I am always looking around for new Wrigley/Cubs images to sleuth. Well, “new” to me, obviously I’m checking around for old images, the older the better.
A recent search brought me to this chicagonow.com article from 2014. The article isn’t really relevant; what is relevant is the caption to the photo in the article, which reads:
A photo of the Wrigley Field scoreboard back in the 1950s.
Well, no. It’s obvious at a glance that this photo can’t be from the 1950s. There weren’t teams in Montreal and Toronto back then. Further, there wasn’t an electronic message board beneath the scoreboard until the early 1980s (and then only for a couple of years), on this date advertising “Rag Ball Day.”
Here are your clues.
As I noted in this 2020 article, the Wrigley board had fallen into disrepair in the early 1980s and by 1987, when it was featured on a Sports Illustrated cover, it badly needed a paint job, which happened only a few weeks later.
So now we’re down to pre-1987, and I know for a fact that the beer ads to the left and right of the electronic message board were removed after the 1984 season.
That means the only Cubs pitcher who could have been shown here, wearing No. 31, was Fergie Jenkins, in his second stint with the Cubs in 1982 and 1983.
With those clues it’s easy. Fergie started four games against Houston at Wrigley in those two seasons. Only one matches what we see on the board, the Cubs leading 6-3 after four innings.
That’s a game from Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 1983.
It’s probably for the best that this photo was taken exactly when it was, because Fergie was hit hard in the fifth, allowing four runs, and didn’t finish that inning. The Cubs tied the game 7-7 on a solo homer by Bill Buckner, his second of the game, but reliever Bill Campbell gave up a two-run triple to Terry Puhl in the eighth and the Cubs lost 9-7.
The ‘83 Cubs started out poorly — you might remember the famous Lee Elia tirade was after a loss to the Dodgers gave them a 5-14 record — but two days after this loss to Houston the Cubs went on a six-game winning streak and, in a fairly weak division, another six-game streak at the end of June put them one game under .500 at 38-39 and just two games out of first place entering a July 4 doubleheader against the Expos.
Unfortunately, Montreal swept that DH and the Cubs lost 12 of 15 and fell out of the race, eventually finishing 71-91.
Better times were to come the following year.