Friday, February 5, 2010

DePaul Baseball Stadium - Precursor to Wrigley Field

Baseball fans and historians have celebrated Wrigley Field as a treasure of our time. Few know that Wrigley Field opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park as the home of the Federal League's Chicago Whales. Actually they evolved into the Whales from the Chifeds or the Chicago Keely's.

However in 1913, in the first organized season of the Federal League, the Chifeds played their home games at the DePaul baseball fields. Though the Chifeds occupation of the Lincoln Park baseball grounds is well documented on the internet, few facts are available.

In the Federal League of Baseball Clubs by Robert Peyton Wiggins, the author makes brief mention of the Chifeds playing at DePaul.

There is a fascinating short story about the opening of Federal League baseball in Chicago, complete with an auto parade, flower arrangements that made home plate "look like a conservatory", a band and a moving picture camera man. Pre-game promotions presented the DePaul grounds as having the potential to host 7,000 fans. Reports of the special day report a crowd of little more than 2,000 which saw the Sheriff of Chicago throw out the first pitch.

One of the most noteworthy parts of the game was the arrival of White Sox owner Charles Comiskey and his star pitcher Ed Walsh, who owns the record for lowest career ERA with a 1.82. As the "Old Roman" arrived, the game was delayed to allow he and Walsh to reach their seats.

Despite the hoopla, the Chifeds lost 7-1 to the Pittsburgh Filipinos, or Stogies depending on the source. The 1913 Chifeds would end the season in fourth place with a a 57-62 mark behind league champions Indianapolis.

The Federal League expanded from its meager beginnings in 1913 as an "outlaw" minor league to challenge "organized baseball" in 1914 and 1915 before its ultimate end. The Chicago Whales were the class of the league in 1914 and 1915 and ultimate challenged the White Sox and Cubs for the hearts of Chicagoans, partly because the Whales were led by Cub favorites Joe Tinker and Mordecai Brown.

By 1915, Weeghman was allowed to purchase the Cubs and moved them from West Side Park to their new home at the corner of Clark and Addision. He purchased a 99-year lease on the property that is presumed to expire in the year 2013. Cub fans unite in the hope that there will be at least one World Series before Weeghman's contract runs out.

The picture is of a turn of the century DePaul baseball team. Recently inducted into the DePaul Athletics Hall of Fame, Joe Wilhoit is pictured fourth from the left.

The picture is from a collection of photos that is featured on the Library of Congresses Website at You can find more DePaul images by searching using keyword DePaul. The photographs are from a collection from the Chicago Daily News from 1902-33.