Wrigley Field Historical Detective: Original Scoreboard Edition
This is one of the clearest images I have ever seen of the iconic Wrigley Field dashboard with the clock painted in its original white, with dark indicators.
The colors of the clock are a useful clue to the date in this photo, but first, a bit of history. When the board was first built, it had no clock, as I wrote in this 2020 article here, which also notes that the clock was added sometime after May 25, 1941 and that ‘it, along with the rest of the board, was painted in its current olive-drab color in 1944.
So that shrinks it. The Cubs play the Reds and it’s a weekday or Sunday afternoon, not a Saturday – 3 p.m. was the start time Monday through Friday and Sunday as shown here in 2019, and the game is at the end of the first round at 3:15 a.m.
Next, let’s look at the numbers of the starting pitchers. Johnny Vander Meer wore number 33 for the Reds throughout that span, so he must be the one to start for Cincinnati.
Charlie Root wore number 17 for the Cubs from 1935 to 1941 and Hi Bithorn wore it in 1942.
The other clue is the receiver’s number, displayed next to the pitcher. Back in the days when most pitchers were finishing what they started, it was more important to know who the catcher was than who the relief pitchers were.
The receivers here are Ernie Lombardi (Reds) and Clyde McCullough (Cubs). Lombardi was sold to the Braves after 1941, so this must be the year.
There is only one game that year that matches all rated players. It happened Sunday 10 August 1941. 18,739 attended this Wrigley Field contest which the Reds won 3-1, finished in one hour and 51 minutes. (Sigh.) No.31 is batting for the Cubs when the photo was taken at the bottom of the first one. It’s Dom Dallessandro, at bat with two strikeouts. He flew to the center to end the round. The Cubs weren’t very good in 1941, finishing sixth at 70-84. The crowd was the sixth largest of the year. Also note that the central court bleachers were closed that afternoon, a rare occurrence in the early 1940s.
The likely reason this photo exists, and why the turnout was so good, is that that Sunday the Cubs had a “day” in honor of Root, who had pitched for four pennant-winning Cubs teams. and was then 42 years old and in his last season as a player. According to the Tribune:
A live pig, and a very dashing pig, was added yesterday to the affairs of Charley Root, the 42-year-old Cub veteran who had his day at Wrigley Field. The pig, a token of esteem from Doc Andy Lotshaw, the club’s coach, presented the list of property watered by the former. The most expensive item was a station wagon purchased with contributions from fans, but Root has also shown keen interest in a check presented by the club. He asked for $ 2,200.
The Cub players’ offerings were a blanket with 16 stars, one for each of the veteran’s years with the team, and a desk clock. Broadcasters place a casting rod and equipment in the station cart. The White Sox players sent in $ 50 in gas coupons, enough to take the vehicle to the Root Ranch in California.
Lots of things to unpack there! Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the pig to show you. $ 2,200 in 1941, according to this inflation calculator, equates to over $ 40,000 today, and $ 50 in gasoline coupons would be over $ 900 in 2021. And, interestingly, the latter comes from White Sox players – the rivalry may not be as fierce as it is today.
Root only played five more games after that day, starting four and posting three wins, which gave him 201 for his career. This represents today (and probably will remain so forever) the Cubs franchise record.
He returned to the Cubs as a pitching coach from 1951 to 1953 and then held the same role for the Milwaukee Braves in 1956 and 1957, returning to the Cubs for a final year as a coach in 1960. Later , by his biography SABR:
After living in Los Angeles during the offseason for many years, he and Dorothy then moved to their 1,000-acre Diamond-R ranch in Paicines, 120 miles southeast of San Francisco, where Root became a prosperous cattle rancher and loved to hunt and fish.
No mention of pigs, however. Root died in 1970 at the age of 71.