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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: 1950s scoreboard edition

Here’s a real good look at the board from almost 70 years ago.

While we wait for more news out of Cubs camp, here’s another good look at the Wrigley scoreboard from many years ago, sent to me by reader Patrick Allen.

He noted that the board lists starting pitcher and relief pitcher, instead of pitcher and catcher, and that I had previously noted that changed in 1955.

Clearly, from this photo that isn’t right. Philadelphia and St. Louis are listed on the American League side, which means this has to be before 1954, when the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore.

We also see Milwaukee on the National League side, and since the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee in 1953, that has to be the year. That also means that SP/RP appeared as early as ‘53.

Since we now know this is from 1953, it was easy to find the Cubs/White Sox exhibition game that was played in Wrigley Field that summer. As you can see, the game has just ended, as the scoreboard operator is beginning to clear the board of the Cubs linescore, then located at the top.

This game was played Thursday, July 2, 1953. The Cubs won the game 4-2. The teams generally used subs or minor leaguers in this game, and this was no exception. The Cubs starter, No. 30, was Tom Simpson, who pitched in 30 games for the Cubs that year, his only MLB season. No. 20 is Dutch Leonard, who was a longtime reliever for the Cubs in the late 1940s and early 1950s. 1953 was Leonard’s final season — he was 44 years old. The Sox countered with a rookie, Bob Keegan (15) and Luis Aloma (11). The latter was in his final MLB season.

Ralph Kiner homered for the Cubs. He played two seasons as a North Sider in 1953 and 1954. The 1953 Cubs weren’t very good after a 77-77 season in 1952, finishing 65-89. The Sox finished a distant second to the Yankees in 1953, going 89-65.

You might wonder why ST. LOUIS was listed by itself on the bottom of the board. Several other MLB games were played that afternoon, duly noted on the board, but the Browns were also playing an exhibition game that day, against a minor-league club in Indianapolis. They won that game 5-2.

In-season exhibitions used to be common, often, as in the case of the Cubs/White Sox Boys Benefit games, used for fundraising purposes. The Cubs/Sox games were to raise money for baseball equipment for youth leagues in the Chicago area. They ended after 1972.

The Cubs’ last in-season exhibition was in 1996 against their then-affiliate in Orlando, Florida. They were supposed to play MLB’s final exhibition game in Cooperstown as the Hall of Fame Game in 2008 against the Padres, but that was rained out. In-season exhibitions ended because teams really didn’t want to play them due to scheduling concerns.