11 Jun Baseball and Booze, the American Way
Cheers to baseball once again becoming must see television in Chicago. It’s almost impossible to imagine enjoying a game at Wrigley or at Guaranteed Rate Field without an ice cold beer. Seriously south siders, Guaranteed Rate? What the fuck does that even mean? Anyway, baseball without beer might make us all more civilized baseball fans, but it might also make the game put us to sleep. Harry Caray would hate the idea of a dry baseball game. But during Prohibition, baseball lived without booze.
Babe Ruth, might have actually saved baseball, or at least the New York Yankees, during Prohibition. Jacob Ruppert, Jr., co-owner of the New York Yankees in 1920, used his fortune in the brewing business to buy the Yankees. When Prohibition hit, it took a significant toll on his income. Not only could he not sell his brew, but when he was forced to stop advertising his own product, he was out of advertisers at the stadium. Whether Ruppert knew it or not, though, the purchase of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox resulted in the Curse of the Bambino for Boston and ticket paying butts in the seats for the Yankees. Without Babe Ruth, Ruppert may have been forced to sell the Yankees, and the rest would have been a very different baseball history.
One of Chicago’s most loved beer and baseball fanatics, Harry Caray, has a Prohibition story of his own, although he probably didn’t even know it. In 1998, the same year Caray died, electricians discovered that the site of Harry’s restaurant at 33 W. Kinzie was once the home of a speakeasy owned by Frank Nitti, otherwise known as Capone’s right hand man and the functioning head of Capone’s gang after Nitti was released from prison while Capone remained inside.
To emphasize the differences between today’s baseball with overpriced, cold beer everywhere, a minor league team affiliated with the San Diego Padres held an “Anti-Prohibition night” at a game this summer to raise money for charity. Complete with a vintage game played with 1920’s rules and an in-stadium restaurant turned speakeasy for the night, baseball fans got to get in the time machine to experience baseball the old fashioned way.
Hey Chicago, what do you say? Vintage, speakeasy night at Wrigley soon? Maybe even 1920’s prices?
Written by Amy Williams