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4.3 out of 5 stars
A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
“In baseball, the difference between excellence and mediocrity is usually not the blockbuster signing of this or that free agent. Rather, it is the cumulative effect of management’s attention to scouting, player development, and so on—which—requires time, effort and, always, money. Because Cubs fans fill so many seats no matter what is happening on the field, there is a reduced incentive to pay the expense of organizational excellence.” -- page 136

And that, according to author George Will appears to be the gist of the problem. For baseball fans in the Windy City and for people all across the fruited plain Wrigley Field has become something akin to a shrine. There is a certain mystique about the place that attracts both avid fans and curious tourists, some of whom have little interest in what was once the national pastime. As Wrigley Field turns 100 in 2014 George Will thought it might be an appropriate time to recall its fascinating and sometimes bizarre history. He has scribbled his thoughts into a neat little book he calls “A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred”. This is a book destined to be great summer reading for sports fans, history buffs and general readers alike. Will conjures up a ton of fun facts, interesting tidbits and unforgettable yarns. As a lifetime baseball junkie I must tell you that I had a difficult time putting this one down.

Having been an ardent Cubs fan since 1948 George Will has pretty much seen it all—everything that is except his beloved Cubs playing in a World Series. In “A Nice Little Place on the North Side” Will recalls many of the memorable events and incidents from the sixty plus years he has been following the team. Sometimes the ineptitude is nothing short of stunning—like the time a Cubs player tried to steal third base with the bases loaded! When asked about it after the game the player sheepishly responded “I had such a good jump on the pitcher.” You just can’t make this stuff up folks. Then there was the “College of Coaches” that was dreamed up by owner Phil Wrigley in the early 1960’s. Instead of a manager Wrigley decided that 4 head coaches would rotate throughout the season. You can imagine how that one worked out. I am a lifelong baseball fan and I had never heard of that one! And who will ever forget the notorious Steve Bartman incident during the 2003 National League Championship Series? That poor guy was lucky to get out of that place with his life!

Throughout the pages of “A Nice Little Place on the North Side” George Will also manages to offer up a capsule history of the Cubs franchise. You will discover that Wrigley Field was originally called Weeghman Park and that the Cubs were the first team to give away the rights to broadcast major league baseball games. It was a rousing success! You will also learn the story behind the story of the ivy that has adorned the outfield walls since 1937. Finally, you will meet some of the folks who have made their mark at the fabled ballpark over the years. Hack Wilson knocked in 708 runs in 738 games between 1926 and 1930 and would go on to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Hall of Famer Ernie Banks had a remarkable six year run in the late 1950’s when he hit 248 HR as a shortstop in a pathetically weak Cubs lineup. Banks has the distinction of playing in the most big league games (2528) without ever appearing in the World Series. Other memorable characters at Wrigley include Pat Pieper who served as the Cubs PA announcer from 1916 until his death in 1974 at the age of 88. And did you know that one Jacob Rubenstein (a/k/a Jack Ruby) was a vendor at Wrigley when he was a teenager? Interesting stuff!

I admire writers with great vocabularies and George Will can turn a phrase with the best of them. I found “A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred” to be an exceptionally well-written and endlessly entertaining book. Will quotes liberally from Roberts Ehrgott’s superb 2013 history of the Cubs “Mr. Wrigley’s Ball Club: Chicago and the Cubs During the Jazz Age” which I would recommend to you as well. So is Wrigley Field to blame for the Cubs incomprehensible lack of success? It is certainly an interesting theory. I suggest you read the book and draw your own conclusions. Highly recommended!
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 24, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What we have here is a light little read about Wrigley Field. Well, sort of; it's really not too well focused. It has many diversions, some of them pleasant and some of them tedious, into such wide-ranging fields as history, economics, psychology, neuroscience, architecture, sociology, and urban planning. (The section on the surprising importance of beer to the formation of the first civilizations comes fairly close to being worth the price of admission in and of itself.)

The problem is, the book is very scattered. It's anecdotal; in addition to the above mentioned digressions, it offers stories by the dozen of memorable Wrigley games, memorable Cubs, memorable opponents, etc etc. I managed to shake a handful of baseball trivia questions loose (Who was the only Major League player who was a contemporary of both Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron? True or false: Major League teams have never combined for fifty runs in a single game.) Still, while190 pages of potpourri is not an unpleasant way to while away a few hours, I had expected more from Will.

There's something of a thesis to the book, one mentioned now and again in desultory fashion. It has to do with the idea that Wrigley Field's unique position as a stadium where the goal of making game day a pleasant experience regardless of the score has led to decade upon decade of leadership with no incentive to improving the team, thus leading to the poor Cubbies' never-ending futility. It's an interesting point, but it's lost in the general structure of a meandering yarn.

An okay baseball book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I regularly read George Will's columns and watch him on the Sunday morning news shows. I've always trusted that his writing would be free of misspellings and typos and I usually learn a new word or two as a bonus. Seeing that he had a book on Wrigley Field coming out this year, I preordered it. As other reviewers have noted, the book is rather thin and it skips around without any apparent rhyme or reason. However, it is pleasant enough and I did pick up a few facts I had not known. My reason for two stars is the numerous inaccuracies that any real Cub fan would recognize. Ernie Banks did not hit 500 home runs while playing shortstop. Harry Caray did not sing the seventh-inning stretch "thousands" of times at Wrigley Field. The Cubs dugout is not on the first-base side at Wrigley. The Cubs were not 36 games under .500 during the first three years of Ricketts family ownership. There are a few others, but c'mon, this is pretty basic stuff here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book is mildly interesting, not much baseball detail. More like an essay than a substantive book. And not very long.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First of all, I am a big fan of George Will. Secondly, I was born less than a mile from Wrigley Field and have been a Cub fan all my life. Thirdly, I work as a professional sports photographer and "ply my trade" at the Friendly Confines a couple dozen times each season. So, I have more than a little familiarity with the team and the venue.

I obtained this little (only 194 pages) book hoping to read an in depth history of the ballpark located on the corner of Clark and Addison, but this was more of an abridged history of the teams that have played there, mostly the Cubs. As such, it was a bit disappointing. I have the excellent McGraw-Hill history of Wrigley that contains some truly wonderful photo's taken by Cubs team photographer, Steve Green, and far prefer this earlier work to Will's book.

Not only is there limited history, but there are very few photo's. Wrigley Field is a beautiful place, and publishing a book with hardly any photo's of the park is a shame.

Maybe the final version of this title will contain more images (the copy I received was a pre-production print, replete with spelling and grammatical errors).

Having said the above, I did enjoy the book, especially the full text of former manager Lee Elia's infamous tirade when asked about Cub Fans ("Don't these people have jobs?"). Of additional note is Will's postulate that, as long as they play at Wrigley, a place so visually stunning that it is, in and of itself, a destination, and one that invariably sells out, independent of the quality of the team that resides there, the ownership of the Cubs will never be incentivized to spend the money required to field a championship caliber team.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2015
Format: Paperback
George Will is a Fox News contributor, who grew up close to Chicago. He has compiled a book, less than 200 pages, that gives a great overview of Cubs, Wrigley Field, and Chicago history. He does a great job of working in his personal experiences with lore and statistics.

My favorite parts of this book are the little facts that don't necessarily have anything to do with the Cubs themselves. Yes, it is chalk-full of statistics throughout the years, but the numbers of people long before my time wasn't the big draw to the book. Finding out little facts like 1908 was "the year 'Take Me Out to he Ballgame' was first sung" or "in 1916, the Cubs became the first team to adopt the policy of allowing fans to keep balls batted into the stands" were more interesting than finding out that they have lost 693 more games than they have won [from May 4, 1941 to the 2013 season.]

Will also includes pictures, advertisements, and newspaper excerpts throughout the book, to support the text. My favorite was the reprint of a short poem that was written in a Chicago newspaper in reference to the "Ladies' Day" event that Wrigley held throughout the 1920s and early '30s:

I saw a wounded baseball fan tottering down the street,
Encased in bandages and tape, and bruised from head to feet;
And as I called the ambulance, I heard he poor guy say:
"I bought a seat in Wrigley Field, but it was ladies' day."

The end of the book provides a wonderful bibliography for text and pictures, author's notes, and an index. If you'd like to become a true Cubs-aficionado, this would be a great book to start with, and then to use to find other more in-depth writings.

*I was provided this book through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I am a proud Cubs fan. I like to read books about baseball, especially when they are about my beloved Chicago Cubs. And I have enjoyed George F. Will’s baseball writings of the past such as Men at Work. So I thought that A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred would be a huge hit for me in my reading diet. Sadly it was not to be.

Will in A Nice Little Place on the North Side argues that Wrigely Field is part cause and part symptom of the Cubs’ dysfunctional performance. Will discusses the early Cubs, how they moved to Wrigley Field and then chronicles the Cubs history until this 100th birthday of the beloved stadium. He discusses players, key games, economics and more in the context of Cubs’s history.

I do not have much to say about this book so I will make it short. The books feels like one long essay with three page topical building blocks. There are no chapters and just small breaks that let you know that the writer has moved onto a new unrelated and unnamed topic. Though you feel like the thesis makes the book about Wrigley Field itself, there is plenty of discussion around Wrigley Field adjacent topics that only indirectly are about the schedule. And I do not agree with all the topic choices, especially in more modern times. For me one example is the lack of discussion of the Ryne Sandberg game (Ryne Sandberg does not even make the pages of the book) which brought the stadium into a national television audience. Though there is a large discussion of the Bartman Game, and not it’s relationship to the stadium, which Will was in attendance for.

In the end, Will recommends in his pages several great histories of the Chicago Cubs. I would suggest taking his recommendations instead of grabbing this title.

Copy Provided for Purposes of Review
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I'm not really a fan of baseball in general and the Cubs in particular. With two younger brothers and my dad, I was exposed to WAAAYYYY too much baseball as a child. Cubs, White Sox and Yankees. It was enough to drive a girl crazy. As an adult, I have figured out that life already supplies enough disappointment without having to cheer for the Cubs too (It's bad enough that I am a Bears fan). That being said, I LOVED this book. It's a love letter to and about a mythical baseball field and an inept team from a lifelong fan. It's a great history on the Cubs and the field as well. It's written very tongue in cheek in the wry style that is unique to George Will and I giggled out loud throughout the book. Yes, Will makes fun of the Cub's ineptitude (how can you NOT?) but it's clear he is a devoted (deranged?) Cub fan who loves his team and their field. HIGHLY recommend for baseball lovers in general and you Cub fans in particular.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 25, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Will is of course an accomplished writer, but this short book on the history of Wrigley Field is too disjointed and scattered throughout. At one point in the book, he spends almost 10 pages writing about the history of beer in America. Later on he spends a few pages writing about brain activity.

The trivia and baseball facts are interesting, such as: The Cubs were the first National Leauge team to draw more than a million fans for a season, and they spent Spring Training on Catalina Island from 1921-1951.

Lovers of baseball will probably enjoy A NICE LITTLE PLACE, but just be aware that it's not all baseball throughout the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I like reading George Will's columns, consider myself a baseball fan and have been to Wrigley a few times as well. Yet I found this to be too rambling and esoteric overall to be enjoyable.
I recently read and really enjoyed One Summer: America 1927, so don't need a current story to keep me engaged.
Perhaps native Chicagoans will enjoy more.
The lack of numbered chapters, oddly enough, was also off-putting.
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