Chicago Cubs: Taking a trip back to the West Side Grounds

. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Until a few short years ago, the West Side Grounds marked the most recent home stadium for a World Champion Chicago Cubs team.

On the corner of S. Wolcott Avenue and W. Polk Street in Chicago sits the UIC Medical Center campus. May not seem like much just looking at it, another college campus with big buildings, but it is actually holy ground for the Chicago Cubs and baseball. Once on that very spot stood the West Side Grounds.

The West Side Grounds was one of the many home ballparks for the Cubs before they began playing on the corner of Clark and Addison in 1916. Fans gathered for Cubs games at the corner of Wolcott and Polk from 1893 – 1915, a solid 22 years. It saw a number of milestones for both the franchise and MLB itself.

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When the Cubs began playing at the West Side Grounds in 1893, the team was known as the “Colts” and Cap Anson was their manager. Around baseball, the American League had not yet been formed and Ed Dalahanty led baseball in homers with 19. Throughout their stay in the ballpark on Chicago’s west side, the team saw the nickname “Cubs” be given to them unofficially around 1902 and they would win their first World Series championships in 1907 and 1908.

So yes, before 11/2/16 the last home ballpark that hosted a Chicago Cubs championship team was one likely nobody alive can say they attended.

The ballpark itself.

The West Side Grounds was built in the day before concrete and steel ballparks began popping up in America. Like most ballparks of the day it was built of wood and steel. The main grandstand had a horseshoe-like shape with an upper-deck private box area build above those seats supported by steel beams. Instead of the clubhouse being behind the dugouts, it was in the outfield.

Seats extended all around the entire ballpark with the local buildings sitting across the street in the outfield which had views of the game just like the buildings across from Wrigley. Over time the second-deck box seats were extended over the main grandstand seating to each foul pole and advertisements boards were added in the outfield which blocked the views of the streets. The park held roughly 16,000 by the time the Cubs were on their way out.

As for the field, it had the old fashion diamond with a dirt path that went from home plate to the mound. Want to hit a home run over the wall to dead center? Good luck, it was 560 feet away. Just hope you hit a ball that would roll for a while. The dugouts were very small and could barely even fit all the players.

Big names at the ballpark.

The famous trio of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance electrified the rowdy Chicago crowds for many years with Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown throwing 605 of his 3,172 1/3 innings on the West Side Grounds mound. All four of them are Hall of Famers. As a whole the team won four pennants and two World Series while calling that ballpark home. It held the first and (to this date) only Crosstown Series (1906).

Some famous people have visited the park including President William H. Taft back in 1909. The Cubs were one of the most successful franchises in the sport in the later years of their tenure at the West Side Grounds, so they often drew overcapacity crowds.

After the Cubs left the falling apart and outdated park for the concrete and steel Weeghman Park (now Wrigley Field), it was used for a number of different events. It famously hosted Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show which was very popular at the time. Finally in 1920 the park was razed.

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Today a plaque sits on one of the corners of the former site. There is absolutely nothing remaining from the park today, and outside the plaque there is no indication the park was even there. Kind of crazy how the site of the team that was the most recent World Series winner for a 108-year period was basically forgotten about.