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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: The one that stumped us all

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I couldn’t get this, and neither could a lot of people on Twitter.

First, again, credit where it’s due. Here’s where I found this:

This is a great shot of Wrigley Field, obviously fairly recent. You can see a number of guesses as to the date in the replies to this tweet, which are all over the place.

Of course, I had to try my hand at this. The one truly clear clue is the Toyota sign in left field. That dates it to between mid-2010 and 2014.

At that point I tried to read the scoreboard, and... well, it’s pretty much impossible. One thing a number of the replies on Twitter noted, and I agreed, is that this almost had to be a Friday game, as you can at least tell that the board shows “NITE GAME” for every game except the one at Wrigley. That narrowed it down somewhat. You can see visiting players warming up on the field, but at that distance it’s impossible to tell what team it is.

Some of the blurs on the scoreboard are of lengths where you can sort of tell which teams are home and which are on the road. NEW YORK appears to be a visiting team in the AL and TEXAS is a home team. LOS ANGELES is a home team on the NL side. But remember, we are now in an era where there’s not enough room on the board for all games AND also there’s interleague play, which means it’s possible that some teams could be listed on the “wrong” side of the board.

As usual, I sent this to Mike Bojanowski. He and I went back and forth on a number of emails and at one point I sent him this closeup screenshot of the board:

Look at that long enough and your eyes will bug out.

The message board is of no help, it just says “WELCOME TO WRIGLEY FIELD.” You can kind of tell some of the team name lengths, but also there are places (especially on the left side) where what appears to be blank space in a two-word city (think “NEW YORK”) is actually a shadow cast by the lights on top of the scoreboard.

We went back and forth a number of times and I finally had to admit defeat on this one, I could not figure it out.

So I emailed Curt Waltz, who has taken aerial photos of Wrigley previously for BCB, and who is behind the @WrigleyAerials Twitter account where the photo was originally posted, to get the answer.

Friday, May 27, 2011, Cubs hosting the Pirates. That would make the board matchups as follows:

NL: FLORIDA/LOS ANGELES, ST. LOUIS/COLORADO, CINCINNATI/ATLANTA, PHILADELPHIA/NEW YORK, SAN DIEGO/WASHINGTON, PITTSBURGH/CUBS

AL: NEW YORK/SEATTLE, KANSAS CITY/TEXAS, LOS ANGELES/MINNESOTA, BOSTON/DETROIT, CLEVELAND/TAMPA BAY, CHICAGO/TORONTO

This makes sense from the way the board is normally organized these days: West Coast games at the top (since they’re the last ones to start), and “less important” games (in this case BALTIMORE/OAKLAND and ARIZONA/HOUSTON) not listed at all.

After I got the answer to this I found this entire game saved on YouTube:

About an hour into the game there’s a clear shot of the board:

And that’s a match.

Can’t get ‘em all, but I thought you’d enjoy seeing the thought process. At least one of the Twitter replies got it right.

Lastly, although it looks like that’s a glorious summer day at the ballpark... it’s not. The boxscore indicates the game-time temperature was 48 degrees and Len Kasper and Bob Brenly made several mentions of how cold it was that day on the broadcast. The Cubs lost the game 4-2. A two-run homer by Alfonso Soriano in the ninth prevented this one from being a shutout.