's just a cool moment to take in and be a part of.

Built by Charles Weeghman for $250,000 and opened in 1914, the 41,268-seat ballpark did not exist when the Cubs won their last crown in West Side Park.

Ticket prices Sunday could reach record resale highs for a US sports event if the Cubs are playing for the title. Even the rooftop seats across Waveland Avenue looking into the stadium beyond the outfield will cost more than $1,000 this weekend.

Baseball fans sit under the hand-operated scoreboard at Wrigley Field in Chicago on August 30, 2002 play

Baseball fans sit under the hand-operated scoreboard at Wrigley Field in Chicago on August 30, 2002

(AFP/File)

Fans gathered outside Wrigley Field already on Thursday's workout day, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of their heroes entering or leaving the ballpark.

"There were so many people out there today," Cubs second baseman Javier Baez said. "It's going to be crazy tomorrow."

A first under the lights

Friday's match-up will be the first World Series night game at Wrigley Field.

Lights were added in 1988 after years of pressure from Major League Baseball to end the last holdout of day-only games.

Ivy-coated outfield walls have engulfed many a ball. The live greenery was planted in 1937, the same year the emblematic scoreboard was built.

Numbers are still changed by hand, just as the "W" flag for a win is manually raised.

"We're talking three wins in a row so we're ready with a flag for each victory," scoreboard operator Darryl Wilson says.

Cubs outfielder Ben Zobrist adores the feel of a bygone era echoing throughout the park.

"It's amazing. I love baseball history, and Wrigley Field is as good as it gets," he said. "I ride my bike to the field. That kind of makes it feel like old school baseball all over again.

"I love that feel."

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