Usually, when we see photos of the famous Wrigley Field marquee from back in the day, it has words like TICKETS NOW ON SALE or TICKETS NOW ALL GAMES.
This lonely photo, in which no humans or other signs of life are visible, has simply the city of the visiting team and the dates the Cubs were to play that team.
This photo was taken Wednesday, September 21, 1949, long after that year’s version of the Cubs had surrendered in the NL pennant race. It was the second straight year they would lose 90 or more games. The previous year, 1948, was the first 90+ loss year in franchise history.
The last time this sad agglomeration of men wearing Cubs uniforms was over .500 was after the fifth game of the season, when they were 3-2. They fell into last place June 14, never to escape the basement, and went 21-40 combined in June and July.
By the time the Phillies came to town for this doubleheader and single game on consecutive days, the Cubs were 57-88 and 35½ games out of first place. The Phillies, after having just ONE winning year (1932) in the 31 seasons from 1918-48, were actually good in ‘49 and would win the NL pennant the next year.
The Cubs lost the first game of the doubleheader 3-1 and won the nightcap 9-6. Hank Sauer and Roy Smalley homered in the second game. The Cubs won the third game of the series, Thursday, September 22, by a 3-2 score.
5,572 paid to see the doubleheader and 1,813 was the turnstile count for the single game. That doubleheader attendance is about the capacity of Wrigley Field’s bleachers in 2023.
It was a different time.