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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: The very first day the bleachers were fully open

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This is an excellent snapshot in time.

Here we see quite an unusual photo. The Wrigley Field bleachers are full — including the portion that was blocked off in 1952 for a hitters’ background — but the center field scoreboard is unfinished, still under construction, apparently (you can see the right side incomplete).

The bleachers were built in 1937 — during the season. As I wrote here in 2013, construction sometimes continued during games, with one report that a construction worker was hit by a home-run ball.

Still incomplete, the bleachers opened to fans September 5, 1937, so this has to be after that, but before October 1, when the center field scoreboard was first put into full use.

The matchups visible on the board in left field are:

BROOKLYN/CUBS
NEW YORK/ST. LOUIS
PHILADELPHIA/PITTSBURGH
BOSTON/CINCINNATI

The Cubs played a pair of games against Brooklyn at Wrigley Field September 19 and 20. The clue that clinches this one is that a final score is listed on the Philadelphia/Pittsburgh line, with another game in progress. That doubleheader was played Sunday, September 19.

So what we’re looking at is the Cubs taking the field for the top of the seventh inning that afternoon — the score for the bottom of the sixth is just being posted. The two visible players are left fielder Phil Cavarretta and center fielder Joe Marty. The Cubs won the game 2-1, the third of what would become a five-game winning streak. The photo was almost certainly taken for the specific purpose of showing the bleachers fully open for the first time. They appear full, or nearly so; total attendance that day was 18,324.

Most of the buildings seen in the photo still stand today, more than 80 years later. Take away the board in left field, put two video boards, full ivy and a complete CF scoreboard in and you’ve got the view as it would be today.

The Cubs were in contention at the time. The win helped them keep pace with the Giants, 2½ games behind. They eventually finished 93-61, three games out of first place. You know, the Cubs could have had a real dynasty in the 1920s and 1930s. They won four pennants in the 10 seasons from 1929-38, but they finished within five games of first place four other times from 1928-37: 1928, 1930, 1936 and 1937. Famously, after the Cubs blew a five-game lead they held at the end of August 1930 and finished second, William Wrigley fired manager Joe McCarthy, who would go on to win eight pennants and seven World Series with the Yankees. It was a colossal mistake. The Cubs didn’t have a manager as good as McCarthy until Joe Maddon.

Anyway, this photo is an interesting bit of Wrigley history that I had not seen before.