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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: Kids at play edition

This was a tradition for decades at the ballpark.

Steve Green

Recently, I asked readers for assistance in locating Cubs or Wrigley Field photos I could sleuth.

I received an email that contained a link to this Instagram post from a few days ago:

The account belongs to Steve Green, who is the Cubs’ official photographer. He’s been in that role since the 1980s.

Green writes in his post, “The strike zone on the wall was left over from a commercial shoot with Ryne Sandberg.” While I have no doubt that’s true, boxes like that were painted on the left-field bleacher wall at Wrigley for many years, both before and after. Kids (and others) would play the game known in Chicago as fastball or fastpitch, with the pitcher standing in the middle of Kenmore Avenue and the box denoting balls and strikes. That’s no longer the case on the new outer bleacher wall, although the new wall closely resembles the original wall as shown in the photo. That wall (and the wall like it on Sheffield) was original to the 1914 construction of the ballpark, and stood until the first bleacher reconstruction began in October 2005.

Now, about the date in this photo. One of the commenters on the Instagram post wrote, “1984/85. Only years to have had the Budweiser signs on the scoreboard.”

That’s not correct. The photo shows the Astros defeating the Cubs 9-7, and this was taken not long after the game ended, because the “L” flag is still flying above the scoreboard. While the scoreboard operators would leave the “W” flag flying after wins until the next day, “L” flags were taken down after a couple of hours.

So I looked for all Cubs games vs. the Astros that they lost 9-7 in the 1980s. The only one that matched both that score AND the other matchups on the board happened May 30, 1983. Bill Buckner and Leon Durham homered for the Cubs, and Fergie Jenkins was the starting pitcher. Fergie didn’t do so well that day, allowing seven runs in 4⅔ innings, but the game went into the eighth tied 7-7. Houston scored a pair that inning and held on for the 9-7 win.

So, just a slice of Cubs, Wrigley and city life, taken at 5:35 p.m. Monday, May 30, 1983.