Before I resumed going to church, every Sunday morning we would watch “This Week” on ABC, hosted by David Brinkley, with Sam Donaldson and George F. Will. Will, while a conservative and unexcited Republican, was always quick and to the point, and very knowledgeable about current affairs. A Chicago Cubs fan, while in working in Washington D.C., he was a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He left ABC in 2013 to join Fox News. He usually wears a bow tie, but I couldn’t bring myself to publish one of those pictures.
He wrote one of the most influential books that I have read in my life, entitled Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball (New York: Macmillan, 1990). That book should be read by anyone who thinks baseball is just a game, and that players and managers are overpaid. The book demonstrated that this is game is not played by the “boys of summer,” but rather by men, applying intensive decision-making, examining complex variables, and exhibiting extraordinary skill in their jobs.
So, I anxiously awaited his next book about Chicago’s famed baseball yard. It is called A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred (New York: Crown Books, 2014). We can’t present it at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas because although it reached the best-seller lists, it is not a business book.
You can read a review of this book from the Wall Street Journal by clicking here. Joseph Epstien concludes that review with this:
George Will has achieved a fine balance in “A Nice Little Place on the North Side” between his heartfelt allegiance to the Chicago Cubs and his recognition of their status among sports fans as a national joke. As fodder for humor the Cubs have been inexhaustible. The morning after the Cubs lost the 1984 National League Championship Series to the Padres, owing in good part to Leon Durham, the team’s first baseman, allowing a dribbling grounder to go through his legs, I was shopping in my neighborhood grocery store. The owner asked if I had heard about Leon Durham’s attempted suicide. “Really?” I asked, genuinely shocked. “He stepped out in front of a bus,” the man said, “but it went through his legs.” Lots of laughs, those Cubs, and, as George Will neatly puts it, “a lifelong tutorial in deferred gratification.”
From Amazon.com, where it is # 1 on the sports best-selling list and # 224 in overall books, you can read this summary:
Winding beautifully like Wrigley’s iconic ivy, Will’s meditation on “The Friendly Confines” examines both the unforgettable stories that forged the field’s legend and the larger-than-life characters—from Wrigley and Ruth to Veeck, Durocher, and Banks—who brought it glory, heartbreak, and scandal. Drawing upon his trademark knowledge and inimitable sense of humor, Will also explores his childhood connections to the team, the Cubs’ future, and what keeps long-suffering fans rooting for the home team after so many years of futility. In the end, A Nice Little Place on the North Side is more than just the history of a ballpark. It is the story of Chicago, of baseball, and of America itself.
Who hasn’t seen outfielders diving after a ball into the famous ivy on the outfield wall? Or the story about Steve Bartman, who on October 14, 2003, allegedly interfered with Cubs outfielder Moises Alou catching a foul ball, extending an inning and opening the gates for an 8-run watershed for the Florida Marlins in a playoff game? Or, hearing about first baseman Ernie Banks, who excitedly would proclaim, “let’s play two.” Or, all the controversies and barriers to renovating the park for a more modern and comfortable appearance?
Forget politics. Forget what you think about George Will’s philosophy, opinions, and dress. Immerse yourself in this book. You will be a better fan. You will also find something else to reference about an American icon. The stories here are abundant. Wrigley field is certainly not one of the wonders of the world, but its loyal fans who are accustomed to losing and tight quarters to watch baseball games, are a unique part of American culture.