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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: Bleacher shade edition

Here’s a really good shot of an attempt to make a hitters’ background.

I’ve done so many of these sleuthing posts that it’s getting difficult to find photos that I haven’t already seen.

Fortunately, I found another one, and before I get going, credit where it’s due. Here’s where I found it:

So your first clue as to the date is in the tweet. However, sometimes those aren’t correct, so I figured I might have to look at years surrounding 1951. One clue that it has to be before 1952 is in the little bit of “shade” that’s just above the bleacher wall in center field. Hitters had been complaining about not being able to see the ball in all the white shirts in the center-field bleachers at Wrigley for years. In 1952, several sections in center field were closed off for good. Here’s the story of how that happened, posted here in 2013. Since then, the center-field seats were opened only once, for the 1962 All-Star Game, and now there’s a suite in that area.

So 1951 seemed a good place to start. The photo itself is pretty small. Here’s the full-size version:

Blowing it up to a bigger size just makes the team names on the board blurry. Eventually I was able to figure out the matchups. They are:


It’s obviously summer, the ivy is in full bloom, so that eliminated a couple of April Cubs/Reds games.

From there it was fairly easy to find. This game was played Saturday, July 7, 1951, an 8-6 Cubs loss to the Reds. Attendance was noted as 11,626 on the boxscore, which seems small for the bleachers being so full, but you can see at the bottom the box seats (at least in that corner) are fairly empty.

Now, exactly when during this game was this taken? The Cubs are in the field — that’s a white home uniform in right field, so that’s Gene Hermanski. Four full innings have been played, so it’s the top of the fifth inning with nobody out, and the batter is No. 5. Per baseball-reference, that’s Hobie Landrith.

Except now there’s a problem, because Landrith did not play in that game. This has to be the right date — all the other scores match, including the fact that the A.L. games in St. Louis and Washington were night games. In fact, Landrith wasn’t even on the Reds in July; he was a September callup.

That’s why I think the number as shown isn’t “5” — it’s actually “6,” with a couple of the “eyelit” spots on the board not showing, or obscured, or just unable to be seen because of the angle of the photo. 6 was the number for Reds catcher Dixie Howell, who did in fact lead off the top of the fifth for the Reds that afternoon, per the Retrosheet boxscore. He doubled in that at-bat and later scored.

One more thing you’ll certainly notice in the photo is the name RICKETTS prominently featured on the house roof across the street from the ballpark, on Waveland.

This has nothing to do with the current owners of the team, though it’s a weird coincidence. “Ricketts” was the name of a restaurant located at 2727 N. Clark Street, about a mile south of Wrigley Field, from the 1920s through the late 1960s, when it closed. As far as I know there’s no connection between that restaurant and the family that now owns the Chicago Cubs.

Just another slice of Wrigley history for you on a dull winter’s afternoon in 2020.