Where I’ve Been: Wrigley Field

At the corner of Clark and Addison in the heart of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood stands the greatest monument ever erected to futility. Beckoning you with it’s cherry red marquee advertising it as the Home of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field kicks off our Where I’ve Been series becuase it is the quintessential summer destination in the quintessential summer city. It is at the top of many people’s bucket lists, sports fans and non-sports fans alike, because it is an assault on the senses unlike any other you’ve experienced at a sporting event.

The first thing that strikes you when walking up the tunnel and onto the concrete concourse of Wrigley Field is just how green it all is. There’s the big green hand operated scoreboard out in center field serving a throwback to a simpler time. There’s the ivy lush with life during the summertime, a deceptive cushion for outfielders trying to run down deep fly balls. There is the grass itself, as well-kept a lawn as any in the Chicagoland area. Then there are the seats themselves, roughly 40,000 of them in the place though if the Cubs are halfway decent you won’t be spending much time sitting in yours.

Serious baseball fans should try and catch at least two games of a series at Wrigley while they’re visiting Chicago if possible if only to enjoy the two very different experiences afforded by the ballpark — the main seating bowl and the bleachers. Because make no mistake, while the product on the field is invariably the same, the way you watch the game when sitting in the main seating bowl versus when you’re in the bleachers is completely different.

The main seating bowl is for people who want to simply watch a ballgame, eat a hot dog and drink a beer much like you would in any other ballpark. It is a rather civilized experience, especially on the lower level because fans pay good money to sit there and they want to maximize the return on their investment. If you’re going to bring a child to the game, sit with them in the upper deck if only so you can get the view you see above, with the Lakeview high rises stretching out into forever, a bird’s eye view of one of the best places to watch a ballgame.

And then there are the bleachers. Wrigley Field’s bleachers are notorious for being one of the best places for singles to mingle in Chicago and with good reason — nobody watches the game out there. Sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley is like going to a party at a friend of a friend of a friend’s house, only you’re paying roughly the same price for one Old Style ($8) that you would for a twelve-pack of the stuff at one of the many liquor stores nearby. As far as ballparks go, there is no better place to unwind after a long week of work because everybody else is there to do the same thing. The seats have no backs, meaning you’re sitting on a bench for three hours with thousands of your new closest friends (well at least for the next three hours), hoping to God that when Soriano jumps for a routine fly ball, it lands safely in his mitt and not on the grass.

Of course, while Wrigley Field has nearly 40,000 green seats within its hallowed walls.Bartman None of them are nearly as famous — or rather, infamous — the seat you see at right, otherwise known as as Section 4, Row 8, Seat 113.

That is the particular seat that one Steve Bartman was sitting in the night he caught the worst break in the history of Cub fandom during the 2003 NLCS. Roughly a dozen fans reached up for a foul ball along with Moises Alou on that chilly evening, the Cubs clinging to a 3-0 lead in the 7th inning of Game 6 up three games to two in the series. This was to be the souvenir to end all souvenirs.

Instead, it wound up ruining poor Steve Bartman’s life.

The Bartman seat offers one of the best views of one of sport’s grandest cathedrals. The seat itself isn’t marked because a Cubs spokesman once told me while I was working on a piece on the seat for ESPN.com that the team wants to respect his wishes for privacy. If you didn’t know the location, you wouldn’t know it was the seat, save for a couple of hushed murmurs among fans sitting in the section. 

Situated comfortably down the left field line, it offers one of the more spectacular views in the entire ballpark. The ivy covered walls stretch out just over your left shoulder while right in front of you, Cubs pitchers get warmed up in the bullpen. You have a front row seat to all the action going on in the ballpark, enjoying the people watching in the left field bleachers without having to worry about having beer spilled on you.

Before the game, there’s plenty of do in the Wrigleyville neighborhood. Tourists are drawn to bars like Cubby Bear and Sluggers, which offer a frat party type of atmosphere before the game. My personal favorites are Goose Island and Rockit if only because they’re a bit more subdued and less bro-ish, if that makes sense. Uncommon Ground just north on Clark is a little more family friendly as well while offering a wide array of house infused liquors.

There are few better ways to spend a spring/summer day anywhere than doing so at Wrigley Field, which is why if you’re able to, make sure you make it out to Chicago’s North side this year. The ballpark is beautiful, the people are friendly, the good times are plenty. And thanks to the Cubs being so lousy, you’ll likely be able to get in the door for far lower than face value.