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Cubs historical sleuthing: Two franchise icons

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I’ve never seen a photo of these players quite like this one before. And most likely, neither have you.

The photo at the top of this post shows, of course, Ron Santo and Ernie Banks, Hall of Famers both, two of the best and most beloved players in Cubs history.

But when was this photo taken? Santo and Banks were teammates for 12 seasons, from 1960 through 1971.

Click here for a larger version of the photo, and you can play along while I sleuth this one out.

There are a number of clues. I’ll start with the ballpark; the railings are in the lower box seat area and the corner seats have not yet been angled toward the plate. That would date this right away to before 1968. (Incidentally, look at the concrete panels behind the seating area, originally installed in 1958 but now completely removed. When this photo was taken they nearly enclosed the entire right-field corner.)

But the most important clue to dating this photo is the player sleeves. There’s no Cub patch on either sleeve, which means this photo is from 1960 or 1961. The patch was added in 1962 — and incidentally, for the first two years the patch went on the sleeve opposite the player’s throwing hand (i.e., lefthanded throwers had the patch on the right sleeve). In 1964 it was moved to the left sleeve for everyone.

Anyway, so, 1960 or 1961. Now, when was this taken?

That’s a Milwaukee Braves catcher in the shot. The Braves are the only team that had uniforms that looked like that in 1960 and 1961.

So that narrows it down to 22 possible games, the number of games the Cubs and Braves played at Wrigley Field in 1960 and 1961, and yes, it’s all 11 games in 1960, even though Santo didn’t make his debut until late June. The Braves’ first visit to Wrigley Field in 1960 just so happened to be Santo’s debut home games.

We can eliminate that first four-game series, June 28-30 (doubleheader on the 29th) for two reasons: first, as Kasey Ignarski learned for our “Cubs By The Numbers” book, Santo actually wore No. 15 for his first few games at Wrigley Field. Also, Santo did not bat ahead of Banks in any of those games.

I’m going to eliminate the three-game series on August 31 (doubleheader) and September 1, 1960, because, again, Santo didn’t bat before Banks in any of those games.

A series in April 1961 can be eliminated for the sun angle, and series in August and September 1961 is eliminated because Santo didn’t bat before Banks in any of those games.

That leaves three possible games: a single game on July 23, 1960 and a doubleheader on July 24, 1960. Santo hit directly ahead of Banks in the lineup for all three of those games.

So that sent me back to this 2013 article I posted here with historical Wrigley Field game times. In 1960, single games started at 1:30 and doubleheaders at 1:00.

It’s a subtle difference, but I think the shadow clinches this one. This is obviously the bottom of the first inning. But with a 1:00 start, the sunny area on the first-base side wouldn’t be quite as large in the bottom of the first as it would be with a 1:30 start. It’s only 30 minutes’ difference, but I think this photo was taken in the bottom of the first inning on Saturday, July 23, 1960. The Cubs were already trailing 1-0 on an Eddie Mathews home run. In the bottom of the first, Richie Ashburn led off with a single, and Santo was batting with one out.

He struck out and Banks popped to second. The Cubs lost the game 3-0. The listed attendance of 20,222 looks about right; the lower deck is mostly full, but the upper deck looks fairly empty. Remember that total seating capacity in 1960 at Wrigley was only about 37,000.

Five future Hall of Famers played in that game — in addition to Santo, Banks, Ashburn and Mathews, Hank Aaron was the Braves right fielder that afternoon. He also homered.

This is a cool photo of two iconic Cubs, taken only about a month into Ron Santo’s career, and at the peak of Ernie Banks’.