In the Joe Maddon-era of the Cubs, fans and players look forward to an annual motivational slogan from the manager. Last year it was the rallying “Everybody In” and this year the franchise will get to work with “Own It Now,”—a promise to fans this season won’t be a let down.
For Cubs fans, Wrigley Field is hallowed ground. It’s a place where magic happens and “dreams do come true,” according to a champagne-soaked, life-long Cubs’ fan Bill Murray after the 2016 World Series.
For most of history, the Cubs weren’t winners and they endured a 108-year championship drought. But that didn’t really matter because there was always beautiful Wrigley Field. It’s the kind of ballpark that hangs onto nostalgia, like 81-year-old ivy or the manually-operated scoreboard. Night games weren’t even played at the stadium until 1988 (every other Major League team had lights by 1948), because baseball was meant to be played under the sun.
What’s also unique to Wrigley, is that it’s right in the middle of a neighborhood. One minute you’re passing two-flats, then you turn the corner on Addison Street and suddenly see the bright red marquee. Cubs’ second basemen Ben Zobrist, living only a mile away from the field, regularly bikes to games in his uniform and makes time to chat with neighbors.
We’ll help you get the full experience of the Major League’s second oldest ballpark—whether that means making sure your seat isn’t in front of a pillar or scooping up some insider tips. Welcome to the Friendly Confines—a nickname given to Wrigley by player Ernie Banks.
Names to know
A crowd pleaser and infielder, Javy Baez is the star of the Chicago Cubs. He’s got flair and is known as El Mago, which translates to the magician in Spanish. When you watch him play, you’ll know why.
Since third baseman Kris Bryant was drafted he’s been given numerous awards including Rookie of the Year and the NL’s MVP and had a curse-busting World Series win. Oh, and he made his MLB debut just four years ago. Last year, a shoulder injury sidelined him for three months but he’s ready to play now.
Last year the Cubs’ signed star pitcher Yu Darvish in one of the biggest deals in free agency: $126 million over six years. However, the commitment hasn’t turned out like the franchise had hoped. Darvish essentially missed all of last year and his first game of 2019 didn’t impress.
Other ace pitchers include mainstays Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Kyle Hendricks (also known as ‘The Professor’ because he graduated from Dartmouth).
First baseman and unofficial team captain Anthony Rizzo is heart and soul of the team. The four-time All-Star and 2019 Gold Glover is the longest tenured player on the Cubs. He’s also raises millions for pediatric cancer research through his foundation and is a cancer survivor himself.
Theo Epstein, the curse breaker and President of Baseball Operations, has been the architect behind the Cubs’ roster for the past six years. Joe Maddon, the team’s manager, is known as a player’s coach and coined the phrase: Try not to suck. He is also the man behind the outrageously themed road trip outfits. This is Maddon’s last year of his contract.
Where to sit
First thing to know is that sections are called aisles. Anywhere in the Upper Deck Box between aisles 409 and 431 is excellent to watch the game with zero chance of an obstructed view. To get a good idea of where your seat will be, enter the aisle and row into this 3D map.
Don’t get stuck in front of a support beam that holds up the roof and upper level. If you want to avoid a partially blocked view, skip certain seats in the Upper Deck Reserved (500s) and in the Terrace Reserved (200s) aisles. If you’re ticket isn’t marked with a “limited view” then your seats are probably fine.
Hoping for sun or shade? Find out if your seats are covered from the rain or sunshine. About half the seats at Wrigley are shaded depending on game time.
If you just want to soak up summer and have a good time, grab tickets for the Budweiser Bleachers. They aren’t the cheapest seats anymore, but you’ll have fun heckling outfielders with your bleacher buddies. Get to the Sheffield and Waveland entrance early, it’s general admission.
Another fun option are the Wrigley rooftops along Waveland and Sheffield avenues. Here you can peer down into Wrigley Field from the rooftops of surrounding apartment buildings. The properties are mostly owned by the Ricketts family, who are also owners of the Cubs. The seats are affordable, but not much cheaper than what’s inside the ballpark.
- Gate D at Sheffield and Addison will let you in along the second baseline.
- Gate F at Clark and Addison under the marquee puts you right behind home plate.
- Gate H near Gallagher Way (formerly the Park at Wrigley) is along the third baseline.
- Gate K near Clark Street and Waveland Avenue is closest to the outfield along the third baseline.
- For bleachers enter through Gate N at Sheffield and Waveland.
The Crosstown Classic is where the Cubs play the White Sox. The teams will first meet at Wrigley Field on June 18 and 19 and then at Guaranteed Rate Field on July 6 and 7.
Here are some of the games with promos for early fans:
April 13: Cubs and Star Wars Blanket
April 14: Replica Wrigley Field Statue
May 5: Cubs Hooded Pullover
June 20: Javier Baez Sliding Coin Bank
June 26: Cubs BBQ Mit
June 27: Cubs cocktail stones
July 16: Cubs 1969 Replica Jersey
September 1: Cubs Lunch box
New this year, Wrigley Field will have two theme nights: Game of Thrones on Tuesday, April 23 and Grateful Dead Night on Wednesday, April 24. An iron throne photo op will be set up at Gallagher Way and Deadheads who purchase tickets through the special offer will get a double-sided vinyl record of the band at the Auditorium Theatre.
The franchise also organizes Community Nights which include Autism Awareness Night, Pride Day, Women’s Empowerment, and Teacher Appreciation Night.
How to get to Wrigley Field
Your best bet is the Red Line train, the Addison station is at the southeast corner of Wrigley. Other public transportation options include the No. 22, 36 and 8 bus routes. Pace offers an express bus from Hillside and Rolling Meadows to Wrigley for $4.50 per person one way.
Divvy stations nearby are at Sheffield and Waveland avenues, and Clark and Grace streets. If you’re riding your own bike, there is a free bike check service located under the Addison station tracks. Bike helmets are allowed into Wrigley.
If you’re driving expect to pay between $30 to $40 for a spot if you can find one within a block of the field. Usually residents will sell parking spaces from the sidewalk or list them on SpotHero. There are few parking lots in the neighborhood that also have a free shuttle service for games, concerts and other events.
Know before you go
- First trip to Wrigley Field? Get a ‘First Timers’ certificate on the third base ramp landing above Gate H near aisles 106-109.
- Before you head into the game, store any large luggage or strollers for free at the bike check east of the Addison station main entrance.
- No hard-sided coolers or thermoses of any kind are allowed into the park. Guests can bring unopened plastic water bottles. Laser pointers, brooms, car seats, inflatables, and selfie sticks are banned items as well.
- The gates open two hours before game time, during that time you can try to get autographs or hang out at the DraftKings Fantasy Sports Zone which has outdoor patio seating on Addison Street. Tickets aren’t required for the area, but if you do have tickets you can enter into the ballpark there.
- Smoking isn’t allowed at Wrigley but you can step outside at the gate for 10 minutes to do so. Ballpark rules say get your ticket signed and stamped by a gate attendant before you leave. Otherwise you’ll be stuck behind the gate.
- Alcohol isn’t served after the last out in the 8th inning during day games, and after the last out in the 7th inning or after 10:30 during night games.
- Want to send out a birthday message on the video scoreboard? The message has to be 40 characters or less and it’ll be displayed during the 5th inning. If you’re hoping to propose, know that the Cubs limit one proposal package per game.
Not just baseball
Wrigley Field is the second oldest ballpark in the country (Fenway lays claim as the oldest) and lots has happened on the field since it first opened as Weeghman Park in 1914. Home to the Chicago Wales then, the surrounding area was largely undeveloped. Zachary Taylor Davis designed the 14,000-seat ballpark and the White Sox’s now demolished Comiskey Park too. Wrigleyville’s new Hotel Zachary gets its name from the innovative ballpark architect.
In 1920, the stadium was sold to William Wrigley Jr. of the chewing gum empire and that’s when things really started to pick up. Some renovations began, capacity increased, and the ballpark was renamed Cubs Park, then finally Wrigley Field.
Soon after ownership changed, the Chicago Bears moved in alongside the Cubs. In order to play football on the field, the bleachers were shifted to right field and the gridiron was laid out on the other side. Eventually, the venue became too small and the NFL team moved to Soldier Field in 1970.
The Norge Ski Club, one of the oldest ski clubs in Chicago, hosted their 1944 invitational meet at Wrigley. They brought in snow and constructed a giant ski jump from the upper deck across home plate. The club also held a series of promotional jumps—one on Navy Pier and another from the top of Soldier Field.
The Tribune Company bought the Cubs in 1981 and pushed for the stadium to install lights and start playing night games which finally happened in 1988.
The hold up? Surrounding residents weren’t looking forward to late night revelry on their lawns and one wasn’t keen on “drunk fans urinating on my tomato plants,” according to ESPN’s 30 for 30 on the ordeal. Night games happened, but it took some negotiating between the city, team, and neighbors (there still aren’t scheduled Friday games).
If you haven’t heard, the Ricketts now own the Cubs. The billionaire family also owns most of the rooftops surrounding Wrigley and are responsible for new video screens and an acceleration in development around the park. Ryan Smith of the Chicago Reader said it best: RIP Wrigleyville, welcome to Rickettsville. The family has also received attention for being Trump supporters, Todd was wanted in the president’s cabinet and Joe donated $1 million to the campaign.
What to eat and drink
There will be a dozen new beers, ciders, and wine this year—Three Floyds and Begyle are two new breweries at the stadium. Plus, baseball fans can now order wines in a seasonal souvenir carafe.
Some new menu items to look forward to this season include a beer can chicken sandwich on a brioche bun, short rib disco fries in a helmet, and an Impossible Burger with meatless patties.
Okay, we get it. You’re just here for the hot dog. Do yourself a favor and skip the wimpy, foil wrapped hot dog. There are much better options like a bratwurst or Polish sausage topped with onions. And if you desire, a footlong Vienna Beef dog which can be topped with chili, cheese or with an aioli, sport pepper and kettle chips combination.
While you might get some glares if you head towards the ketchup, we say do what you want. If you’re the ketchup queen, so be it.
Who is Steve Bartman?
The Steve Bartman incident resulted in an entire city directing every ounce of anger towards one life-long Cubs fan, and condemning him for more than a decade. During Game 6 of the NLCS against the Florida Marlins in 2003, he was the “single object of fear and loathing from 40,000 fans,” wrote Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. He was right next to Bartman when it happened.
A foul ball coming towards the left field wall was deflected by Bartman who reached out at the same time Moises Alou tried to make the catch. Alou threw a tantrum, singling out Bartman, and demanding it was fan interference. Then the Cubs choked big time. They gave up eight runs in that inning, lost 8-3, and were eliminated from the NLCS after losing Game 7 the next day.
The collective anger from players, media and fans was almost immediately and unfairly directed at Bartman.
“Their howling was primal. They threw peanuts, popcorn, beer. The droplets of suds shone in the outfield lights, forming perfect arcs of hate headed your way. The fans’ faces were twisted in rage as if spawned whole from the mind of Chicago artist Ed Paschke. All of Cubs Nation was looking for someone to blame,” Kass wrote in a column ten years after the incident.
Security had to disguise and rush him out of Wrigley Field. He went under police protection after his name and address were listed on message boards. The governor jokingly suggested he go into the Witness Protection Program. Bartman was vilified, ESPN even made a two-hour documentary called Catching Hell about the abuse he endured.
It took more than a decade, but now most of Chicago has an enormous amount of sympathy for Bartman. He’s stayed completely out of the public eye, refusing any interviews and a lot of money, but did issue this statement after the Cubs gifted him with a 2016 World Series ring.
The curse-busting World Series win
While some seasons seemed hopeful for Cubs fans, the franchise went without a World Series appearance for 71 years and didn’t claim a championship for 108 years.
There are a few curses that Cubs fans talk about, but the most famous is the billy goat curse. It started when ushers wouldn’t let Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, into Wrigley Field with his pet goat during the 1945 World Series. The no-animal policy infuriated Sianis who threw down the ominous words, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” After that, they lost the title to the Detroit Tigers and didn’t get into the World Series until 2016.
That year things changed for the Cubs, it was a win that literally ended more than a century of frustration and heartbreak. The team had a killer roster, with two of the best pitches in league (Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks) and NL’s MVP Kris Bryant. That, plus Maddon’s ability to keep the team sharp with his sometimes unorthodox antics, resulted in one of the most celebrated wins ever. In fact, the city’s parade to celebrate the historic win was the 7th largest gathering of humans in history.