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Cubs/Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: The one that’s a mystery

I can’t quite place this one. Can you?

Chicago Film Archives

This is a fascinating video and I’ve been able to suss out some information on it, but not the exact date. Or dates, and you’ll see why after you watch it:

All right, first, it says “Chicago Cubs Game 1940’s” right on the title. I probably would have been able to figure that out from the uniforms. The title card says “1942.” The YouTube page says 1942 was the date found on the film stock, but of course 1942 film stock could easily have been used after that year.

Anyway, 1942 can’t be right, because at :35 you see a player wearing No. 47. No one wore that number for the 1942 Cubs.

It could be 1943; if so, we’re looking at Hi Bithorn (No. 35) at :22, Bill Nicholson (No. 43) at :26, Peanuts Lowrey (No. 47) at :35 and Stan Hack (No. 6) conducting infield practice starting at :50. There’s also a No. 46 very briefly in view.

But. Look at the undershirt sleeves on the players. They seem to be all blue, though it’s a bit difficult to tell with the lighting. You’ll note at this Hall of Fame uniform database page that the Cubs wore undershirts that had sleeves with stripes through 1945. The plain blue undershirt wasn’t worn until 1946. So maybe that’s not Bithorn wearing No. 35, it might be Marv Rickert, and this film could be from 1946, or even later; uniforms of that style were worn through 1956. That uniform link also proves it can’t be 1942, since the uniforms don’t match. And while Hack’s most famous Cubs number was 6, he wore six other numbers in his career, including 20 in 1943 and 25 in 1944, and he could have worn those at any times during that season. Why? Players sometimes did this pre-World War II. That’s why you used to hear the famous “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard!” cry from vendors; the numbers often changed to boost scorecard sales.

At 1:25 you see a wide shot of the bleachers and scoreboard. Given the difference in color tone, and the fact that the first 1:24 was shot from field level and the rest of this video shows upper-deck shots, the last couple of minutes might not even be from the same day. It’s obviously a large summertime crowd; the sun angle indicates midsummer and it’s clearly a game that was sold out, or close.

The matchups on the board are a bit blurry, but to me they look like:


But I asked Mike Bojanowski to have a look, and he says the matchups look like:


Those are pretty similar, though “CLEVELAND” and “WASHINGTON” look pretty similar and could possibly be flipped.

The problem is that I cannot find a single instance anywhere from 1942 through 1950 where these matchups actually happened (and I doubt this film dates from any later than 1950). The scoreboard clock reads just before 1:30. Back we head, then, to this summary of Wrigley Field historical game times. From 1936-44 single games started at 3:00, except 2:00 on Saturdays and doubleheaders were at 1:30. From 1945-56 all games started at 1:30. So this could have been just before a doubleheader, if 1944 or earlier, or any game, single or DH, in 1945 or later.

Then we see some kind of pre-game ceremony happening at home plate, with both teams participating. A member of the visiting team appears to be honored. Mike Bojanowski suggested it might be a ceremony honoring Honus Wagner, who had been a Pirates coach for decades, and who was from all accounts well-loved throughout baseball during that time. But I haven’t been able to find any newspaper accounts of any such honor.

One comment on the video suggest that it could have been Stan Hack Day, which took place August 30, 1947. The attendance that day was 27,523, a large crowd, far from a sellout, and the board matchups don’t match that day’s games. Plus, the Tribune reported Hack received a whole slew of gifts including a car that day; no car is visible in this film.

Another comment on the video suggests it could have been during the 1945 season, but there aren’t any Pirates dates that match up with that year, either.

The game action shown in the last minute or so of the video isn’t helpful, either. No players are identifiable in that action; the lighting is bad and the action is too far away, not to mention the heads of spectators in the frame from time to time.

If I had to measure a guess about this, it would be that these are all from 1946, or perhaps a year or so later. June 28, 1947 is a Cubs/Pirates doubleheader date at Wrigley with a large attendance (37,111), but the other games that date don’t match the scoreboard, or at least what the scoreboard appears to be. Same with July 16, 1944 — large crowd at Wrigley (40,920), Cubs/Pirates DH, but the other games don’t match.

So, I’m stumped. If any of you have any ideas, or cites from history of ceremonies like this at Wrigley that could help us match up the date or dates, post your thoughts in the comments.