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Wrigley Field history: A new, colorized photo of a Babe Ruth World Series home run

It’s not the home run you might be thinking of, though.

Credit where credit is due, here’s where I found this photo:

As noted in the tweet, this is the first of two homers Babe Ruth hit in this game, this one coming in the first inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field, October 1, 1932. (Ruth also nearly hit a third home run that afternoon, a drive he hit in the second inning was caught by Kiki Cuyler at the wall in right-center.)

Let’s set the scene and then look at some of the interesting things about this photo.

The Cubs had lost the first two games of the Series at Yankee Stadium, 12-6 and 5-2, and thus were pretty desperate to win Game 3 at home. It did not begin well. Charlie Root got leadoff hitter Earle Combs to hit a ground ball to shortstop Billy Jurges, normally a solid fielder. But, according to Edward Burns’ recap in the Tribune, Jurges’ throw went “six to eight feet” over first baseman Charlie Grimm’s head. The New York Times reported that the ball ended up in the Yankees dugout, which by rule put Combs on second base. Root, perhaps rattled, then walked Joe Sewell.

That brought up Ruth, who hit a Root pitch “into the temporary bleachers, built over Sheffield.” You can’t see those in the photo, but you can see similar temporary bleachers which were built over Waveland Avenue. This was done in order to sell extra tickets; these bleachers were built for the 1929, 1932 and 1935 World Series. Here’s how these were constructed. This photo is from 1929, but a similar structure would have been the one holding fans over Waveland that you see in the photo above.

Photo by Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Hitting a home run into bleachers built over Sheffield would have put Ruth’s blast at about 430-440 feet, depending on exactly where the ball landed, a prodigious blow. The New York Times reported that it landed “deep in the temporary stands.” The Times article also indicated there was a strong wind blowing out to right field that afternoon. The high temperature in Chicago that day was 78, well above average for October 1.

What we see in the colorized photo is Ruth approaching second base, Sewell halfway between second and third and Combs between third and home. The identifiable Cubs (by number) are Root (12), Grimm (6) and Gabby Hartnett (7). The plate umpire is Roy Van Graflan.

Check out the size of the coaching boxes — much larger than today’s. It appears that the Yankees first base coach, likely Jimmy Burke, is doing some kind of happy dance.

You can also see a large “WRIGLEY FIELD” flag on the left field foul pole. That was changed when the 1937 bleachers were built.

Several of the buildings visible in this photo are still standing nearly 90 years later. The firehouse at Waveland & Seminary, at the left, was built in 1915. The building that is bisected by the foul pole is still on Waveland, as is the cream-colored building to its right, at the northwest corner of Waveland & Kenmore (the “Glenallen Hill building,” if you will). The house with the angled roof (with an “OLD GOLD” sign visible), which was built originally in 1890, is still there, and you can see some people sitting on a rooftop behind it. The white building in the far background above the cream-colored building is the Uptown Bank Building, which still stands. Lastly, the building at the far right where you see a flag flying also still stands, it’s now a storage business — just as it was in 1932.

The colorization of this photo is well done, it really brings the day to life. This game started at 1:30 p.m., so this couldn’t have been more than about five to seven minutes after that, with a quick error, walk and home run.

Mike Bojanowski owns a copy of the 1932 World Series program, what fans would have bought at Wrigley Field that afternoon, and here are all the pages, front cover to back cover. Back in the day, teams produced their own World Series programs. MLB didn’t take control of producing WS programs until 1974. The 25-cent price is equivalent to about $5.25 today.