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Wrigley Field In 1950: A Photo Essay

Last week in the discussion of the signs on the Waveland building rooftop, I posted this photo from June 22, 1953 which I believed to be the earliest available color photo of the scoreboard.

That prompted Bill Wasik, who provided the answer to the Waveland mystery, to send me this photo, taken even earlier. After the jump find out when it was taken, and which players are in the photo.

Check out the hats!
Photo courtesy Bill Wasik. Click on photo to open a larger version in a new browser window.

Here's what Bill sent me regarding this photo:

This is a rough composite of two 35mm slides taken with a stereo camera on Sunday, May 14, 1950. Pittsburgh was in town for a doubleheader, with Johnny Schmitz facing the Pirates’ Junior Walsh. As we can infer from the scoreboard data and the position of the fielders, Wayne Terwilliger must be stepping in to the batter’s box to lead off for the Cubs in the bottom of the first.Players visible include Tom Saffell in center, Pete Castiglione at short, and the legendary Nanny Fernandez at third. The man in black on the third base line is Hall of Fame ump Al Barlick. Not seen but present are, surprisingly, Honus Wagner, who was still a bench coach for the Pirates in 1950 and, over in left field, Ralph Kiner. Ironically, Kiner was the player most active in lobbying the league to have Wrigley’s centerfield bleachers closed in 1952.

Kiner came to the Cubs in 1953 — after several CF bleacher sections had finally been closed from lobbying by him, as well as several members of the Cardinals including their manager, Eddie Stanky. The first game for which those sections were closed was a game vs. the Cardinals on April 20, 1952; on April 27 the Cubs announced they would be closed for “the rest of the year”, but no one sat in those sections (which now is the batters’ eye lounge/skybox) after that, except during the 1962 All-Star Game.

This is one of the only photos I have seen -- and the only one in color -- that shows the bleachers full, and people sitting in those CF seats. Attendance that Sunday, which, as Bill noted, was a doubleheader, was 34,659 -- and the Cubs, who were awful in 1950 (64-89), got swept by the even worse Pirates (who finished last at 57-96), 6-5 and 16-9.

A few other things of note in the photo:

  • The photo is from the first game -- showing us that doubleheaders in that year began at 1:30 pm.
  • The ivy had been planted in 1938, 12 years earlier -- but it isn't even close to being fully grown. In mid-May, even today, the ivy isn't fully grown in for the summer, but in this photo you see almost no growth. Even the leaves on the trees behind the bleachers haven't grown in on that day.
  • Check out the vendor, standing up in the blue jacket with yellow writing -- wearing a fedora! Many other men are also wearing fedoras; you see a couple of people wearing Cubs caps, but no one else wearing any team garb.
  • The LF grass looks pretty chewed up. Remember that the Bears played in Wrigley Field in that era, and the area that looks brown was just about the middle of the field.