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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: Really small photo edition

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This one almost couldn’t be enlarged enough for detail... but in the end, one clue gave it away.

Many times in these sleuthing posts, I give you a larger version of the photo so you can check it out in greater detail.

I can’t do that with this one. The original is 400 pixels by 210 pixels and that starts to get really, uh, pixellated when you try to enlarge it.

Still, we have a couple of clues just looking at the photo as is. It’s clearly from the time before the center field bleachers were closed, thus, before April 1952. Also, even in the small size shown here, you can see a warning track in the photo. Wrigley Field did not have a warning track until 1948.

So that narrows this down to a four-year span, 1948-51.

Then it’s time to start sussing out the city names on the scoreboard, which you can do by length (BOSTON is the shortest) or when there are two words (NEW YORK or ST. LOUIS).

After a good deal of squinting, here’s what I found for the matchups that day:

NL:

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

AL:

SOX/BOSTON, ST. LOUIS/PHILADELPHIA, CLEVELAND/NEW YORK, DETROIT/WASHINGTON

There are quite a few Cubs vs. Brooklyn Dodgers games at Wrigley in that four-year span, 44 of them in all. Of course, some are early in the season where you wouldn’t see full ivy, others didn’t have the size crowd shown.

The crowd is the next clue. Figuring that a full bleachers would imply a crowd of 40,000 or more, I searched for all Cubs/Dodgers games at Wrigley those four seasons with that large a crowd.

That definitely helped. There were only five such games.

I could have looked through all of them but there’s another clue on the board. Look at the top AL line — that’s SOX/BOSTON. There are no inning scores, but neither is it blank. What are the white squares on that line?

That says “RAIN.” Now, if a game is rained out the Wrigley board simply posts an “R” where the final score should be, but back then they spelled out the entire word. That was still being done as late as 1963:

Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images

I recall seeing it later than that, but this 1963 photo is the most recent one I can find showing “RAIN.”

All right, now we know that the White Sox were rained out in Boston on the day that today’s sleuthing photo was taken, and the Cubs are playing the Brooklyn Dodgers. There’s one other clue. Note that it’s 2:30 p.m. in Chicago, the game at Wrigley is in the top of the fifth inning, and several games in the Eastern time zone (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Washington) are in the late innings.

But the game at Yankee Stadium in New York hasn’t started. Why?

It’s not the weather, although they did have a brief rainshower in the early afternoon in New York on the day of this photo, which is a well-known date at least in New York baseball history.

The photo was taken Sunday, June 13, 1948. That was the day Babe Ruth made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium and had the famous photo taken of him in uniform. That was not only a day to honor Ruth, it was the Yankees’ celebration of the 25th anniversary of Yankee Stadium and of their first World Series championship in 1923. The ceremony was delayed briefly by drizzly rain, then they played a two-inning Old Timers Game (for which the New York Times dutifully printed a boxscore showing a game time of 23 minutes!). So it’s no wonder the regular Yankees game that day hadn’t started by 3:30 ET (or maybe just under way with no score posted).

Back to Wrigley: It’s 2:30 and we are in the top of the fifth inning. No. 14 is indicated as the batter. That’s newly-elected Hall of Famer Gil Hodges, who did in fact lead off the fifth inning for Brooklyn that day.... playing catcher! Came up as a catcher, only caught 15 more games that year, then moved to first base permanently (though he caught twice more as an “emergency” catcher later in his career).

In the at-bat shown on the board, Hodges popped up to third base. Later in the game he homered, the only Dodgers run in a 3-1 Cubs win. The game took just one hour, 52 minutes, attended by 40,930.

The Cubs weren’t good in 1948. Just three years after winning the NL pennant, they lost 90 games that year, the first 90-loss season in franchise history.