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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: All the way back to the 1920s

This film isn’t in color, but it’s fascinating anyway.

Flagstaff Films

George Roy, who runs Flagstaff Films, sent me this film to see if I could help identify the players within. There are a couple of players obvious: Hack Wilson and Gabby Hartnett.

Beyond that I couldn’t tell, but I figured Mike Bojanowski could. And I was right!

The older gentleman with Hartnett beginning at :32 is Jimmy Burke, a Cubs coach from 1926-30.

The player ducking punches from :40 is Guy Bush, with the Cubs from 1923-34.

I am positive about the first two, the player shown from :44 is, I think, Hal Carlson, a Cub from 1927-30.

The player (pitcher) warming up at :49 is Sheriff Blake, with the Cubs from 1924-31.

The fellow at the very end is Joe McCarthy, manager.

The batters (the two not Hartnett or Wilson) don’t offer enough face to identify.

After I got those IDs back from Mike, I found one more clue with which I was able to pinpoint the exact date this film was made.

Also visible at :49 along with Blake there are a couple of visiting players seen. They are wearing caps with a light-colored top and different-colored brim, and jerseys with no writing on the front and a hint of a logo on the sleeve.

There is only one National League team that wore uniforms like that from 1927-30: The Phillies.

You’d further have to assume that Sheriff Blake, shown warming up, would have been warming up before a start against whatever team was visiting Wrigley Field.

Blake made exactly one start against the Phillies at Wrigley between 1927-30: September 13, 1929. It wasn’t a great game for Blake, he got hit hard and the Cubs lost 7-6. But they were well on their way to the N.L. pennant at that point. Even after that loss they led the league by 13½ games and clinched on September 19.

Mike Bojanowski concurs with me that this film likely dates from that exact game. It would have made sense to have someone filming the Cubs in late 1929, as interest grew surrounding the team that was heading to the World Series. The Cubs set a franchise attendance record that year of 1,485,166 that stood until the 1969 team broke it.

Mike also added:

It’s marvelous to see such candids, so many of the films that survive of that era are either formally posed or of game action. This gives a sense of the players as people that is seldom seen.

I agree with that. You can clearly tell the 1929 Cubs were having fun. They sure earned that, winning the N.L. pennant by 10½ games. The 98 wins were the most for the team since 1910. Unfortunately, they flopped in the World Series, losing four games to one to the Athletics.