clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: The fan on the bleacher wall

This one has me stumped, so I’m asking for your help.

This photo shows you one of the reasons the Cubs eventually made the top of the bleacher wall pointed, and put in a basket. Fans would, on occasion, walk or run on top of the wall. I’m pretty sure you can see the danger in doing this.

To show you how I began to sleuth this, here’s the full photo:

A good clue to the date here is the scorecard visible at the bottom. I asked Mike Bojanowski to enhance the image to try to get more information from the card, and he told me it says the Cubs were playing the Reds.

All right, that helps. But there’s no other clue here — no players on the field, no scoreboard visible.

Here’s what we do know. The Miller High Life sign on the building on Sheffield was in place in 1961 and stayed there through most of the 1960s. We also know that the center-field bleachers were partly covered up by something called the “Whitlow Wall” in 1963 and 1964, as detailed here. Robert Whitlow, a retired Air Force colonel, had been hired by P.K. Wrigley as the Cubs’ “athletic director” (though no one really knew what his job responsibilities were):

June of 1963 saw Whitlow’s most noted accomplishment. Claiming the players asked for it, he had a green eight foot fence installed atop the center field wall to serve as an additional hitters background. Ivy was also planted to match the rest of the outfield. It was derisively know as “Whitlow’s Wall.” Bob Kennedy, the head coach, said the whole thing was news to him, which tells you what he thought of the whole idea. I can’t imagine that the players would have wanted something that would have made home runs more difficult to hit. Raising the center field wall by eight feet would certainly do just that.

Yeah, that sounds sub-optimal.

Anyway, the artificial turf “tarp” that was installed over the center-field bleachers went up in May 1967, so this game almost certainly has to be in 1965 or 1966. The ivy looks grown-in, but not completely, and a tree on Sheffield (the right side of the photo) doesn’t look completely grown-in either.

The bleachers are also full. My educated guess is that you’d have to have a total crowd of at least 20,000 or so to see the bleachers that full.

Lastly, the clothing seen on some of the men in the foreground seems to match the mid-1960s, not before, not later.

The only date that matches all of those criteria is a doubleheader June 13, 1965, attended by 18,132.

But I can’t be certain. If any of you think you’ve got a better date match for this photo, let us know.