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A Day In Wrigley Field History: October 8, 1929

Something happened on this date that had never before occurred at Wrigley Field.

Courtesy Mike Bojanowski

The Cubs hadn't been in the World Series in 11 years when they clinched the National League pennant September 19, 1929 at Wrigley Field, so there was much anticipation, not only for the World Series itself (still called "World's Series", short for "World's Championship Series, at the time), but for the fact that this would be the first such series played at the corner of Clark & Addison Streets. The 1918 Series had been played at Comiskey Park, due to its larger capacity.

The Series itself, as you know, was a letdown; the Cubs lost that first game 3-1 and, three innings from tying the series at two games each, blew an 8-0 lead and gave up 10 runs in the seventh inning of Game 4, eventually losing the series four games to one.

Only three weeks later, the stock market would crash and the world would begin to plunge into the Great Depression. But on Tuesday afternoon, October 8, a festive crowd of 50,740 -- the largest to date in Wrigley Field history -- crammed the stands to see Game 1. From the Tribune (no writer name given):

It was a calm, generous and intelligent company of 50,000 men, women and children who filled Wrigley field's stands yesterday when the curtain rolled up on the 1929 premiere of the world series. They came, they applauded, and they departed as if sitting in on the big show were a weekly occurrence, but they didn't give you the impression that they were hard boiled stagers who were merely present to say they were there.

It was 12:30 before the reserved sections held anything resembling a crowd, and that occupied about one fourth of the grand stands, boxes and upper tiers. They continued to straggle in until about 1 o'clock. Then it was that the majority commenced to eddy in through the reserved gates and down the aisles. Within five minutes the waves of fans breaking against the several front doors mingled with the hangers-on about the park and the only confusion of the day resulted.

The game was scheduled to start promptly at 1:30, but it was 1:45 before Charley Root could burn over the first ball to Max Bishop, the Athletics' lead off man. Even then there were hundreds who made stage entrances until the second inning had gotten under way.

Imagine that today -- holding up the start of a World Series game because people were still filling the seats? No way, not with TV driving the bus. There was more:

What little stampede there was came at 7:30 in the morning, when the bleacherites got their reward for standing or sitting in line anywhere from two to thirty hours. The opening of the sale had been set for 8:30, but when more humans than 12,500 seats available had gathered in a four abreast cut, twisting around the park, the doors were opened.

12,500? Yes. For this World Series (and the next two after), temporary bleachers were set up on Waveland and Sheffield avenues; this is how a crowd of more than 50,000 was possible. (And no reported complaints from rooftop owners!)

About the game, you probably already know the story about how Connie Mack had sent 35-year-old Howard Ehmke, a part-time starter, ahead to scout the Cubs, and started him in the first game instead of one of his top pitchers, Lefty Grove or George Earnshaw. Ehmke's scouting was first-rate, as he struck out 13 Cubs in that Game 1 Philadelphia win. That set a World Series record that stood until 1953, when Carl Erskine struck out 14 Yankees. It's been equaled or exceeded in World Series play just three other times, by guys named Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufas.

Here are the rest of the pages from the World Series program shown at the top of this post. Yes, the program had a tassel on the left edge. Click on the images to embiggen.