As the Cubs’ season to remember keeps rolling along–and the team continues racking up victories like only a few living Cubs fans have ever seen–I’ve become more focused on the W flag. I wrote a piece about its history and significance for the Gamehedge blog, and as soon as it’s published I’ll link to it here. But I essentially see the flag as a validation that this year’s team is good, and has some great things in store for us over the next month or so.
According to a very good book I’ve read on the subject, the practice of running up flags at Wrigley Field after a ballgame began in the 1940s. The idea was to let the people riding the CTA’s elevated line past the ballpark know if the Cubs won or lost. That’s all. No game highlights or descriptions, just a binary result: W or L.
But from the early years of the practice until sometime in the 1980s (and the book isn’t any more specific than that with the dates), the color schemes of the flags were the opposite of what they are today. It makes sense, actually, because the Cubs team color is blue, so if they win perhaps the flag saying so should also be blue. And if the white flag symbolizes surrender, perhaps its fitting for the L flag to be that color, too. But they got switched somehow, and here we are.
This means one of two things, with regard to this season and the last time the Cubs had a similarly good season, back in 1945:
- The Cubs hadn’t yet started flying flags after the games in 1945, because “the 1940s” is a wide span of time that may or may not include that season, OR
- The flags that were flown in 1945 were either blue with a white W or white with a blue L, depending on the game’s outcome.
So even if the team had started with the flags in 1945, they didn’t look like the ones they use today, as shown above.
Either way, it’s worth pointing out that a white flag with a blue W on it has never flown over Wrigley Field before, when the team has 98 wins on the regular season, as they do today. They should easily reach 100 wins in the regular season, and have an outside chance to get there at home by beating the Cardinals on Saturday and Sunday. Wouldn’t it be nice to celebrate that 100th win with a W flag high above the ballpark? I know I’d love to see it.
The season really doesn’t begin until the postseason starts in October, but there’s still some dreaming left to do before that moment arrives. Go Cubs Go!