Wednesday, January 18, 2012

There used to be a Ballpark : By Jerry Pritikin the Bleacher Preacher

When I was a kid,and you paid 10 cents for a bag of P-nuts... the vender told you a story and made us laugh. (c) J Pritikin

The old marquee, I remember when it was green in the 1940s.

Bill Veeck, boycotted Wrigley for all but 2 games in 1985. This is the last picture taken of him in the bleachers (c) J Pritikin

My side-kick and good friend Carmella. She had great Chicago stories to be told. Our old seats have been replaced by the Bud-Lite Bleachers. Took 2 buses to and from the park and once went 7 years without missing a game. (c) J Pritikin

I have been going to Wrigley Field since the summer of 1945, when my dad gave me a crash course in baseball 101 and Cubs history. He was my Baseball Rabbi. Then took me to my first game... and I have been back to the Friendly Confines over a thousand times since. In the late 40s, I often worked after a game to help clean the grandstands and received a free pass to the next game. In 1945, there were only 8 teams in each league. Post season play consisted only of the World Series. Baseball was the official language around the Pritikin kitchen table between my dad Hank, older brother Allen and myself. When the Cubs clinched the N.L. Pennant, I asked my dad to take me to the World Series. He felt I was too young at 8 years old. He made me a Promise, he would take me the next time.

Since then I have seen all of changes in and around the ballpark and on the field. Yet for many generations the Ball Park never seemed to change until new traditions were changing at a faster pace. I always felt young in Wrigley. Traditions stop and start almost at the same time. The faces in the stands, the voices on the mic, and the players on the field always changing at a snails pace.

However, it was when Wrigley sold the ball club, lock,stock and Ivy to the Tribune Company. The new owners had a catchy little slogan"Building a New Tradition" and forgot to tell the fans it came at the expense of many old traditions. First to go, the Andy Frain Ushers,selling tickets in February. Building Sky boxes that eliminated much of the grandstand fans view... and they had to watch tv sets to see what happened. Advertising signs in the Friendly Confines were popping up more then the Cubs players! Then the lights, the family section, the forest in center field... and of course,the scorecard going from 50 cents to 75 cents and 2 to 3 pages... the extra page was all advertisements. The cheap seats became the hip place to be and each year they kept raising the price of of a ticket, the beer and the eats. My dad always talked about his good old days, and always comparing teams of his era with that of mine or my brother.
I remember when the Trib raised the price of their evening paper from 2 to 3 cents, and he yelled "it's not worth 2 cents NOW!"

The changes in the bleachers really hurt mostly the old fans... who remember when the Cubs Radio announcer (before TV) would repeat often "Wrigley Field, The most beautiful ball park in the world!" For me it was the Grand Canyon of Baseball. I have sat in various areas of the old bleachers over time, but it was the time my good friend Carmella and we sat at the top row of the LCF Bleachers. From there, we could see most of the visible changes... The Holy Grail has become the Bud-lite Bleachers. Beers are now $7.00, I remember when they were a quarter and came in glass bottles. And 50 cents got us in the bleachers, and those seats are now $48. for either an adult or kid!

When I am walking near the ballpark on a day of a game... the rustic feeling of Old Wrigley is completely gone, the Grand Canyon of Baseball has been replaced by a Giant Cash Register.
The roof tops look like the tops rows of the Big-Top at a circus. Most of the friends and old neighborhood that helped Wrigley to become known as the "Friendly Confines"... are gone.
I do not go to games anymore... I have been priced out of the ballpark at face value of a ticket. So how do I feel about the new right field signage and make-over. FRANKLY, I do not care!
Every so often, when I am in Wrigleyville... I hear a voice in my head... it's Frank Sinatra. And he singing... "There used to be a ballpark" except this time it's Wrigley.

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