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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: 1970s scoreboard error edition

Here’s a photo submitted by a BCB reader.

This photo was sent to me by BCB reader Steve Sher, from a photo album left to him by his mom.

It’s a nice view of a time now passed at Wrigley Field.

Let’s look at what we see here. First, there are six flags on the NL standings yardarms on the scoreboard, so this has to be 1969 or later. On the American League side of the board, you can see TORONTO, which dates it from 1977 or later. When Tribune Company bought the team, one of the first things they did was paint the red doors on the outfield walls a shade of aqua, so now we’re down to 1977-81.

The Cubs are hosting the Cardinals. It’s almost certainly a weekday afternoon, because most of the games are listed as NITE GAME, although with a handful of day games listed it could be a Saturday. It’s 12:05 and fielders are hanging around on the outfield, so this is during batting practice. Weekday games in that era started at 1:35 and weekend games at 1:15. It’s clearly the peak of summer, with ivy on the walls, so we can eliminate any April or early May games from those five seasons.

The only game that matches this one, plus all the other matchups on the board, happened Saturday, July 9, 1977.

So what’s the error?

The board lists ATLANTA/SAN FRANCISCO as a night game. It wasn’t, as you can see by this screenshot from that day’s Tribune:

A minor error, to be sure, but an error nonetheless.

As you can also see from that image, the Cubs were high-flying going into that game with a 51-29 record, leading the NL East by four games. It was the year many of us thought was going to make up for 1969.

It didn’t. The Cubs lost that July 9, 1977 game 4-3. You see by the schedule that Steve Renko, the Cubs starter, had no W/L record. He’d missed much of the early part of that season after having his thyroid removed. He didn’t pitch much, or well, for the Cubs and in August, they traded him to the White Sox for Larry Anderson, a reliever who never pitched in a MLB game for the Cubs. Anderson was traded to the Phillies a year later for Davey Johnson. Meanwhile, Renko recovered and pitched until 1983, posting a couple of pretty good years for the Red Sox in 1979 and 1980.

The Cubs thus finished the first half of the season at 51-30. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything, basically. They went 30-51 in the second half — the worst record in the National League — to finish exactly at .500, and had to lose their last five games to do that.