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Cubs historical sleuthing: 1940s video edition

This is some great video from more than 70 years ago.

Getty Images

In looking for more scenes of old Cubs games or Wrigley Field in general to sleuth this offseason, I recently discovered that Getty Images has a film section, available to us here at BCB.

I found the film below. The only way to be able to embed it here and show it to you was to upload it to YouTube, but I want to make clear the copyright belongs to Getty Images.

Getty says this film was shot May 27, 1936. I’ve given away the actual date of this game in the title on YouTube, but let me explain the sleuthing process. It cannot be 1936, because in the video you see the iconic Wrigley Field scoreboard, still in place. That board was constructed in 1937.

The dress of the fans heading toward the park — in suits! — looked more 1940s-ish, so I started there.

Before I tell you the date, I was struck by the fact that the marquee reads “CINCINNATI HERE.” “Here,” as if you had to be reminded that this game was not somewhere else.

In any case, this game was played Friday, May 27, 1949. In the color film, you can clearly see the marquee in its original colors of slate blue/blue-green and yellow, as opposed to its current red and white.

There’s a good shot of a Chicago trolley bus going down Clark Street as the photographer obviously wanted to take in the entire scene.

The photographer had a pretty good seat, in one of the first few rows behind first base. The lefthander warming up at :26 into the video is Johnny Schmitz, who pitched for the Cubs in 1941 and 1942 and then, after missing three years for World War II, again from 1946-51. He was one of the players sent to the Dodgers in the ill-fated Andy Pafko deal in June 1951. The Cubs definitely got his best years; he was an All-Star in 1946 and 1948.

The filmmaker gives a good look at the bleachers (though doesn’t do a very good job avoiding hats!), and then we see a bit of the action in the top of the first. The first batter’s line out is not on the film, but then No. 10, Virgil Stallcup, grounds to short at about 1:00 into the video.

The next batter is No. 28, Danny Litwhiler. We see Schmitz strike him out at about 1:20 into the video.

After some more film of hats, you can see a vendor walking up the aisle at about 1:35. It’s not clear what he’s selling.

At 1:45 you can see the Cubs’ leadoff hitter, Emil Verban (No. 7) ready to step into the box and Reds pitcher Howie Fox warming up. The video ends before Verban’s at-bat; he singled and eventually scored.

The Cubs won the game 3-1. Verban went 3-for-4 with two RBI and Schmitz threw a complete game, allowing five hits.

You can see the crowd was sparse. The boxscore says 6,174 paid to see the game and it was completed in a very snappy one hour, 41 minutes.

Among other things visible in the view of the bleachers is a “shade” that was put over the last few rows in center field to try to form a hitters’ background. Hitters still complained they couldn’t pick up the ball and eventually those seats were closed completely in 1952.

As I have noted elsewhere, the 1949 Cubs weren’t very good, finishing last in the eight-team National League with a 61-93 record. The Reds were only one game better, winding up at 62-92.

Even though more than 70 years have gone by since this game was played, much of Wrigley Field and its surroundings are still very much the same.