Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Straight-Away Center Field

If you've ever watch a game at Wrigley, you may know the distance to the center field wall. It's painted on the bricks with the ivy cut away. In bright yellow numbers, its very easy to spot. And the announcers will mention it too.

"Its 400 feet to straight away center field." Those numbers have been on the wall since the bleachers were built in 1937.....

....and the numbers are wrong!

Actually, the number is correct, but the placement isn't. The 400' sign is not in straight away center field.

You can see from this card (with the line and circle that I added) that the sign is to the right field side of center field. So how far is it to straight away center field? I fired up Google Earth to find out.

According to Google Earth, it's only 391.32' to straight away center. That's pretty short! In fact, that is the shortest center field distance in the major leagues. Even for the time when the bleachers were built, it was a pretty short distance. That would help to explain why the Cubs didn't mark off true center field. They probably decided to keep going around the outfield until they came to a spot 400' away and then mark that spot instead. Psychologically, it sounds better to say 400' even if it isn't quite true.

The outfield distances at Wrigley are quite a contrast, then. The left (355') and right (353") field lines are the deepest in major league baseball. And center field is the shortest. That's what happens when you squeeze in a bleacher section into a city block. The quirks were forced on the team by space restrictions, like Fenway's Green Monster, instead of being contrived like in today's modern parks.

I like real quirks; I can't stand like contrived quirks (Tal's Hill in Houston, I'm looking at you)...

...and I'm ambivalent about Jamie Quirk.

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