Chicago Cubs: A history of the beloved ‘W’ flag on the North Side

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Ernie Banks and the ‘W’

In 1982, the first Cubs number to be retired was Ernie Banks and a white flag with blue pinstripes and the number, ’14’ in blue was set on the left-field foul pole. At the time, the Cubs were still using the ‘W-L’ but with the blue background.

Somehow, Banks’ jersey inspired the Cubs house and not long after, the Cubs made two significant changes. First, the Cubs got rid of the ‘L’ flag, as it seemed ridiculous to wave a flag of loss or defeat. Second and most importantly, even historically, they changed the ‘W’ to its current white flag and blue letter design, leaving off the pinstripes.

The ‘W’ flag and all its predecessors never again did appear in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, nor did its negative companion the ‘L’.. The colored light signal and large flagpole and many of the original upgrades to the property still reside at the historic North Side park.

Since Wrigley’s early investment,  only the Ricketts family has done major renovations to the park. In 2009, they unveiled a major four-phase plan known as the 1060 Project at the cost of $575 million dollars to extensively renovate the old Weeghman Park and bring it into the modern baseball age, while still keeping its historic spirit and the ‘W’ flying above it

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So when waving the ‘W’ after Cubs victories next season, remember that today, the flag means a Chicago Cubs win. However, don’t forget about a California town named Wilmington and how the ‘W’ traveled from the western coast of southern California to the Friendly Confines in Chicago, uniting fans across the country as the Cubs do today.