Long before Cubs great Ernie Banks dubbed Wrigley Field “the friendly confines,” Chicago’s beloved stadium on the north side was known as Weeghman Park. It was home to the Chicago Federals, later called the Chicago Whales, who played in the short-lived Federal League.
On April 23rd in 1914, Weeghman Park opened for the stadium’s inaugural game between the Chicago Federals and the Kansas City Packers, and today, 100 years later, the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks pay tribute to the first teams to lay spikes on what would be known as Wrigley Field by wearing uniforms representing the Federals and Packers, respectively.
The game may have changed a little bit over the past century, but it’s still America’s pastime, and here’s how that first game in one of the world’s most well-known stadiums played out 100 years ago:
The Kansas City Packers, managed by George Stovall, got smacked around the park by the hometown ChiFeds to the tune of a 9-1 loss. The only excitement for the Packers came in the eighth inning when catcher Ted Easterly planted a solo homer over the outfield wall. The starting pitcher for the Federals was Claude Hendrix, a known spitballer, and he held the Federals to five hits through nine innings of one-run baseball. The first ever recorded hit in Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field) is believed to have come off the bat of Federals’ centerfielder “Little Aleck” Zwilling, who also scored the first run in the brand new stadium.
All in all, the game was anticlimactic compared to the parades of banners and eager fanboys who marched into the stadium ready to throw their weight behind another team calling the Windy City “home.” But there was an interesting moment at the end of the second inning when Kansas City’s starting pitcher, George Howard “Chief” Johnson, had to leave the game due to being served legal papers for breaking his contract with the Cincinnati Reds to play for the Packers.
The Chicago Federals finished second in the league in 1914, and they won the league in 1915 after changing the team’s name to the Whales. Unfortunately, the Federal League folded after just two years, but it didn’t take long for the Cubs to move into Weeghman Park. In 1926, the stadium was renamed for the club’s owner, William Wrigley, Jr.
Today, we salute the Kansas City Packers and the Chicago Federals for christening what would eventually become one of the true treasures in American sports.
In honor of the Federal matchup between the Diamondbacks and the Cubs at Wrigley Field we pay tribute to the Federal League with 25% off our vintage Kansas City Packers t-shirt. Use promo code: KCFEDS at checkout today only and keep the archives alive.