“A Nice Little Place on the North Side” by George F. Will
Baseball, Cubs, history, stadium
March 25. 2014
5 of 5 stars (Outstanding)
Wrigley Field, the home ballpark of the Chicago Cubs, will turn 100 in 2014. Well known columnist, author and die-hard Cubs fan George F. Will wrote this book as a tribute to the park which has become a shrine, a museum, or a place where good baseball goes to die, depending on your viewpoint.
Will pieces together many stories and facts about the Cubs and various people involved with the team into an entertaining, easy read. He describes the ballpark as a frame which Cubs games are played within. The writing is eloquent but flowing and easy to read, a staple of Will. There is even some sidebar information that ties in with Wrigley Field history. One that was particularly interesting and funny at the same time was a story about how humans have always had a hankering for beer, sometimes even believing that it was more healthy than drinking water. Why would this be included in this book? Will refers to a study that concluded that even more than the won-loss record of the Cubs, the price of beer at Wrigley Field affected attendance at Cubs games. It concluded that the attendance was four times more sensitive to beer prices than the baseball team’s performance. That snippet had me laughing and shaking my head.
Speaking of laughing, there are plenty of humorous moments in this book. Many of them are jabs at various entities. While they are not harsh insults or demeaning, they do make a point. Again, this is similar to Will’s other writing, whether other books or his column. Here are two of my favorite examples of humor in the book. When describing the lack of piped-in music at Wrigley Field other than the organist’s rendition, he compares it to an NBA game, stating that “The NBA experience – strobe lights, lasers, smoke and cacophonous music – is like being held prisoner in a Wurlitzer jukebox.” Later in the book, when Will is writing about the Tribune Company, which also owned television superstation WGN, he believed the Cubs were “attractive for this purpose (televised on WGN), particularly because television has never been fastidious about filling time with excellence.”
Some of the characters he writes about during the history of the ballpark include a tale of a program vendor who would drop a program into the hands or lap of an unsuspecting fan and then demand payment for the publication. This vendor was named Jacob Rubenstein, who later changed his name to Jack Ruby – yes, THAT Jack Ruby.
Ernie Banks is the subject of another well researched story that is important to the history of Wrigley Field. After all, what would a book about Wrigley Field be without mentioning Mr. Cub? I found this snippet in the passage about Banks the perfect way to illustrate Will’s writing throughout the book. “Banks embodies the post-1945 franchise, for two reasons. First, his disposition, win or lose – and it was mostly lose – was as sunny as the ballpark in which he never performed at night. Second, his play demonstrated that even in a team game, a player can achieve greatness with precious little support from his teammates.”
Overall, I felt that this was an outstanding book for its ease of reading, its humor, its research and for the baseball history. Any baseball will love this book, and at 160 pages, it will be a quick read, but one that will linger in the reader’s memory.
I wish to thank NetGalley for providing an advance review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
Excellent. After the first two chapters, which I started while finishing another book, I flew through the rest of the book. With short, entertaining stories, enough stats and baseball history to make hard core fans like me happy and enough wit throughout the book, it was a very fast read.
Do I recommend?
Yes, enthusiastically. Any baseball fan or Chicagoan, whether a native or transplant, will like this book on a ballpark that is treated like a museum and has a rich history.
Book Format Read: