The 2021 Chicago Cubs are a team in transition. Old players and executives have departed, new ones have arrived, and more personnel changes are expected by year’s end. The team will play in front of fans for the first time since 2019 as a new normal is slowly created, and now Wrigley Field itself will see changes with new flags following a different theme than seasons prior.
2021 Chicago Cubs –– Wrigley Field: A Landmark of Stability and Change
The changes in store for the 2021 Chicago Cubs home may seem provocative at first glance. Wrigley Field is seen by many as an iconic playing field largely unchanged since its creation more than a century ago. Wrigley is billed as an ode and escape to times gone by. Yet, the truth is that this national landmark is a contradiction of both stability and alteration.
Even the name and tenants are not original. The ballpark was first known as Weeghman Park and played host to the Federal League’s Chicago Whales. The Cubs moved in two years later and changed the name to Cubs Park after another four seasons. Several years after a chewing gum seller bought the club, a new moniker was selected: Wrigley Field.
Constructed in 1914 with a seating capacity of 14,000, what became Wrigley has been renovated three times and seen modifications throughout its history. The 1922 renovations significantly altered the field dimensions, especially in right and left fields. The outfield walls proved particularly problematic and were adjusted repeatedly over the decades.
By 1928, the grandstand was expanded to include a double deck. The famous ivy was added in 1937 along with the manual scoreboard. Lights were controversially installed in 1988 (the last Major League Baseball park to do so). In the 2010s, video boards were added. That same decade, significant demolition and construction altered the area surrounding the park, somewhat eroding the neighborhood feel with a could-be-anywhere generic corporate atmosphere.
Yet, despite these changes, Wrigley Field has retained its core look for decades. Its history can be almost felt by most attending fans, and the changes envisioned by the 2021 Chicago Cubs reinforce that sense of history.
2021 Chicago Cubs Changes to Wrigley
The new changes are entirely superficial and will not impact the structure itself.
The outer roof city and team flags will be removed. In their place, the names of 24 Hall of Famers who spent considerable time with the Cubs will fly. The Cubs have 19 players and executives who played more games or spent more years with the club than any other. Another 32 (including managers) spent some time in the North Side during their Hall of Fame careers.
Eighteen of those 19 career Hall of Famers will have flags flown in their honor song with six of the sometimes Cubs.
Notably, Cap Anson is not included among the flagged honorees. The Hall of Fame first baseman was the club’s captain during the team’s five pennant run of the 1880s. He is the first player in history to collect 3,000 hits and was so influential that the team named itself in his honor not once but twice, the (Cap’s) Colts and Orphans (so named after his departure). Yet this decision is likely not an oversight but instead deliberate. Anson is perhaps the player most responsible for the 64-year period of major league segregation.
The inner roof recognition flags will be replaced with flags for each year the club has made the postseason since 1906. Gone are the flag-based recognitions of Sammy Sosa’s 66 home runs in 1998 and Kerry Wood’s 20 strike out game. The new postseason highlighting is a welcome addition that will hopefully serve to inculcate a winning tradition in the Friendly Confines.
This arrangement would tell an even stronger story of success if Chicago’s appearances in the 1882, 1885, and 1886 World Series, 1876 Championship Series, and pennants in the postseason-less 1870, 1880, and 1881 seasons each had flags of their own. Add in a color-coded theme to the flags, and Wrigley will be looking sharp.
2021 Chicago Cubs: A Missed Opportunity
Commendable as it is that the Cubs chose not to honor the segregationist Anson, the team missed an opportunity to recognize the Negro Leagues’ Chicago American Giants. What a positive development it would be if the very team that arguably started segregation chose to embrace the Negro Leagues legacy by including their accomplishments on equal footing.
The American Giants (and their Chicago predecessors) won the World Series in 1926 and 1927, won World Series equivalents in 1900, 1908, 1915, 1917, and 1932, made playoff appearances in 1899, 1909, 1913, 1916, 1928, 1933, and 1934, and won pennants or titles in (years without postseasons) in 1910, 1911, 1912, 1914, 1918, 1920, 1921, and 1922.
The club featured four Hall of Famers who played more games with the team than any other and 14 who spent at least some time with Chicago. The outer roof would be complete with flags for Chicagoan heroes Rube Foster, Willie Foster, Pete Hill, and Cristobal Torriente.
Adding these flags would be a fantastic way to embrace Chicago baseball history and highlight the accomplishments of the Chicago American Giants.
Let the Cubs flags fly!
The 2021 Chicago Cubs are bringing changes to their home stadium. With just a few more tweaks, Wrigley Field will more completely honor those who played in the Windy City.
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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images