CHICAGO (AP) - There was a giant replica cake right next to the Ernie Banks statue, and an old-time band played as fans made their way through the main entrance.
The famed marquee had a message, too.
“Happy Birthday, Wrigley Field,” it read.
Exactly 100 years after the Chicago Federals pounded the Kansas City Packers in the first game at the famed ballpark, Wrigley was the scene of a joyous birthday bash on Wednesday afternoon. Banks and other Hall of Famers such as Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Andre Dawson were on hand, and so were Bears greats Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.
The Cubs and Diamondbacks went retro, wearing throwback 1914 jerseys, and the famed scoreboard listed Kansas City and Chi-Feds in their place. It was a day of celebration, a day of reflection. And a day that ended with another loss, the Cubs falling 7-5 after blowing a ninth-inning lead.
But before that, the memories, the stories, flowed like runs in a big rally.
“It just gives me goose bumps because I had a chance to play here,” Williams said. “I often said this was my playground during the summer for so many years. So I have enjoyed it and I still enjoy it.”
The celebration was held as Cubs ownership and the neighboring rooftop owners remain in a standstill over proposed renovations. The $500 million project, which includes a giant Jumbotron, is on hold because the Ricketts family wants assurances that it won’t be sued over obstructed views.
“You can’t ask a team to be competitive and you can’t ask people to do things and then tie their hands and their legs,” baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said. “It’s just wrong. Somebody has to say it so I’m happy to say it.”
The rooftop owners, who charge fans to sit in bleachers atop their buildings, have a contract under which they share 17 percent of their revenues with the Cubs. The Tribune Co., the previous owner, signed the deal and “this ownership didn’t,” Selig said.
He said the treatment the current owners - the Ricketts family - has received is “beyond unfair” and that he’ll do everything he “possibly can” to help them.
He also said the Rickettses have not approached him about moving, that they’re committed to renovating Wrigley and staying there.
“They know the right thing to do for this franchise and this sport is to preserve this, just like the Red Sox preserved Fenway,” said Selig, who made his first trip to the ballpark in May 1944.
Assuming they eventually go ahead with the renovations, it’ll be up to the Ricketts family to preserve that charm while bringing the stadium into the 21st century. Wednesday was a day to turn back the clock, a day to celebrate the century that was at the neighborhood park on Chicago’s North Side.
Ushers wore party hats, and fans received birthday cupcakes and throwback jerseys. There was a replica Wrigley Field cake from Carlo’s Bakery, setting of the hit TLC show “Cake Boss,” just outside the ballpark.