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Cubs historical sleuthing: A slice of the 1960s

There are some interesting historical notes in this photo.

Diamond Images/Getty Images

Sleuthing this photo was pretty easy given the scoreboard, and most of what I want to talk about here isn’t the date of the game, so let’s get that out of the way first.

The Cubs linescore clearly says “ATLANTA/CUBS” and there are five score lines per league side. That immediately dates this to between 1966 and 1968, because the Braves began play in Atlanta in 1966 and in 1969, the leagues expanded to 12 teams each and the scoreboard added a sixth linescore.

Next clue: You might recall photos like this where there was Astroturf placed over the vacant center-field seating sections:

Getty Images

(And no, sorry, there’s not enough detail to sleuth that one, other than to say that it’s Tony Perez of the Reds at first base and Billy Williams running.)

The Astroturf was installed in 1967 to make for a better hitter’s background. Thus the photo at the top must date from 1966, and at that point it’s easy. The matchups and the Cubs linescore confirm that the photo at the top was taken in the bottom of the first inning Sunday, May 29, 1966. The Cubs, a really bad team in 1966 (they tied the franchise record with 103 losses), were 11-27 coming into that game. Adolfo Phillips, the Cubs’ leadoff hitter, has hit the first pitch he saw (note no count on the board) into the left-field corner (look at where all the players are looking) for a leadoff double. The PBP indicates he took third on an error and scored on a groundout.

The Cubs won the game 3-2 in 10 innings on a walkoff home run by Ron Santo. It was significant for another reason: It was Fergie Jenkins’ first Wrigley Field start as a Cub. He threw 8⅔ innings and allowed the two runs, walking one and striking out nine, a hint of the Hall of Fame career he would go on to have.

But beyond the game action, there are a few things in this photo worth noting as a slice of 1960s Cubs baseball. I’ve already noted that the center-field bleachers were still empty and not covered by the Astroturf that would cover them until Tribune Co. took over in 1981. You can also see, at the top of the photo, a small bank of lights that were on the Wrigley roof, again not removed until Tribune took over. They were used for non-baseball events at the park in the 1950s and, I think, basically forgotten after that. (They wouldn’t have been enough to light a baseball game.)

On the bottom left of the scoreboard you can see some lettering in yellow. That line was used to promote upcoming games until the sixth linescore was added in 1969 and they no longer had room for it. It reads LOS ANGELES NEXT GAME TUES JUNE 7, promoting the next home game, as the Cubs went on a road trip after that May 29 game.

The building on Waveland which carried a Budweiser ad for much of the 1980s and 1990s is advertising WGN, which it did from 1963 until the early 1980s.

At the bottom of the photo in the box-seat area, you can see the permanent seats that had been installed in 1965. Prior to that, as I noted in this sleuthing post about a game in 1938, the first 10 rows of box seats (now known as “club boxes) had railings and folding chairs. You can see the railings in the 1966 photo still existed in what’s now known as the “field boxes” (as well as further down the left-field line) and so did the folding chairs. The seating chart below is from 1978. Most of what you see existed in 1966, except that the left- and right-field corners had by ‘78 been turned to face the field. The numbers shown next to each letter are the number of seats in the section.

Sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, those old folding chairs were found in a storage area beneath the ballpark. The team put them out on the sidewalk on Sheffield and sold them for $1 each. I’m sorry I bought only one of them. Still have that old Wrigley folding chair, too.

Lastly, in the photo just to the left and right of home plate you can see two dirt circles. These were used by coaches during practice. They’d stand in the circles to hit fly balls to outfielders, in the days when teams routinely did fielding drills before games. Only two ballparks still have these circles: Fenway Park, and, oddly, Guaranteed Rate Field on the South Side of Chicago. These were removed at Wrigley when the field was completely re-done in 2007.

It’s fascinating the detail you can find in photos like this one, just a slice of baseball life from more than half a century ago.