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Cubs historical sleuthing: An early aerial photo

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This is one I hadn’t seen before.

You have, of course, seen the aerial photos of Wrigley Field, both of construction and during the season, from Curtis Waltz, who runs the excellent @WrigleyAerials Twitter feed.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this article posted on the Southport Corridor blog, a site dedicated to various events in the area around Wrigley.

In it are two older photos of Wrigley Field I hadn’t seen before.

This article is about the black-and-white aerial shot seen at the top of this post.

The first thing you’ll notice is that there’s no hitters’ background in the center-field bleachers. That turned into a constant problem for hitters, and after some complaints filed by the Cardinals in early 1952, the center-field seats were closed, to be opened just once more, for the 1962 All-Star Game. I wrote more about that in this 2013 article.

Anyway, that dates it prior to 1952. I sent it to Mike Bojanowski to see if he could figure out the matchup and date from what’s visible on the scoreboard. Here’s what he sent to me:

I’m pretty sure this is 7/4/47, first game of a scheduled DH vs. St. Louis.

Marquee indicates a St. Louis series in July, of only two dates, the second of which is a DH. Figures to be 1952 (CF filled) or no more than several years earlier (general style of cars etc). 1947 is the only fit in the schedules.

The NL board reads: St. Louis/Cubs, Pittsburgh/Cincinnati, Boston/Philadelphia, New York/Brooklyn.

The AL board reads: Sox/St.Louis, Philadelphia/Boston, Detroit/Cleveland, Washington/New York.

All games that day were day DHs. No finals on the board, all games shown are game ones. The eastern games are nearly done, the central games only starting.

A clue as to the matchups, in this era, can be had by the fact that the two-city teams nearly always played each other simultaneously, one home, one road, so the White Sox are in St. Louis vs. the Browns, the Braves are in PHL vs. the Phillies while the Red Sox are in Boston vs. the Athletics, etc.

The 1947 Cubs weren’t very good, though they entered that July 4 doubleheader at 34-33, just four games out of first place. The DH resulted in a split, the Cubs losing Game 1 7-0, winning Game 2 5-4. Just two years after the last N.L. pennant, fans obviously still had hope. That doubleheader drew 44,944, the second-biggest crowd of 1947. (The biggest was May 18, Jackie Robinson’s first Wrigley game.)

The ballpark has obviously changed over the years with the addition of video boards, etc., but in general the look of the ballpark in the neighborhood is more or less the same as it was 71 years ago.

Here’s a larger version of the photo at the top: