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The New York Times-bestselling history of
America's most beloved baseball stadium, Wrigley Field, and the
Cubs’ century-long search for World Series glory

In
A Nice Little Place on the North Side, leading columnist George
Will returns to baseball with a deeply personal look at his hapless
Chicago Cubs and their often beatified home, Wrigley Field, as it enters
its second century. Baseball, Will argues, is full of metaphors for
life, religion, and happiness, and Wrigley is considered one of its
sacred spaces. But what is its true, hyperbole-free history?

 
Winding beautifully like Wrigley’s iconic ivy,
Will’s  meditation on “The Friendly Confines”
examines both the unforgettable stories that forged the field’s
legend and the larger-than-life characters—from Wrigley and Ruth
to Veeck, Durocher, and Banks—who brought it glory, heartbreak,
and scandal. Drawing upon his trademark knowledge and inimitable sense
of humor, Will also explores his childhood connections to the team, the
Cubs’ future, and what keeps long-suffering fans rooting for the
home team after so many years of futility.
In the end, A
Nice Little Place on the North Side
is more than just the history of
a ballpark. It is the story of Chicago, of baseball, and of America
itself.

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Reviews for A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred:

3

Mar 14, 2014

I have a friend who attempts to identify and read one great baseball book each spring. Although he is a Cubs fan, I am going to have to tell him that this is not a great baseball book. It is not even a good baseball book. It is clever assembly of Cubs and Wrigley Field anecdotes which are mildly interesting. The "answer" to the book, to the question of why people love Wrigley when the team continues to do poorly is never really answered. For me, a numbers person, the closest George Will gets to I have a friend who attempts to identify and read one great baseball book each spring. Although he is a Cubs fan, I am going to have to tell him that this is not a great baseball book. It is not even a good baseball book. It is clever assembly of Cubs and Wrigley Field anecdotes which are mildly interesting. The "answer" to the book, to the question of why people love Wrigley when the team continues to do poorly is never really answered. For me, a numbers person, the closest George Will gets to a solution is in quoting someone else's book, which demonstrates that attendance figures are barely correlated to the team's performance or to beer prices, but positively correlated to ticket prices. In other words, attendance doesn't vary with the win-loss record, but only with ticket prices. Duhh. Besides being circular, there is no insight into "why?" ...more
3

Feb 01, 2014

Interesting information about the Cubs but a bit rambling with lack of focus. Sometimes it seemed like the author's ego got in the way of the story -- but that's George Will for you!
5

Mar 17, 2016

A NICE LITTLE PLACE reads like a rambling, warm and relaxed conversation with political journalist and Cubs fan, George Will, who omits nothing from this casual history of Wrigley Field. He discusses the greatest game played in Wrigley Field: Hippo Vaughn's "shared no-hitter" with Fred Toney. Babe Ruth's "called home run" in the 1932 World Series. Gabby Hartnett's "homer in the gloaming". Ernie Banks' remarkable career and unfailingly sunny disposition. The college of coaches. Buck O'Neil's role A NICE LITTLE PLACE reads like a rambling, warm and relaxed conversation with political journalist and Cubs fan, George Will, who omits nothing from this casual history of Wrigley Field. He discusses the greatest game played in Wrigley Field: Hippo Vaughn's "shared no-hitter" with Fred Toney. Babe Ruth's "called home run" in the 1932 World Series. Gabby Hartnett's "homer in the gloaming". Ernie Banks' remarkable career and unfailingly sunny disposition. The college of coaches. Buck O'Neil's role as the first Afro-American coach in the big leagues. Leo Durocher's campaign to displace Banks. Lee Elia's post-game rant in 1983. The Dickie Noles for Dickie Noles trade with the Tigers. The Bartman game.

We learn that PK Wrigley never wanted the responsibility of running a baseball team. After William Wrigley died, PK decided early on to market the ball park experience, not the talent on the field or the outcome of the game. While that strategy worked commercially, it caused the Cubs to become a perennial second tier team in the National League. We also learn that the Cubs history of failure since '45 was not a matter of bad luck. On the contrary, by one metric, the Cubs are slightly luckier than the big league average.

Will discloses that the demand for Cubs tickets is more elastic in response to beer prices than it is to ticket prices themselves or wins/losses on the field. Yes. You read that correctly. If beer prices go up, attendance goes down more quickly than it does when ticket prices rise or the winning percentage plummets.

Will describes research indicating that being a Cubs fans might change our brains. One researcher hypothesizes that Cubs fans become better decision makers (in other spheres of their lives) as a result of coping with the Cubs' history of losing. Another team of researchers believes that male Cubs fans have more difficulty producing testosterone.

In tediously intellectual terms, Will shares Bartlett Giamatti's warning that baseball should not be over-intellectualized. (The irony may not have been intended.)

Will describes how Tom Ricketts convinced his father Joe that the family should buy the Cubs because "the Cubs are like a 50 year old zero coupon bond". That is, the value of the team can only go up.

In the final pages of this short but happy book, Will describes the renovations being made to Wrigley Field currently and the benefits to be expected from these improvements. Although he is resigned to losing, Will can't completely hide that he senses, like many of the rest of us, that the team is finally on a winning track that might be sustainable.

It is hard for me to imagine that any Cubs fan would not enjoy this book. I recommend it enthusiastically. Candidly, five stars is generous. But I have been a Cubs fan since childhood and I cannot bring myself to give NICE LITTLE PLACE anything less than the maximum rating. ...more
5

Apr 16, 2014

George F. Wills latest book will touch the soul of everyone who loves baseball. Though the book titled A NICE LITTLE PLACE ON THE NORTH SIDE is a short history of Wrigley Field and the futility of being a Chicago Cubs fan Will takes the reader on a hundred year journey encompassing numerous historical, sociological, philosophical, and political components that relate to the ivy covered ballpark on West Addison Street. Will, a conservative political columnist and a regular on the Sunday talk show George F. Will’s latest book will touch the soul of everyone who loves baseball. Though the book titled A NICE LITTLE PLACE ON THE NORTH SIDE is a short history of Wrigley Field and the futility of being a Chicago Cubs fan Will takes the reader on a hundred year journey encompassing numerous historical, sociological, philosophical, and political components that relate to the ivy covered ballpark on West Addison Street. Will, a conservative political columnist and a regular on the Sunday talk show circuit has written other books on the nation’s pastime. MEN AT WORK: THE CRAFT OF BASEBALL and BUNTS were excellent treatises on their subject matter, written with an intellectual approach and a witty style. Will’s latest effort follows the same model as he presents a history of Chicago from the late 19th century to the present, commenting on things as diverse as Carl Sandburg’s poetry, the philosophy of John Locke, to Ernie Banks homerun numbers. In discussing the origins of Wrigley Field, Will takes us back to the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 when Chicago was a rather dangerous city, especially for labor. This setting produced the need for recreation and Wrigley Field was the perfect progressive remedy for the working class to spend their spare time rather than getting involved with non-productive aspects of society. Will’s history of Wrigley Field is interspersed with vignettes, facts, and stories that are not common knowledge, presented in a humorous fashion, and are a joy to read.

Since the Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 when they defeated the Detroit Tigers, their fans are considered the longest suffering supporters of a team in baseball. The “Cubbies” have proven fodder for many jokes over the years. Will integrates numerous funny stories as he sprinkles them throughout the book. For example, “in 1968, Cubs pitcher Bill Hands recorded fourteen consecutive strikeouts. Regrettably, he did this as a batter in consecutive at bats.” Another, “What does a female bear taking birth control have in common with the World Series? No Cubs.” The Cubs have been so bad that in 1948 their owner P. K. Wrigley publicly apologized for the futility of his team.

On our journey Will relates many diverse historical figures to the Cubs. We meet Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds; Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassin; and former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as Will explains in detail how their lives are intertwined to the resident of “the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.” Literary figures abound, including William Shakespeare and Theodore Dreiser, whose writings are used in trying to explain the agony of being a fan of the Chicago Cubs. This is all part of Will’s profession of love for the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field. I assume he realizes that his emotions are irrational, but like all love it is based on faith, which in of itself is irrational. Then why does Will feel so strongly? The book is his attempt to answer that question.

The story Will tells is one of human tragedy as he speaks of Wrigley Field as the final resting place for many Cubs fans as they have instructed their families to sprinkle their ashes in the outfield after they are gone. It is clear from my study of baseball history that Cub fans have little to be thankful for except a beautiful ball park that has altered the course of baseball history as many stadium architects have used it to create the newer parks of the last twenty-two years. In the late nineteen sixties baseball developed what I refer to as “cookie-cutter ballparks,” multi-use stadiums shared with football. All were outside urban areas and to say it mildly; were very unattractive, not very fan friendly, and thankfully most have been torn down. In 1992, Camden Yards opened, in part as a means of urban renewal. The architects studied Wrigley, and Brooklyn’s long gone Ebbets Field as a means of creating a venue that was comfortable and help refurbish urban neighborhoods. Camden Yards has become a model for numerous new stadiums all around baseball including minor league cities. This has helped revive numerous urban areas and have created new revenue streams for teams and their cities. As a result the goal of replicating the feel of Wrigley Field as a neighborhood institution has been a success. Overall, Will’s concise and intellectually humorous approach to baseball history is a wonderful addition to any library, not just the nation’s pastime. If you can spare a few hours, It is a great read that you will not be able to relinquish until completed.

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3

Jan 02, 2015

This book has less to do with Wrigley Field than the title suggests. In fact, it has virtually nothing to do with Wrigley Field. Will writes as if I know everything I want to know about Wrigley already, and want to read a collection of idiosyncratic stories and off-hand musings about the Cubs, Chicago, and baseball in general.

Because I love baseball and I particularly loved Men at Work, the gentle rambling tone of this book caught me by surprise. I'm no architectural dilettante who expects This book has less to do with Wrigley Field than the title suggests. In fact, it has virtually nothing to do with Wrigley Field. Will writes as if I know everything I want to know about Wrigley already, and want to read a collection of idiosyncratic stories and off-hand musings about the Cubs, Chicago, and baseball in general.

Because I love baseball and I particularly loved Men at Work, the gentle rambling tone of this book caught me by surprise. I'm no architectural dilettante who expects discussion of construction techniques or what have you, but there is no discussion of the actual building beyond off-hand quotes about how architecture is more about defining space than building, or where the batting cages are, or the (expected) renovations to be completed soon, or how the ivy was planted. Where is discussion of Wrigley's construction? Where is even a picture of the place? What if I've never visited, and have no idea what it is like to be there? Will very casually has written a book solely for people who have ever visited the ballpark (which, he tells us, is about the population of a small nation) and already might be expected to nod their heads at every page.

Instead, this book is a history reminiscent wandering that occasionally renders history, and is probably the shoddiest thing that Will has written since the fifth grade. The fact that this earned three stars is simply due to the fact that I love baseball and I love Will's writing, even in such disorganized, off-hand, obviously-put-together-from-his-randomly-jotted-thoughts-over-his-lifetime way. It really has earned about a 2.5 rating in my estimation, which captures the middle ground between "It was OK" and "I liked it".

I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason this book exists is because George F. Will really wants to be like Bill Bryson. A collection of history and random thoughts, I wonder if Will kept something like a "Cubs" journal in which to jot down his thoughts, and then sicced his research team and assistant onto it. Probably all in a week's work for him.

The true saving grace of this book is his reasoned, eloquent, and succint argument about the importance of the sport and beer, which come toward the end of the book. While I appreciated the places his thoughts took him in terms of the history of baseball and the club itself, the book itself is testament to his central thesis - in that the Cubs organization literally bills itself as a team that fans can watch and enjoy, win or lose, and the inconsequential quality of play on the field has little to do with its economic success as a brand. I found Will's breakdown of the writings of significant studies about the Cubs organization to be the most interesting portions of the book, and the fascinating section on our tribal fandom bears truth to the limitations of our national experiment in diversity.

All that said, a nice little book to read (while) on vacation. ...more
4

Oct 29, 2016

I hail from Louisville, KY. You'd think that the city responsible for the famous bat would raise her children to be avid fans of baseball. Alas, when the Universities of Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana decided to promote their basketball teams, Kentucky dismissed America's pastime for a free throw line. (Go UK Wildcats!!!)

So, when I picked up George Will's history of Wrigley Field it was purely in support of the possible history that may be made in the World Series this year. This book was an I hail from Louisville, KY. You'd think that the city responsible for the famous bat would raise her children to be avid fans of baseball. Alas, when the Universities of Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana decided to promote their basketball teams, Kentucky dismissed America's pastime for a free throw line. (Go UK Wildcats!!!)

So, when I picked up George Will's history of Wrigley Field it was purely in support of the possible history that may be made in the World Series this year. This book was an interesting one even though the author meandered through the writing. Mr. Will tells the story like an elderly companion reminiscing about the "good ole days.". He may start on the architecture of the field but take you through world history, famous crime, a popular food item, etc before he finally gets to the point. Regardless, it was still an entertaining read and informative as long as you don't mind a long winded tale in the process. ...more
4

May 13, 2017

George Will grew up in Champaign, Illinois in a place where most people become fans of the powerhouse St. Louis Cardinals. Will, however, chose to become a die hard Cubs fan and thus follow the long road of defeat after defeat year after year. In gthis book he puts forth the theory that one of the reasons the team didn't produce is because Wrigley Field is such a pleasant place to spend an afternoon that the fans really didn't care if the team won or lost. They just enjoyed the experience of the George Will grew up in Champaign, Illinois in a place where most people become fans of the powerhouse St. Louis Cardinals. Will, however, chose to become a die hard Cubs fan and thus follow the long road of defeat after defeat year after year. In gthis book he puts forth the theory that one of the reasons the team didn't produce is because Wrigley Field is such a pleasant place to spend an afternoon that the fans really didn't care if the team won or lost. They just enjoyed the experience of the ballpark.

Mr. Will knows his baseball and this slim volume is full of laugh out loud anecdotes of the team. My favorite was when Bill Veeck, Sr. who was President of the Cubs was at the end of his life during Prohibition, his son Bill, Jr. approached Al Capone (who was a huge Cub fan ans held season tickets to a field box) for some champagne to ease his father's final days. The mobster sent a case of French champagne to the Veeck house every day for the last ten days of Bill Sr.'s life.

This book is a must read for every Cubs fan and everyone who just loves baseball as well.
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3

Mar 01, 2014

This is a fan book. It's a good fan book, and a good book about baseball in general, if you like baseball. I don't love baseball, so with the pages that were heavy with game and player stats, i just couldn't get into it. What I found interesting was the number of people who are famous for not-baseball who were associated very early in their careers (famous and infamous) with Wrigley Park.

The stadium itself is a separate entity from the team that it houses. Making it a Home for baseball no matter This is a fan book. It's a good fan book, and a good book about baseball in general, if you like baseball. I don't love baseball, so with the pages that were heavy with game and player stats, i just couldn't get into it. What I found interesting was the number of people who are famous for not-baseball who were associated very early in their careers (famous and infamous) with Wrigley Park.

The stadium itself is a separate entity from the team that it houses. Making it a Home for baseball no matter how the team does is an act of love from a city dedicated to the game with a team from the origins of the sport.

Read this if you love the Cubs, love baseball, or love the love of the game. ...more
5

Apr 27, 2014

Every baseball season one should read a book about baseball. For the 2014 season Wills book would be a good choice. Not only will you learn more than you need to know about Wrigley Field but the baseball nuggets that Will shares will sustain to well into October. Every baseball season one should read a book about baseball. For the 2014 season Will’s book would be a good choice. Not only will you learn more than you need to know about Wrigley Field but the baseball nuggets that Will shares will sustain to well into October. ...more
5

Aug 06, 2016

You need to be someone who is attached not to just a ream but the Ball Park to fully understand a fans loyalty to the Chicago Cubs. Remember Sportman's Park in St Louis ? Crosley Field, in Cincy. Since Sportsman" s was torn down there have been 2 Busch parks. Neither of which had a Baseball feel. I reconmend reading this book or just taking a trip to Addison and Clark, That is Baseball/
4

Dec 07, 2016

Baseball, and specifically Cubbie baseball, is about the only thing I agree with George Will on. And he writes with such abridged eloquence that it almost makes me forget everything else I disagree with him on. This is far from a comprehensive history of either the Cubs or Wrigley Field but all the main topics are covered, from the century-old series run, Harry Caray, Ernie Banks, Tinker-Evers-Chance, the origins of the ivy, the Tribune, and night games.
3

Jul 01, 2016

Well written as I expected it would be. Lots of interesting tidbits, stories and trivia about Cubs players, management and early history. the first two chapters and last chapter concentrate on the actually building and property of Wrigley Field. The chapters in between are about all the other stuff. I was expecting more on Wrigley itself. If there has been more I would have given the book 4 stars.
4

May 03, 2014

A collection of baseball statistics, Cub trivia, Chicago history...for the purpose of understanding the sacred status of Wrigley Field. Very well done, but misses the true essence of what it was like at the ole ballpark before corporate America took over, suburbanites made Wrigley a socially appropriate destination, and the average fan could attend for less than a $100 entry fee. And good to be corrected as to the actual lyrics of Take Me Out to the Ball Game...tho I do think Harry's words will A collection of baseball statistics, Cub trivia, Chicago history...for the purpose of understanding the sacred status of Wrigley Field. Very well done, but misses the true essence of what it was like at the ole ballpark before corporate America took over, suburbanites made Wrigley a socially appropriate destination, and the average fan could attend for less than a $100 entry fee. And good to be corrected as to the actual lyrics of Take Me Out to the Ball Game...tho I do think Harry's words will remain in place. ...more
2

Apr 15, 2014

The author deftly ties the history of the Chicago Cubs with the history of Chicago and that was a great plus for me. But, he sometimes wandered so far afield that I found myself skipping pages. For example, did he really need to give us a very short history of how beer was accidentally fermented by prehistoric man to tied that beverage to baseball? And, despite the title, the book did not focus on Wrigley Field persay, thus, for anyone who has not had the great experience was watching a game in The author deftly ties the history of the Chicago Cubs with the history of Chicago and that was a great plus for me. But, he sometimes wandered so far afield that I found myself skipping pages. For example, did he really need to give us a very short history of how beer was accidentally fermented by prehistoric man to tied that beverage to baseball? And, despite the title, the book did not focus on Wrigley Field persay, thus, for anyone who has not had the great experience was watching a game in that venue, there is no sense of the specialness of a day there. For that reason, I was disappointed and agree with other reviewers that the lack of photos was particularly disappointing. ...more
5

Apr 24, 2017

The short version first.

There are several things which have had a significant impact on my life. My families, our pets, moving, closing and paying off mortgages, travelling, and playing or watching baseball. Not just any baseball mind you, but certain teams like this years Texas A&M Lady Aggies softball team, Temple High School baseball or softball, the Dallas Fort-Worth Spurs before they were replaced by the Texas Rangers, the Round Rock Express, the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros, and The short version first.

There are several things which have had a significant impact on my life. My families, our pets, moving, closing and paying off mortgages, travelling, and playing or watching baseball. Not just any baseball mind you, but certain teams like this year’s Texas A&M Lady Aggies softball team, Temple High School baseball or softball, the Dallas Fort-Worth Spurs before they were replaced by the Texas Rangers, the Round Rock Express, the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros, and most especially, the Chicago Cubs. I always loved to see my students playing ball especially Alexis Smith, an All-American in Junior College and one of the battery at Texas A&M this year (2016-2017). My dad’s company put in the seats in the Spurs’ ball park in Arlington, and when the Spurs were no longer in the picture, they were replaced by the Texas Rangers and the park was bulldozed to become the Ballpark in Arlington. One of the most prominent men in our small Central Texas city was for a time the owner of the Houston Astros, and we took advantage of that situation by having transportation to two different Astros games while Mr. McLean still owned the team. He set up a bus for several of us to go down and see the Astros play in their then stadium, the Astrodome. But my longest time fanship has been for the Cubbies. I have seen them at the depths of the pit of despair, and last year I was among the many who watched them break the curse levied on them 108 years ago that they had won their last World Series pennant. Fortunately for me, I never saw that event, but I certainly watched with high interest their run last year, and their 108-year drought alleviated and replaced with the World Series pennant yet again. Die hard Cubbies fans, like me knew it would happen, although most of us waited and never saw it, but I can calmly claim to have been there in front of the TV set with each pitch, hit, error, catch, and run. So that shows just how much of a biased person I am, and it is with that mindset that I picked up the little book written several years ago about the Cubs’ home on the North Side of Chicago – Wrigley Field. It was 100 years old, and a favorite author and columnist, George F. Will, wrote it, of course!! Anyone who has followed Mr. Will’s work for any length of time knows about his interest in baseball and a team that has been the basis of much of his work, the Cubs.

A Nice Little Place on the Northside: Wrigley Field at One Hundred is Mr. Will’s retrospective on the ball park that has been the home of the Cub’s for the vast majority of its history as a National League baseball team. The fans, the park, the management, the players, and the spectators are all discussed in many ways by the erudite Mr. Will. His work in this book of vignettes separated by Wrigley Field ivy is a perfect backdrop for some of Mr. Will’s best writing ever. The colorful managers of the most colorful of metaphors, the unusual plays, the incredible successes, the ignominious defeats, the unbelievable flubs, and the entire homage that is Cubs’ ball played at Wrigley Field – it all receives its due as only Mr. Will can write it. His style, his erudition, his depth of research, and his love for the game in general, and the Cubs at Wrigley in specifics, the whole package is here in less than 200 pages. It is a quick, easy read, and you will want to check the facts because Mr. Will’s work is that well planned and strategically executed. His writing is the best of what American journalism has to offer. Basically, if you are even marginally interested in sports generally, and baseball specifically, you can still learn a lot of information in one so esoteric as which major international fast food enterprise got its start at Wrigley Field, selling which three items as a meal for less than a dollar?

Just as the Cubbies have a way of making an routine play into a comedy of errors and 4 runs against them, Mr. Will can certainly write it in such a way as it was almost planned to be a situation of Cubs’ luck, the kind of luck that you realize is too impossible to have without a sick, almost-divine force at work. Mr. Will captures all of these poignant aspects, the nuances of the game that is baseball. You don’t even have to be a fan of America’s Greatest Pastime to enjoy this book, but believe me, die hard ball fans, you will certainly get a kick our of it, and Cubs’ fans, this is the way to celebrate the longevity of Wrigley Field. Still and all, Mr. Will’s work is a fitting celebration of the Wrigley Centennial written by one of the best writers of this or any age.

Recommendations and ratings: clearly 5 out of 5 stars. This one knocks it right out of the park, dead-on center field, with the wind blowing in, rather than out. Yes, it is that good. For the baseball fan, lots of good reading. For the Cubs’ fans this is the story of home away from home. For the rest of us, it proves that once again, Mr. Will has a touch to the written word which is matchless. Beautifully written, flawlessly executed, and perfect in just about every way it can be. Truly a grand slam if there ever was one. Thanks for a great present, and the nice addition about the new pennant. This is truly George Will at his very best!



A Review of George F. Will's A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred by Richard W. Buro is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18594769-a-nice-little-place-on-the-north-side.
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5

Apr 09, 2016

The Cubs are off to a great start this year and opening day (night) was a thriller with finally a W waving in the wind. The previous five years did not end that way. What also made this year special was reading this great gem ( almost a short story category ) of a book about Weeghmam Park at Clark and Addison eventually called Wrigley Field, the Cubs and the numerous characters in and out of baseball attached to the National League franchise on the north side of Chicago that have shaped the The Cubs are off to a great start this year and opening day (night) was a thriller with finally a W waving in the wind. The previous five years did not end that way. What also made this year special was reading this great gem ( almost a short story category ) of a book about Weeghmam Park at Clark and Addison eventually called Wrigley Field, the Cubs and the numerous characters in and out of baseball attached to the National League franchise on the north side of Chicago that have shaped the look, feel, and character of everything Cubs. George F. Will's wit and intellect is sprinkled throughout the book as he tells a fascinating story of the Cubs, Wrigley and how we've all come to accept "wait till next year". It's a fun book to read, full of fun things you never knew about that place and the players on the north side. ...more
3

Apr 23, 2014

I read this small book in a day basically because Ernie Banks had died the day before and I felt it fitting to read a book about him or the Cubs or both. Not enough about Banks, but a lot about the Cubs. Not sure if it even had enough on Wrigley Field, as I didn't really learn anything much about the ivy and some of the other quirks of the stadium. Will does talk about the buildings overlooking Wrigley and Wrigleyville itself, especially after the field started having night games in 1988. I I read this small book in a day basically because Ernie Banks had died the day before and I felt it fitting to read a book about him or the Cubs or both. Not enough about Banks, but a lot about the Cubs. Not sure if it even had enough on Wrigley Field, as I didn't really learn anything much about the ivy and some of the other quirks of the stadium. Will does talk about the buildings overlooking Wrigley and Wrigleyville itself, especially after the field started having night games in 1988. I thought this book would have just made a good long magazine article, not really worthy of a book. There are some really good stories though that will make you crack up, if you are a Cubs fan or not, and that makes it worth reading. Still, Will, who I'm not a fan of with politics, is a good baseball writer. Just make sure you read his book, Men at Work, before this one. ...more
2

Apr 22, 2015

I've read a few George Will books now which, his baseball ones, not his political ones. Those I'll likely never read unless I undergo a major sea change in that regard. This slight book is supposedly about Wrigley Field in Chicago but it is just as much a book on the Chicago Cubs history...in fact, it's kind of a title fake-out as the book is really a Cubs history. That's kind of a letdown of the book actually.

Expect a lot of tales of losing as the Cubs are notorious losers who have not won a I've read a few George Will books now which, his baseball ones, not his political ones. Those I'll likely never read unless I undergo a major sea change in that regard. This slight book is supposedly about Wrigley Field in Chicago but it is just as much a book on the Chicago Cubs history...in fact, it's kind of a title fake-out as the book is really a Cubs history. That's kind of a letdown of the book actually.

Expect a lot of tales of losing as the Cubs are notorious losers who have not won a title since 1908. The most interesting part of the book connected to the stadium is when Will discusses how the Cubs loyal love affair with the ivy-covered stadium might have actually harmed their chances at winning through the decades. Why pay for better players when fans are going to fill the stands no matter how dreadful the teams are?

Personal story...The first time I went to Wrigley in the late 1980s, I actually shed a tear when I went to the ivy and reached out and touched it. I am not a Cubs fan but love baseball and baseball history. Imagine the draw of the stadium for someone devoted to the Cubs, a few tears are only a drop in the bucket to the tears of pain and frustration those poor people have been through since 1908! ...more
4

May 12, 2014

I loved and hated this book - much the same way I feel about the Cubs this year.

First, let me say that I'm not a huge fan of George Will. He's quite conservative and quite political in just about everything he does, and while he sometimes hides his politics behind his love of baseball and the Cubs, it still comes out. These parts of the book turned out to be some of the most painful for me to read. Not so much because of his conservatism - which I admittedly don't always agree with - but because I loved and hated this book - much the same way I feel about the Cubs this year.

First, let me say that I'm not a huge fan of George Will. He's quite conservative and quite political in just about everything he does, and while he sometimes hides his politics behind his love of baseball and the Cubs, it still comes out. These parts of the book turned out to be some of the most painful for me to read. Not so much because of his conservatism - which I admittedly don't always agree with - but because of how worried I am that he's right.

For example, he spends quite a bit of time near the end of his book talking about how attendance at Wrigley does not seem to depend so much on winning as it does at other ballparks. (Consequently, ticket prices continue to climb at Wrigley and are now among the highest in Major League Baseball. Beer prices remain among the lowest...) So the Cubs ownership has little incentive to provide players with the sorts of facilities that other ballparks have, thus making them (according to Will) consistently less competetive, regardless of their decent farm system and the money they spend to bring in big names. This fact, if it's true, is bittersweet for the Cubs fan: changes in the facilities might mean winning, but might also mean major changes to Wrigley. And if you've ever been to Wrigley, you know what a transcendental experience that can be. So Will argues that we either start to win and lose some of that authentic Wrigley flavor, or we continue to lose and keep our heaven on the north side. I both hope he's wrong and fear he's right.

This book is full of beauty, as much as it's full of pain, and I recommend it to any Cubs fan, and to most baseball fans. I especially recommend it to anyone hoping to visit Wrigley in its hundredth year, and I plan on doing in June. The only way to be a Cubs fan (this year in particular) is to be as nostalgic as possible (although, they are beating the snot out of the Cards in St Louis tonight - so even with a 12-24 record, there are also opportunities to enjoy today), and this book makes some of that nostalgia possible. ...more
3

Apr 18, 2015

One day I returned home to find a plastic bag containing this book on my front porch. It was months before I learned who'd left it for me! I thank you, Clare, for this. I gave it as a gift and figured I'd get around to reading it eventually, but you facilitated that. Bless your kind heart!

George Will professes to be a Cub fan. This book is all over the map, but he missed writing about a couple of the key features of the phenomenon of an afternoon at Wrigley Field because he is so dismissive of One day I returned home to find a plastic bag containing this book on my front porch. It was months before I learned who'd left it for me! I thank you, Clare, for this. I gave it as a gift and figured I'd get around to reading it eventually, but you facilitated that. Bless your kind heart!

George Will professes to be a Cub fan. This book is all over the map, but he missed writing about a couple of the key features of the phenomenon of an afternoon at Wrigley Field because he is so dismissive of the traditions and feelings of the average Cub fan. I would have thought that with all the territory he blasted through, he would have had more respect for the die hard fans who follow the Cubs through thick and thin. Rather he dealt with us as the reason why the Cubs never get out of the cellar. If we wouldn't go to games and made it hurt the owners' pocketbooks, then they'd ante up and get some real talent.

The fault doesn't lie with the fans. The fault lies with the owners who haven't been fans of their own team. P.K. Wrigley carried on out of a sense of duty to his father's memory. Nice guy who made a lot of money in chewing gum, but he kept the Cubs afloat for all the wrong reasons. The Tribune Company as an owner of a baseball team? Nope. And now the Ricketts family who think electronic scoreboards and other modern distractions will improve the ball park, are threatening to ruin the ambience of the place.

True enough, they needed to upgrade the player facilities, but did they really need to install that honkin' big jumbotron? Not really. They'd be filling the seats regardless. Better they put the money on players and player needs. We don't need skyboxes at Wrigley because you are never that far away from the action! There are almost no bad seats in the joint.

As to Will's dismissal of Wrigley as religious experience? Maybe not for him, but for millions of us, just walking into the place....and that moment when we can first see the Friendly Confines as we ascend the steps....oh, jeez....I have chills just thinking about it!

Will completely bypassed the yellow-helmeted Bleacher Bums (and the resultant play by the same name). He completely bypassed the true-blue Cubs sportscaster,Jack Brickhouse, who singlehandedly turned WGN into a decent sports channel. Games were never blacked out and if you couldn't be there, Jack brought the game to you. If for some reason, you weren't able to hear the game, you'd join all the others traveling on the El, leaning toward the ballpark to see the W flag. He assumes Chicago fans didn't know why Harry Carray was fired from the Cards' broadcasting booth. That was a pretty stupid thought on his part. We ALL knew Harry had been canoodling with Augie's showgirl wife! What he left out was how drunk Harry would get and how he forgot he was broadcasting for the Cubs and rooted for the Cards! On WGN! We all heard it! Why be so kind to that ass and ignore Brickhouse's long tenure as the t.v. and radio voice of the Cubs?

Will's elitist approach to Wrigley Field and the team demonstrate he can do research and put together a paper on the subject. But he lacks the heart and soul of a Cub fan. He might attend games and sit in the sky boxes with other luminaries of his own ilk, but the absence of optimism and the willingness to dismiss the sacred pact between the genuine Die Hard Cubs Fan and his/her team is undeniably chilling by the absence of that which makes us who we are. I want to say he misses the point, but I don't think he does. He just does not want to give it the validation it deserves.

I'm going to pass this book along to another friend - one who wore her yellow helmet in the bleachers the year of those damned Miracle Mets. I will be anxious to read her take on this book.

The one thing he never mentioned: the tradition of throwing back the home run balls of the opposing team. And, along with that, he never mentioned how there are two sides to being a Die Hard. One is that you must love the Cubs no matter what. The other is that you must hate the Cards and the Mets with all your heart and soul. Come to think of it, he never even touched on the unique fans who inhabit the bleachers! The Bums are the heart and soul of our fan base!

And anyone from the Chicago area who says s/he is a fan of both the Sox and the Cubs is not a fan of either. No one campaigned harder for the Sox to stay in Chicago than the Cubs fans....we didn't want that South Side riff raff invading our sacred space. And we resent the hell out of those who get Cubs fever only when they are winning.

He only deserved two stars for this book, but I handed him a freebie with #3 simply for writing the book, flawed though I found it.


...more
4

Mar 12, 2018

What makes A NICE LITTLE PLACE ON THE NORTH SIDE a compelling read is how George F. Will sets up a conversation between modern art and professional sports through the moderator of Wrigley Field. I know people who believe professional sports and modern art aren't in conversation with each other, and I know people who believe that professional sports foster toxic masculinity, but readers of Will's book will find that not only is Major League Baseball a living, evolving work of art, but the venues What makes A NICE LITTLE PLACE ON THE NORTH SIDE a compelling read is how George F. Will sets up a conversation between modern art and professional sports through the moderator of Wrigley Field. I know people who believe professional sports and modern art aren't in conversation with each other, and I know people who believe that professional sports foster toxic masculinity, but readers of Will's book will find that not only is Major League Baseball a living, evolving work of art, but the venues where it is played are similar to art museums where the club owners are curators of both good and bad art in the form of teams. Readers will be reminded that baseball played in integral part in the civil rights movement as well as gave voice to some of the century's greatest jazz movements.

Will delves into the history of Wrigley Field and the many iterations of Cubs teams that have played in the Friendly Confines. He lauds the ivy on the outfield walls, the neighborhood which Wrigley defines, the people who commute to and from the stadium, and the businesses that thrive in its midst. He discusses MLB's role in race relations, the Cubs's executives' failures to embrace civil rights, and how the team ultimately became a vibrant part of the city for embracing Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks.

If A NICE LITTLE PLACE ON THE NORTH SIDE had been written a few years later, Will could have examined the city and Wrigley Field after a World Series Championship, but it's somehow fitting for this book to conclude before the winning tradition arrived in Chicago. Any fan of MLB, but especially Cubs fans will enjoy this book for its thorough treatment of Wrigley Field and its far reaching ambition to show how baseball is an art well worth enjoying. ...more
5

Feb 21, 2016

Baseball is as encrusted with clichés as old ships are with barnacles.
-George Will (page 105)

Watching a baseball game at Wrigleys Field is a delight. In 2011, I took the train from Michigan to Chicago, then took the Red Line out to Wrigley Field to watch the Houston Astros beat the Chicago Cubs. I was rooting for the Cubs and would have liked to have seen them win, but those who go to watch baseball at Wrigleys attend mostly for the experience. People go to museums of fine art to see the Baseball is as encrusted with clichés as old ships are with barnacles.
-George Will (page 105)

Watching a baseball game at Wrigley’s Field is a delight. In 2011, I took the train from Michigan to Chicago, then took the Red Line out to Wrigley Field to watch the Houston Astros beat the Chicago Cubs. I was rooting for the Cubs and would have liked to have seen them win, but those who go to watch baseball at Wrigley’s attend mostly for the experience. “People go to museums of fine art to see the paintings, not the frames that display them,” Will writes. “Many people do, however, decide to go to Chicago Cubs games because they are played within this lovely frame… It is frequently noted that Wrigley’s Field is lovelier than the baseball that is played on the field.” (13). This leads to all kinds of jokes about the Cubs: “What does a female bear taking birth control pills have in common with the World Series,” someone will ask. “No Cubs.” Or, “for most teams, 0-30 is called a calamity. For the Cubs, it is called April. (29) The old ballpark turned 100 years old in 2014 and George Will, who grew up in Illinois and is a Cub fan, wrote a history of the park to celebrate the event and to explore why people love the Cubs and Wrigley’s Field. As Will notes early in the book, "Reason rarely regulates love." (11) And with the Cubs, it’s all about love as their attendance is the least sensitive to performance in all baseball. (134) People come whether or not they are winning. Ironically, their attendance is four times more sensitive to beer prices than performance which is why only two teams (the Pirates and Diamondbacks) have cheaper beer. (136)

The Cubs are an old organization and at one time (pre-Wrigley’s Field) they were a powerhouse. In the 1880s, with Cap Anson, they had many championships. It’s just that they’ve had a bad century, winning their last World Series in 1908. Will gives the history of the team that was first known as the Chicago White Stockings and under the leadership of Albert Goodwill Spaulding (baseball’s first entrepreneur) helped invent Major League Baseball. (31). Goodyear published yearly “Spalding Guides” to Major League Baseball. In his 1908 edition, Goodyear (who Will noted “was not always fastidious about facts”) created the myth of Abner Doubleday inventing baseball in the summer of 1939 in Farmer Finney’s pasture in Cooperstown, NY. (33) After being known as the White Stockings, the team went by a number of names (Colts, Orphans and Spuds). In 1902, after the creation of the American League, there was another team in Chicago that was using the name “White Sox’s,” so they looked for a new name and decided on Cubs as it represented bear-like strength with a playful disposition. (36) Another interesting fact that Will provides: The American League was founded in 1882 and its main difference at the time was it allowed beer sale at ball games. (34)

In 1914, the Cubs built their new stadium with the home plate at the corner of Addison and Clark Streets at the site of a former Lutheran Seminary. (20) Ironically, Addison Street was named for Dr. Thomas Addison, who identified "Addison anemia," providing more comic material for the Cubs. (15) Two years later, William Wrigley, who had made his fortune with chewing gum, brought into the Cub organization. (45). Wrigley was a promoter who was fond of saying, "Baseball is too much of a sport to be a business and too much of a business to be a sport. (46) His was the first club to allow people to keep balls that were hit into the stands and unlike other teams, who saw radio broadcast as a threat, he allowed stations to broadcast the games free of charge. (47-48). He reached out to women and built a strong female fan base. Under his family leadership, the motto was if the team was bad, “strive mightily to improve the ballpark.” (87) The Wrigley’s tried to create a ballpark for the whole family and would advertise for people to come out and have a picnic. The joke was that the other team often did. (83)

Will goes into detail about the Cub’s 1932 World Series loss to the Yankees and the game when Babe Ruth “called the shot” before he hit a home run over center field. As he notes, it probably didn’t happen the way it has been portrayed. Ruth, and the Yankees, were upset with the Cubs over a player (Mark Koenig) they’d traded from the Yankees late in the season. The team decided that Koenig would only get ½ of a share of the World’s Series proceeds for the team since he didn’t play all year for them. This increased the tension between the teams and most likely Ruth’s pointing the bat at the Cub’s dugout. The game was also interesting because of who were in the stands. Franklin Roosevelt was there (just 38 days before being elected President along with a 12 year old boy (John Paul Stevens) who would go on to be a Supreme Court Justice. (55-6)

Will tells many other stories about the Cubs and the field. This includes providing the background to the book and movie, The Natural. (65-67); how Jack Ruby was a vendor at Wrigley’s before moving to Texas where he shot Lee Harvey Oswald (90); of Ray Kroc selling paper cups to Wrigley’s before starting McDonalds (91); and Ronald Reagan broadcasting Cub games in Iowa via teletype. (93).

Wrigley’s field was the last major league ballpark to install lights. Will notes that one of the reason was the local bars, who liked day games so that the fans would stop off at the bar for drinks and food after the game was over. It is also one of the few stadiums to hold on to the organ and to shun more electronic means of music and scoreboards. Other topics that Will covered included race relations and baseball in Chicago. Some of the earlier leaders of the team were racists, which is ironic since the most famous Cub was Ernie Banks, an African-American. Another famous Cub was Manager Leo Durocher, known for saying “nice guys finish last.” This is another myth that Will shatters, noting that Durocher was speaking of the Giants and said, “All nice guys. They’ll finish last” and journals “improved on his quote.” (108) He also noted that Durocher didn’t like Ernie Banks. “You could say about Ernie that he never remembered a sign or forgot a newspaperman’s name,” Durocher said. (112)

The last part of the book is mostly philosophical as Will explores the role tribalism plays into our love of sports, the beauty of which “is its absence of meaning.” (188)

I don’t always agree with George Will’s politics, but I share a love of baseball and enjoyed reading this book. I had picked it up a few months ago and it was just what I needed as my concentration was greatly reduced due to my torn quad tendon. If you don’t mind Will’s myth-busting, you’ll find this book to be a gem. ...more
4

May 16, 2018

I've read some negative reviews about this book, and I can't help but think that those who didn't like it may not be among the intended readers. This is not a book about the Chicago Cubs. Nor, really, is it (as its name suggests) a book about Wrigley Field. It is a book about the lifetime relationship between Wrigley Field, its neighborhood, the City of Chicago, and the long-time, long-suffering fan. This book won't appeal as much to Cubs fans from other parts of the country. It may not appeal I've read some negative reviews about this book, and I can't help but think that those who didn't like it may not be among the intended readers. This is not a book about the Chicago Cubs. Nor, really, is it (as its name suggests) a book about Wrigley Field. It is a book about the lifetime relationship between Wrigley Field, its neighborhood, the City of Chicago, and the long-time, long-suffering fan. This book won't appeal as much to Cubs fans from other parts of the country. It may not appeal to younger or recent Chicago-area fans. In fact, it may appeal more to Chicago-born-and-raised White Sox fans than to casual Cubs fans.

Author George Will wanders (I prefer that word to "rambles") through the years and the park, with short anecdotes -- some more interesting than not. And I can see why some readers would find this boring. But to me, and I'm sure to many others, it is like a leisurely walk through a childhood neighborhood, filled with memories both good and bad.

A quote by Vin Scully during the 1989 N.L. Playoffs, included in the book:
"She stands alone at the corner of Clark and Addison, this dowager queen, dressed in basic black and pearls, seventy-five years old, proud head held high and not a hair out of place, awaiting yet another date with destiny, another time for Mr. Right. She dreams as old ladies will of men gone long ago. Joe Tinker. Johnny Evers. Frank Chance. And of those of recent vintage like her man Ernie. And the Lion [Leo Durocher]. And Sweet Billy Williams. And she thinks wistfully of what might have been, and the pain is still fresh and new, and her eyes fill, her lips tremble, and she shakes her head ever so slightly. And then she sighs, pulls her shawl tightly around her frail shoulders, and thinks, This time, this time it will be better." ...more
4

Mar 03, 2018

3.5 stars. With Spring Training under way, I wanted a breezy little Cubs-related audiobook to enjoy. This isn't my favorite Cubs or baseball book by any means, but it did the job. I enjoyed the historical anecdotes and perspective of a longtime Cubs fan (who wrote the book two years before the Cubs won the 2016 World Series).

Perhaps my favorite part centered on why, after more than a hundred years of lovable loser-dom, do Cubs fans continue to pack Wrigley Field season after season even paying 3.5 stars. With Spring Training under way, I wanted a breezy little Cubs-related audiobook to enjoy. This isn't my favorite Cubs or baseball book by any means, but it did the job. I enjoyed the historical anecdotes and perspective of a longtime Cubs fan (who wrote the book two years before the Cubs won the 2016 World Series).

Perhaps my favorite part centered on why, after more than a hundred years of lovable loser-dom, do Cubs fans continue to pack Wrigley Field season after season — even paying more each year as ticket prices increase? Will's note about watching a winning team vs. stable beer prices was interesting. Apparently, Cubs fans are OK paying more to get into an outdated ballpark to watch the home team likely lose, but they draw the line at paying more for beer. It seems this is why the Cubs (at least historically) have among the lowest beer prices in the Majors. Interesting.

Overall, I learned a thing or two here and there, re-read the argument that playing in an outdated ballpark and clinging to tradition contributes to team futility, and effectively passed the time on a couple long walks with my dog. Bring on baseball! ...more
3

Jun 13, 2017

This book isn't so much a book about Wrigley Field as a loose collection of Cubs baseball stories written and published for the ballparks 100th anniversary, with lots of interesting stories about players, owners, fans, and the field and it's environs. As a Red Sox fan I appreciate the Cubs faithful fans and the beautiful Friendly Confines and the history of the team and its ballpark and this book was full of great facts and stories (for example more people have seen a baseball game at Wrigley This book isn't so much a book about Wrigley Field as a loose collection of Cubs baseball stories written and published for the ballparks 100th anniversary, with lots of interesting stories about players, owners, fans, and the field and it's environs. As a Red Sox fan I appreciate the Cubs faithful fans and the beautiful Friendly Confines and the history of the team and its ballpark and this book was full of great facts and stories (for example more people have seen a baseball game at Wrigley than the entire population of the US the year it was built, and up until 2003 it held the record for most regular season NFL games (365)). I read this book about the Cubs (written in 2014) after they finally won a world title again in 2016 which gave some the comments about the futility of Cubs baseball a different feel and seems to have vindicated the authors positive take on the Ricketts family's ownership of the team.
...more

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