The Chicago Cubs are advertising the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field’s opening as the “Party of the Century” and that would be all well and good if the label didn’t sound so familiar.
Wasn’t the “Party of the Century” supposed to happen when the team won the World Series?
OK, I get it: With the drought now counting 106 years and the save-the-date for that celebration permanently lost in the mail, the Cubs have decided that Wrigley’s 100th is deserving of a moniker they’ve been touting since the team’s winter convention.
And, really, what says once-in-a-lifetime bash more than a midweek meeting between the Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks, two of the worst teams in baseball? Wednesday marks an even century since Weeghman Park (as it was known then) opened its gates for a meeting between the Chicago Whales and Kansas City Packers of the Federal League. To mark the occasion, this year’s Cubs and D’Backs will wear throwback uniforms, the first 10,000 fans will get a cupcake and the crowd, which is expected to include commissioner Bud Selig, will sing Happy Birthday to the old park in the fifth inning.
(No word on if there will be time for a round of Pin The Mullet on Jeff Samardzija.)
I’m sure it will be a nice affair and it isn’t as if Wrigley isn’t deserving of the occasion. The second oldest ballpark in baseball has evolved over the years to become one of the jewels in American sport. Summer afternoons at Wrigley have become a cultural experience without parallel. Every nostalgic ode written over the years (including one from this desk) comes from the yearly ritual that Wrigley has provided for multiple generations.
Still, you have to excuse the city and the team’s fanbase if we’re not up for a full blowout just because the park’s odometer hit triple digits. While the Boston Red Sox put on a great centennial for Fenway Park two seasons ago, this Cubs party is destined to feel a lot more empty just because of the history — or lack thereof — that’s been witnessed at the corner of Clark and Addison.
The Red Sox, after all, had two World Series title fresh in their minds and a Fenway Park that had been renovated and poised for another century of baseball fans walking through the turnstiles.
What do the Cubs currently have? Three straight 90+ loss seasons with a fourth likely on the way, an uncertain rebuilding plan and a ballpark renovation that has been light on construction but heavy on lawsuits. If you’re searching for an iconic moment in park history to celebrate, it arguably involves a New York Yankee hitting a home run to beat the Cubs in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series. Looking for a team? It might be either the 1969 or '84 Cubs for the majority of people who are still alive and neither ended up winning the National League pennant.
You can’t stop time, of course, so it’s not as if the team could have postponed marking the 100th anniversary of their park (though they could have delayed it until 2016, which will mark the 100th anniversary of the Cubs moving in). It’s just that there’s no franchise-ballpark relationship quite like the Cubs-Wrigley Field dynamic and that the best party would have been kicked off with a left fielder squeezing a fly ball for a World Series clincher, not with the delivery of a replica Wrigley cake from the “Cake Boss.”
Of course, given the team’s extended run of mediocrity at Wrigley over the last 98 years, perhaps it’s fitting it’s going off this way. Winning baseball never got in the way of Wrigley being celebrated across the world, so why start now?
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