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Wrigley Field’s Legendary Ivy Wall Blossoms For Spring

The Chicago Cubs are one of baseball’s longest suffering teams, but at least the ivy in the outfield looks nice. The Chicago Cubs are one of baseball’s longest suffering teams, but at least the ivy in the outfield looks nice.

Chicago’s a tough city. There are more than 400 murders each year. Subzero winter winds whip at high speeds. Hard-nosed politicians like Rahm Emanuel rule the roost. Even the plants have to be tough.

When it comes to plant survivability, few are more hardy than the ivy that covers Wrigley Field’s outfield wall, which is why the 368-foot-deep “well” is one of the most iconic representations of not just Chicago, but America’s pastime as a whole.

At the start of each season, the wall isn’t much to look at: just spindly brown vines. But the broad leaves that sprout when the days turn hot — almost as if they need absolute proof that the winter is over — are evidence that life can survive even the harshest weather. The proliferation of the ivy marks a change in the city around it, signaling summer in the same way that barbecues and pool parties punctuate the season elsewhere.

Decades of heartbreak have created a toughness that Chicago’s fan base wears with pride.

Two hundred Boston ivy plants and 350 Japanese bittersweet plants were installed over the red brick in 1937 and fully took root several years later. Under directions by gum magnate P.K. Wrigley to beautify the park, then-General Manager Bill Veeck took an idea from Indianapolis’ Bush Stadium to plant a garden in the outfield. The ivy, along with new bleachers (and some short-lived elm trees) turned Wrigley Field into a destination stadium, even when the team wasn’t winning games.

Good thing too, because the Cubs have only succeeded at failing. The team hasn’t won a World Series since 1908, garnering the nickname “Lovable Losers” along the way.

Things have gotten so bad for the Cubs and their fans that the city once created a literal scapegoat for the 100-plus seasons of misery and unexplainable collapses. Legend has it that in 1945, Cubs employees ejected Billy Sianis and his goat from a World Series game when other fans complained about the farm animal’s smell. Slightly intoxicated and incredibly righteous, Sianis loudly vowed that the Cubs would never win a World Series in Wrigley Field. The Curse of the Billy Goat was born.

Decades of heartbreak have created a toughness that Chicago’s fan base wears with pride. The Cubs’ bandwagon only comes around every few years and rarely stays very crowded, but those that stick with their Cubbies consider themselves among the strongest sports fans in the country.

The ivy is similarly resilient. Like the best of baseball’s diehard fans, it keeps coming back year after year, weathering Chicago’s brutal winters in exchange for basking in its wonderful summers. Perhaps it’s time to offer some ivy up to the goats; it’s a sacrifice that only a plant that strong could survive.

© Copyright RosebudMag.com, 2012



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The Billy Goat continues to curse the Chicago Cubs, but their fans believe the day will come that the Cubbies finally win a World Series.
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Last modified on Tuesday, 26 June 2012 14:47

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