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Cubs historical sleuthing: A great look at the iconic scoreboard

The Cubs didn’t do very well in this game, but the board looks great.

Bob Freddo

I received this photo from reader Bob Freddo and wanted to share it with you, because it’s a great look at the Wrigley Field scoreboard from one specific era.

It wasn’t too hard to sleuth out the game, not with all the information that’s on the board. One thing that’s a bit jarring in the year 2019 is to see “42” as the Cubs starting pitcher. That number was retired across all of MLB for Jackie Robinson in 1997, and the last Cubs player to wear it was Dave Smith in 1992. (Coaches Moe Drabowsky and Dan Radison wore it after that.)

I immediately knew this photo dated from the mid-1980s, as that’s the only time the beer ads were underneath the board. Those were placed there around 1983 and by the late 1980s were gone, with only the message board remaining.

There were only three pitchers who wore 42 who started games for the Cubs in that time frame: Rich Bordi (1983-84), Lary Sorensen (1985, and yes, he spelled his first name with one “R”) and Bob Tewksbury (1987-88).

It didn’t take too much searching to find the date this photo was taken: Thursday, June 14, 1984. Rich Bordi started that game against future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. Bordi, as you can see, didn’t pitch well. He had allowed five runs when that photo was taken, just before the third inning started. Eventually Bordi allowed six runs in 3⅓ innings and was taken out, and the Cubs lost the game 11-2. The Cubs were in first place after this game, but their lead had been reduced to half a game over the Mets.

This photo is notable for a number of reasons. First, it immortalizes one of the worst Cubs losses of that N.L. East championship season — 11 runs matched the most they allowed that year, and nine runs was their second-worst run differential.

Second, it was taken at a time when the message on the electronic board was changing and thus “BLUES PINCERT” is immortalized forever. It was likely advertising some sort of concert, but exactly what that was is lost to history, unless one of you remembers it.

Lastly, you can see the colors on the board are beginning to fade. Three years after this photo was taken, this famous Sports Illustrated cover appeared:

You can see how faded the board had become over the years. Only a few weeks after this photo was published, the Cubs had the board re-painted. At the time, it probably had not been updated since the board was reconstructed to allow space for 24 teams in 1969. Now, they paint it every couple of years to keep it looking new.

Just another little slice of Cubs history.