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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: A 1960s ceremony

This was a tough one, but a long-ago newspaper article and a story found online solved it.

Wrigley Field in 1963
Photo by Diamond Images/Getty Images

Back in March, during baseball’s hiatus due to COVID-19 shutdowns, I was sent this video.

Well. That’s obviously Wrigley Field, before and during a game (with a second or two at the end, video of a building that looks like the Illinois state capitol in Springfield).

It’s nearly impossible to read the scoreboard, so that’s no help. The ivy is fully grown in, so it’s not April or early May.

And there’s a ceremony of some kind happening on the field. It took me a while to find this, but this appears to be the ceremony in question:

In June of 1966, I took my oath to join the service standing on the 3rd Base Line in Chicago Cubs Wrigley Field Ball Park. The Cubs Team was lined-up along the 1st Base Line. Our gaggle of Navy Enlisted, were called the Chicago Cubs Company. Our families where invited to watch us take our oath on the ball field and we were allowed to join them to watch the baseball game before we said our good-byes in the stands and promptly boarded awaiting Navy Buses for Great Lakes and Boot Camp for the next 8 weeks.

The Tribune of Saturday, June 25, 1966 confirms this event:

In a special ceremony today, one hundred young men from the Chicago area will be sworn into the navy before the Cubs-Mets game at Wrigley Field. The oath will be administered by Cmdr. W. E. Copeland of the Chicago navy recruiting station. The group will be known as Chicago Cubs’ company.

There’s a bit of action from the game, which the Cubs eventually lost 9-3. Ernie Banks is shown hitting what appears to be a double (he rounded first base, but the end of the play is not shown). Then he scores on a subsequent hit.

This matches the play-by-play from the fourth inning of that game. Banks led off that inning with a double and scored on a single by Randy Hundley.

According to this post, similar ceremonies were held as late as 1972 (note the handful of typos in this quote):

What I most remember about this game is that I was sworn into the United States Navy before the game. Our boot camp company was know as “The Chicago Cubs Company. We marched onto the playing field from the right field corner door, down the first base line and made a 90 degree turn toward Waveland Avenue and another 90 degree turn at second base and continued onward to third base. Stretched aound the baselines were approximately 80 soon to be sailiors with long, soon to be much shorter hair. An admirial stood at the pitchers mound and had us repeat after him the oath of loyalty to our goverment, country and service.

After the swearing-in ceremony we marched off the field while shaking hands with Cub players such as Banks, Santo, Williams. We were given coupons for free hotdogs and Cokes and watched as the Cubs kicked some serious butt by pounding Tom Seaver and the Mets 18 to 5. Even the Cubs pitcher hit a grand slam!

The sailor’s recollection is correct. The Cubs won that game 18-5 and Burt Hooton did indeed hit a grand slam off Seaver. (Ernie Banks had retired as a player the previous year, but was in uniform as a coach in 1972.)

But the video above is definitely from Saturday, June 25, 1966. Attendance at Wrigley that Saturday afternoon was 7,708.

It was a different time.

Thanks to the BCB reader who sent me this video — I have lost your message. If this was your video, email me at the address on the masthead, want to thank you personally.