Union Base-Ball Grounds – aka White Stocking Park (1871-1872)
With no organized league to join in 1870, the Chicago White Stockings made money by playing against other independent base-ball clubs that would play them and they charged an admission fee to watch the game. They played their home games at both Ogden Park and Dexter Park Race Course.
This park was a rickety old wooden park. The grounds were literally used as a dump and all kinds of rubbish would come to the surface while in gameplay. Men were seated in better sections than the women folk were. A season ticket was $15.
The Great Chicago Fire of October 8, 1871, destroyed Union Base-Ball Grounds and all of the club's possessions. After the park was destroyed, the railroad was kind enough to support the team. They fulfilled their 1871 obligations by playing on the road.
The Chicago White Stockings were forced to sit out the 1872 and 1873 seasons because they did not have a home field to play at and were suffering from extreme financial problems from losses in the fire.
Twenty-Third Street Park (1872-1877)
The Twenty-Third Street Park (aka State Street Grounds and 23rd Street Park) first hosted baseball in 1872-1873, rented out by the Chicago White Stockings as the club nursed its financial wounds following the 1871 Great Chicago Fire (for two years following the fire, it did not field a team).
No photos or illustrations are known to exist, but contemporary newspaper descriptions imply that the diamond was in the north end of the block; a line drawn from home plate through the pitcher's mound and second base would have pointed south. If so, the fair territory would probably have been shaped like a modern five-sided "home plate." (Home plate was a square at that time.)
Distance from plate: Dimensions of Union Base-Ball Grounds
Left Field – 375 ft. / Center Field – Unknown / Right Field – 375 ft.
Lake Front Park #1 (1878‑1882)
In 1878 the White Stockings returned to the site of the 1871 Union Grounds that had been destroyed by the Chicago Fire, to build a new park that is usually called Lake Shore Park, Lake Front Park, or simply Lake Park.
The advantage of this wooden park remained its central location and accessibility to various forms of transportation, but the field conditions were less than ideal. The infield was bumpy and uneven and littered with stones, boulders, ashes, and broken bottles.
Lake Front Park #2 (1882‑1884)
In 1883, Spalding invested $1,800 into renovating the field. The grandstand was enlarged to seat 2,000 and the bleachers to seat 6,000 with room for an additional 2,000 standing room people. There was an ornamented pagoda near the main entrance to hold the First Cavalry Band. On the third base side, there were 18 luxury "sky"-boxes, equipped with armchairs and curtains. Spalding had one with a phone and a gong so he could conduct his business.
|Lakefront Park, the new baseball grounds at Chicago, Illinois, “Harper’s Weekly,” published May 1883.|
Distance from plate: Dimensions of Lakefront Park
Left Field – 186 ft. / Center Field – 300 ft./ Right Field – 196 ft.
West Side Park #1 (1885‑1891)
The first West Side Park was the ball club’s home from 1885 through 1889 and succeeded Lakefront Park #2. Although the park’s useful life turned out to be as short as the ball club’s stay at the Lakefront (seven years), it was also memorable, as the team won the National League pennant in each of their first two seasons there.
|West Side Park #1|
|Opening Day Program for the West Side Park #1 in 1885.|
|Official Score Card of the Chicago White Stockings -1890|
Henry Chadwick invented a scoring system which used a series of letter symbols in 1861. Chadwick was the first baseball editor for the New York Herald.
Distance from plate: Dimensions of first West Side Park
Left Field – 216 ft. (1 ft. over then-legal minimum)
Center Field – Unknown
Right Field – 216 ft. (1 ft. over then-legal minimum)
West Side Park #2 (1893‑1915)
In May 1893, the club opened their second West Side Park a few blocks west-southwest of the first one; on a larger block bounded by Taylor, Wood, Polk and Lincoln (now Wolcott) Streets. They split their 1893 schedule with South Side Park, then moved into the new ballpark full-time the following year. Some sources state that the club moved to this location to gain attendance from the World’s Columbian Exposition, as South Side Park was within walking distance of the 35th Street station of the then-new South Side Rapid Transit line, which reached the exposition grounds at Jackson Park.
|Boys peeking through the fence at West Side Ball Park #2 around 1905.|
|The 1906 World Series, Game 3 at West Side Park #2, October 11, 1906.|
|West Side Park #2, Chicago, Cubs vs. Giants, August 30, 1908.|
|West Side Park #2, Chicago, Cubs vs. Giants, August 30, 1908.|
|West Side Park #2 ,Cubs versus Tigers World Series, October 9, 1907|
|West Side Park #2 Postcard. Facing Toward Polk Street and Old Cook County Hospital Behind Grandstand.|
By the early 1910s the wooden ballpark was showing its age, in large part due to neglect by Charles Murphy, the unpopular owner of the Cubs (one of whose alternate, media-driven nicknames was the unflattering “Murphy’s Spuds”). In 1910, the neighborhood view beyond the right field outfield wall was blocked off by an enormous, unsightly billboard. By 1912, the left field view was similarly obstructed by a large billboard which also served as the new scoreboard. The enclosure of the park was completed with the installment of billboards in dead center. At this time, the jury box bleachers in left-center field were removed, adding to the new claustrophobic feel of the outfield.
With gambling becoming an increasing problem in baseball, starting in 1911 the playing field was adorned with large signs (as with some other major league ballparks) reminding fans “No Betting Allowed.” Additionally, the dilapidated park found itself competing unsuccessfully with new steel-and-concrete baseball venues. The Chicago White Sox inaugurated Comiskey Park in 1910. Four years later, the upstart Federal League placed a franchise on the North Side and began play in Weeghman Park. By 1915, the Cubs were the third most popular team in a three-team city.
When the Federal League collapsed after the 1915 season, Charles Weeghman, owner of the now-defunct Chicago Whales, was allowed to buy a substantial interest in the Cubs. One of his first acts was to abandon West Side Park (demolished in 1920) and move the Cubs to Weeghman Park for the 1916 season. Weeghman Park survives today as Wrigley Field.
Distance from plate: Dimensions of West Side Park #2
Left Field – 340 ft. / Center Field – 442 ft. / Right Field – 316 ft.
Weeghman Park (1914–1920)
Cubs Park (1920-1926)
Wrigley Field (1927 - Present)
The property bounded by Clark, Waveland, Sheffield, and Addison was home to the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary. The land, sandy, dotted with a few trees and prone to flooding, was originally owned by developer Joseph Sheffield. The property eventually wound up in the hands of Lutheran minister William Passavant and by the late 1860s Passavant was talking about building a seminary there. By 1874, St. Mark's Lutheran Church had been constructed on the land. The small chapel served as the birthplace of the seminary until the school opened officially on October 1, 1891, with six students. In 1909, the seminary bought adjoining land to give itself a buffer from the encroaching neighborhood. That brought the property to 8 acres.
|Original footprint of Weeghman Park. In 1923 the grandstand was cut into 3 pieces and moved to create the current footprint. The home plate was originally near the present-day pitcher's mound. The upper deck was added in 1927-1928.|
The park was built in six weeks in 1914 at a cost of about $250,000 by the Chicago lunchroom magnate Charles Weeghman, who owned the Federal League Whales. (The club signed a 55-year lease to use the park for approximately $18,000 per year.) It was designed by the architect Zachary Taylor Davis (who four years earlier had designed Comiskey Park for the Chicago White Sox), incorporating the new “fireproof” building codes recently enacted by the city.
The famous sheet steel scoreboard was built in 1937 under the watch of Cubs General Manager Bill Veeck, Jr. The scoreboard exterior was originally red-brown, the color of a sunset at sea. “The Cubs played a lot of 3 o’clock games,” Cubs historian Ed Harting said. “The sun reflected off the scoreboard and back toward home plate. Green knocked the sunlight down, so owner P.K. Wrigley painted it green in 1944.”
Wrigley Field has been the home of the Cubs since 1916. It hosted several World Series in 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, 1945, 2016. Prior to 2016, the last time the Cubs won the World Series was in 1908 happened while the Cubs called West Side Park home.
In 2010, Curtis M. Hubertz, then 93, made the drive from his southern Wisconsin home to Wrigley Field.
The Chicago native wasn’t going to see a game, instead, he was delivering some parts for the ballpark’s famous scoreboard, which his family’s electronics company had installed in the 1930s.
“After cleaning out his garage, he came across a big box filled with spare parts for the scoreboard,” said his daughter Judy Kompare. “He got in his car and drove to the park. He wanted them to have those parts.”
Hubertz had those parts because he and his father had been commissioned by P.K. Wrigley to design the now-famous scoreboard in 1937: “They brought it to the ballpark to be tested one day,” said close friend Bud Newton, a dentist and former tour guide at Wrigley Field. “When the game ended, Mr. (Phil) Wrigley motioned them over to his box and asked if they could make the letters and numbers bigger — from 36 inches high to 48 inches — and also add a few extra digits to make it easier for people to understand. “They made the changes, and the rest is history.”
After Hubertz Electronics closed in the 1960s, Mr. Hubertz continued to service the scoreboard, which now has landmark status. “Whenever there was a glitch in the system, one of the first people they’d call was Curt,” Newton said. “He’d get over to the park and have that scoreboard working just fine in no time.”
Wrigley Field was listed as a Chicago Landmark on February 11, 2004.
The Wrigley Field property is listed as a National Historic Landmark on February 27, 1987.
Distance from plate: Original dimensions of Weegham Park
Left Field – 327 ft. / Center Field – 425 ft. / Right Field – 298 ft.
Distance from plate: Current dimensions of Wrigley Field
Left Field – 355 ft. / Center Field – 400 ft. / Right Field – 353 ft.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.