Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Nice Little Place on the North Side by George F. Will - Book Review
From the publisher: In A Nice Little Place on the North Side, leading columnist George Will returns to baseball with a deeply personal look at his hapless Chicago Cubs and their often beatified home, Wrigley Field, as it turns one hundred years old. Baseball, Will argues, is full of metaphors for life, religion, and happiness, and Wrigley is considered one of its sacred spaces. But what is its true, hyperbole-free history?

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.

I'm not a Cubs fan.  I am, however, a fan of Wrigley Field.  I've had the good fortune to see a handful of games there, and have loved every one.  My first game was a Cubs/Cardinals match-up that went 14 innings. Harry Caray sang twice.  The Cubs lost.  I've sat near the field, under the overhang, and in the left field bleachers (right field sucks, right field sucks!)  Not once was I disappointed in my experience at the park.

George F. Will's book A Nice Little Place on the North Side is an attempt to capture the essence of Wrigley Field as it turns 100 years old.  Except, it isn't really that at all.  It's a meditation on the importance of sports to society.  Well, except it's a look at how Wrigley Field (and the Cubs) have been intertwined with the history of America (no kidding).  It's also a look at the possibility that Wrigley Field is itself the reason for the Cubs many years of futility.  I don't really know how to explain it.

I can tell you that I finished this book in a little more than a day.  It was informative, it was interesting, and it was intriguing.  It was written with love by a life-long Cub fan who suffers with the rest of them.  It is full of hard-to-believe statistics and facts (the Cubs attendance numbers fluctuate more with the price of beer than with the winning percentage of the team).  It is thoroughly enjoyable, and I found myself flying through the pages.

A Nice Little Place on the North Side is an ideal book for Cubs fans, but its a wonderful book for baseball fans.  Will ably captures much of what makes Wrigley Field such a draw to people, whether they are baseball fans or not.  I highly recommend it.

I received a review copy of this book through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

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