Tag Archives: Chicago Cubs

Americana: “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”

Harry Caray probably did more to associate Take Me Out to the Ball Game with the 7th-inning stretch than anyone. Uploaded by cache.boston.com.

Here you have the unofficial song of baseball, written in 1908. Want a really strange bit of trivia? Neither the lyricist (vaudeville performer Jack Norworth) nor the composer (Albert Von Tilzer) had ever been to a baseball game when they wrote the song. And neither would go for at least two more decades.

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Baseball pitcher Larry Anderson made a good point about the song. “In the seventh inning fans all get up and sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game,’ and they’re already there. It’s really a stupid thing to say and I don’t know who made ’em sing it. Why would somebody that’s there get up and sing take me out to the ball game? The first person to do it must have been a moron.”

Well someone who wasn’t a moron, not that he was precisely a genius, either, was Harry Caray. The famous broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs, Caray probably did more to associate the singing of this song with the seventh-inning stretch than anyone. So, take it away, Harry!

Travel: Catalina Island

People have spent the last 150 years trying to develop Catalina. But it has retained its quiet nature, and wants to keep it that way. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

Doesn’t it surprise you that there’s a scenic island, only 22 miles away from Los Angeles (estimated 2010 population 4,000,000), that has only one small town and a population of under 4,000? Santa Catalina Island (usually called Catalina) would like to keep it that way, thank you very much.

In truth, folks have spent most of the last 150 years trying to figure out how to make Catalina into a popular tourist destination. William Wrigley, Jr., he of the chewing gum empire, bought controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919 with the intent of making it a recreational and entertainment destination. He built infrastructure, had ships make regular runs from the mainland, even brought his Chicago Cubs to the island for spring training.

Catalina Casino. Uploaded to Flickr by Only in Cambodia.

The most distinctive structure Wrigley built was the Catalina Casino. This circular building is surrounded by the sea on three sides, and was constructed in the Art Deco style. But don’t let the name fool you — it never was a gambling hall. Its downstairs housed a huge movie theater, supposedly the first constructed specifically for movies with sound. Upstairs is a dance hall, in a building that stands the equivalent of twelve stories tall.

The primary town on Catalina is Avalon, with a population of about 3,100. It’s home to a picturesque harbor and a small but busy beach. Most of its activity today is oriented toward tourists, about a million of whom visit the island each year.

Today, William Wrigley’s son, Philip, has given his share of the island to the Catalina Island Conservancy, which protects the island’s natural heritage. Oh, remember how his father brought the Cubs to Catalina for spring training? One year, one of their young broadcasters decided to slip away to nearby Hollywood and do a screen test while he was in town. The producers liked young Ronald Reagan, and the rest, as they say, is history…

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Sports: Wrigley Field

Pretty much forgotten now is that Wrigley Field also hosted the Chicago Bears from 1921-1970. Uploaded by farm1.static.flickr.com.

For baseball fans, one of the game’s true shrines is Wrigley Field, a.k.a. “The Friendly Confines.” Located in Chicago, it’s the oldest ballpark in the National League, having been built just two years after Boston’s Fenway Park (Great American Things, June 1, 2009).

The stadium was built for the Federal League team, the Chicago Whales. I’m sure a logical reason exists for naming a team the “Whales” in a city that’s a thousand miles from the ocean, but it escapes me. The Cubs took over the park two years later.

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The powers that be in Major League Baseball have finally recognized the appeal of distinctive stadiums, after building ghastly cookie-cutter buildings like Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati and Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. There are so many factors that make Wrigley unique — the ivy-covered brick outfield walls, the marquee over the main entrance, the hand-operated scoreboard, the rooftop seats across Waveland Avenue, and Harry Caray (and now special guests) leading the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.

Wrigley is one of the first ballparks constructed of concrete and metal rather than wood, one of the secrets to its longevity. It’s pretty much forgotten now, but the Chicago Bears played their home games in Wrigley from 1921 to 1970. “Da Bears” won seven NFL championships during their tenure at Wrigley, a success that has thus far eluded the hometown Cubs. So we only have one choice: “Let’s root, root, root for the Cubbies…”