The beloved Wrigley Field marquee has been put back in place just in time for the start of the Cubs’ home opener, after undergoing restoration. It got me wondering about the origins of the marquee itself and how it has become a symbol of the team, the city, and the most loyal fan base in the world.
When fans attend a game at Wrigley, the first picture they want to take is one of themselves, standing in front of the famed icon with huge grins on their faces. I’ve taken a few of those and I bet you have, also. It is a Cubs fan rite of passage into the ivy-covered walls inside the Friendly Confines.
Installed in 1934, after being commissioned by the Federated Sign Company of Chicago, the marquee was originally a fern green color but after a few years was painted a dark blue. Some historians say its addition was too elegant in comparison to the dirty coal yard and noisy train tracks that surrounded the intersection of Clark and Addison at the time. In the 1960s it was changed to red and I personally find it difficult to imagine it being anything else!
The electronic message board, added in the 1980s, has advertised many things and can serve as a means to broadcast a wedding proposal, birthday announcement or tribute to a baseball great like Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. At night, the marquee lights cast a warm glow over the throngs of people walking around as the game marches on inside.
In 2015, a Toyota emblem was added to the lower panel and some fans have voiced displeasure. It really doesn’t bother me any. Sponsorship has been ingrained in baseball since its origin. It is just more heavily emphasized in the modern world we live in. I chose to focus instead on the icon’s deep symbolism of longevity and faith. In many ways it can be likened to the loyal fans, who may change throughout the years yet still possess unwavering devotion to a ballpark and team.
What does the marquee mean to you and I this year that is different? This year it means something much more special. Yes, we will continue to see the words, “Cubs Win!” However, this year, there will be something that has never before appeared on its famous façade at the end of the postseason. It will be insanely bright. It will be real. And for millions of fans like myself a happy tear will fall as we read, “Chicago Cubs-World Series Champions!” Light us up Cubs. We are ready.