Thursday, July 31, 2014

What We're Listening to: Wrigley Field at One Hundred.

A couple of things that I enjoy are baseball and listening to a good audiobook. Having a short work commute does reduce my opportunities to enjoy audiobooks,  but the library's collection of downloadable ones provides a more convenient listening option. So--needing something to listen to--I checked out A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred, by George Will.

Over the years, I have had a soft spot for the perpetually inept Chicago Cubs [are there any baseball fans who don't?]. You can't help feel for them, because of the frustrating black mark of having last won the World Series in 1908 and not having played in the World Series since 1945! That commitment to futility is hard to achieve, but the Cubbies' lack of success is balanced by the splendor of their home, Wrigley Field, the focus of Will's erudite and intelligent musings.

I have been lucky enough to attend half a dozen or so games in those friendly confines, and have to admit that the neighborhood setting and ballpark atmosphere are indeed special and unlike any other baseball stadium in the country.

George Will is a fellow longsuffering Cubs fan, and his understanding of Wrigley Field's history, the Cubs' lack of success, and the various colorful and key players, owners, and figures are interesting, thoughtful and amusing. While the title does indicate a focus upon Wrigley Field, Will's book meanders a bit, so the book winds up more a portrait of the Chicago Cubs in general, which was fine with me!

Does the continued success of the Cubs at the gate provide a lack of motivation to ownership to provide a competitive team? Does the hindrance of historical and traditional restraints upon the ballpark [mostly day games, lack of modern facilities, etc.] hinder the Cubs' efforts? How did the woeful Cubs become a TV staple? And what about beer? (Yes, there is actually a chapter about the history and importance of beer in society's and the Cubs' history!) Stories about Hack Wilson, Ernie Banks, installation of lights at the stadium, a wonderfully profane rant by Lee Elia (you can find it easily on the internet) and a poetically beautiful Vin Scully monologue about Wrigley Field are some of the fun inside.

In the end, Will's originally stated focus upon Wrigley Field loses out to some of the above meanderings but, much like an afternoon at Wrigley Field, you enjoy all of the diversions and come away entertained. One minor complaint is that I would have enjoyed it all the more if George Will read the book himself.

Here is the Vin Scully monologue:

Visit the Burbank Public Library's Magic Wall for downloadable eBooks and eAudio titles.

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