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Cubs Historical Sleuthing: 1945 Edition

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There are some interesting side notes in this photo, too.

Here is another photo that came to my attention via Twitter:

The reason this photo was tweeted, obviously, was the sign saying “Ricketts” — a sign I had never seen before in a photograph. You don’t often see photos taken from this angle from that era.

The “Ricketts” on that sign has nothing to do with the current owners of the Cubs. It was the name of a restaurant on Clark Street, about a mile from Wrigley Field, that advertised extensively both on that sign and in Cubs programs of the day. There was another Ricketts Restaurant sign on a building on Waveland back then, which I wrote about here and here in November 2009.

Now, to identifying the game in the photo. We already know the photo was taken in 1945 from the tweet. The only player clearly identifiable in the photo is Mickey Livingston, who wore No. 11 for the Cubs in 1945 and caught in 68 games that year. A larger examination of the photo shows the baserunner is wearing a Cardinals uniform.

Livingston caught five games against the Cardinals at Wrigley in 1945. Two of them were in April — scratch those, you’ve got full ivy on the wall.

Next were the two relevant June games. The boxscores don’t have weather conditions, so I checked the Tribune archives for the weather those days — sunny both times. The photo above was clearly taken on a cloudy afternoon, so it can’t be the June games, nor this one from August 24Tribune archive said it was sunny that day, too.

That leaves Tuesday, September 25. The Tribune says it was cloudy that day, so that checks out. But when in the game would this have been?

I asked Mike Bojanowski to take a look at the photo. Here’s what he sent me:

It has to be a play where the batter reaches first base without a throw, while the first baseman holds the bag, and the catcher's/umpire's (both holding the plate area) attention is drawn toward third base. It would seem to eliminate balls hit to right field. Also, Livingston was replaced starting the eighth, so only the first through the seventh innings.

I find these possible plays:

1st inning: Adams reaches on error by Hack at third. This explains Cavarretta's position, there was a runner on base, so Livingston is unlikely to be headed toward first as backup.

1st inning: Sanders singled to center field, runner Kurowski thrown out at third. I don't think Cavarretta is likely to be right on the bag here.

3rd inning: Verban reaches on a bunt single to third base. The play-by-play does not indicate a throw, but in any case, Livingston would not be standing around the plate (no one on base at the time, he'd be backing up first).

5th inning: Sanders single, runner scores, again, I don't see Cavarretta being right on the bag, though the catcher/ump makes sense.

We discussed this and came to the conclusion that it’s probably the first play of those four. One final piece of evidence for the 9/25 game: The face of the plate umpire is (mostly) visible. The plate umpire that day was Babe Pinelli. Here is a photo of Pinelli. There’s enough of a resemblance that I’d say it’s him.

Since Cubs weekday games began at 1:30 in 1945, this photo was likely taken Tuesday, September 25, 1945, just a few minutes after 1:30. The Cubs won the game 6-5 and led the Cardinals by 2½ games. Their magic number to clinch the N.L. pennant was four.

LIFE magazine ran a photo essay on the Cubs in its October 8, 1945 issue. The photos there are from the next day’s game, but as noted, Livingston did not play in that game, so the photo here has to be from September 25. It’s likely that LIFE had a photographer at both those games, as the Cubs were at the time on the verge of their first pennant in seven (!) years and those were their final two home games of the regular season.