March 10, 2016
In yet another unexpected diversion from my planned tasks, the diagrams and text on the Wrigley Field page have been updated. For most of the diagram variations, however, the changes were only minor. It was only last October that I thought I had (almost) all the details nailed down. The big remaining uncertainty was the precise configuration of the early years, 1914-1922. (The 1914 diagram even had a caveat: "work in progress.") Well, thanks to some old charts brought to my attention by Bruce Orser, most of my lingering doubts have been erased.
For many hours, I had agonized at being unable to reconcile contradictory photographic evidence pertaining to the periods before and after the "big change" was made prior to the 1923 season. The right foul line seemed to point toward a particular building across Sheffield Avenue, but that would have cut right through the grandstand, based on my understanding. It just made no sense. At one point, I even concluded that the first base side of the grandstand (the portion which was said to have remained in place during the 1923 changes) must have been rotated a few degrees.
It turns out that when the "big change" was made, 14 rows of seats were added to the front of the grandstand, not ten as I had previously assumed. (That was based on the position of the lateral walkway, a distinctive point which seemed logical.) Those four non-existent rows would have extended about eleven feet forward, and once I revised the 1914 diagram accordingly, the discrepancy vanished. Eureka! For more on all this, see thereusedtobeaballpark.com.
That led to untangling the other uncertainties of the early years, and for that purpose, Ron Selter's fine book Ballparks of the Deadball Era (2008) came in very handy. The original location (or locations) of the left field fence is a little hazy, as the buildings along Waveland Avenue were in the process of being vacated and demolished. The revised 1914 diagram has two lines for the left field fences, the first pertaining to the first series at Wrigley (or Weeghman Park, as it was then known), and the second pertaining to the rest of the season, from May on. Those lines are based on Selter's descriptions, his dimension estimates, and the photographs I've seen. Further evidence might lead me to make changes in those, however. In contrast, I am fairly confident about the 1915 diagram (which is brand new); the only question is whether the deepest corner was to the left (as Selter states) or to the right (as I believe) of dead center field.
There are two other notable changes, and one tiny one. First, the upper deck on the left side extends about ten feet farther out than I previously estimated. That necessitated changing the positions of the support beams, the light towers, and some of the entry portals on that side. Second, the lower-deck seats near the left field corner angled in a bit more sharply than I previously estimated. Finally, the boundary of the park, which was the left field wall from 1928 until 1937, is about two feet farther out than before. The only reason I bothered with that was wanting to match the reported left field dimension of 364 feet during those years. Newspaper accounts of the removal of the left field bleachers in mid-1925 indicate a distance of 370 feet, but I have grave doubts about that.
Anyway, to sum up the results of all these findings, I present this overlaid diagram, showing that home plate did indeed move about 60 feet between 1922 and 1923. (In my previous diagrams, the change was more like 50 feet.) It also shows that the diamond was rotated by a couple degrees in a counter-clockwise direction, something I previously believed was impossible.
Everybody knows that spring training games count for nothing and are useless as far as predicting how well teams will do in the regular season. With that disclaimer, it may be worth noting that the Washington Nationals won six of their first seven games this year. New players Ben Revere and Stephen Drew are both hitting very well so far, but not Daniel Murphy. (It feels weird discussing so many new names connected to the Nationals.) Then the Nats lost to the Tigers on Wednesday and to the Astros on Thursday, so their record is now down to 6-3. The pitchers are performing well, overall, both starters and relievers, but the absence of Ryan Zimmerman from spring training is a major cause for concern. That plantar fascitis foot problem is apparently still bothering him. I think it's safe to say that the Nationals' fortunes this year will hinge to a large degree on how healthy the mid-career Zimmerman and the aging veteran Jayson Werth are.
Here are a couple noteworthy items, first from Mike Zurawski. In Denver, they are raising the height of the outfield fence in the left field corner (from 8 feet to 13 feet) and in front of the bullpens in right-center field (from about 8 feet to 16.5 feet). One expert estimated that, as a result, "home runs at Coors Field could fall by 5-6 percent." See fangraphs.com.
Second, Alex Peneton alerted me to a diagram with provisional dimensions for SunTrust Park, which will become the home of the Braves next year. (Turner Field is being abandoned after a brief 20-year period of use in the major leagues.) From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
More news to follow soon...