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Cubs historical sleuthing: A kid’s first game edition

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Don’t you wish you had a photo of your first Cubs game?

A BCB reader named Steve van Sothen sent me the above photo, saying it was from his first Cubs game and “May 1980” was written on the back.

Those are very good clues; first, have a look at a larger version of the photo:

The scoreboard’s a bit blurry, but there’s absolutely no doubt who’s in the field. It’s the Montreal Expos.

The Expos played a three-game series at Wrigley in May 1980, the 26th, 27th and 28th. May 26 was Memorial Day; attendance that day was 31,845. The other two days had crowds of 11,677 and 12,778. With a crowd as large as you can see in the photo, this has to be the first game of the series, Monday, May 26, 1980.

I asked Mike Bojanowski to enhance the board for me to confirm this and he said that though it was blurry, it was still possible to read some of the information, particularly the inning and batter and some of the matchups. Here’s what he sent me:

We can do a little better in confirming the date by examining the board. The teams can be determined by the shapes and lengths of the city names. A little Photoshop manipulation also helps here.

From the top left, National League: New York/St.Louis, day game in progress; San Diego/Houston, night game; Philadelphia/Pittsburgh, night game; Cubs/Montreal, game in progress, bottom seventh; Los Angeles/Cincinnati, day game in progress, second game of DH, the final score of the first game is posted in the 10th inning slots; San Fran (sic)/Atlanta, night game, eastern zone, the lines are cleared in anticipation of a possible beginning of the game before the Cubs are done.

From the top right, American League: Cleveland/Baltimore, night game, eastern zone, the pitchers are posted, anticipated game start before the Cubs are done; Toronto/Boston, night game still up; Detroit/New York, day game in progress; Sox/Minnesota, night game; Texas/California, day game in progress; Seattle/Milwaukee, day game in progress.

All these match the day in question.

Further, the Cubs game is in the bottom of the seventh, the batter’s number is likely 28, 0-2 count, none out. This is Jerry Martin, leading off the seventh, about to ground out to 2b on an 0-2 count. This matches the game PBP as in Baseball-Reference. The pitcher is Steve Rogers, on his way to a 4-0, three-hit shutout. The first baseman is Warren Cromartie, the second sacker is Rodney Scott.

The Cubs got off to a decent start in 1980 and as late as May 30 were only three games out of first place. Then they went on a long, long losing skid; from June 1 through August 31 they went 31-56, on their way to a 98-loss season. At the time it was the third-most losses in franchise history.

Here’s Mike’s scorecard and the bleacher ticket stub from that game. $2 for bleachers. Doesn’t seem like 40 years ago, but here we are.

Once again, here’s a call from me — if you have any personal photos of Wrigley you’d like me to sleuth, send ‘em along!