Cubs Wrigley Field Game Times Through History

Getty Images (Time adjusted by Mike Bojanowski)

1:20 is an iconic time for Cubs home day games. But that hasn't always been the case.

The 1:20 starting time for Cubs home day games is an icon -- shown above, and you can even buy a T-shirt with that time on it (hey, if you wear it, your shirt will have the right time twice a day).

But 1:20 hasn't always been the starting time for afternoon contests at Wrigley Field. With the Cubs switching a number of Friday games to 3:05 starts (four this year, then six starting next year), I thought I'd put together a comprehensive list of starting times for every year since the Cubs moved to Wrigley Field (then, of course, known as Weeghman Park) in 1916. Thanks much to Ed Hartig and Mike Bojanowski for research assistance in putting together this article.

2013: Mon-Thu & Sun day games 1:20; Fri 1:20 or 3:05; Sat 12:05, 3:05 or 6:15; night games 7:05

2012: Mon-Fri & Sun day games 1:20; Sat 12:05, 3:05 or 6:15; night games 7:05 (except 4/9, 6:05)

2011: Mon-Fri & Sun day games 1:20; Sat 12:05, 12:10, 3:10 or 6:15; night games 7:05

The 6:15 starting time the last three years for certain Saturdays has been mandated by Fox-TV as part of its "Baseball Night In America" series.

2010: Mon-Fri & Sun day games 1:20; Sat 12:05 or 3:10; night games 7:05

2009: Mon-Fri & Sun day games 1:20; Sat 12:05, 2:40 or 3:10; night games 7:05

2008: Mon-Fri & Sun day games 1:20; Sat 12:05, 12:20, 1:20, 2:20 or 3:05; night games 7:05 (except 4/21, 6:05)

ESPN carries Monday and Wednesday night games starting at 7:05 ET (6:05 CT). As a result, they occasionally ask teams in the Central time zone, who don't normally start their weeknight games at 6:05, to do so. The two 6:05 starts noted above are the only ones that were posted on original schedules issued before the season started -- all the times here reflect original scheduled times. There have been a handful of other games -- maybe three or four total -- moved by ESPN request from 7:05 to 6:05.

2007: Mon-Fri & Sun day games 1:20; Sat 12:05 or 2:55; night games 7:05

The odd times of 2:55 and 2:40 above were Fox-TV messing around with their Saturday afternoon start time.

2006: Mon-Fri & Sun day games 1:20; Sat 12:20, 1:20 or 3:05; night games 7:05

2005: Mon-Fri & Sun day games 1:20; Sat 12:20, 1:20, 2:15 or 3:05; night games 7:05

2004: Mon-Thu & Sun day games 1:20; Fri 2:20; Sat 12:20, 1:20 or 3:05; night games 7:05

The Cubs agreed to stop scheduling Friday games at 2:20 after 2004 in exchange for the increase in night games from 18 to 30. 2004 was the last year of 2:20 Friday starts.

2003: Mon-Thu & Sun day games 1:20; Fri 2:20; Sat 12:15, 1:20 or 3:05; night games 7:05

2002: Mon-Thu & Sun day games 1:20; Fri 2:20; Sat 12:05, 1:20, 2:05 or 3:05; night games 7:05

1998-2001: Mon-Thu & Sun day games 1:20; Fri 2:20; Sat 12:15, 1:20 or 3:05; night games 7:05

1996-97: Mon-Thu & Sun day games 1:20; Fri 2:20; Sat 12:05, 1:20 or 3:05; night games 7:05

1994-95: Mon-Thu & Sat-Sun day games 1:20; Fri 2:20; night games 7:05

1993: Mon-Thu & Sun day games 1:20; Fri 2:20; Sat 12:05, 1:20 or 3:05; night games 7:05

1992: Mon-Thu & Sun day games 1:20; Fri 1:20 or 2:20; Sat 1:20, 1:30, 2:00 or 3:05; night games 7:05

1991: Mon-Thu & Sun day games 1:20; Fri 2:20; Sat 12:15, 1:20 or 3:05; night games 7:05

1990: Mon-Thu & Sun day games 1:20; Fri 1:20 or 2:20; Sat 12:15, 1:20 or 3:05; night games 7:05

1989: Mon-Fri & Sun day games 1:20; Sat 12:20, 1:20 or 3:05; night games 7:05 (except 4/29, 6:35)

April 29, 1989 was a Saturday; the Cubs were experimenting with an earlier starting time for Saturday night games, which were permitted under the original ordinance (two per year). 1989 was the first full season for night games. That evening wound up cold and windy and the Cubs and Padres combined for 11 errors in what manager Don Zimmer was quoted in the Tribune as calling "one of the worst baseball games ever." Kicker: five of the errors were made by future Hall of Fame second basemen Ryne Sandberg (two) and Roberto Alomar (three). The Cubs lost the game 5-4.

1988: Mon-Fri & Sun day games 1:20; Sat 12:20, 1:20, 2:20 or 3:05; night games 7:05

1987: All games 1:20, except scattered dates at 3:05

The Cubs experimented with 3:05 starting times on various dates from 1983-87; some of the weekend 3:05 games were mandated by national TV starting times.

1986: Mon-Thu & Sun 1:20; Fri 1:20 or 3:05; Sat 12:05, 12:20, 1:20, 2:20 or 3:05

1985: Mon-Fri 1:20 or 3:05; Sat 12:20, 1:20, 2:20 or 3:05; Sun 1:20

1984: Mon-Tue 1:20; Wed-Fri 1:20 or 3:05; Sat 12:20, 1:20, 2:20 or 3:05; Sun 1:20

1983: Mon-Fri 1:20 or 3:05; Sat 1:20, 2:20 or 3:05; Sun 1:20; doubleheaders, 12:05 (last scheduled DH at Wrigley was 7/3/83)

1980-82: Mon-Fri 1:35; Sat-Sun 1:20; doubleheaders, 12:05

The 1:20 starting time appears for the first time, but just for weekend dates. As you see above, weekday afternoon games didn't start at 1:20 until 1983.

1974-79: Mon-Fri 1:30; Sat-Sun 1:15; doubleheaders, noon

1967-73: Mon-Fri 1:30; Sat-Sun 1:15; doubleheaders, 12:30 (except 4/22/73, noon)

As you'll note below, doubleheader starting times started migrating earlier and earlier over the course of about 35 years, beginning in 1957. This was a tacit acknowledgment that games were running longer and longer. The reason for the April 22, 1973 doubleheader starting at noon instead of the 12:30 time otherwise in those years was that in 1973, Daylight Saving time didn't begin until April 29. The noon start for April 22 was scheduled because sunset on April 22, 1973 was 6:39 p.m. CST, and the extra half hour was intended to ensure that doubleheader was completed before it got dark. On that, they succeeded: based on the boxscore lengths of the two games and assuming 20-25 minutes between games, it ended around 5:10 p.m. Try doing that with a noon doubleheader in 2013.

After 1973, as noted above, and to this day, any daytime doubleheaders begin at noon. The last non-split doubleheader at Wrigley Field was against the Diamondbacks on August 3, 2006, necessitated because the previous night had been rained out, the two teams did not play again, and there were no common off days for a makeup game.

1965-66: Mon-Fri 1:30; Sat-Sun 1:15; doubleheaders, 1:15

1960-64: All single games 1:30; doubleheaders, 1:00

1959: Mon-Fri 2:00; Sat-Sun 1:00; doubleheaders, 1:00

The 2:00 starting time was yet another experiment. On April 10, 1959, the Tribune quoted Cubs GM John Holland:

"Football has proved the 1 p.m. start on weekends is sound. We've turned back the starting times of week-day games half an hour to give fans more time between lunch and the trip to the park."

That's a rather odd statement; you'd think the Cubs would want people to come to the park for lunch. Anyway, Cubs attendance dropped by 120,000 in 1959 despite the team being in contention until July. You can guess the rest, and on December 15, 1959 the Tribune reported:

The Cubs announced Monday that all single games at Wrigley field next season will start at 1:30 p.m., thus ending a year-long experiment with 2:00 p.m. starts.

The Cubs, in announcing the reinstatement of 1:30 p.m. starts, said spectators many times last season were caught in late afternoon traffic.

1957-58: All single games 1:30; doubleheaders, 1:00

1945-56: All games 1:30 (except 1945 Sun games, 3:00)

In 1945, the Cubs published a newsletter called "Chicago Cubs News." From the April 17 issue:

"All home games of the Chicago Cubs this season will start at 1:30 o'clock ... in effort to provide more recreational opportunities for night-time war-workers."

From the front page of the May 21, 1945 issue:

"All games at Wrigley Field begin at 1:30 o'clock.  This experiment started with the season's opening has met with wide-spread approval of the fans."

The Cubs had conducted surveys at war plants within an hour of the park. The results were almost 100% in favor of the 1:30 start. Cubs attendance soared in 1945 to its biggest total since 1931. Obviously, that was mostly due to the pennant won that year, but the team might have credited part of it to the earlier starting time, and thus stuck with it, even after the war ended. Note that from the beginnings of Cubs baseball at the corner of Clark & Addison through 1956, doubleheaders started at 1:30 (with exceptions as noted below).

1936-44: Mon-Fri & Sun 3:00 (except 6/11/43 & 6/22/43, 11 a.m. and 6/25/43, 6 p.m.); Sat 2:00; doubleheaders 1:30

The two 11 a.m. games in 1943 were apparently scheduled in order to allow shift workers in wartime production plants to take in the game and then go to work. Remember, many games in that era could be finished in two hours or less. That's also the reason they were able to play a 6 p.m. game in June 1943, when sunset in Chicago was 8:30 p.m. I wrote about that game in the "Game From Cubs History" series last winter. It drew well, but the Cubs never again tried what they then called a "twilight" game. (Obviously, you could really only do such a game, without lights, from about mid-June to mid-July.)

1935: Mon-Fri 3:00; Sat & Sun 2:00; doubleheaders 1:30

1932-34: All single games 3:00; doubleheaders 1:30

1927-31: All single games 3:00; doubleheaders 1:30 (except split-admission holiday doubleheaders, morning game 10:30, afternoon game 3:00)

1916-26: All single games 3:00; doubleheaders 1:30

Before 1945, 3 p.m. was the preferred starting time for most Cubs single games. Weekend games switched to 2 p.m. in 1935, only to have Sunday games go back to 3 p.m. in 1936. In general, these were scheduled this way in order for workers who had a 7 to 3 shift to take in the ballgame.

There's some incomplete evidence that Cubs games at West Side Grounds, in years before 1916, also began at 3 p.m.; that's the starting time that appears on the 1914 scorecard.

So even though I don't particularly care for the 3:05 starting time, and obviously if you start a game at 3:05 in 2013, it's more likely to end at 6 p.m. than 5 p.m., as was the case decades ago. But the Cubs won many pennants starting games at 3 p.m. Maybe they're on to something.

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