From my 2007 novel, “Standard of Care” –
They parked near the Bryn Mawr station and took the el to Wrigley, the home of the Cubs. The Bears played there too, but they were more like guests.
In Chicago, baseball was a matter of geography—and race. If you lived on the North Side, you were a Cub fan. Period. The White Sox played on the South Side in Comiskey Park. If you made that trip, it was usually to see the Yankees and their great stars. Morrie didn’t like to go there. “Too many schvartzes,” he’d say. Rose, Danny’s mother, would shoosh him. “Morrie, don’t talk like that. I hate that. Daniel, don’t listen to your father.” In fact, Wrigley was Chicago’s white ball park. Comiskey was at 35th and Shields, the poor, black near-South Side. Danny felt foolish when his father would take his hand, walking as though they were late, from the parked car until they were through the Comiskey turnstiles. He’d otherwise stopped doing that since kindergarten.
Wrigley was safe. Jack Brickhouse, the first voice of the Cubs—Harry Caray was originally a St. Louis Cardinal—talked about the “friendly confines.” This was a neighborhood ball park you could miss from a half a block away. No parking lot, no light towers, tucked tightly into one working class block of apartment buildings and storefronts. And unless it was a sunny Sunday doubleheader or they were playing a team like the Dodgers, no crowds. Sure, Ernie Banks was special. He was steady cheerful excellence, and an All-Star, but he never lit up the town the way Michael and Sammy would. He wasn’t a phenom and neither, goodness, was the team.
The Cubs didn’t just fail to contend. They displayed the kind of stable mediocrity, season after season, that emancipated the fans from hopefulness. And like a Zen paradox, Wrigley was a remarkably happy place. Nothing that happened on the field was particularly consequential. The Bleacher Bums made a fuss, but that was mostly the beer. Fans, with their backs to the players, chatted with friends. People strolled. They came late, they left early. Men in their business suits would show up for a few innings if the weather was good. Brickhouse’s marketing pitch was “Come to Wrigley Field for an afternoon picnic.”