Fans give up on the 2013 Cubs, but not the ballpark ...

Pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training. OH UNBRIDLED RAPTURE! Fans had been counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds. It means that baseball is back and we'll soon get to see our favorite baseball team in action.

Actually, for most of the fans I've talked to it doesn't mean seeing the Cubs as much as returning to Wrigley Field.

As the magic day approached, I did an informal, unscientific survey. The sample was admittedly very small, but the results telling. I asked a single, simple question:

"Pitchers and catchers report in a few days. Can you name any of those pitchers and catchers?"

One Cub-fan-in-exile, living on Long Island, responded, "Nobody. But Comet Wrigley is approaching (referencing Asteroid 2012 DA14, due to buzz earth February 15, 2013).  Last time one this big hit the earth was?  You guessed it -1908 (the Tunguska "event" in Russia).  But if no collision, maybe a playoff appearance, considering it will shave us pretty darn close.  I grasp at all straws." He couldn't name any players, but he was still planning his annual pilgrimage to the ballpark with his rather large group of siblings and children.

Most others just said "Uh, can't name anyone."  Two respondents came up with Garza and "Shark," not wanting to either spell or pronounce Samardzija. One fan, who lives within 6 blocks of the ballpark and used to live across the street on Waveland Avenue, listed two pitchers who were traded last year. No one remembered that Carlos Marmol is still on the roster.

I know for a fact that a couple of years ago all of these respondents would have quickly listed Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Kerry Wood, and Marmol on the mound, and Geo behind the plate. Not this year. There has been plenty online and in the press about all the young prospects and new signings, but few are paying attention.

What are these fans concerned about? The ballpark.

A couple of evenings ago we strolled over to our favorite sandwich joint, Big Boy Gyros on Western just south of Addison. (Great gyros, hamburgers, beefs, and dogs, by the way!). As we waited for our order, we stood examining the big vintage photograph of Wrigley Field mounted on the wall. The image predates the present bleachers and scoreboard, so it is probably from the early 1930s.

The circa 1930s shot of Wrigley Field on the wall at Big Boy, Western near Addison.

The circa 1930s shot of Wrigley Field on the wall at Big Boy, Western near Addison.

Suddenly, someone grabbed my arms from behind. What the ...? I turned to see the friendly owner smiling at us. "How ya doin'? Great to see you!"

"We're good," I said. "How are you?"

"I woke up this morning, so I'm happy." He paused and glanced at the photo. "The Cubs want to wreck the ballpark so George Loukas won't make any money."

We didn't respond so he continued, "He owns Cubby Bear and a bunch of rooftops. They're going to put up billboards so you can't see the field from those buildings anymore."

He didn't mention the team's chances of success this year, nor did he talk about the players. This was the norm whenever the subject of the Cubs came up during the recently ended off-season.

The Tribune knows this. The lead editorial for its Sunday, February 3, edition was titled, "The battle of Wrigley Field."  In it the Trib exhorts the Cubs' owners to work with the rooftop owners along Sheffield and Waveland instead of putting up billboards that will spoil the views from across the streets. In the same issue Phil Rosenthal wrote about the same subject in the business section.

Fans are worried about Wrigley Field. The Cubs should be worried that the fans are worried. In spite of the wonderful renderings of the planned improvements to the ballpark that the owners unveiled at Cubs Convention, the prospect of "spite" billboards above the bleachers looms like huge, billowing, dark gray storm clouds over a planned 1:20 first pitch.

Maybe they're not intended to be spite billboards. The Cubs are no doubt looking to sell more "impressions" to advertisers.  So when the camera follows the flight of a home run toward right field, instead of seeing the facades of the classic Chicago apartment buildings and two-flats, TV viewers will be treated to yet more views of Budweiser, Old Style, and Geico logos.

Many of the new, retro ballparks, like PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Camden Yards in Baltimore, Comerica Park in Detroit, and even Minute Maid Park in Houston when the roof is open, have incorporated local buildings and skylines into their designs precisely because of the success the Cubs have had filling Wrigley Field during all those many years when the Cubs have been awful. Why would the Cubs want to compromise that element of their success?

The buildings along those two streets are part of the ballpark, as far as many of us are concerned ... as much a part of the ballpark as the  bleachers themselves. Putting up billboards, essentially building on the already tragic mistake of the Toyota sign in left field, would be a classic, most horrific case of biting off one's proverbial nose to "spite" one's face.

So please, Ricketts family, tell us it's all just a vicious rumor.

Next:  There are more Sox fans than Cub fans.

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  • fb_avatar

    I think of Cubs, and Wrigley Field pops up instantaneously. It's an important piece of the team and for that I can see that the park grabs the attention of locals more than the lowly roster the Cubs have assembled for 2013. Epstein signs a pitcher, Edwin Jackson, who gets however many millions, but people aren't going to know who Edwin Jackson is unless you followed him throughout his journeyman career. Although he did play for the White Sox...

    Should be a great season of Cubs baseball! Go Cubs, Go.

  • In reply to pjdalmasy:

    Can't help but look forward to heading back to SRO at Aisle 206! And this will be the last year the ballpark looks the way it does. Construction is set to start after the season, I believe.

  • The rooftop business owners are just aas shrewd and self-serving as anyone. I know from experience. Survival of the fittest. Maybe they're just all jerks wrapped up in a pissing contest? #alwaysnegative

  • In reply to son of admin:

    Could be. Wouldn't be a bit surprised. Hope the ballpark isn't what ends up in the toilet.

  • Congrats to Waiting4Cubs in move to Chicago Now! This comes a couple of days before the arrival of this new asteroid, which may or may not be Comet Wrigley. Coincidence? I think not.

    As I have explained in the past, I am of the belief that the Cubs fortunes are tied to an extra-terrestrial object that appears and disappears in mysterious 10 -15 year cycles. When it comes close, unknown rookies win Cy Youngs, journeyment infielders hit .350, etc., etc. I began to formulate this theory when I saw a news story about a previously undetected meteor speeding away from Earth shortly after the Bartman game in 2003. It's been 10 years since then, and this new one is the same size as the one that smacked Siberia in 1908. Its arrival at the start of spring training is a good omen! Play Ball!

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    ... told you the Toyota sign would open up a can of worms.

  • Congratulations on the move to Chicago Now.

    You asked the wrong fans. I could have named those pitchers and catchers for you. ;-) That said, I hope they all come to terms quickly and get these improvements done to the park. The plans look fantastic. I'm thinking the team and the park will be both fixed up and looking great around the same time. By that I mean 2017.

  • In reply to KT KC:

    Hey KT! If I had asked you about the pitchers and catchers it would have destroyed the curve, so to speak, because you are baseball mad!

    The improvements look great -- totally agree -- but it was all the talk about comprising the views from the rooftops that bugged me. Why expend any energy on that? A huge waste of time that can only alienate fans and compromise Wrigley Field's position as one of the top baseball destinations in the UNIVERSE! That awful souvenir store in the McDonald's parking lot is symptomatic. There seems to be a feeling within the Cubs organization that they can take money away from the neighborhood vendors and incrementally add a couple of nickels to their bottom line. Silly. Live and let live. The Cubs should be supporting all the neighbors that bring people into the area to be near the Cubs. It's unique in baseball and should be treasured.

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    I, for one, am really looking forward to getting back into Wrigley--hopefully more than last year. Looking forward to hanging with you guys in SRO!

  • In reply to Tara Sullivan:

    Can't wait, Tara. And can't wait to be there with the North Side Gal!

  • This is my FIFTIETH year of being a Cubs Fan. I've probably sat in every section in Wrigley Field since 1963. I have been to other ballparks. I live in Minnesota and I've been to their new outdoor stadium. It's nothing like Wrigley Field. Last year before I moved here from IL I went to 2 games. One game was in April (almost froze my ass off) and one in May. The one in May was because I won a contest sponsored by Mastercard. I got to go on the Field, catch fly balls and ground balls out in the outfield, and then take batting practice! Needless to say, I have died and gone to Heaven. I stood on 3rd base, and looked up to the Broadcast Booth and said a silent prayer to Ronnie and Harry. When I had a ball go through my glove I lightly touched the Ivy and thought to myself, I wonder if this is the spot where Bronco Nagurski hit the wall? The new changes to Wrigley are exciting. Why can't banners be put on the rooftops, behind their seats? The Toyota sign is FUGLY, but then so would a Ford or Chevy sign. The Cubs would be crazy to put up more signage, or change the scoreboard to a video Jumbotron. I'd hate to have to go to The Smithsonian to see the red Marquee or the Scoreboard there.

  • In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    Exactly. How sad would it be to see those honored symbols of baseball on a wall in Washington, DC?

    A ball went through your glove? You are officially part of a grand Cub tradition. Nice memory! Thanks!

  • Meteor (a new one) hits Russia! Go Cubs.

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