Call it a character defect, but I don’t like baseball. And I especially don’t like the Chicago Cubs — losers I never found lovable.
I grew up less than a mile west of Wrigley Field and games there represented summer-long inconveniences such as midday parades of drunken fans who thought nothing of littering your lawn with empty beer cups or using our tree as a restroom.
As such, I was not the ideal candidate for enjoying the book “A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred,” written by the columnist George F. Will. But the tribute only grazes the underperforming Cubs as it honors the shrine that keeps the club afloat.
Like all good history books, this is not just about a pitiful team, or a temple to America’s national pastime, or the hard-knuckled town that rings its Friendly Confines, or the “unhinged enthusiasts” and their blind adoration for the Cubs. Rather, it illustrates how the world develops around a microcosm of humanity.
Covering topics as diverse as the actual beginnings of the game in this country — it was in no small part a post-Civil War vehicle for healing the wounds of that conflict — and the bold names that gave the stadium some atmosphere (Al Capone, Babe Ruth, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens), Will gives us a compact retelling of everything from The Great Migration to prohibition, baseball and Wrigley Field’s desegregation, along with a nod to the reviled Steve Bartman, who was blamed for the Cubs losing a playoff game in 2003 by reflexively reaching for a ball headed into the stands.
Will really does cover practically everything. Who would’ve thought I’d run across a women’s history lesson? It turns out that the Cubs’ outreach to women was so successful that “the number of women who were admitted free in the 1920s and early 1930s probably did ... exceed some teams’ paid attendance each season,” Will writes. “There were, however, occasions when people needed protection from the ladies, who could be disorderly in their rush for admission to the ballpark and for choice seats.”