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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: Bears NFL Sunday edition

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One last Bears/Wrigley photo before their season ends.

Bettmann / Contributor

Getty Images supplied the following information with this photo (with a couple of typos corrected):

Workmen at Wrigley Field look like they may be building a snow fort defense in front of the goal posts, which the Chicago Bears could use in stopping the Green Bay Packers in their Saturday afternoon game. Up to 11-inches of snow blanketed some Chicago area communities.

Well, that’s different — a Saturday afternoon game. The NFL did begin playing some Saturday games in the mid-1960s, after the college football season ended (generally Thanksgiving weekend in those days), to provide TV networks with some sports programming on weekends.

This one turned out to be fairly easy. The Bears played just three Saturday games in their long history before they left Wrigley Field in 1970, and just one of those was a home game — Saturday, December 5, 1964, and it was, in fact, against the Green Bay Packers.

So that’s when the game took place. When did the 11-inch snowfall happen? For that I had to head to the Tribune archive.

It turns out there were two significant snowfalls in Chicago that week. Five inches fell Wednesday, December 2, and five more fell Friday, December 4, leading to a total of 10.3 inches of snow from the combined storms as measured at the then-official Chicago weather reporting station at Midway Airport.

In fact, the photo you see above ran in the Tribune’s morning edition of Saturday, December 5, with writer Cooper Rollow reporting:

Workmen operating under Groundskeeper Pete Marcantonio yesterday shoveled snow off the tarpaulins throughout the day, removing it from the premises by truck.

The operation continued through nightfall, and will be resumed this morning.

A Bear official said every possible effort will be made to remove snow from all exposed seats and the east stands, but the fans are advised that galoshes are in order.

The grounds crew reported an accumulation of 10 to 12 inches of snow in box seat sections.

Now there’s a word you don’t see much used anymore: “galoshes.”

So the photo was taken during snow removal efforts Friday, December 4, 1964.

It didn’t help the Bears, who were suffering through a miserable year after their NFL championship the year before. They lost that Saturday game to the Packers 17-3 in front of 46,636 at Wrigley, and wound up the season 5-9. That poor record allowed them higher draft picks the next year, when they selected Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus.

The photo is interesting not just for the snow removal, but a real clear image of exactly where the south goal posts were set up. It’s not often you see a close-up view of those goal-line goal posts from that era; the goal post (now singular) was not moved to the end line until 1974. In fact, a cement block that helped secure those goal posts was found by Roger Bossard when he supervised the reconstruction of the baseball field at Wrigley in 2007:

Bossard, the White Sox’s head grounds- keeper who is overseeing the project, said one of the bulldozer drivers tearing up the infield grass Thursday was forced to come to a complete stop between home plate and first base.

“I think I hit a goal post,” the driver told Bossard.

Upon further review, the call was deemed correct.

Unbeknownst to everyone involved in the Wrigley project, cement blocks surrounding the bottom parts of the old goal posts from Bears games at Wrigley had been buried under the infield at Wrigley for nearly four decades.

After the Bears played their final game there on Dec. 13, 1970, they tore down the goal posts but decided not to remove the cement blocks underneath the end zones holding the posts in place, covering them with dirt instead.

That would probably have been the cement block under the post at the right of the photo above.

Wrigley Field has such a rich sports history. I’m glad it’s still around, and renovated, for us to continue to enjoy the ol’ ballyard at Clark & Addison.