Last week, I posted this article about some cool old color home film that had been taken at the 1938 World Series and put online by Flagstaff Films.
The folks at Flagstaff Films continue to put some great old baseball film on Twitter. A couple of days ago, this one appeared:
Full at bat-Ron Santo,1963, Polo Grounds, NYC~ and a bonus Cubbie (can you guess?) blowin' a gasket at home plate (from the Flagstaff Films baseball home movie archive) pic.twitter.com/JriqNX7KvK— Flagstaff Films (@Flagstafffilms) November 2, 2018
Well now, this one’s fascinating not only for the shot of Ron Santo during batting practice, but for some game action of the Cubs and Mets.
It says “1963,” and that’s the only clue to the date given in the Twitter post. But it wasn’t too difficult to figure out when this film was shot.
The best, and most important, clue is the brief look we get at the Mets catcher. He is wearing No. 16. That’s Sammy Taylor — who played a few years for the Cubs before they traded him to the Mets in 1962.
Taylor played in only three games vs. the Cubs in 1963 at the Polo Grounds.
The first was the first game of a doubleheader May 30. However, Taylor played only the last two innings of that game and neither of the Cubs who wore No. 15 that year — Leo Burke and Ken Aspromonte — played in that game. No. 15 is visible in the rather animated argument shown at the end of the video.
The other two games played by Taylor against the Cubs in New York that year were June 25 and June 26. June 25 was a night game, so that’s out.
June 26, then, has to be the game and there’s further proof in the video, in the game action shown.
Ron Santo is shown hitting a fly ball to right. That happened leading off the seventh inning. The Mets pitcher was Larry Bearnarth.
Ken Aspromonte didn’t play for the Cubs at all after June 21, 1963, so the No. 15 rather animatedly arguing with plate umpire Stan Landes has to be Leo Burke. And indeed, Burke was the next hitter after Santo and was called out on strikes, so you could imagine a possible argument after that. Back then you could do that without automatically being ejected.
The others shown in that scene are Dick Bertell (No. 6), Cubs “head coach” Bob Kennedy (No. 61), and another Cubs coach, Verlon Walker (No. 56). Remember, this was still the “College of Coaches” era. I’m not quite sure why Bertell was there; he wasn’t the next scheduled hitter, though he was the hitter after the next scheduled hitter, Ken Hubbs. (Too bad there’s no film of Hubbs in that scene, though Hubbs wasn’t likely to inject himself into an argument, based on everything I’ve read about him.)
So there you have it: Film of a bit of Cubs BP and two Cubs at-bats against the Mets at the Polo Grounds in the seventh inning, Wednesday, June 26, 1963, more than 55 years ago.
Footnote: This was a memorable game in Mets history. It went 14 innings, and the Cubs took a 6-4 lead in the top of the 14th on an inside-the-park two-run homer by Billy Williams.
In the bottom of the 14th, the Mets loaded the bases with two out and Tim Harkness hit a walkoff grand slam. It was the first walkoff slam in Mets franchise history.