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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: ‘SAN FRAN’ edition

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The Giants’ home city was shortened on the Wrigley board, for a time.

The photo above came to me from BCB reader Mark Gast, who attended the game in question.

Before I tell you what game this was, I wanted to call your attention to the city name for the Giants as shown: “SAN FRAN”.

The Cubs repainted the iconic scoreboard in the summer of 1987 after this photo appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated:

(Incidentally, the date of the games in the SI photo is Sunday, June 21, 1987.)

Anyway, at the time of that photo the board looked pretty faded. It probably had not been painted (though some of the individual pitcher number panels appear to have been) since the board had been expanded to 12-team leagues in 1969. As you can see, all the city names were spelled out in full, and the Cubs had long given a nod to their South Side rivals by having their game read “SOX”.

But when the board was painted, for some reason the painters couldn’t fit “SAN FRANCISCO” on a panel, even though, at 13 characters, it’s only one letter longer than “PHILADELPHIA.” Among photos I could find in our photo editor, it was definitely back to “SAN FRANCISCO” by the time this photo was taken July 19, 1997:

Universal Images Group via Getty

I asked Mike Bojanowski to look into this, and he checked through old copies of “Cubs Quarterly,” which was the Wrigley program magazine in the 1990s. He walked me through his process and concluded:

There is an article in the Aug-Sep ‘94 Quarterly profiling the scoreboard operators. In that article, there is a beautiful image of “SAN FRAN” from May 30, 1994 (a one-hitter by Willie Banks and Randy Myers). It read “SAN FRANCISCO” as early as May 1995.

The 1994 images show the board in one of its periodic states of heavy wear, in the ‘95 images the board looks fresh, obviously in that overlong offseason they reconditioned the board and redid the signage. So, 1995 is the year of the change.

So there’s the answer: the Giants were referred to as “SAN FRAN” on the Wrigley board from mid-1987 through the end of the 1994 strike-shortened season.

Anyway, back to the photo at the top of this post which was sent to me for sleuthing!

The Cubs are playing the Reds, and as you will see below, the lights have been installed. That dates it to late 1988 or after. Further, there’s no sign of “COLORADO” or “FLORIDA” on the board, so I figured it was pre-expansion, thus before 1993. Now, it’s possible this could have been a date when both of those were among the teams left off, but that’s a longshot. Thus I started my search for games from late 1998 through 1992.

The game in the photo at the top of this post took place Friday, May 10, 1991. As you can see, the photo was taken right at the end of the game, with “CUBS WIN” on the old message board beneath the scoreboard and the inning plates beginning to be taken down. The clock on the board reads a little bit after 5 p.m. That’s correct — in those days Friday games began at 2:20 p.m. and the time of that game was 2:40. The Cubs won the game 6-5 after spotting the Reds three runs in the top of the first. Ryne Sandberg and Shawon Dunston both homered and Rick Sutcliffe lasted six innings for the win.

Here are three more photos Mark Gast sent me from that day at the ballpark: