Chicago Tribune, September 12, 1937
BY EDWARD BURNS.
MANY commentators, including the author of this series, have been libeling Wrigley field since midsummer, when workmen threw up a big pasteboard fence in left field and announced the move was the first in the construction of new bleachers.
None too willing to visualize the eventual permanent structure, perhaps, the aforesaid commentators and many others made a lot of cracks about “elimination of the outfield,” the “Cubs’ pill box,” etc., etc. This erstwhile scoffer now is prepared to meet with other hissers before the third game. or the world series and emboss an apologetic scroll to P. K. Wrigley, owner of the most artistic ball park in the majors. And, with all its scenic charm, Wrigley field will present an ample playing area, with a gain of 32 feet over the former park on the right foul line and the loss of only six feet on the left line. The only big slice is out of dead cen- ter, where balls seldom have gone more than 400 feet under the old setup.
Scenic Distinction May Have Had Lots to Do with It.
One of the purposes of the new bleachers at Wrigley field is to give the bargain seeking fans a larger number of seats and more comfort- able seats. But, if the truth were known, the desire for scenic distinction probably was more of an incentive than the desire to spring the capacity of the field,
Mr. Wrigley conceived the general idea of the beautification plan. Then he told Bill Veeck Jr. of the Cub office staff to start negotiations with architects and designers. Young Bill shopped among several, and finally got things moving between the firm of Holabird & Root and Mr. Wrigley. There was much dickering for a while. But, once the plans were set, construction proceeded with a bang. And as the improvement developed the Cub owner became more and more engrossed. He has been get- ting a real kick out of the progress of the construction, even going so far as to order new bleacher box offices of glass brick and stainless steel, cupolas so elegant that the boys in the $1.65 end of the park, the main entrance guys, are jealous.
The Sox Had Wistaria Outfield Wall.
The only other ball park with which we are familiar that has a horticultural display is the Sox training field at Pasadena, which has a wistaria outfield wall. In his new park arrange- ment Mr. Wrigley vows eventually to surpass that Sox wistaria display, which is not far from his Pasadena home. Bittersweet now is climbing the new buff brick circular wall, and when planting time is right Boston ivy will thicken the foliage. Chinese elms, among the most decorative of trees, are to tower from each of the eight terraced stepups of the wall leading to the great new scoreboard. The scoreboard itself, incidentally, will embody new magnetic principles never before employed in a score- board.
Wrigley field, as it stands at present, embodies little of the structure that formed the Federal league park built in 1914. Only 11 sections which now form the north end of the left field lower grand stand existed as a part of the original structure. Steel and concrete replacements have com- pletely supplanted all other portions of the original structure. From 1921 to the present there has been scarcely a year in which there has not been some major replacement or addition to the original layout. At one time 11 sections of the grand stand were placed on rollers and moved back in one operation.
Left Field Bleacher Removed in 1925.
In 1919 there was a pavilion at each end of the center single deck stand. In 1920 the left pavilion was replaced by a grand stand, and after 1921 the right field pavilion disap- peared.
During the seasons of 1923 and 1924 bleachers extended from foul line to foul line, but in 1925 the left field bleacher was removed, excepting the familiar jury box sector, which remained until midsummer this year.
In 1927 work was begun on the upper deck. That year only the left field stand was double decked, but in 1928 the grand stand was double decked completely.
Before the double decking all around, the press coop was on the roof of the grand stand. In 1929 the present press box was built, as was the photographers’ catwalk under the right field stand. Later radio booths were added to the north end of the press inclosure.
Wrigley field is the only major league park which has the proper arrangement of clubhouses in rela- tion to dugouts. A runway leads from the rear of each dugout to each clubhouse, the clubhouse in each instance being on the same side of the park as the dugout with which it is linked. This obviously desirable arrangement does not exist in any other park. In most park visiting players must pass through the home dugout in getting to and from their clubhouse, which usually is adjacent to the home bathhouse.
Bobby Dorr, ground superintendent of Wrigley field, is the only superintendent in the majors who has a residence within the ball park in- closure. Mr. Dorr and his family live in a fine bungalow built under the north end of the left field grand- stand. The bungalow was the sud- den result of a whimsical idea of the late William Wrigley Jr. in 1923.
Offices Among Largest, Best Equipped in Majors.
The offices over the main entrance have been increased annually until they now are among the largest and the best equipped in the majors. The ground floor office of Traveling Secretary Bob Lewis, north of the pass gate, is the only one of its kind In the majors. Most pass gates are shunned by persons in authority and manned only by tenders drilled to say “orders is orders and nobody left no tickets for no Mr. Spivens.”
There’s always some painting being done at Wrigley field. The paint is so extensive, in fact, that ground. keepers after each game have to eject Ira Hartnett, a paint salesman, who lives in constant terror that some one will chisel the account.
Two years ago Mr. Wrigley placed larger seats in the boxes, reducing the box section by almost 4,000 seats. But Wrigley field still has the largest box section in the league, 14,350 seats.
The new seating capacity of Wrig- ley field will be 37,500. The value of the layout, exclusive of the team and franchise is about $3,000,000.
Chicago Tribune, June 25, 2015
The scoreboard’s original background was reddish-brown — “seal brown.”. In 1944, it was changed to green after batters complained they were distracted by reflections from the sun.
Early photo (1938) of the W flag.
The scoreboard’s circular clock, which has dots instead of numerals, was added in 1941. Its original face was white, then painted green in 1944.
The words “National” and “American” atop the scoreboard used to be lower than they are now. They were raised to accommodate listing more scores because of expansion, which has increased the number of teams to today’s 30 from 16. Even with this change, the Cubs don’t have enough room to display the score of every game. A late-starting West Coast game is often left out.
Cubs score: The linescore of the Cubs game, now displayed in the lower-left-hand corner of the scoreboard, had been shown in the top and middle of the row of National League scores on the board’s left side.
White Sox score:It is customary to display the score of the White Sox game on the American League (right) side. Previously, the South Siders were referred to as “Sox.” Now, like other AL teams, they are called by their city, not their nickname.
During the years when the Chicago Bears played at Wrigley Field – a tenure which began in 1921, 16 years before the scoreboard was built, and ended in 1971 – the scoreboard was modified for football. In this 1962 archival photograph, the words “Batter,” “Ball,” “Strike” and “Out” are replaced by “Yards to Go,” “Down,” “Ball” and “Quarter.” The scores of out-of-town football games are displayed, with scores posted for each quarter instead of each inning. In addition, a digital clock appears on the scoreboard and it contained an advertisement, promoting Longines as the official watch.
Lights: Lights were added to the scoreboard in the 1980s, anticipating Wrigley Field’s first night game on Aug. 9, 1988.
Abbreviations: The abbreviations on the scoreboard – “SP” (starting pitcher) and “RP” (relief pitcher) – once designated columns of numbers identifying the pitcher and catcher.
Grid lines: The white grid of lines separating the inning-by-inning score of each major league game on the scoreboard is not original. It was added in the 1987, along with red horizontal lines that draw attention to the Cubs game.
One way to reestablish the relevance of the center-field scoreboard would be replace the word “BATTER” with “SCORE” and display, well, the score below it. Fans could still see the inning-by-inning score of the game in the lower-left corner of the board, but they could quickly see the score without having to add up the totals from each inning. The “BATTER” designation is outmoded because a wealth of information about the hitter, from a photograph to statistics, is available on the left-field video board.
Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1984
Nothing changes except the score
Best seat in the house? For Art Sagel, it s in the middle of the Wrigley Field scoreboard. Sagel has operated the only mechanical board in the National League for 14 years.
Cubs’ numbers go up old way
By Sam Smith
AND THEN there was one.
Not so many years ago, you could sit in almost any stadium in America and watch players in uniforms that didn’t resemble pajamas, know that your team wouldn’t quit trying in September because poor statistics meant a cut in pay and find out the scores of out-of-town games inning by inning.
Now the uniforms are so brightly colored it’s sometimes difficult to tell the players from the mascots. Because of long-term guaranteed contracts, the only place you’ll hear about Salary, Drive is if that’s a player’s address. And if baseball ever gave up its blinking, flashing and screaming scoreboards Disneyland could put them to good use.
For a game that is still played the same way, a lot about baseball has changed in the last 20 years. But not at Wrigley Field. At Wrigley Field the game is played on grass, the people are actually close enough to see it played and the scoreboard tells you the score of the game.
It was that way when Hank Sauer played and when Ron Santo played and now while Ryne Sandberg plays.
ART SAGEL HAS seen them all, mosly from his vantage point between Los Angeles and Cincinnati. Not the cities, the teams. Sagel sits on the second level of the three-level scoreboard looking out the ninth-inning box of one of the National League games.
Sagel is the maestro of the Wrigley Field scoreboard, the last manual scoreboard left in the National League, the last vestige of the days wren fans were intent on watching the progess of out-of-town games instead of hoping to catch an electronic flash from a scoreboard that also sounds bugles, shows cartoons and welcomes the Shriners from Ridinger Lake, lnd.
The Wrigley Field scoreboard was built in 1937 when bleachers were added in the outfield. Before then, the scoreboard was in center field at ground level.
Sagel showed up to work with te Wrigley Field grounds crew—two of his sons now are on the grounds crew—in the early 1950’s. He left for a few years in the early 1960’s and returned in 1966. His last 14 years have been in the scoreboard, his job during the game after the field is put in playing shape.
SAGEL SITS IN an old thread-bare chair next to a ticker-tape machine that spits out scores from all the out-of-town games. His responsibility is the four top games in the American and National Leagues.
Weekdays, when the Cubs are home and few other teams are playing day games, he can enjoy the game and laugh about the time he posted a relief pitcher on the San Diego game even though the Padres weren’t playing until later that day. They used the pitcher and catcher, but with the increasing importance of the relief pitcher, the catcher’s number was dropped.
- Everything is backwards for you when you’re in here, and we used to have the Cubs’ game up here instead of down at the bottom, where it is now. So I just got a little mixed up. They called from the press booth andi said, ‘Hey, San Diego’s not playing until later do you know something we don’t?’
But Sagel got back at his tormentors one day recently when the electronic scoreboard along third base was two runs for the Cubs while the visiting team was still at bat in the first.
Roger O’Connor plays the numbers game inside the Wrigley Field scoreboard. Results of all big-league games are posted by innings.
- Hey do you guys know something we don’t?
Sagel squawked nto his telephone.
MOSTLY, THOUGH. Sagel does his yelling at his boardmates, Sam Bongiorno and Roger O’Connor. Both have worked on the grounds crew for 18 years. O’Connor-has been in the scoreboard for nine seasons and Bonglorno for six.
They all sit in old seats that were used for Bears games, with Bongiorno responsible for the Cubs game and the one above it and O’Connor working the White Sox game, the one above it and, the the Cubs and visiting teams.
And when Sagel yells, “American League, two on the ins,” O’Connor knows that means he has to post two runs for the visiting American League team. Ins are visiting, outs are home. And when Sagel yells, “National League in-betweener, one on the ins,” that tells Bongorno to put one run up at the inning where the steel beams cross for the National League game that is his responsibility.
“Those are the toughest “Sagel said, motioning toward the crossing beams, “You’ve got to slide the numbers in like this here, and you better not drop one.”
The plates with the numbers weigh about five pounds each. If one was dropped from the score- board, it surely could decapitate someone. But Sagel, Bongiorno and O’Connor have yet to bobble one.
THERE ARE MORE dangers for them inside the scoreboard, too. Sometimes bleacher fans get a bit overzealous and try to break into the scoreboard. But Sagel keeps a 2-by-4 wedged into the trap door above the 10-foot vertical ladder they must climb to get into the scoreboard.
Sagel’s biggest problems come from hauling the steel plates containing the team names up and down the narrow steps. The plates weigh about 40 pounds each. Once he fell carrying several and ended up in the hospital. His friends tell him he will be there again if he doesn’t slow down weekends—when he s reading the scores to Bongiorno and O’Connor and posting eight games.
- I don’t even get a chance to look at the Cubs’ game before the sixth Inning.
IT CAN ALSO get so hot in the scoreboard that they burn their hands on the plates.
When the wind Is blowing out, they have to fight the paint chips that blow into their eyes every time they change a score. Sagel has been known to fight a fire or two from the wires that turn the shutters—the scoreboard has no lightbulbs—that form the numbers for the ball and strike counts.
But it’s still a good seat for the playoffs.