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Cubs historical sleuthing: One play at the Polo Grounds

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This one was actually pretty easy, despite being just one pitch.

Flagstaff Films

I had missed this one when Flagstaff Films first posted it to Twitter last month, but in viewing it, I noticed a Cubs pitcher was involved, so that got me to put my sleuthing cap on:

The single clue 1963 made this one actually pretty simple. It’s not easy to read the number on the Cubs pitcher’s uniform, but the Mets hitter is wearing No. 11. That’s Duke Snider, who played just that one year for the Mets. Snider also wore No. 4, his old Dodgers number, for the ‘63 Mets, but he’s the only player who wore No. 11 for the Mets that year. He took No. 4 when Charlie Neal, who’d had it previously, was traded to the Reds July 1.

Well, that made this even easier. The Cubs and Mets played five game at the Polo Grounds in 1963 previous to July 1. Snider played in all five.

So, all that remained was to find his at-bats when he flied to center field, and whether it happened more than once.

And the final result was simple, because in those five games, Snider flied to center field exactly once, leading off the bottom of the fourth inning on Wednesday, June 26, 1963. The Mets were trailing the Cubs 2-0 at the time. The Cubs pitcher is Bob Buhl, who wore No. 37. The center fielder is Nelson Mathews, and he relays the ball after the catch to an infielder who appears to be wearing No. 16, which would be second baseman Ken Hubbs.

That fly ball, caught on the warning track in front of a sign that read “475 FT,” would likely have been a home run in any ballpark except the weirdly-shaped Polo Grounds.

That was actually a pretty famous game in Mets history. The game went into extra innings, and the Cubs took a 6-4 lead in the top of the 14th on a two-run, inside-the-park home run by Billy Williams. But in the bottom of the inning, the Mets loaded the bases with two out and Tim Harkness hit a walkoff grand slam, one of just 14 home runs (and the only slam) he hit in his career.

The slam was hit off Jim Brewer, who had a rough year in 1963. In typical Cubs shortsightedness, they traded the 24-year-old lefthander to the Dodgers after that season for no one you’ve ever heard of. (Okay, a guy named Dick Scott, who was 30 years old at the time and who pitched in exactly three games for the Cubs.) Brewer went on to have a fine 12-year career for the Dodgers in which he posted 126 saves and pitched in three World Series.

It was a different time. Things are better now.

Below is the Mets radio broadcast of this game. Scroll in to 1:05:03 and you can hear the call of this play from the Mets broadcasters.