Thin line between love and hate: Review of A Nice Little Place on the North Side by George F. Will

Spring is synonymous with baseball, and even for a backsliding fan like myself, the sound of a bat hitting a ball brings a certain amount of comfort and nostalgia.

north sideIt’s these sorts of emotions George Will caters to in his book about Chicago’s Wrigley Field. A Nice Little Place on the North Side is part baseball history, part commentary on the Chicago Cubs, and I had a hard time deciding whether Will was for or against the city’s landmark stadium. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program.)

Will’s book is saturated with stats, which make my eyes glaze over but provide context for the enigma that is Wrigley Field. For all the losing seasons the Cubs have had over the years, attendance at Wrigley should reflect that. But it’s almost the opposite, Will says. No matter the team’s record, attendance at Wrigley is steady. He chronicles the shift in the team’s leadership from creating a winning ball team to creating a winning atmosphere where people can commune in picnic-like conditions, whether the team is any good or not.

The book was interesting, especially in reading about some of the historical players, lineups and circumstances. I’ve been a Cubs fan for 30-plus years but even that doesn’t scratch the surface of the ball club’s storied history.

Fans of baseball history and longtime Cubs’ fans will enjoy the nostalgia the book provides. Stats enthusiasts will like the array of facts. Fairweather fans, or those with fond memories of Wrigley Field will bristle at times at Will’s suggestion that Wrigley Field is part of the problem when it comes to the Cubs having a winning team.

It’s a thin line between love and hate, and Will rides that line in the book. Only at the end do I sense a fondness for the park despite the decades of despair it has contained. Not a bad read, just not exactly what I was expecting. But I’m forever a Cubs fan and I have many fond memories of Wrigley Field that my husband and I are now passing on to our children. Win or lose, Wrigley Field is a special place for us.

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