Chicago Cubs: How the Wrigley Field experience has changed in my lifetime

Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT
Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT /
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Chicago Cubs / Wrigley Field
Mandatory Credit: Harry How /Allsport /

Chicago Cubs: Wrigley in the 1990s had changed very little in decades

It’s the summer of 1999. You are on the way to Wrigley Field on the “L” with Blink-182’s “All the Small Things” playing on your Sony D191 Discman Portable CD player. All that is on your mind regarding the game is how many times Sammy Sosa will crush a ball onto Waveland Avenue today. Regardless of how the team was doing, seeing Sosa was a main attraction that year.

Upon arrival at the Addison stop, you get off and see all the other Cubs fans heading toward the park. Families with their kids wearing blue foam bear claws on their hands and bleacher bums in raddy jorts and white t-shirts as far as the eye can see. Taking a stroll around the entire park before going in, you pass by Waveland and Kenmore Avenue to see the ballhawks with their gloves ready. Some are standing in the street, while others are sitting in folding chairs on the street corner next to the Budweiser building. Moving down Clark Street, the sight of Yum Yum Donuts/Byron’s Hot Dog stand tempts you to stop in before the game.

As you head to the main entrance under the marquee, you can hear Gary Pressey’s organ music playing from the inside. You step through the old, noisy turnstile after showing your ticket stub. Then you go up the stairs to see the whole field as you walk up. What a sight! The bleachers are already full of white t-shirts and shirtless individuals alike, the ivy is pure green, the Torco sign on Sheffield Avenue looks over the field, banners and signs are stuck in the chainlink fences in the left and right field corners, and people are standing on the rooftops across the street. Life is good.

You get to your seat on this hot day and the Frosty Malt vendor with his yellow-padded box walks by with the perfect heat cure! The lineup is announced and as soon as Wayne Messmer announces Sammy Sosa’s name, the crowd goes nuts. All walkup music is played on the organ, with very little DJ music playing. Sosa is then greeted by cheers in the right field bleachers as he takes the field and stands in his spot where the grass is all worn and faded. The game starts and a close call is made at first base, the crowd boos and the only way you can see a replay is looking up at the old, fuzzy image square televisions attached to the supporting columns of the grandstands. If you’re in the bleachers, you’re out of luck altogether.

All is good when Sosa the following inning hits a deep drive to center field and the ball disappears in the batter’s eye, completely composed of juniper bushes. “Can he hit 60+ again?” Despite not seeing the overall team replicate the magic of 1998, and are losing on a regular basis again, being at the ballpark is still the best feeling in the world.