The Chicago Cubs haven't played in the World Series since 1945 and haven't won the darn thing since 1908. When the Red Sox finally won a Series in 2004, the Cubs became undisputed holders of the crown for Most Beloved Losers. Chicagoans do love their Cubbies, champs or not, and there's no question that the team plays in one of baseball's classic venues, tiny Wrigley Field. Back in 1988, lights were finally installed for night play, but they're rarely used -- the Cubs still play mostly day games. With its ivy-covered outfield walls, a hand-operated scoreboard, a view of Lake Michigan from the upper deck, and the El rattling past, it's old-fashioned baseball all the way, and our kids enjoyed every minute of their game there.
Built in 1914, Wrigley Field is the second-oldest venue in baseball (after Fenway Park), although the Cubs didn't move in until 1916 (a decade after their last Series victory!). Originally Weeghman Field, it was renamed in 1926 after the team's new owner, William Wrigley, Jr., the chewing-gum magnate.
No matter how the Cubs are doing in the standings, tickets go fast -- most weekend and night games are sold out by Memorial Day. Your best bet is to hit a weekday game, where you'll be sitting alongside plenty of Chicagoans who called in sick to work and miraculously recovered by game time. Wrigley is small enough that every seat is a decent seat, and the place truly earns its nickname "The Friendly Confines" -- every time I've been there, the fans around me were passionate, friendly, well-informed, and good-natured in the face of defeat. Riding the Red Line El to the Addison Street stop is part of the experience: You can look down into the park from the train, and hear the roar of the crowd as soon as you step onto the platform. During the regular season, you can take a 90-minute tour of the vintage stadium, visiting the press box, dugouts, both visitors' and Cubs' clubhouses, and the playing field itself; these tours are popular, so book in advance (tel. 773/404-CUBS).
Just some of the traditions we love at Wrigley: Enterprising owners of surrounding houses have built stands on their roofs where they seat their own ticket holders; ground rules declare that if a ball gets stuck in the ivy, it's a double; and a pennant is flown after every game with a big "W" or "L" to alert passersby to the outcome of the game (who needs the Internet?). When the opposing team hits a home run out of the park, somebody on the sidewalk outside picks up the offending ball and throws it back over the wall. You've gotta love a ballpark where that happens.
Nearest Airport: O'Hare International, 10 miles. Midway International, 12 miles.
Where to Stay: $$ Homewood Suites by Hilton, 40 E. Grand Ave. (tel. 800/CALL-HOME [225-5466] or 312/644-2222; www.homewoodsuiteschicago.com). $$ Hotel Allegro Chicago, 171 W. Randolph St. (tel. 800/643-1500 or 312/236-0123; www.allegrochicago.com).
Why They'll Thank You: Watching a Cubs homer sail over those ivy walls.