By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) As today marks 100 years of baseball at Wrigley Field, it’s celebrated with a degree of awe and a question mark of its historical significance.
Is Wrigley the place of ‘”hallowed walls or haunted halls?”
I have personally attended more than 3,000 games at the Friendly Confines. As a kid, it was the magic of big league baseball and the chance to watch Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente battle Ernie Banks and Co. in the sunshine and shadows of the ballpark. Like thousands of Chicago kids, I could come to Wrigley, set up wooden chairs on the left- and right-field box seat area– thus getting into the park for free.
The concept of getting to see something special, as history was made every day, was alluring to me from the the first time I saw the green grass and ivy in person. Maybe my first experience was the essence of my personal connection to the game, team and ballpark. My father took me to my first game when I was four years old. I remember taking the train from my cousin’s house in Skokie, where my mother had dropped us off. This was my first experience on the L. I didn’t care if the Cubs won that day. I had the experience of a lifetime that I can revisit with joy anytime I wish to.
The smell of Oscar Mayer smokie links on the grill and the dank and drafty concourses are a lasting memories of many April baseball games going back more than a half century.The family connection continued, with my daughter growing up at Wrigley and the special times we have shared there.
Timeless hours spent watching the greatest game, played in a city setting, has been fun as well as my dedicated work for 35 years. The Cub fan is looked at like some type of special species that has managed to push on as other less resilient fans go elsewhere seeking satisfaction.
Every sports fan remembers their first time at the ballpark or stadium. The unique difference is Wrigley captures that time in a container to be kept in the deep chambers of your mind bringing you back time and time again.
The emphasis on building a new atmosphere at Wrigley leaves the baseball fan in me numb. The Ricketts family wants a winner and a ballpark full of amenities and revenue-producing signs, and while I’m all for progress and winning, my baseball identity tells executives to leave the baseball cathedral alone.
If my father had lived beyond the mid-1950s, he would still want to eat a smokie link and take the L to Wrigley. Cake and Jumbotrons would have given him more indigestion than the ballpark hot dog.
So happy birthday to the park they call Wrigley Field. And thanks for the memories!
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.