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West Side Grounds

Before they moved into the quaint confines of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs moved around a lot during their first 40 years of existence. Ballparks such as the 23rd Street Grounds and Lakefront Parks I and II served as momentary residences before the Cubs could find a more permanent solution. Although they only stayed for a total of 27 years, the Cubs found a place that they could call "home" in both versions of the West Side Grounds.

West Side Grounds I

The first edition of the West Side Grounds opened to much aplomb as the White Stockings won National League Pennants in 1885 and 1886, their first two years in their new home. Sandwiched between Connors, Loomis, Harrison and Throop Streets, the West Side Grounds enjoyed seven fruitful years in the heart of Chicago's northside. but by 1891, the Colts (having changed their name in 1890) decided that they needed a bigger, more modern venue.

After the Colts moved, the young ballpark didn't stand a chance against the wrecking ball. the Andrew Jackson Language Academy now stands where the first West Side Grounds once stood.

West Side Grounds II

Two years later, after a short stay in South Side Park, the White Stockings moved into the second rendition of the West Side Grounds. Nestled between Polk, Lincoln, Wood and Taylor Streets, the new venue offered a more expansive view of the field with 12,500 seats settled on a single-tiered grandstand.

Still, the new ballpark was not without its faults. Like all ballparks of that era, the West Side Grounds was built entirely out of wood, making it a fire hazard from the start. In the middle of an 8-1 win over the Reds on August 5, 1894. Incredibly, the blaze only took out the left field bleachers. Seeing through the prism of glass-half-full, the team continued to play in the ballpark throughout the year while the section was being repaired.

As the section was repaired, the team built for the future, building a powerhouse by the mid-1900's that was adored by fans all over the city. Seeking to accomodate the constant stream of fans, the Cubs (having adopted the name in 1903) expanded the West Side Grounds in 1905. Not only was the seating capacity expanded to 14,200, but they also added a coverd section of rootop seats that stretched from first base, through homeplate and all the way to third, providing a unique bird's eye view of the action.

the expansion proved to be prophetic. Between 1906 through 1910, the Cubs dominated baseball, earning four pennants and two World Series titles. It was here where Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown led his teammates to victory after victory, building that era's dynasty one pennant at a time. It was at the West Side Grounds where the famed (Joe) Tinker to (Johnny) Evers to (Frank) Chance was honed and refined into the annals of American literature and our souls.

But not even another expansion of the relatively new ballpark in 1908 to 16,000 could halt its eventual reckoning. Wooden ballparks were quickly becoming a thing of the past as newly built ballparks made of concrete and steel began sprouting up all over America. Even Chicago's South Side had a sparkling new, state of the art venue in the White Sox's Comiskey Park.

In 1913, the Federal League opened with much fanfare as teams dared to challenge the status quo in the National Pastime. There were teams all over the East Coast and the Midwest playing in that league, one of which resided in the Windy City. The Chicago Whales played in recently opened Weeghman Park, nestled within the cozy confines of a dense Chicago neighborhood. Name after its owner, Weeghman Park clearly had potential to last for years to come, potential that its occupants lacked.

After the Federal League folded in 1915, Charles Weeghman bought the Cubs and moved them to his ballpark. The West Side Grounds only lasted five more years before being demolished in 1920. Today, the University of Illinois Medical Center rests in the very spot where so many memories were made in a bygone era.

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