clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: Brown scoreboard edition

New, 32 comments

This is a rare look at the original color of the iconic Wrigley board.

Wrigley Field’s iconic center-field scoreboard is painted a dark green.

But it hasn’t always been that way. From the time of its construction over the then-new bleachers in 1937 through 1941, it was painted a dark brown.

The photo above is the first one I’ve ever seen in color of the board in its original brown. And based on this tweet, where I found the photo, this isn’t a colorized black-and-white photo, it’s a Kodachrome, one of the earliest color photos of Wrigley Field:

That was a very early use of Kodachrome, as it was first sold to the public for general use in 1936. It’s probably the best color photo of the scoreboard in brown that I’ve ever seen. (Also, how has this photo eluded me for the five-plus years since it was tweeted?)

So this photo is, as noted in the tweet, “circa 1938-41.” You’d think it wasn’t possible to figure out when it was taken, but actually, this one was pretty easy.

You can see a few Cubs players on the field doing pre-game workouts. The uniforms they are wearing, based on the Hall of Fame’s uniform database, match only one of those seasons: 1941. It’s the sleeves that give it away — none of the other home uniforms of those years match that particular sleeve pattern.

Okay, so that narrows it down a bit. Even though the cities on the scoreboard are a bit difficult to read, you can clearly see “NEW YORK/BOSTON, “PITTSBURGH/ST. LOUIS” and “PHILADELPHIA/BROOKLYN” on the N.L. side. That leaves the Cubs to be hosting the Reds that afternoon.

That narrows it down further, and the A.L. side has, among other matchups, “BOSTON/NEW YORK,” which makes it easy. There’s just one series in 1941 where those matchups happen: May 23, 24 and 25.

So which one is it? Attendance on May 23 was 4,729 — that’s way too large a crowd shown for that small a total attendance.

May 24 was a doubleheader, at which the attendance was 19,055, and May 25 was a single game that drew 18,663. Both of those match the relatively full bleachers.

So which is it? The only further clue would be the weather. The May 24 boxscore gives the temperature as 57 and the Chicago Tribune’s weather page said the high temperature that day was 61. For May 25, no temp is given in the boxscore, but a warm front passing through Chicago raised the temperature to a high of 76 that afternoon.

The players and fans in the photo seem dressed more for 76 degrees than 57, so I’m going to go with Sunday, May 25, 1941 as the date of this photo, pre-game warmups. Back then, the scoreboard lacked the clock that currently stands on top, so we have no way of knowing what time of day this is, and there are some high clouds making it hazy with no real shadows visible. That would have clinched it, as doubleheaders in 1941 started at 1:30 and single games at 3:00, and though this is obviously pre-game, it’s impossible to say how long before the game this was.

But I’m going to stick with that date. The Cubs won the game 3-2, with Charlie Root getting the win. 1941 was Root’s last year with the Cubs, perhaps a reason someone might have gone to that game and taken some color photos.

For a larger version of the photo at the top of this post click here.