clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: 1960s edition

New, 16 comments

This is a really good look at the pre-1969 scoreboard.

This photo is a real good closeup of the Wrigley Field scoreboard as it appeared... when?

This is actually fairly easy. There are five lines on each side of the board, so we are in the era of 20 teams, the board as it appeared from 1961-68. (In 1961, there were only eight NL teams, but as I have previously noted here, the board was rebuilt before the 1961 season and showed “NEW YORK HOUSTON 1962” on the NL side during 1961.)

Anyway, this can be narrowed down further by noting that ATLANTA is one of the NL teams. The Braves moved to Atlanta for the 1966 season, so that narrows this down to 1966, 1967 or 1968.

The Giants would have been scheduled to play at Wrigley Field 27 times in those three seasons. It wound up being 28 times, because a tie game called for darkness September 2, 1968 was made up as part of a doubleheader September 4. The Cubs wound up going 12-15-1 in those 28 games.

Anyway, that’s a digression. In the 28 games there’s only one where both teams scored that many runs — Tuesday, April 19, 1966. It was the home opener that year, one reason we likely have this scoreboard photo. As you surely know, the 1966 Cubs were among the worst in franchise history, losing a team-record 103 games. They began that season with a 1-5 road trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and given the team’s poor play for 20 previous seasons, only 15.396 paid to attend Opening Day at Wrigley.

The photo shows the bottom of the ninth with Billy Williams (26) at bat. The Giants were leading 11-9, and there were two out, as noted on the board. Glenn Beckert was on second base. Richard Dozer of the Tribune describes what happened next:

Manager [Herman] Franks brought in Bill Henry to face Billy Williams.

[Hal] Lanier threw low after fielding Billy’s roller hurriedly, and Beckert, who had been allowed to go unmolested to third, scored on the error. Bob Priddy, a right hander, replaced Henry, and [Ron] Santo beat out an infield hit.

When Ernie Banks drew a walk to fill the bases, [Bob] Bolin became the pitcher, and [Leo] Durocher played the percentages by asking [Ty] Cline, a left handed hitter, to swing for hitless Bobby Pena, hero of last year’s opener here.

The script was foiled when Cline fanned to end the 3 hour and 25 minute struggle and leave the Cubs mired in fifth place.

There’s actually a lot to unpack from that quote. Franks, of course, wound up managing the Cubs a decade later. Henry had two good years for the Cubs in 1958 and 1959 and of course, was then traded away, for “the other” Frank Thomas. Thomas was a decent hitter but Henry was a useful reliever for another decade, including for the pennant-winning 1961 Reds.

You also see the old-time writer’s tendency to Anglicize names of Latino players. Peña should have been called by his given name, Roberto, as he would be today.

Ty Cline had been a decent outfielder for the Braves for a few years, but after a down year in 1965 the Cubs had acquired him in the Rule 5 draft (not sure how a MLB veteran of six years wound up there, but the rules must have been different then). As was the case for many in that era, Cline must have gotten into Durocher’s doghouse somehow and the Cubs sold him back to the Braves in July after he’d played just seven games for the North Siders, none after late April. He wound up having some decent years for Atlanta, as well as the Giants, Expos and Reds through 1971.

Given that there is no ball and strike count shown on the board, this photo was likely taken during the pitching change when Henry came into the game. You’ll note the clock shows 4:45. Weekday games in that era started at 1:30, so it was around 3:15 in at that point. The total time of game was 3:25, stretched out further by two more pitching changes.

So the Cubs lost that opener 11-10, and the length of the game, as noted by Dozer, seemed unusual for that era. The teams did combine for 27 hits, which might explain some of that.

Just another slice of Wrigley Field history.