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Cubs historical sleuthing: An unusual photo angle

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Who took this photo? The shortstop?

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Here’s a photo from Wrigley Field from an angle I’ve never seen before.

I mean... it looks like whoever was playing shortstop that day said, “Hey, wait a minute for me, I need to take this photo of you guys!” (The original photo is linked in this article.)

And who’s that guy standing behind the umpire?

Let’s answer that question first. Pat Pieper, who was the Cubs’ public-address announcer from 1916-74, did the task from a chair behind the plate through the 1967 season. So it had to be no later than that. And I don’t think I’ve ever before seen a photo of Pieper “in action” like that.

Also, the unique numbering style shown on the hitter was worn by the Phillies from 1950 through 1969, so it’s got to be in that range.

I could go on trying to narrow this down, but instead I’ll confess: When I was sent this photo, I was told it was from Opening Day 1967. So I went about trying to confirm that. You might not think it’s that easy, but even with few clues, it was.

An outfielder named John Briggs wore No. 12 for the Phillies from 1964-71, and no one else wore that number during those seasons, so that’s who the hitter is.

The pitcher... well, you can’t see any number, so other than the fact that he’s a righthander, are there clues? If it’s Opening Day 1967, that would have to be Fergie Jenkins.

I thought there were, and here is a photo of Fergie from later in 1967 (I don’t have the rights to post this photo, so you’ll have to click to see) in which Fergie’s pitching follow-through matches what’s in the photo above.

So, I’m certain that this photo is, in fact, from Opening Day 1967. Briggs was the Phillies’ leadoff hitter that day and it would make sense that a photographer would have wanted to take a shot of the very first pitch of the 1967 season at Wrigley Field.

Given the angle of the sun, it’s almost certainly the first at-bat of the game. The boxscore says it was 41 degrees and sunny at game time.

The play-by-play of that game on April 11, 1967 doesn’t have pitch-by-pitch, but Briggs wound up grounding out to lead off the game. Fergie threw a complete game, Glenn Beckert homered and the Cubs won 4-2. The catcher in the shot is Dick Bertell, and that’s interesting because Bertell played in only two games for the Cubs in 1967 — that one and the game the next day. He was removed for a pinch hitter in the 11th inning April 12 and never played in the major leagues again; the Cubs released him May 24.

Most likely, the photographer was in the center-field bleachers, the section that’s long been closed off, with a long lens, in the first inning of the Opening Day game, April 11, 1967.

One last thing you’ll notice about that photo: The height of the wall behind home plate. As the Cubs have added seats behind the plate in between the dugouts, the height of that wall has been reduced over the years. Here’s what it looks like now (photo from the 2016 World Series):

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

In the 1967 photo, there are 11 visible rows of horizontal bricks below the top row of vertical bricks. By 2016, this had been reduced to seven rows. Just as a guess, I’d think that makes the wall nearly a foot shorter.

Just a little slice of Wrigley history and its quirks to share with you.