Wrigley Field Centennial mural mistake -- that's Comiskey Park, not Wrigley Field!

A couple of days ago I posted a blog stating that there was a pretty big mistake on one of the murals that have been mounted on the Waveland and Sheffield exterior walls of Wrigley Field. I invited readers to try to find that error.

I received dozens of replies, both in the Comments section (scroll down that post to read the comments) and via email. One reader, as of 4:00pm Wednesday, noted the same rather substantial mistake that I saw as I waited to get into the Centennial Game on April 23. Others found additional errors.

On that rather chilly Wednesday morning I stood in a long line on Waveland Avenue that snaked from Gate K to almost Sheffield Avenue, waiting for the gates to open at 11:30. There was a parallel line for the bleachers. The sidewalk was pretty congested. We all wanted our free Chicago Federals jerseys, promised to the first 30,000 that entered the ballpark. We needn't have worried. Based on the number of people in the park that day, the Cubs had plenty of jerseys left.

Because I had the time, I stood and actually studied the Waveland Avenue murals. Previously, I had sped by the ballpark and noted their existence without taking a closer look. When I came to this photograph in one of the murals close to Gate K, I stopped dead in my tracks ...

Caption on Wrigley Field wall: Charles Lindbergh, Wrigley Field

Caption on Wrigley Field wall: Charles Lindbergh, Wrigley Field

You see, I had just finished editing a collection of essays and oral histories titled Old Comiskey Park: Essays and Memories of the Historic Home of the Chicago White Sox, 1910-1991 (note:  the second date refers to the park's year of demolition, not the last year the Sox played there). I contributed an essay about events other than baseball that occurred at Comiskey Park, including the August, 1927, visit of aviator Charles Lindbergh to Chicago.

Lindbergh's Chicago stopover was part of a triumphant, whirlwind tour of the country celebrating his trans-Atlantic flight from Long Island to Paris, the first of its kind in history. He landed his Spirit of St. Louis plane at what is now Midway Airport, at 55th and Cicero, and then drove to Comiskey Park, at 35th and Shields, on his way to a big reception and rally at Soldier field, at about 14th and Lake Shore Drive. A very logical route.

I didn't remember reading anywhere that he stopped at Wrigley Field. So I looked more closely at the photograph and took a hard look at the rather blurry background.

Arched windows. Not distinct, but definitely there.

Comiskey Park's signature arched windows visible in background.

Comiskey Park's signature arched windows visible in background.

I turned to others standing in line, or maybe to no one in particular, and said, "That's not Wrigley Field. That's Comiskey Park." Fans in my near vicinity stared at me with blank expressions, as if I had claimed that Lake Michigan was really the Atlantic Ocean.

After the game I returned home and examined a similar photograph I had considered including in the book. It's from the Chicago History Museum and clearly shows the arched windows in the background of a shot labelled as being photographed at Comiskey Park.

Charles Lindbergh at Comiskey Park. Note the arched windows.

Charles Lindbergh at Comiskey Park. Note the arched windows.

In addition, the facing of the upper deck, under the first row, is clearly that of Comiskey Park. In 1927 the Cubs were still building their new upper deck, and its facing did not resemble that of Comiskey Park.

And finally, there were no windows under the Wrigley Field upper deck. It was wide open to Seminary and Clark Streets, and the prevailing westerlies blowing in from the North Side.

Cubs vs Cards, 1927. Note the space between the upper deck and lower deck. No windows, no walls.

Cubs vs Cards, 1927. Note the space between the upper deck and lower deck. No windows, no walls.

Wrigley Field upper deck, 1927. Only this section along the left field line was completed.

Wrigley Field upper deck, 1927. Only this section along the left field line was completed.

Faithful readers listed more errors, but we'll have to go into them in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, Lewis26, write to me at fesullivan@comcast.net and I'll send you a copy of my book, Waiting for the Cubs. It's sure to be a collector's item, as you and several members of my family will be the only ones who own a copy. And, by the way, it's riddled with errors!

Thanks to everyone who responded to my little quiz. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
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  • Great stuff! Nice catch!

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    Wow. I suppose it'd be easy enough to brush this off as a simple mistake, but I'm going to put some possibilities out there and would like some feedback as to what people believe to be the source of this erroneous addition to the mural.

    1) some intern or other young employee tasked with finding images from the last century came across this striking shot of an iconic American at a Chicago ballpark and ran with it. Since The Cell is over 20 years old now, they would've had no memory of Old Comiskey, thus making the error at least somewhat forgiveable.

    2) the Cubs' PR/promotions dept knew darn well that this was an image from another ballpark, but decided that the fanbase was too naive to pick up the mistake.

    3) Under Crane Kenney's leadership, the biz side doesn't care about historical verisimilitude, so it's more a combination of the two. Someone found the image, not knowing or caring that it wasn't from Wrigley, they fact-checked, and still put it up, believing that no one would catch it. I guess this is sort of a combination of the first two.

    In the end, I'm becoming increasingly concerned by the actions of the business arm of this organization. They have shown little tact foresight in their actions, from the Ron Santo dumpster snafu to the rollout of Clark the Cub, to the whole cake thing. Each of these events would be minor if taken in a vacuum, but when taken as a series of ongoing errors, they reflect very poorly on the team.

    End rant.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    Thanks, Evan. All three of your points have crossed my mind. What could have happened is someone came across that image and it was mislabeled. Whoever selected it believed the existing description from whatever source it came. This has happened to me. But whoever approved it didn't seem to be able to recognize that the ballpark in the picture is not the ballpark down the street from their offices, where they themselves attend games many times every season. Perhaps they should have contacted the local chapter of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) to check out the historical stuff. Someone there would have caught it.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Floyd Sullivan:

    No, thank you. This was a good read. I realize now that I should have had more coffee, as my writing got very jumbled and repetitive. Still, not as error-prone as the Cubs have been from a PR perspective, which is a bit sad. I wonder if it's simply a matter of piling on and nitpicking (I don't think so) or that there's little on the field to distract focus from the bungling (very likely), or that Crane and Co are sort of reaching the point of their own incompetence, like the joke about middle management. Not to say that everyone in the office is incompetent, but rather that they've simply reached a level where they're making mistakes due to having to drive new rev streams and come up with new promos.

    Regardless, I applaud your eagle eye and the research on this piece and more.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    Thanks!

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    One more thing. The image in question was not attributed to any specific source. And no date is given. Other images on the wall are attributed to the Chicago History Museum, and most of the other events depicted on the murals are dated.

  • In reply to Floyd Sullivan:

    They look like photos taken from the glass-plate negatives the Daily News donated to the CHM after it was bought by the Sun-Times. I used to handle them with white gloves when I worked in the museum's editorial office some 40 years ago.

  • In reply to Brule Laker:

    Yes. Many of the images in the murals are credited to the Chicago History Museum. However, the Lindbergh shot appears to be from another source. I looked for it in the CHM Daily News archives, but it's not there. Several shots from that event are in the archives.

  • fb_avatar

    Evan Altman.... well said!

  • I already have a copy of the book ... so please offer it to someone else another way. Thank you for the offer.

  • In reply to Lewis26:

    You do? That's great! Hope you enjoyed it. I will offer it some other way, as you suggested.

  • fb_avatar

    Nice detective work!

    Midway Airport can indeed be found these days at 55th and Cicero, but during Lindbergh's visit the airport (not yet named Midway) did not extend that far north on Cicero. It was based at 63rd and Cicero. In fact, railroad tracks cut across what is now the exact centerline of the airport. As the airport eventually expanded north, the tracks were actually worked around for a while, but then had to be relocated.

  • In reply to Terry Falduto:

    Great info! Thanks so much. It was called Municipal Airport, or something like that, I believe.

  • fb_avatar

    As a Sox fan, who has a keen interest in Charles Lindbergh, due to his Swedish heritage, and having a nephew who works at both Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park in the stands, I find this just classic. I love Chicago history, and anytime us Sox fans can have one over on the Cubs, we'll take it. Now I know Mr. Lindbergh was at the same fine park I went to many times growing up, so I thank you for that!

  • fb_avatar

    How incredibly rude, auto-playing audio? And where the hell do I go to turn the thing off?

  • In reply to Rob McMillin:

    Sorry about the autoplay. Hover over the video and a pause button will appear lower left.

  • fb_avatar

    This "mistake" happened because its not about the sport or competition its about selling seats and bear and expensive souvenirs. Welcome to the future, suckers! "Professional" sports is about separating you from as much money as possible so that billionaires can pay bloated salaries to millionaires. Advice to the Ricketts family: Spend your money on talent and just win some games.

  • In reply to Bill Brenner:

    Thanks for your comment!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Bill Brenner:

    That's got nothing to do with the future, Bill. Professional sports have always been about separating you from your money, and the Cubs have long been at the top of the list of the best clubs to do just that.

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    Floyd Sullivan

    Author of the book "Waiting for the Cubs." Live 1.6 miles from Wrigley Field and go to as many games as possible. Get in as cheaply as I can and usually hang out in standing room at the top of aisle 206. How long have I been a Cub fan? Here's a clue: my first favorite Cub was Tony Taylor! Even though I wrote a book, I'm just a fan like you with no connections, no famous friends, and no clue. Feel free to contact me at fesullivan@comcast.net

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