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Emma: Lasting Memories Make Wrigley Field Remarkable

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Cubs icons, from left, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Andre Dawson and Randy Hundley at Wrigley Field's 100th birthday celebration. (David Banks/Getty Images)

Cubs icons, from left, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Andre Dawson and Randy Hundley at Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday celebration. (David Banks/Getty Images)

Chris Emma mug Chris Emma
Chris Emma covers the college sports scene for CBSChicago.com,...
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By Chris Emma-

CHICAGO (CBS) — Bundled up in Wrigley Field’s upper deck on a cold April day, a nine-year-old girl jumped from her seat and yelled to her father.

“Daddy, there’s Anthony Rizzo,” she said while pointing toward the field.

On a school day, this fourth-grader was pulled from school to celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday. Her father shared in the joy, reliving part of his childhood.

“That’s Billy Williams,” the father said in reply to his daughter.

The greats of Wrigley Field gathered on the Friendly Confines’ special celebration, bringing back memories to generations of fans. What makes the ballpark so unique is its timeless traditions and lasting memories.

Wrigley Field has lasted an entire century on Chicago’s north side, and it means something unique to all it has welcomed through the doors.

The father and daughter braving the chilly temperatures in the upper deck each have different perspectives, yet similar sentiments toward Wrigley Field. The same can be said for Cubs legend and Hall of Famer Billy Williams.

“It has been the backdrop for so many adventurous times,” Williams said.

Williams is one of the Cubs’ greatest players, a true legend of Wrigley Field. His fame is forever immortalized outside Clark and Addison with an eight-foot bronze statue. For Williams, the memories of baseball in Chicago are something he forever will cherish. Yet, the same goes for seeing the Chicago Bears play football in the ballpark built for baseball.

The Chicago Bears called Wrigley Field their home, too. Williams still recalls watching George “Papa Bear” Halas’s great Bears teams play at Wrigley Field. Fitting a football field inside the baseball field wasn’t so simple — as Northwestern and Illinois would learn decades later — but the ballpark was the Bears’ home.

“So, it was a baseball field — so what,” said legendary Bears linebacker Dick Butkus, a south side native who grew up on White Sox baseball at the old Comiskey Park. “They configured it enough so we could play here. It was great.”

Perhaps Butkus summarized perfectly what makes Wrigley Field so special. It’s far from an ideal stadium, compared to the cookie-cutter brethren with retractable roofs. Millions and millions of dollars will be needed for it to last another century — or even more than a few decades.

Butkus admitted he never would have predicted Wrigley Field would still be standing this long. It had the same hitches as it does now — neighborhood zoning, limited space for expansion, an inconvenient location. Yet, there Butkus was inside the landmark ballpark to celebrate its 100th birthday.

Seated next to Butkus in the Cubs’ dugout before the game was his former teammate, Hall of Fame Bears running back Gale Sayers. He looked toward the pristine infield and cut grass and envisioned a different day.

The rain was pouring down on Wrigley’s mud and dirt. The green grass was nowhere to be found. Sayers ran for an NFL-record six touchdowns. It was one of the ballpark’s most incredible accomplishments. For Sayers, it’s his fondest Wrigley memory.

“I probably could’ve scored 10 touchdowns that day, but the time ran out,” he joked.

What will never leave Wrigley Field are the memories made for all who have entered. They have passed the test of time.

“The history that’s been made in Wrigley Field, it’s still housed here,” Williams said. “It’s in Wrigley Field.”

Wrigley’s legends took in each remarkable moment while standing on the field Wednesday. Those who made it special stood in awe of its beauty and history. A century has passed since the landmark ballpark was built, and it remains a timeless tradition for all. Generations have their own memories of their cherished stadium.

A nine-year-old girl will never forget missing school to see Anthony Rizzo play. Her father still treasures his past heroes like Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and Gale Sayers. And a south sider relishes the house that saw him become a Hall of Fame linebacker.

There are enough memories in Wrigley Field to last a century.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmmaScout.

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