I came across this photo the other day, posted in a friend’s Facebook feed.
Well, naturally that got my sleuthing cap on. When was this taken?
Ron Santo, obviously, is the baserunner. I immediately recognized the catcher as Joe Torre.
Both those players had long careers. Could have been just about any time over the course of a decade, right?
Not so much. There are two clues from Torre as to the date. First, his long sideburns indicate a late-1960s/early-1970s date. Before that men, particularly ballplayers, didn’t wear sideburns like that. The second clue is the uniform. Torre played nine seasons for the Braves before being traded to the Cardinals before the 1969 season. All the Braves uniforms of that era had sleeve patches. Torre’s uniform has no sleeve patch — thus this must be him as a Cardinal.
Further, neither player is wearing a uniform with the 1969 baseball centennial patch. The patch was worn on the left sleeve unless the team had its own patch there, in which case it moved to the right (that’s where the Cubs wore the centennial patch). If this photo had been taken in 1969, the patch would have been visible on both players’ sleeves.
Torre did not catch any games after 1970 — not one. So this has to be from 1970. But when?
Torre caught five games at Wrigley Field in 1970. Santo scored a run in three of them, so we can eliminate the other two, a doubleheader on June 21.
The fans in the front row are wearing jackets. Thus we can eliminate the game of September 15, where the game-time temperature was listed as 84 degrees.
That leaves April 21 and April 22. Santo scored a run in the April 21 game, but it was on a two-run homer by Johnny Callison — so there wouldn’t have been a play as shown in the photo.
So it must be the April 22 game. Santo is shown in the boxscore as scoring a run on a sacrifice fly by J.C. Martin. But would a play looking like that have resulted from a sac fly?
Off I went to the Tribune archive, and there I found confirmation. The game recap, written by Richard Dozer, says:
Chuck Taylor came in for [Rich] Nye, and [Ernie] Banks sacrificed, whereupon [J.C.] Martin lined his run-scoring fly to [Lou] Brock in left. Santo, seeming caught in a slow-motion run to the plate, somehow avoided Torre’s tag, though Torre will never believe it.
And yes, that’s former Cub Rich Nye, who had been traded to the Cardinals for Boots Day before the 1970 season. He pitched in only six games for St. Louis before being sold to the Expos. Arm trouble ruined a promising career.
Thus the photo was taken in the bottom of the fifth inning, April 22, 1970. The Cubs won the game 7-5; Fergie Jenkins threw a 10-hit complete game. Incidentally, the April 21 game was the one in which Randy Hundley suffered the first of the two serious knee injuries that cut his career short.