Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chicago then and now

Wrigley Field, c. 1969

Wrigley Field, August 29, 2012

It's nice to see that some things never change.

The obvious differences in the two photos taken by the same photographer, yours truly, 43 years apart, are the high rise apartment building beyond the scoreboard, and the bleacher seats on the roof of the building just past the outfield wall on Waveland Avenue. Back in 1969 there was no advertising in the park; today it's slowly creeping in, very judiciously. One less obvious but enormous difference: if you check the time on the clock in the later photo, you'll realize this was taken before the start of a night game and as everyone knows, back in 1969 there were no lights in the ballpark, hence no night games.

You might notice the flags flying above the scoreboard, one for every team in the National League, one standard for each division. Today there are three divisions and standards as opposed to two, accounting for the expansion that has happened since 1969. The flags were and are still arranged by each team's standing in their respective division. I'm guessing the picture at the top was made in July or August of '69 meaning the Cubs flag would have been flying at the very top. Yesterday it was flying much closer to the bottom.

One poignant comparison: look at the guy at the right edge of the lower photograph wearing the number 10 Ron Santo jersey. In the photo at the top is the real Ron Santo at third base. You can also see Ernie Banks at first base. I could name the rest of the Cubs position players on the field, but I won't bore you. It looks like they were playing the Cincinnati Reds. If that's true, there would have been at least eight hall of famers (four for the Cubs, at least that many for the Reds), either on the field or on the bench that day, and one more who should be there in my humble opinion, Pete Rose.

I can't say for sure but I seriously doubt that my son and I saw eight future hall of famers last night. But the old ballpark is still there as you can see, pretty much as it looked, if not felt, when I was his age.

How much longer that will be is anyone's guess as there is still heated conversation about what to do with Wrigley Field. More than likely the 98 year old ballpark was not intended to last this long and clearly work needs to be done to keep it standing. My preference would be to bring it up to code but keep it essentially as it is. All the inconveniences, drunken frat boys and their girlfriends notwithstanding, it's still the best damn place on earth to see a baseball game.

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