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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: The pre-1937 scoreboard... completely blank

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This blank slate seems unsleuthable. And yet, it was fairly easy.

This photo was another in the 1997 “Vintage Photo Series” given away as promo items at Wrigley Field that year, again, found while I was cleaning out a closet this past weekend.

All you can tell for certain about this photo is that it was taken before mid-season 1937, when that old scoreboard was moved to left field while the bleachers were under construction. On the back of the card is a clue: “Early 1930s.”

Well, that narrows it down, and knowing that it was fairly easy to nail down the date here despite no scores on the board... with one catch that I had to research.

The best clue here is at the bottom of the board: “TOMORROW PITTSBURGH 2 GAMES.” So that should be easy, right? Just look through the Cubs schedules in the early 1930s and find a date where the Cubs hosted the Reds and then played a doubleheader against the Pirates the next day.

The thing is, though... there isn’t any such date. On any Cubs schedule from the early 1930s, or even the late 1920s.

So what happened?

Rain, that’s what happened. The Cubs hosted the Reds on Saturday, July 2, 1932, and lost 6-3. The newspaper recap noted that they were scheduled to play a doubleheader against the Pirates the next day. That was a single game on the original schedule, but the teams had been postponed June 5, and that was rescheduled for a DH on July 3. This is the date the photo was taken — all the other matchups that day match.

Unfortunately, July 3 was a rainy day in Chicago. The Cubs and Pirates managed to play six innings that afternoon before the rest of the day, including the makeup game from June 5, was washed out. The Cubs lost 5-4. The rained-out second game was eventually rescheduled for the next time the Pirates came to Wrigley, which was September 20. As it turned out, that was the day the Cubs clinched the N.L. pennant.

You’ll also note that there are spaces for only three umpires on the scoreboard. That was common in that era:

The two-umpire system was the norm in the 1920s, but it became common practice to assign one of the reserve umpires to critical games or series; by 1933 three umpires were assigned routinely to regular-season games. The four-man crew was instituted in 1952.

One last note about the July 3 date. As you can see on the 1932 Cubs schedule, they then traveled to Pittsburgh to play a doubleheader July 4 — and then immediately returned to Wrigley Field for a 16-game homestand (with an off day for travel July 5). Homestands in the era of train travel were generally much longer than they are today, but even with that, there were occasionally odd little trips like that one, as well as a much greater willingness to postpone games in bad weather. It was a different time.

Click here for a larger version of the photo at the top of this post.