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Wrigley Field: It started as Weeghman Field

$250,000

The cost to build Wrigley Field.

49

The number of days between the groundbreaking and the first game at Wrigley.

100 years of Wrigley Field: Photos, videos and somewhat obscure facts
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Updated: April 23, 2014 7:33AM



It was amid some fanfare on March 4, 1914, 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 newspaper reports. Mayor Carter Harrison Jr. was supposed to be there, but he didn’t show — holding up the ceremony for a half-hour.

When Charles Weeghman, the Chicago Federal League owner who originally 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 White Sox hadn’t won it all in seven seasons. Chicagoans already were thirsty for a winner.

More accurately, it was the North Side being hungry for a baseball team. With the 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, only modest bleacher seating and, of course, no lights. It was built to seat 14,000 to 18,000 fans. The Wrigley Field marquee was added in 1934. The iconic scoreboard and ivy would not be installed until 1937.

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

The ‘‘Chi-Feds’’ finished second in the Federal League in 1914, 11/2 games out of first place. The Whales won the Federal League in 1915.

The Federal League lasted only two years. After the 1915 season, it filed an antitrust 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.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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