Stadium Series: Chicago's Wrigley Field
We begin our stadium series with a quick tour of Chicago's venerable Wrigley Field.
For the next 10 weeks, Eye on Baseball and Choice Hotels will be taking you around the major leagues, picking out the hits and highlights of some of the game's top stadiums. What to eat, what to drink and what to see both inside and outside the park will all be covered as part of the series. There's a lot to cover and uncover, so visit the comments section to let us know what we missed.
Ever wanted to head to Chicago with the purpose of making a pilgrimage to the historic Wrigley Field for a baseball game? Of course you have. The venerable ballpark is in its 100th year this season and has seen historic things such as Babe Ruth's (disputed) "called shot."
For those unfamiliar with the area, here's a quick little handy guide.
Eats outside the park
Look, you're headed to a ballpark surrounded by a bar district that is there simply because of the ballpark. If you are looking for fine, upscale dining, you're in the wrong place. That being said, there are plenty of spots around Wrigley Field that can get you serviceable bar-type food either leading up to the game or as a post-game treat.
Sluggers on Clark Street has a wide variety, can handle a huge gameday crowd and gets the job done. Try the pizza. Oh, by the way, there are batting cages upstairs ...
What about if you have a craving for a creative burger? Check out Rockit Burger Bar, also on Clark Street. It'll have something for everyone, from the chickpea burger to the macdaddy (black angus beef, beef short rib, mac and cheese ... ).
No matter the choice, you'll definitely have no problem finding an italian beef sandwich or a brat.
Drinks outside the park
Wrigleyville on gameday is essentially a party, especially the moments immediately before and after the game -- and when it comes to after the game, especially if the Cubs win. The biggest names are The Cubby Bear and Harry Caray's, but make sure to check out Murphy's Bleachers, which is the bar right across the street from the center-field bleachers entrance to Wrigley.
What to see outside the park
For a first-timer with the time, ability and interest, it's worth one walk completely around the perimeter just to take everything in and, quite frankly, people watch (there will be some characters). Along the way, make sure to check out the statues of Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Harry Caray. There's also the famous red marquee out front that is a very cool sight for those who have only seen it in pictures.
If you're walking around during batting practice, check out the window from the fair side of the right-field foul pole, as you can now see onto the playing surface.
If you're walking around during the game, the sight of "ballhawks" -- fans hanging out on the street wearing gloves hoping to grab a home run ball -- is unique to this yard.
Food inside the park
Obviously there's much of the traditional ballpark fare, but Wrigley has expanded its horizons. How about Decade Dogs, which features a rueben hot dog and many other creative creations? There's also a Giordano's, which comes from one of the city's most famous pizzeria's and boasts an outstanding deep dish.
What to see inside the park
Most importantly, find a way to walk up the steps somewhere in the areas behind home plate to get a perfect view of the famous hand-turned scoreboard in center-field, which, of course, settles a bit higher than the ivy-covered outfield walls. No other ballpark can provide an experience close to this and, again, for first-timers, this is a very cool in-person experience.
While looking at the scoreboard, take note of the flags on the top. In the very top of the middle row sits the American flag, but below that are three rows of five flags -- the 15 National League teams sorted by division and in the current order of the standings.
Given the age of the ballpark, the inside of the stadium isn't chock full of must-see features or anything, but non-Cubs fans might be interested in venturing down to the "Bartman seat" (left field line, just about even with the pitchers' rubbers in the Cubs' bullpen.
As for the famed/notorious outfield bleachers, there are good things and bad. When the Cubs are really good, such as in 2008, it just wasn't worth it. The seats are general admission, which means they are first-come, first-served and at a ridiculous demand. So you'd either have to sit in line for hours before the game in order to get a good seat or sit in a very unfavorable spot. When the Cubs aren't good, though, such as this season, it's possible to walk up to the front row with just a few minutes to gametime and that's an outstanding spot to watch a game. You're breathing down the neck of the warning track and can look down at the famous ivy while seeing the game just over the famous outfield baskets.
Next week: San Francisco's AT&T Park