A Day In Wrigley Field History: April 18, 1931

Courtesy Mike Bojanowski

This game wasn't what it appeared to be at first glance; also, a few words about what sports during the Depression was like from a business point of view.

Looking through the Cubs' 1931 game log at baseball-reference.com, nothing stood out at first. The team didn't come close to contending and finished third, 17 games out of first place.

Then I found the boxscore from a 7-5 loss to the Cardinals at Wrigley on April 18, 1931. What struck me was this:

Time of Game: 4:13

That seems quite long for 1931, even for a 10-inning game with 12 runs, 19 hits and 17 walks total. It doesn't seem possible, and after I had a look at sunrise and sunset times for Chicago for April 1931, it's quite impossible. Games at Wrigley started at 3 p.m. in 1931, and sunset was 6:34 on April 18. They'd have been playing in the dark for over half an hour if the game had run four hours and 13 minutes.

A check of the boxscore from the Tribune recap of the game cleared up the mystery. The printed boxscore indicated the game went 2:55, not 4:13. Edward Burns' recap in the Tribune stated:

The game was exciting to a crowd of 30,000 because of the many instances in which the gate was left open for big Cub drives which failed to materialize, except in the ninth when Riggs Stephenson doubled to drive in the tying runs. But even here old Aunty Climax strutted her stuff, for later in the same inning, with the bases full and one out, all Charley Grimm had to do to win the game was to send out a long fly. Instead he lined to Watkins in short right and Pinch Batter Moore ended the inning by a timid strikeout.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it. And that was a good Cubs team that went 84-70.

Also interesting was this note from the Tribune's "In The Wake Of The News" column about how economic conditions might affect baseball attendance; the column concluded that baseball was somewhat immune to what it called the "current business depression" which it went on to say "may be slower in recovery than once anticipated":

So far as Chicago is concerned, the Cubs in 1930, also a year of depression, attracted customers nearly up to the all-time record and probably would have broken that if not for the playing slump late in the season which eventually cost the championship.

Major league baseball, as a rule, is not affected by business. Price of admission, though much higher than twenty years ago, is still cheap compared with other amusements. Percentage standings, rather than business conditions, govern attendance. The Wake feels baseball will hold its own even if business does not pick up as fast as we common people hope despite the economists.

That's true today, to some extent, as we have discussed many times here. On the other hand, the pennant-winning Cubs of 1932 drew almost 500,000 fewer than the pennant-winning Cubs of 1929, and the 1935 Cubs N.L. champions drew 300,000 fewer than 1932, despite winning 100 games, the last Cub team to do that. Clearly, attendance was affected by economic conditions, which, admittedly, got worse after 1931; Cubs attendance didn't recover to pre-depression levels until after World War II.

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