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West Side Park

West Side Park

Overview
West Side Park was the name used for two different baseball
Baseball
Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of nine players each. The aim is to score runs by hitting a thrown ball with a bat and touching a series of four bases arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot diamond...

 parks that formerly stood in Chicago, Illinois. They were both home fields of the team now known as the Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs are a professional baseball team located in Chicago, Illinois. They are members of the Central Division of Major League Baseball's National League. They are one of two Major League clubs based in Chicago . The Cubs are also one of the two remaining charter members of the National...

 of the National League
National League
The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, known simply as the National League , is the older of two leagues constituting Major League Baseball, and the world's oldest extant professional team sports league. Founded on February 2, 1876, to replace the National Association of Professional...

. Both parks witnessed championship baseball. The latter of the two parks, home of the franchise for nearly a quarter century, is best known as the site of the last World Champion Cubs team (1908), the team that won the most games in major league history (1906), the only cross-town World Series in Chicago (1906), and the immortalized Tinker to Evers to Chance
Tinker to Evers to Chance
"Baseball's Sad Lexicon," also known as "Tinker to Evers to Chance" after its refrain, is a 1910 baseball poem by Franklin Pierce Adams. The poem is presented as a single, rueful stanza from the point of view of a New York Giants fan seeing the talented Chicago Cubs infield of shortstop Joe Tinker,...

 double play combo.
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Encyclopedia
West Side Park was the name used for two different baseball
Baseball
Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of nine players each. The aim is to score runs by hitting a thrown ball with a bat and touching a series of four bases arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot diamond...

 parks that formerly stood in Chicago, Illinois. They were both home fields of the team now known as the Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs are a professional baseball team located in Chicago, Illinois. They are members of the Central Division of Major League Baseball's National League. They are one of two Major League clubs based in Chicago . The Cubs are also one of the two remaining charter members of the National...

 of the National League
National League
The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, known simply as the National League , is the older of two leagues constituting Major League Baseball, and the world's oldest extant professional team sports league. Founded on February 2, 1876, to replace the National Association of Professional...

. Both parks witnessed championship baseball. The latter of the two parks, home of the franchise for nearly a quarter century, is best known as the site of the last World Champion Cubs team (1908), the team that won the most games in major league history (1906), the only cross-town World Series in Chicago (1906), and the immortalized Tinker to Evers to Chance
Tinker to Evers to Chance
"Baseball's Sad Lexicon," also known as "Tinker to Evers to Chance" after its refrain, is a 1910 baseball poem by Franklin Pierce Adams. The poem is presented as a single, rueful stanza from the point of view of a New York Giants fan seeing the talented Chicago Cubs infield of shortstop Joe Tinker,...

 double play combo. Both ballparks were what are now called wooden ballparks.

The First West Side Park (1885-1891)


The first West Side Park was the ball club's home from 1885 through 1891, and succeeded Lakefront Park
Union Base-Ball Grounds
Union Base-Ball Grounds was a baseball park located in Chicago, Illinois. It was also called White-Stocking Park, as it was the home field of the Chicago White Stockings of the National Association in 1871, after spending the 1870 season as an independent professional club playing home games...

. Although the park's useful life turned out to be as short as the ball club's stay at the Lakefront (seven years), it was also memorable, as the team won the National League pennant in each of their first two seasons there.

The park was located on a small block bounded by Congress, Loomis, Harrison and Throop Streets, with the diamond toward its western end. The elongated shape of the block lent a decidedly bathtub-like shape to the park, with foul lines reportedly as short as 216 feet. The park held roughly 10,000 fans. In addition to the diamond, the park held a bicycle
Bicycle
A bicycle, also known as a bike, pushbike or cycle, is a human-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. A person who rides a bicycle is called a cyclist, or bicyclist....

 track which encircled the playing field, at the height of the contemporary bicycle craze.

The Cubs (then known as the White Stockings) had had to secure a new property after 1884, and it took longer than anticipated. The season began on April 30, a month later than present day, in a 112-game schedule, 50 fewer games than today's major league schedule. The club spent the first five-plus weeks of the 1885 season on the road http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teamstats/schedule.php?y=1885&t=CH6 and the park was finally opened on June 6 with a victory over the St. Louis Maroons
St. Louis Maroons/Indianapolis Hoosiers
300px|thumb|right|1888 Indianapolis HoosiersThe St. Louis Maroons were a professional baseball club based in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1884-1886. The club, established by Henry Lucas, were the one near-major league quality entry in the Union Association, a league that lasted only one season, due...

, late of the Union Association
Union Association
The Union Association was a league in Major League Baseball which lasted for only one season in 1884. St. Louis won the pennant and joined the National League the following season...

. Despite being "wanderers" early in the season, the powerful Chicagos under player-manager Cap Anson
Cap Anson
Adrian Constantine Anson , nicknamed "Cap" and "Pop", was a National Association and Major League Baseball first baseman...

, came home already sitting at 18-6. They would sweep a four-game set in their first homestand and fairly romp through the league schedule, finishing at 87-25 in the 112 game season. The only club that gave them any problem was the New York Giants
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are a Major League Baseball team based in San Francisco, California, playing in the National League West Division....

, who took 10 of the clubs' 16 meetings and finished just 2 games behind them. If projected to a modern 162-game schedule, that translates to 125 and 123 wins, respectively, in a very lopsided league (the third place club finished 30 games back).
Chicago captured the National League pennant that season and also went on to lose the league crown in 1886 to the St. Louis Browns. The site also saw post-season action those two years, as the White Stockings squared off in 19th Century World Series
World Series
The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball, played between the American League and National League champions since 1903. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff and awarded the Commissioner's Trophy...

 play against the St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals are a professional baseball team based in St. Louis, Missouri. They are members of the Central Division in the National League of Major League Baseball. The Cardinals have won eleven World Series championships, the most of any National League team, and second overall only to...

, who were then in the rival American Association
American Association (19th century)
The American Association was a Major League Baseball league that existed for 10 seasons from to . During that time, it challenged the National League for dominance of professional baseball...

 and were known as the St. Louis Browns. The Series' of the 1880s were less formal affairs than now, exemplified by that 1885 Series, which ended in dispute with no clear winner. The 1886 Series was held more conventionally, and went in the Browns' favor. Those fiercely-contested matchups were the first on-field confrontations of those two clubs, which remains one of baseball's strongest rivalries today.

The site also saw some "bonus baseball" in 1887, as a neutral site for Game 14 of that year's unique 15-game "traveling" World Series between the Browns and the Detroit Wolverines
Detroit Wolverines
The Detroit Wolverines were a 19th century baseball team that played in the National League from 1881 to 1888 in the city of Detroit, Michigan. In total, they won 426 games and lost 437, taking their lone pennant in 1887. The team was disbanded following the 1888 season.-Franchise...

.

In 1891 the team split its schedule between West Side Park and South Side Park
South Side Park
South Side Park was the name used for three different baseball parks that formerly stood in Chicago, Illinois at different times, and whose sites were all just a few blocks away from each other....

. The first West Side Park was abandoned after the 1891 season, with the team playing at home exclusively on the South Side in 1892.

The site of the first West Side Park is now occupied by the Andrew Jackson Language Academy
Andrew Jackson Language Academy
Andrew Jackson School was opened in 1894 to serve children from the crowded tenement community surrounding the Polk Street Station port of entry for immigrants. That year was started one of the first public school kindergartens in Chicago, Illinois....

, whose address is 1340 West Harrison.

Dimensions of first West Side Park

  • Left Field - unknown
  • Center Field - 560 ft
  • Right Field - 216 ft (1 ft. over then-legal minimum)

The Second West Side Park (1893-1915)


In May 1893, the club opened their second West Side Park a few blocks west-southwest of the first one; on a larger block bounded by Taylor, Wood, Polk and Lincoln (now Wolcott) Streets; located at 41°52′13"N 87°40′21"W. They split their 1893 schedule with South Side Park
South Side Park
South Side Park was the name used for three different baseball parks that formerly stood in Chicago, Illinois at different times, and whose sites were all just a few blocks away from each other....

, then moved into the new ballpark full-time the following year. Some sources state that the club moved to this location to gain attendance from the World's Columbian Exposition
World's Columbian Exposition
The World's Columbian Exposition was a World's Fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492. Chicago bested New York City; Washington, D.C.; and St...

, as South Side Park was within walking distance of the 35th Street station
35-Bronzeville-IIT (CTA)
35th–Bronzeville–IIT is a station on the Chicago Transit Authority's 'L' system, located in the Chicago, Illinois neighborhood of Douglas and serving the Green Line. It is situated at 16 E 35th Street, just east of State Street. It opened on June 6, 1892...

 of the then-new South Side Rapid Transit line, which reached the exposition grounds at Jackson Park
Jackson Park (Chicago)
Jackson Park is a 500 acre park on Chicago's South Side, located at 6401 South Stony Island Avenue in the Woodlawn community area. It extends into the South Shore and Hyde Park community areas, bordering Lake Michigan and several South Side neighborhoods...

.

The second West Side Park is now also sometimes called West Side "Grounds", but during its active life, it was most often called a "Park". Home plate was in the northwest corner of the field, at the Polk and Lincoln intersection. The right field fence paralleled Taylor, with flat apartments between the high fence and the street. There were also flats across Wood Street to the east, behind left field, giving the park (for a few years, at least) a degree of the ambiance that Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field is a baseball stadium in Chicago, Illinois, United States that has served as the home ballpark of the Chicago Cubs since 1916. It was built in 1914 as Weeghman Park for the Chicago Federal League baseball team, the Chicago Whales...

 would later be famous for. Cook County Hospital was across the street to the north, i.e. behind third base. Like the first West Side ballpark, the new facility was hemmed in by the streets around it, creating a somewhat rectangular playing area. The foul lines were originally reported as 340 feet, while the deepest part of center field was initially reported as 560 feet. Although that sounds symmetrical, the left field side in general was much more spacious, and the distance to center was really the diagonal of the rectangle. The remainder of the block, to the south (right field), was occupied by flat apartments just outside the fence that ran along right to center field. The original grandstand was reportedly double-decked, and the park held about 16,000 patrons. As with other parks of the era, fans were often permitted to stand along the outer perimeter of the playing field itself, so the park frequently drew well in excess of its official capacity.

On August 5, 1894, during its first full season as home to the Cubs (by then known as the Colts), West Side Park suffered severe damage from fire during a game against the Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds are a Major League Baseball team based in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are members of the National League Central Division. The club was established in 1882 as a charter member of the American Association and joined the National League in 1890....

. As the fire spread through the first-base side stands, panicked fans trying to escape pressed up against the barbed wire fence separating them from the playing field. Only quick action by several players in wrenching the fence open averted a major tragedy. The burnt stands were simply roped off, and the season resumed the next day. Despite that near-disaster, the club rebuilt the park out of wood.

One highlight, albeit for the visitors, occurred on July 13, 1896, when Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies are a Major League Baseball team. They are the oldest continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of professional American sports, dating to 1883. The Phillies are a member of the Eastern Division of Major League Baseball's National League...

 outfielder/firstbaseman Ed Delahanty
Ed Delahanty
Edward James Delahanty , nicknamed "Big Ed", was a Major League Baseball player from 1888 to 1903 for the Philadelphia Quakers, Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Infants and Washington Senators, and was known as one of the early great power hitters in the game.He was elected to the Baseball Hall of...

 smacked four home runs in one game, only the second player to do so. In contrast to Bobby Lowe
Bobby Lowe
Robert Lincoln "Bobby" Lowe , nicknamed "Link", was an American baseball player, coach and scout. He played Major League Baseball for the Boston Beaneaters , Chicago Cubs , Pittsburgh Pirates , and Detroit Tigers...

's feat two years earlier, which was aided by a short foul line, all four of Delahanty's were inside-the-park. After hitting three, center fielder Bill Lange
Bill Lange
William Alexander "Bill" Lange , also known as "Little Eva", was an American Major League Baseball center fielder, who played his entire seven year career for the Chicago Colts and Orphans from to...

 drew a laugh by calling "time", stationing himself in deep-deep center, near the clubhouse, seemingly a mile away, and then waving the pitcher to continue. Delahanty then got the laugh on Lange by knocking it between the clubhouse and the fence, again circling the bases while Lange scurried for the ball. However, Chicago got the last laugh, winning the game, 9-8.
As the park entered the new century, it featured a small covered grandstand behind home plate. Behind the home plate stands, the team and ticket offices were housed in a fairly ornate two-story brick building topped with statues of baseball players. Uncovered bleachers extended along both foul lines and into left field. Beyond left-center field, the bleachers gave way to a small clubhouse. The right-field bleachers were only five to ten rows deep, sitting underneath a free-standing billboard that ran above the length of the bleachers. The billboard frequently featured large ads for the sports pages and the sportswriters of local newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Tribune is a major daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois, and the flagship publication of the Tribune Company. Formerly self-styled as the "World's Greatest Newspaper" , it remains the most read daily newspaper of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Great Lakes region and is...

 and the Chicago Daily News
Chicago Daily News
The Chicago Daily News was an afternoon daily newspaper published between 1876 and 1978 in Chicago, Illinois.-History:The Daily News was founded by Melville E. Stone, Percy Meggy, and William Dougherty in 1875 and began publishing early the next year...

. A scoreboard was located on the extreme right end of the billboard, toward the right field corner. Much like today at Wrigley Field, several of the rooftops beyond the outfield bleachers offered bleacher seating of their own, at least for a few years.

The second West Side Park was the home of the Cubs' most successful teams of the 20th century. From 1906 through 1910, the Cubs won four National League pennants and two World Series
World Series
The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball, played between the American League and National League champions since 1903. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff and awarded the Commissioner's Trophy...

 championships. The 1906 World Series
1906 World Series
- Game 1 :Tuesday, October 9, 1906 at West Side Grounds in Chicago, IllinoisCubs hurler Mordecai Brown was sent to continue the dominance against Nick Altrock. Both pitchers pitched a perfect game through three innings. The Cubs had a runner at second, but couldn't score in the fourth...

 between the Cubs and the Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are a Major League Baseball team located in Chicago, Illinois.The White Sox play in the American League's Central Division. Since , the White Sox have played in U.S. Cellular Field, which was originally called New Comiskey Park and nicknamed The Cell by local fans...

 featured the first cross-town matchup in Series history. Although the Cubs had one of the most successful seasons in major league history, winning 116 contests against just 36 losses, they were defeated by the light-hitting White Sox four games to two. The Cubs finally brought a championship to West Side Park the following year when they swept the Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers are a Major League Baseball team located in Detroit, Michigan. One of the American League's eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Detroit in as part of the Western League. The Tigers have won four World Series championships and have won the American League pennant...

 after ending the first contest in a tie. In 1908, West Side Park became the home of the first repeat world champions when the Cubs again bested the Tigers. After a one-year absence, the Cubs returned to the Series in 1910, only to lose in five games to the Philadelphia Athletics. The 1908 championship has turned out to be the franchise's last World Series championship to date (through the 2011 season).

The ballpark expanded with the club's rising fortunes. For 1905, several rows of private box seats were built on top of the original grandstand roof behind home plate. That same year saw the construction of a new two-story brick clubhouse structure, fronted by columns, out in far left-center. After just two seasons, jury-box bleachers were built directly in front of and over the clubhouse. During the 1908 season, the bleachers along the first and third-base lines were gradually covered and topped by more private box seating.

By the early 1910s the wooden ballpark was showing its age, in large part due to neglect by Charles Murphy, the unpopular owner of the Cubs (one of whose alternate, media-driven nicknames was the unflattering "Murphy's Spuds"). In 1910, the neighborhood view beyond the right field outfield wall was blocked off by an enormous, unsightly billboard. By 1912, the left field view was similarly obstructed by a large billboard which also served as the new scoreboard. The enclosure of the park was completed with the installment of billboards in dead center. At this time, the jury box bleachers in left-center field were removed, adding to the new claustrophobic feel of the outfield. With gambling becoming an increasing problem in baseball, starting in 1911 the playing field was adorned with large signs (as with some other major league ballparks) reminding fans "No Betting Allowed." Additionally, the dilapidated park found itself competing unsuccessfully with new steel-and-concrete baseball venues. The Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are a Major League Baseball team located in Chicago, Illinois.The White Sox play in the American League's Central Division. Since , the White Sox have played in U.S. Cellular Field, which was originally called New Comiskey Park and nicknamed The Cell by local fans...

 inaugurated Comiskey Park
Comiskey Park
Comiskey Park was the ballpark in which the Chicago White Sox played from 1910 to 1990. It was built by Charles Comiskey after a design by Zachary Taylor Davis, and was the site of four World Series and more than 6,000 major league games...

 in 1910. Four years later, the upstart Federal League
Federal League
The Federal League of Base Ball Clubs, known simply as the Federal League, was an American professional baseball league that operated as a "third major league", in competition with the established National and American Leagues, from to...

 placed a franchise on the North Side and began play in Weeghman Park. By 1915, the Cubs were the third most popular team in a three-team city.

When the Federal League collapsed after the 1915 season, Charles Weeghman, owner of the now-defunct Chicago Whales
Chicago Whales
The Chicago Whales were a professional baseball team based in Chicago. They played in the Federal League, a short-lived "third Major League", in 1914 and 1915. They originally lacked a formal nickname, and were known simply as the "Chicago Federals" to distinguish them from the Chicago Cubs and...

, was allowed to buy a substantial interest in the Cubs. One of his first acts was to abandon West Side Park and move the Cubs to Weeghman Park for the 1916 season. Weeghman Park survives today as Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field is a baseball stadium in Chicago, Illinois, United States that has served as the home ballpark of the Chicago Cubs since 1916. It was built in 1914 as Weeghman Park for the Chicago Federal League baseball team, the Chicago Whales...

.
One of the few items the Cubs took with them, besides normal operational properties, was a set of large letters comprising a sign that had run across the back of the grandstand and was to be read from the outside of the park: "CHICAGO NATIONAL LEAGUE BALL PARK". This sign was placed along the top of the Weeghman Park wall bordering Sheffield Avenue, visible to everyone in the park, and of course reading backwards to the spectators. This oddity lasted a few years at Weeghman / Cubs Park until it was brought down during an early remodeling.

West Side Park continued to host semipro and amateur baseball events for a few years. It even served as a setting for "Buffalo Bill's Wild West," thus converting the entire former ballfield into a different kind of "bull pen". The ballpark was torn down in 1920. Murphy sold the leftover lumber for scrap. The site is now occupied by the University of Illinois Medical Center
University of Illinois College of Medicine
The University of Illinois College of Medicine offers a four-year program leading to the MD degree at four different sites in Illinois: Chicago, Peoria, Rockford, and Urbana–Champaign....

. This West Side Park remains, to this day, the only park that has witnessed the Cubs as World Series Champions, as the Cubs won back-to-back titles in 1907, and 1908.

Dimensions of second West Side Park

  • Left Field - 340 ft.
  • Center Field - 560 ft.
  • Right Field - 340 ft.

Sources

  • Green Cathedrals, by Philip J. Lowry
  • A Day at the Park, by William Hartel
  • Cubs Journal, by John Snyder
  • Wrigley Field: The Unauthorized Biography, by Stuart Shea
  • Baseball Memories: 1900-1909, by Marc Okkonen

External links