Wrigley’s 100th Birthday and the 5 Oldest Baseball Parks in the U.S.
On this day 100 years ago, Chicago’s Wrigley Field opened to a public ready and eager to enjoy what was undeniably the game that everyone played whenever they had the chance. At least, that’s the narrative that baseball likes to believe, and the gravity of the sport’s history — compared to its upstart contemporaries, the NFL, the NBA, and, because the world is obviously a worse place now than it was in 1914, even the MLS – demands that we pay homage to the cultural fabric of baseball. It’s why Wrigley became such a national treasure, despite the Cubs’ widely lamented allergy to ultimate success.
It is rightly called the Friendly Confines, and for people who enjoy baseball, Wrigley Field — along with the the other stadiums that have stood with the MLB for so long — evokes all kinds of nostalgia, even among those who have only seen it on television or in photographs. Or, in a technological twist worthy of Asimov, YouTube clips.
So, while Wrigley Field will keep on keeping on (and you can read all about how vintage and venerable and lovely it is over at Sports Illustrated), here are some other ball parks that will be passing the century mark before squiggly text can run across your screen and say “100 years in the future…”
5. The O.co Coliseum — September 18, 1966
This is a bit of a weird one — as a stadium that featured both NFL and MLB teams, the O.co first opened for a Kansas City Chiefs/Oakland Raiders football game, and it didn’t see MLB action until 1968 when the Kansas City Athletics moved Northwest and became the Oakland A’s, playing their first game on April 17, 1968 to a crowd of over 50 thousand, according to a report. The O.co saw the Raiders leave for Los Angeles, and then return in a move that saw the arena expanded into what it looks like today — more or less. It remains the only professional sports arena to have baseball and football played on the same field, as the Raiders and the A’s have overlapping seasons. You can see the Raiders playing on the A’s turf in many of these Terrelle Pryor highlights from the 2013 NFL season (there’s an especially good one at the 2:40 mark.)
4. The Angels Stadium of Anaheim — April 11, 1966
While the O.co was dealing with the Raiders and waiting for the A’s to show up, the Angels Stadium has always been for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Built as a way for the Angels to escape cohabitation with the Dodgers at the appropriately named Dodger Stadium, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim found themselves sharing space for a decade and a half with the Los Angeles Rams. This video tour does an excellent job of showing the stadium decked out for an afternoon of baseball.
3. Dodger Stadium — April 10, 1962
It was probably pretty easy to figure out that Dodger Stadium was going to be next on this list, what with the Angels having played in it before their own arena was finished in 1966. The largest capacity baseball venue in the United States, the DS came about because of Brooklyn’s unwillingness to sell enough land to then team president Walter O’Malley back in the ’50s. Eventually, O’Malley effectively said ‘screw it’ and jumped ship to the warm weather and private funding of Los Angeles, starting the construction in 1959 and finishing it in time for the 1962 season.
The circumstances surrounding the construction of Dodger Stadium have been contentious and shrouded in emotions ever since it began when the neighborhoods that made up Chavez Ravine were leveled in order for the Dodgers to play in Los Angeles. While the team had left Brooklyn in 1958, they played in the Los Angeles Metro Arena for the three years that Dodger Stadium was under construction. You can see footage of the stadium on opening day, as well as before and after footage of the valley in this YouTube clip.
2. Wrigley Field — April 23, 1914
Well hello again, Wrigley. Nice to see you. What did we miss the first time? Oh, how about the fact that you didn’t install night lights until 1988? Or the fact that while you opened in 1914, you weren’t home to the Cubs or the MLB at all? That’s a fact. Per BallparksOfBaseball, the first team to play there was the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. Once the Federal League went under in 1916, the Cubs moved in, and the field’s name was changed to Wrigley Field in 1926. Happy 100th birthday, the stadium formerly known as Weeghman Field. You’re the second oldest functioning stadium in America.
1. Fenway Park — September 25, 1911
Second only to Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox — a field that refuses to fold over and die for a newer version the way the old Yankees Stadium disappeared in 2008. It is tiny. The seats are tiny, the capacity is tiny, and the lines are massive. Like Wrigley, Fenway is cherished for its old-fashioned quirks, and both parks remain national landmarks for baseball fans — a veritable pilgrimage destinations for the believers of the stiched cowhide.