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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: 1970s Jack Brickhouse edition

Here’s one from near the end of Brickhouse’s Cubs broadcasting tenure.

Last week, I ran this photo of a young Jack Brickhouse in the Wrigley Field broadcast booth and sleuthed out the date, which turned out to be September 3, 1949.

The photo above is of an obviously older Brickhouse, again in the Wrigley WGN-TV broadcast booth, somewhat excitedly holding a modern calculator. (Well, “modern” for that time, anyway.)

Can I sleuth out the date here? Well, of course I can, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this!

Before I get to that, I thought that perhaps the calculator might help find the date. I found the calculator — it’s a Casio 805-MR — but that didn’t help, as that calculator was manufactured beginning in 1976. That does narrow down the time frame to 1976-81 — 1981 being Brickhouse’s last year doing PBP on Cubs games.

Here’s the photo again:

The scoreboard is clearly visible, though far in the distance and with the city names not very readable.

However, there is one clue immediately visible on the board, and you can see it if you click here and enlarge the photo. It’s the soccer clock, which was placed there for the old NASL’s Chicago Sting, who played games at Wrigley from 1978-84.

So now we’ve narrowed down the time frame to 1978-81.

On the board, we see mostly night games, with a couple of American League day games, including the White Sox game. In that era, the Cubs and White Sox scores both inhabited the middle of the board, instead of the bottom as they do now.

The Sox are playing a team with a short city name. In the late 1970s, there were only two AL city names that short — TEXAS and BOSTON — and you can see the shortest one, TEXAS, at the top of the board.

So I looked at all the games the White Sox played at Boston from 1978-81. I eliminated a couple of dates the Cubs had home doubleheaders, because we can see the scoreboard clock and it reads about 12:45. A Wrigley doubleheader in those years would have started by then, and this game has clearly not begun. There also had to be exactly one other American League day game on the date in question.

There were just two dates that matched. One was quite a famous date in Cubs history, April 22, 1980 — the Cubs overcame a 12-6 deficit to the Cardinals and won 16-12 on a walkoff grand slam by Barry Foote.

But it cannot be that date. Why?

Well, first, that was a 92-degree sunny day. To this day that is still the warmest temperature ever recorded in Chicago in April. In the photo we’re sleuthing, it’s overcast, no shadows visible.

Because that game was so notable, lots of video of it survives, including the beginning of the game — and Brickhouse was wearing a different tie that day than the one in our sleuthing photo. Here’s a screenshot of Brickhouse from the WGN-TV broadcast of April 22, 1980:

That’s definitely NOT the same tie.

That leaves one possible date, Saturday, August 18, 1979. All the other NL games that day were night games, and there was exactly one other AL day game — CLEVELAND at OAKLAND, which would appear to match the game listed above the White Sox game. The Sox game at Boston was scheduled for 2 p.m. local time, or 1 p.m. Chicago time, which matches with what we see — pitchers posted, but no score. It also looks like the Sox pitcher had a double-digit number as listed on the Wrigley scorecard while the Boston pitcher had a single-digit number. That also matches. Richard Wortham, the Sox pitcher, was No. 11 on the card, while Boston starter Dennis Eckersley was No. 4.

I asked Mike Bojanowski to take a look at this. He asked me to send a photo of the board from that era, taken straight-on, if I had one, so he could put the putative matchups there. Here’s what he sent me:

Those look like they match pretty well. (Ignore the NITE GAME arrangement on the AL side, that was from the original.) Below, Mike has put those putative 8/19/79 matchups on the board and made a slightly brighter version that you can see on the right side of this image slider:

We’ve got a match here. Attendance that day was 24,881, which would appear to match the almost-but-not-quite-full bleachers.

The Cubs defeated the Padres 3-2 on Saturday, August 18, 1979, a walkoff win. They trailed 2-1 going to the bottom of the seventh when Larry Biittner singled in Jerry Martin to tie the game. Willie Hernandez (who just passed away last week) and Dick Tidrow held the Padres scoreless in the eighth and ninth, setting up a game-winning rally. Martin led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple and Barry Foote was intentionally walked to face the light-hitting Mick Kelleher. Kelleher hit a fly ball to right, scoring Martin for the win. It was Kelleher’s only sacrifice fly of the 1979 season and one of just five (in 1,202 plate appearances) in his career.

The Cubs were 65-54 after this win, in third place in the NL East, four games behind the division-leading Pirates and it did seem as if they had a postseason chance. But after winning the next two games over the Padres and Dodgers to get to 67-54 (a season-high 13 games over .500), they utterly collapsed, going 13-28 the rest of the way to finish 80-82, 18 games out of first place and fifth in the division.

So that’s just another slice of Cubs history. Now if only we knew why Brickhouse seemed so excited about that calculator.