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Wrigley Field groundbreaking was 100 years ago today

Weeghman Park 1914. | Library Congress

Weeghman Park in 1914. | Library of Congress

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It was amid some fanfare 100 years ago Tuesday that ground was broken at Clark and Addison streets on what would become Wrigley Field.

Moving picture crews, a band, reporters, photographers, dignitaries and from 2,000 to 4,000 people attended the ceremony according to various newpaper reports. Mayor Carter Harrison was supposed to be there, but didn’t show — holding up the ceremony for a half an hour.

When Charles Weeghman, the Chicago Federal League owner who orginally built the ballpark in 1914, stepped out of his car the band played ‘‘Hail to the Chief.’’ The Cubs hadn’t won a World Series in five seasons. The Sox hadn’t won it all in seven seasons. Chicagoans already were thirsty for a winner.

More accurately, it was the North Side hungry for a baseball team. With the White Sox on the South Side and the Cubs playing at West Side Park, the North Side had a team to call its own.

Weeghman signed a 99-year lease on the land, which included an average annual payment of less than $20,000. It would have ended in 2012.

The park, which cost $250,000 to build, was a shell of what would become Wrigley Field. There was no upper deck, modest bleacher seating and of course, no lights. It was built to seat 14,000-18,000 fans. The Wrigley Field marquee was added in 1934. The iconic scoreboard would not be installed until 1937.

But it was built in a hurry. The Chicago Federal League team, later known as the Whales, played their home opener at Weeghman Park on April 23 — 49 days after the ground-breaking ceremony.

The ‘‘Chi-Feds’’ finished second in the Federal League in 1914, 1 1/2 games out of first place. The Whales won the Federal league in 1915.

The Federal League lasted only two years. After the 1915 season, the Federal League filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the American and National Leagues and was absorbed by the established big leagues. As part of the settlement, Weeghman purchased the struggling Cubs and moved them to Weeghman Park. He sold the team to William Wrigley in 1918.

And the rest is history.



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