Official Programs Through the Years
At every ballpark you go to, major league, minor league, even many high school games, one thing is pretty consistent. Vendors offering to sell you programs when you walk through the gates. It’s a money maker for the teams and a practice that has been around pretty much as long as the game itself. Of course, the programs also make great collectibles. I recently completed a full run of Cubs programs from 1982-2009, the period I refer to as the Contemporary Era for Cubs programs, and I wanted to lay out a short summary of Cubs programs through the years. I may make this a regular piece that goes into more detail and showcases more pictures, but this is just meant to be a primer on the major eras for Cubs programs. And I’m only looking at official Cubs programs here (the ones you could buy inside the park). There have been a fair number of unofficial (bootleg) programs issued throughout the Cubs long history as well. I’ll save those for another time.
The Pamphlet Style Era (Through 1946)
Up through 1946, the Cubs didn’t issue programs per se, but rather small booklets that they referred to as scorecards. These were the precursors to the modern program as they contained both a scorecard as well as some short informational bits. The scorecards from this era were a relatively consistent size, roughly 9” tall x 6” wide. This is similar to the size of most pamphlets, so I refer these as pamphlet style programs. I haven’t seen many regular season scorecards from before 1929, but I have seen some so I do believe programs exist going back as far as the first decade of the 20th century. The ones before 1929 are especially rare though. Blue Valley Butter was a pretty consistent sponsor in the 1930s and their name appears on most of the program covers from this period. I’ve pictured a few of the covers below.
The Vintage Era (1947 – 1981)
Starting in 1947 and continuing through 1981, the Cubs began issuing a slightly larger scorecard booklet which was referred to as a program on the cover. These were standard magazine size programs, roughly 8.5” wide by 11” tall. They featured a unique pop art style scene on the front, with each year having a new piece of art. The artwork on these are very cool, especially when looking at them all next to each other. The inside content of these is pretty small, much like the Pamphlet Style Era. Significant content would not appear until the Contemporary Era starting in 1982. Here are a few of the covers.
The Contemporary Era / Magazine Style (1982-2009)
What I refer to as the Contemporary Era of Cubs programs began in 1982 and ran through 2009. And this time, there was a significant change in the content of the programs as well as the overall style. The program was changed to a full magazine featuring 100+ pages of content in every issue. And after a single issue was sold throughout the year in 1982, the team began to issue multiple issues per year in 1983. From 1983-2000, four regular season issues per year were issued (the programs were called Cubs Quarterly from 1989-2000). Two issues per year became the norm in 2001 and this continued through 2009. It appears the team has abandoned the magazine style format beginning in 2010. A few of the covers from the Contemporary Era are below.
Scorecard Extra Era (2001 – Present)
Note the overlap between this and the previous section. In 2001, the Cubs began selling a publication they referred to as a Scorecard Extra, and these continue this season as the only program type publication the Cubs are offering. The Cubs issue a new one of these every month, so there are six issued per year. And these are sort of a 21st century version of what was issued prior to 1982. A scorecard with some limited information included. The amount of information included is higher than it was pre-1982, but tops out at about 10 pages per issue. So much less than the magazine style provided. A few of the covers from this era are below.