There was baseball in Chicago before there was a Wrigley Field, and Wrigley Field (originally called Weeghman Park) existed before the Chicago Cubs called it home. But the match of team and venue is one of the most iconic in professional sports. The stadium would help define baseball as we know it now, and — despite a lackluster Cubs record over the ensuing decades — it remains a symbol of baseball’s history and popularity.
The city’s first professional baseball franchise was a minor-league called the Chifeds; that strange name was an amalgamation of Chicago and Federal, after the Federal League in which it played. The team started out playing at DePaul University, but club president Charles “Lucky Charlie” Weeghman soon secured a 99-year lease for a site, formerly a seminary campus, on the city’s North Side.
Construction began in early March, only six weeks before the season was scheduled to start, but the steel-and-concrete stadium was ready by the time the home opener started on April 23. The single-deck grandstand with a capacity for 14,000 bore little resemblance to today’s Wrigley Field, but it was the scene of some innovations that helped define baseball as we know it. Among them: fans were able to keep foul balls, and they enjoyed a varied food selection.
By 1915, the Federal League had disbanded due to financial difficulties. Undaunted, Weeghman bought the Chicago Cubs franchise that already existed across town and moved it to his new, better field. In 1921, chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley took over Weeghman’s interest in the Cubs. After a major renovation and expansion in 1927, Cubs Field, as it was known during the intervening years, was renamed Wrigley Field.