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Cubs historical sleuthing: 1940 edition

A few closeups of the ballclub from that year.

Flagstaff Films

Here’s another great vintage video from Flagstaff Films. Again with this one, shot in 1940, the colors are excellent, showing off the uniforms and the ballpark:

I sent this one over to Mike Bojanowski to help ID the players shown. In order, they are: Bill Rogell, Jim Gleeson, Bill Lee, Stan Hack, Bill Nicholson, Zeke Bonura, Rabbit Warstler, Bobby Mattick, Vance Page, Billy Herman and Gabby Hartnett.

The presence of Warstler in this video gives us a clue to when it was shot. Warstler — and you have to admit, that’s a great baseball name — was an infielder who played most of his career with the Red Sox, Athletics and Braves. He was at the end of the line when he was acquired by the Cubs July 24, 1940. He played 45 games for the Cubs that year, hitting .226/.263/.283, then retired. According to his SABR Bioproject biography, he was an outstanding defensive player:

The Sporting News described his fielding as “demonic” and “magical.” Connie Mack called him the best defensive player in the American League. Perhaps that’s why at the last moment Warstler was added to the major league 1934 Japan tour as a replacement for Joe Cronin.

Zeke Bonura was also acquired by the Cubs around that time, July 22, 1940, on a straight purchase (for $10,000, roughly equivalent to $180,000 today) from the Washington Senators. The Cubs, well out of contention by then (already 16 games out of first place), appeared to be starting to re-tool after a run of 14 consecutive winning seasons that included four N.L. pennants.

Unfortunately, beyond that it’s impossible to tell when this film was shot. It looks like a warm summer afternoon, and there are kids visible in part of the video, so it would likely have to have been before school was in session in September. The shadows say late July to mid-August, but that’s about as close as I can narrow it down.

Mike also sent this:

The Hack and Hartnett snippets were used in the first HBO “When it Was a Game” documentary, toward the end when they featured several face shots, ending with Cy Young.

Just another interesting slice of Cubs history, with colors so vivid you’d think this was far less than 78 years old.