Wrigley Field in Chicago has become a mecca of sorts for any broad-based fan of American sports. If you go to Chicago for any reason and have any sort of spare time during it, you will want to go by 1060 West Addison in Chicago to see the relic that is Wrigley. To commemorate the centennial anniversary of the groundbreaking of the stadium, a feature-length look at the stadium titled 100 Years of Wrigley Field was produced to honor it. By mixing of footage of various notable events through Wrigley's life with interviewing some attached to the building currently we see the highs, lows, past and future of the park.
The older video and stills are fun to see, as we learn that Cubs owner William Wrigley (he of the chewing gum empire) bought the team and built the stadium, and the additions to and around the stadium through the years such as the ivy on the walls. The team's fortunes are touched upon as well, but we also see other inhabitants of the space, such as the NFL's Bears in the late 1960s. Icons of the field through the years such as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg are also recalled fondly and we learn about why they are, why the notion of serving the logo on the front of the jersey before remembering the name on the back remains a romantic one.
With that said, some of the interview subjects are fun. You get some of the surviving Cubs players that have been named earlier and other ones, and more recreational participants as well. Among those are Cubs fans like actor Joe Mantegna and professional wrestler C.M. Punk, and the film itself is narrated by another actor in William Petersen, but it seems as if the piece spends a bit too much time with various members of the Ricketts family, who currently owns the team. Now, I get that the owners want to have pride in the team and all that, but there seems to be a subtle, almost Snyder-esque occupation with being in front of the brand that many people would find disconcerting.
Thankfully, because of Wrigley's history and tradition the Ricketts do not dominate the experience. Historians recount Wrigley events such as Babe Ruth's called shot home run in the World Series and still debate whether or not it actually happened. The ‘Wrigley wind' that plays havoc with pitchers' earned run averages is talked about, and footage of things such as Dave Kingman's monster homer is shown, along with a 23-22 slugfest between the Cubs and Phillies. The stadium's evolution through the years, be it when lights were mounted onto the roof in the eighties, or the subtle expanding of space in the buildings and residences just outside Wrigley is shown and discussed.
The clever thing with this feature is even for more devoted fans of baseball and/or Wrigley, there are things that you may not know. In a sense the film serves as a small travelogue to go with the history lesson. Do you want to know the history behind raising a white ‘W' flag or blue ‘L' one after each game? It is here. Throwing back home run balls from opposing batters is recounted, as is a look at the largely manual scoreboard in center field.
There are some interesting things going on within the revered friendly confines that may give some pause for concern. A proposed renovation of the stadium looks to put in luxury suites and additional seating that would seem to strip Wrigley of some of its charm and emotional connection where generations share a ballgame, a New Year's Day hockey game or occasional Springsteen concert. 100 Years of Wrigley is a nice remembrance despite some creakiness with the modern participants, but one would hope the on-field celebrations are even more enjoyable and pleasant than this.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 100 Years of Wrigley Field looks good. It handles a good amount of the vintage film and the interview subjects are clean as a whistle. One would presume this originally aired on Major League Baseball's network due to its length. If not, the source material is pristine as can be, and any flaws are inherent to the older material that was incorporated into the feature. It is solid viewing material.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is decent, albeit a touch unspectacular considering the subjects. While the interviews and the games are up front in the soundstage, there is a lack of directional effects, channel panning or low-end fidelity. However, what occurs in the front channels sounds consistent and free of chirps or buzzing. It is serviceable for the piece and reliable.
There is additional footage which looks at the statue dedication for Williams and the flag raisings for Jenkins, Maddux and Santo which commemorate the latter three's retired numbers (26:56). The inclusion of the film is nice and helps show us the importance of those former notable Cub players.
100 Years of Wrigley is a nice look at the previous centennial of Wrigley with a slight eye towards the next 100 years, featuring most all of the moments you would expect it to have and enough recollection and/or discussion for the moments that video was not able to capture. Technically, it is fine though could have used some more bonus material. While the next 100 may radically change how Wrigley looks and what it accomplishes, the past 100 is given a nice remembrance here.