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I came across this photo online. It’s supposedly from 1970 (the topic was the name change of San Diego Stadium to Jack Murphy). As you can see, the third base coach’s box appears to say, “Cubs.” Was that a thing?
This was new for me — or at least I thought it was (more on that in a sec). I couldn’t recall ever seeing an MLB coach’s box emblazoned with a team name. I was intrigued, so I posted the photo on Twitter and asked if anyone knew more. Twitter-er @Anthony858, looking at highlights from Dock Ellis’s famous LSD no-hitter, which took place on June 12, 1970, spotted a glimpse of “Padres” printed in the first base coach’s box, It’s blurry, but it’s definitely there:
So it appears that the Padres put the team names in the coaching boxes during that season. I had no idea! It’s sort of like how NFL teams used to put the visiting team’s name in one end zone.
But a lot of other people responded to my tweet, and that’s how this topic went from an “Ask Me Anything” question to a full-blown blog entry. First, Uni Watch proofreader Jerry Wolper reminded me that he had noticed team names in the San Diego coaching boxes back in 2019, when he was watching some footage from a 1977 Phillies/Padres game:
So the Padres apparently did this for a while. We ran that in the Ticker on May 1, 2019; I even tweeted about it! But I had no memory of it when Matt Newman sent in that AMA question.
Good thing I didn’t remember, because my tweet in response to Matt’s query brought lots of other interesting info to light. For example, Jerry Wolper dug a little deeper and found this shot from Opening Day in 1979:
So it now seems fairly safe to say that the Padres were doing this throughout the 1970s. Interesting!
But this phenomenon wasn’t limited to San Diego. Jim Carlisle (@VintScoreboards) responded to my query with this photo of Dodger Stadium from the 1965 World Series:
If you look closely, you can see that the third base coach’s box has the Dodgers’ familiar script. Here’s a close-up:
The American League team in that World Series was the Twins. So did their logo appear in the first base coach’s box? It’s hard to tell from that overhead photo, so I scrolled through some video highlights from the ’65 Series. Sure enough:
Who knew? Not me!
Also: You may have noticed in the Dodger Stadium overhead shot that there were some odd grassed-in patches in the home plate region. Here’s a better view of that (it almost resembled a smiley face!):
I’ve never seen this before — not at Dodger Stadium, not anywhere else. So bizarre! Does anyone know anything more about it? (As you may recall, Dodger Stadium currently has unusually thin lines for its batter’s boxes. Apparently that part of the field has always been the home of unusual design details!)
But wait — there’s still more! Another Twitter-er who responded to my tweet about the San Diego photo was BW Radley, who came up with this photo of the Polo Grounds from the 1911 World Series (that’s Christy Mathewson on the mound):
Check out that big “VISITORS” lettering on the field near the third base line — never seen that before either! (While I can’t tell for sure, I assume the dark lettering on the other side of the field said, “GIANTS.”)
I feel like we’ve learned so much here! Let’s recap:
The Padres had team names in the coach’s boxes throughout the 1970s.
Dodger Stadium had team logos in the coach’s boxes in the 1965 World Series.
Dodger Stadium also had a really funky-looking design around home plate in that World Series.
The Polo Grounds had big team designations printed on the field in the 1911 World Series.
It’s entirely possible, of course — perhaps even likely — that these phenomena were not limited to the specific instances listed here.
All that because of a simple “Ask Me Anything” query by Matt Newman (and also because of my lousy memory). Thanks for sending me down this rabbit hole, Matt!
ITEM! New Raffle
Longtime reader/pal Kary Klismet marked my birthday yesterday by generously providing funds for a raffle. The lucky winner will get a one-year subscription to my Premium content on Substack, along with a pair of Uni Watch magnets and some stickers.
This will be a one-day raffle. No entry restrictions. To enter, send an email with your shipping addressto the raffle in-box by 9pm Eastern tonight. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow. Good luck, and big thanks to Kary for sponsoring this one!
Can of the Day
I like this one for several reasons: the green (duh), the overall design, but also the functional specificity — a product for lubricating washing machine wringers! Too bad they gave it a name that sounds like a laxative.
• • • • •
My thanks to everyone who sent birthday greetings my way yesterday. Greatly appreciated! — Paul
The Detroit Tigers used to give this same treatment to visitor’s on-deck circles, back in the old Tiger Stadium. It appeared to be in the form of a circular rubber mat with the visiting team’s logo on it, with a Tigers logo (the old tiger’s head surrounded by the words “Detroit Tigers” in a circle) laid on top of their own on-deck circle. After the game, the grounds crew would simply roll them up and put them away (I watched them do this after games! Always liked to stick around – if my dad would let me – and watch the post-game operations).
Yeah, I think that was common (or at least not UNcommon) for the on-deck circles at many ballparks. But seeing it in the coaching box seems much more unusual, at least to me.
Many teams did this back in the day. The Phillies did it for games at The Vet when I was young. They also had all of the logos on the black batter’s eye above the fence, alphabetical order by city/state, split by divisions. They didn’t do standings like some teams.
The Cubs still do it
County Stadium had on-deck circles with the visiting team logos, too. My dad was telling me he went to a game with his older brother, and they had wandered near the groundkeeper storage area. My uncle tried to get my dad to steal one of the circles, but my dad obviously wouldn’t do it. Like, how would someone even smuggle it out? They’re at least 5 feet wide, and who knows how heavy and bulky.
I was going to mention that with Riverfront but yeah, appears it’s more common than we thought.
Fascinating! A number of details from the 1965 Dodger Stadium photos make me suspect that the boxes are printed tarps, not painted grass.
Ornate home plate circles were not unusual during the 60’s. I know for a fact that the Twins had a similar design, as did the Cardinals. Walking paths leading up to the plate area were very common during the 50’s and 60’s.
What may be a more difficult mystery to solve is something I’ve seen on the field of at least two old stadiums. Strange areas running down the foul side of the third base line at Forbes Field, and on the first base side at Busch Stadium. They don’t appear to be dirt paths. See links below.
Scroll down to the photos here
If anyone can tell me what they were, I’d greatly appreciate it!
I am going to hypothesize that the Forbes Field line is the back of an end zone for the Steelers (you can see a right angle turn into fair territory right about where the third base box seats end).
The Busch picture looks like mower lines, since they follow the curve of the foul warning track. I cannot conceive of what else they could be.
The 5th and 6th photos of Busch Stadium clearly show a long, narrow area that isn’t a mowing pattern. I doubt they are end zone related because there is only one in each stadium, and are so narrow with a box shape at the ends. Could they be underground tarp storage?
I think you’re right about those being automated tarp storage. Push a button, and it comes up so that the grounds crew can roll the tarp in or out.
Bingo. Can confirm with first hand knowledge
Here’s a link to a YouTube video from the 1985 NLCS, Dick Enberg is talking about the horrible accident where Vince Coleman’s leg got crushed by the tarp roller. You can see the storage unit fully raised and the tarp is being prepared to roll onto the field. link
Ah, I see what you mean, I thought you just meant the big photo at the top.
Agree that those are tarp rollers.
Probably end zones when football was played there.
I asked a friend who has worked at Dodger Stadium for +\- 40 years about the coaching boxes. He said they were rubber mats about 1/2 inch thick.
Can you ask your friend about the odd grass patches around home plate? That’s what I’m really curious about.
Happy belated Paul! My favorite example of repping the other team was the Mets putting the proper caps on the visitors’ bullpen buggies in the early to mid 70s. Not many teams went that far, if any.
Aside from the fascinating details about the coaching boxes, it also looks like the batter in that 1911 Polo Grounds photo is wearing a sweater (just like the 1B and 3B coaches). And you can tell it’s the A’s at bat, because the socks and caps match. link
Riverfront Stadium did not have underground tarp storage but did have a curved area in left field that covered tracks used to move the third-base stands for football games.
Riverfront Stadium also briefly had a painted circle in left field with “4192” to mark the landing spot for Pete Rose’s record-breading hit. My recollection is the Reds wanted it to be permanent but the Bengals objected, even though it would have been on the football sideline and not on the field of play.
Just out of curiosity, who was the first team to put insignias of other teams on the outfield wall?
I would begin my research with the Vet in the 1970s.
I hope that Rob Manfred doesn’t see this article. The coaches box and on deck circle will be his next experiment for ads.
They already have ads *near* the coaching boxes (on the grass between the baseline and the dugout), and on-deck circles have sometimes featured the New Era logo, so those boxes have already been checked.
I wanted to suggest one thought to explain how the heck it could be that the Padres used the team names in coaches’ boxes throughout the 1970’s and it’s news to so many of us. Think about how infrequently a Padres home game was televised nationally in the 70’s. NBC Saturday Game of the Week– not even an option on Saturday afternoon at 2 pm. Later in the decade when Monday Night Baseball came along, a Padres home game wouldn’t be played in the right time slot. And no post-season appearance for the Padres until 1984! So we just weren’t seeing a whole lot of San Diego/Jack Murphy Stadium in the 70’s.
Additionally, when my favorite team played in the Padres’ stadium in the 1970s, the games finished (or even started) well past my bedtime.
This is the journalism I expect here. Thanks, Paul.
And thanks for sharing the laxative can.
I really enjoyed seeing the team logos on the outfield fences when I was a kid in the 70s.
Man the advertisers missed the boat on some prime real estate.
“Third base coaches box sponsored by Red Man tobacco.”
“1st base coaches box, sponsored by 1st national bank”
“Third base box, sponsored by your local adult store, everything you need for rounding third”
The Red Sox used those logo mats for on-deck circles up until 2001 when Jason Varitek was diving for a foul ball, landed hard on the mat and broke his elbow. The mats disappeared and since then there have been no specific on-deck circles at Fenway Park. The next hitter just stands somewhere near the dugout.