Since there is no current baseball news to discuss, let’s take another look back into the past. Over a century ago, on this day in 1916, the Chicago Cubs played their first game at Weeghman Park, named after former owner Charles Weeghman. The Cubs hosted the Cincinnati Reds, winning in extra innings in their home opener of the 1916 season.
Around 20,000 fans filled the stands, and the opening festivities included a parade from downtown to the park, multiple band performances and even a black bear being coaxed into doing tricks at home plate.
Weeghman Park was renamed Wrigley Field in 1926, after then-team owner William Wrigley Jr. It has retained this name for over ninety years.
Fans have continued to crowd into the “Friendly Confines” for over a century, rain or shine, win or lose. This year, however, there be no crowds in April or anytime soon. If major league sports are able to resume this year, fans will likely not be in attendance. The Cubs will play to a vacant stadium. There will be no pageantry or hymnal recitation of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
While I am confident sports will return eventually, the fan experience may never be the same. Even if a COVID-19 vaccine is developed soon, many fans may no longer be willing to endure long lineups and crowded conditions to watch sports events.
With fewer spectators in attendance, tickets could become even more expensive and out of reach for ordinary people. The cost of attending MLB games have climbed in recent years, and the Cubs have been rated as the most expensive MLB team to watch in person. COVID-19 could be the death knell for professional baseball as a family outing for working people.
Sports are one of the few experiences that can bring together people from different backgrounds. If attending a professional sports game becomes yet another event accessible only to the wealthy, the fabric of our society will be impoverished.
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