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Wrigley Field history: The first attempt at a hitters’ background in 1943

You can probably see why it didn’t work very well.

Associated Press

The photo above doesn’t need any sleuthing, because the caption that came with it tells the date:

A large plastic screen, center, blue in color, makes its appearance in the bleachers as an experiment to eliminate the glare from white shirts in Wrigley Field, July 22, 1943, Chicago, Ill. This screen was placed in line with vision of right handed hitters, if successful it will be extended to include vision of left handers.

So, now we know when this photo was taken. The purpose of this post isn’t sleuthing, instead, it’s to note the “large plastic screen” that was placed in front of some people in the center-field bleachers to attempt to give hitters a better look at pitches.

In those days — and in fact, for many years before and after — almost everyone who came to baseball games wore white shirts. Obviously, that created a problem for hitters trying to see a white baseball against that sort of background. This was a rudimentary attempt to give hitters a way to see the baseball better.

I had never seen this photo before, and clearly this was not successful, because this quickly vanished from the bleachers. It wasn’t tried again, to the best of my knowledge.

I asked Mike Bojanowski to colorize the image above to give you an idea of what it might have looked like with that blue color on the screen:

Associated Press/Colorized by Mike Bojanowski

The Cubs tried several other ways of creating a background for hitters. Here’s a “shade” of sorts that was tried a few years after that:

I sleuthed the date of that image here last year — it’s from September 22, 1949.

In April 1952, after complaints from visiting teams, the Cubs closed off the center-field bleachers completely. The details are in this article I wrote here in 2013. Here’s an early photo of the closed-off bleachers, taken June 24, 1953:

The center-field bleachers shown there were opened only once more, for the 1962 All-Star Game at Wrigley Field. After that, Astroturf was placed over those vacant seats by the mid-1960s. Later the Astroturf was removed and so were the bleachers and the area was painted dark green. Today, there’s the batters eye suite and juniper bushes at that location:

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images