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A Day In Wrigley Field History: October 9, 1949

Something quite modern for the time happened in the old ballyard on this day.

Wikimedia Commons

And you think things are bad now.

The Cubs lost 93 games in 1949 -- the second straight year they had done that, and second straight year they finished last, after having never done so before 1948. They fell to eighth place May 9, and apart from two weeks in seventh place in late May, never got out of the cellar again.

Andy Pafko (the Cubs' only All-Star) and the midseason-acquired Hank Sauer hit reasonably well, but the rest of the team provided no offense at all (last in the league with 593 runs scored). Of the 15 pitchers used during the year, only two of them posted ERAs under 4.00 (swingman Bob Chipman and reliever Emil Kush), and the Cubs staff allowed the most runs in the National League, 770.

The 1949 Cubs were one of the worst teams in franchise history; the 93 defeats (the .396 percentage equivalent to 98 losses in a 162-game season) was the team record.

Enough of this, then; there really isn't a single Cubs-related event in 1949 that's worth recounting here. Instead, I present for you this non-bylined story from the October 6, 1949 edition of the Tribune:

In order that sports fans will be able to see the world series before and perhaps in the early stages of the Bears' game with the Los Angeles team in Wrigley field Sunday, Phil Wrigley, owner of the Cubs has made arrangements for the installation of five television screens in the stands.

The telecast will start at 1 p.m., and fans have been invited to go to the ball park early for the series game. Kick-off in the National football league game will be delayed until 2:45 p.m.

The television screens will be installed at various points in the stands.

Imagine that happening today -- a football game being delayed so people could watch a baseball game on TV? Not a chance. Remember, though, that television was in its infancy in 1949. Most people did not have a television in their homes yet -- according to this page, a DuMont 20-inch TV had its price "reduced" to $999, a cost far beyond affordability for most Americans in those days.

Further, the NFL hadn't become the TV-friendly league it is now; that didn't happen until after the famous Giants/Colts overtime championship game of 1958, when TV executives realized that football was perfect for television and the public was much more interested in it. The Bears/Rams game wasn't televised at all; teams did their own TV deals until the early 1960s.

Another Tribune article about this event called the TVs to be installed at Wrigley Field "giant" screens. Most likely, these were the 20" screens mentioned in the previous link; most television sets in that era were seven-inch, 10-inch or 12-inch diagonal screens.

The baseball game on that Sunday afternoon was Game 5 of the World Series. It turned out to be the clinching game, as the Yankees defeated the Dodgers to win the Series four games to one. The boxscore says the game ran three hours and four minutes -- a long game for that era -- and thus it would have been going on well over an hour after the football game began. They couldn't have started the football game much later than 2:45, as sunset in Chicago October 9, 1949 was 5:24 p.m. (Harry Warren's Bears recap in the Tribune said "the game was completed in twilight at 5:31 p.m.")

At Wrigley, the Bears lost that day to the Rams 31-16 in front of 42,124. Though the recap mentioned the delay for the kickoff due to the World Series telecast, it didn't say how many people showed up early to watch on television. Pity, I'd have liked to have known that. The Bears finished the 1949 season 9-3, but missed the playoffs. Had they defeated the Rams on that October day, they'd have won their division and gone to the NFL title game.