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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: The Reds visit in 1940

The ballpark is once again the star of this film.

Flagstaff Films

Our friends at Flagstaff Films have posted yet another old-time color film of Wrigley Field. There aren’t any Cubs visible in this film, but there are great views of the ballpark.

The “poignant reason” for the black armbands you can see on the Reds uniforms is that their backup catcher, Willard Hershberger, had committed suicide on August 3. Here’s the story of how that happened; it’s tremendously sad and unfortunate.

Thus this film had to be shot at Wrigley Field after August 3. There were five games played by the Reds at Wrigley after August 3, 1940 — August 15 and 16 (doubleheader on the 16th) and September 7 and 8.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can narrow it down any further. The angle of the sun appears to be high enough in the sky to make it one of the August dates, but I can’t be sure. Strictly as a guess, the starting time of games in 1940 might be a clue. Single games began at 3 p.m. and doubleheaders at 1:30 that year. Since the sun appears to be pretty high in the sky, this might be BP before the doubleheader Friday, August 16 — there would have been more shadows in the stands for BP before a 3 p.m. single game. But that’s guesswork on my part.

The only players identifiable by number are Billy Werber, the Reds starting shortstop (18) and Lew Riggs (15), a backup infielder who played in only 41 games that season. Werber, who died in 2009 at age 100, was the last living teammate of Babe Ruth, having played for the Yankees briefly in 1930 and 1933.

Some of the most interesting parts of this film include the views inside the dugouts, where you can clearly see the brick wall that was behind them. Those dugouts remained until they were rebuilt in 1978.

You can also see good views of the bleachers and the “RICKETTS” restaurant sign on the building on Waveland.

Now, as for that wooden contraption that’s being put together at about 30 seconds into the film... I have no idea what that is. If you do, post in the comments.

The color tones of this film are markedly better than the earlier 1937 films I’ve posted here. You can briefly see the bottom of the scoreboard, where the original brown color is evident. And there’s a good view of the coal yard that used to be adjacent to Wrigley, where the Cubs’ office building and Gallagher Way now stand.

The Reds were World Series champions in 1940, winning 100 games during the regular season and defeating the Tigers four games to three in the WS.