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Cubs/Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: The 1940s mystery, solved

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This one took some deep digging, but I think I have it.

Chicago Film Archives

Last week, I wrote about a 1940s-era Cubs film that had been posted to YouTube by the Chicago Film Archive.

Here it is again:

The YouTube page dated it from 1942 “based on the date code found on the 8mm film stock.” But I knew that couldn’t be right, because Cubs home uniforms in 1942 didn’t look like that, and it would certainly have been possible for film manufactured in 1942 to be used at a later date.

The scoreboard provided a clue, but at the same time the teams I thought I’d seen on the board didn’t match any date I could find with a crowd that large anywhere from the mid-1940s through 1956, when the Cubs stopped wearing that style of uniform.

Then it looked like the film might have been shot on two or even three different days, given the difference in color temperature between the ground-level shots and the upper-deck shots, and the fact that there was a scene with a ceremony and then game action, which could have been from different days.

There were some clues I’d missed, and I was able to find out what I believe to be the ceremony shown, so let’s go in order.

First, the uniform style has buttons. The Cubs wore this uniform style with buttons from 1943 through 1947, not before or after, so that narrows it down.

The players visible in the first part of the film narrow it down even further — and they can be from only one of those seasons, 1946.

In 1946, the uniform numbers visible were assigned to the following players: 35, Marv Rickert; 46, Dom Dallessandro; 43, Bill Nicholson; 47, Peanuts Lowrey, and the one that clinches a 1946 date, just barely visible in the dugout at :41: Hi Bithorn wearing No. 25. No one wore No. 25 in 1947, so this film has to be from 1946. That’s the only year all of those players with those numbers match what we see.

There were quite a number of games that had sellout or close to sellout crowds in 1946. You can eliminate games vs. New York, St. Louis and Boston, because those names don’t match the scoreboard.

That left eight games to search, so off I went to the Tribune archive.

Jackpot. In the recap for the game of Saturday, July 13, Tribune writer Irving Vaughan noted that the Cubs were to have a ceremony honoring their longtime trainer, Andy Lotshaw, before the game on Sunday, July 14:

Thus I think the middle portion of the film was shot Saturday, July 13, 1946, and the team shown on the board playing the Cubs that day was BROOKLYN, not PITTSBURGH or CINCINNATI. The key is looking at the other games from that day — they all appear to match, particularly the American League side. Attendance that day: a full house of 40,097.

And the remainder of the film was thus shot Sunday, July 14, including the ceremony for Lotshaw and some game action against the Giants, who were the opponent that afternoon. Yes, in those days sometimes teams changed opponents over weekend days. The Cubs won the game 7-4. and there’s only one uniform number sort of readable from the game action — the one on the Giants catcher. Ernie Lombardi caught for the Giants that day; he wore No. 8 that year. Lombardi was also a big guy at 6-3, 230, and that appears to match the Giants catcher in the film. All the batters shown appear to be Cubs hitters.

As far as the players visible in the first part of the film, including No. 6, Stan Hack, it’s entirely possible that whoever shot the film had an upper-deck seat but was somehow able to hang out near the field to shoot the film during practice, then returned to the upper-deck seat for the games. That could explain the difference in the color, too. So this film was shot on at least two different days in July 1946. Most people worked Monday through Friday jobs in those days so it would have been logical for a fan with a film camera to come to Wrigley on two weekend days, not during the week.

This was one of the toughest sleuthing jobs I’ve ever done. Thanks to all who commented on the original article with various suggestions — you helped send me in the right direction.