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Cubs historical sleuthing: Cardinals edition

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Here’s a single play against the Cubs’ biggest rival.

Bettmann Archive

Cubs vs. Cardinals.

It’s been a bitter rivalry for decades. Even when one team is clearly better than the other, these teams seem to play each other closely.

In this black and white photo, we see Billy Williams scoring a run. But when?

This is easier than it looks. The catcher doesn’t have any recognizable number, but I’d know that face anywhere. It’s Tim McCarver, who was actually a pretty good ballplayer in his prime.

The Cubs wore that style of road uniform for only three seasons: 1969-71. So that narrows it down quite a bit.

And one last clue clinches it. Barely visible on McCarver’s left sleeve is the 1969 baseball centennial patch.

That sent me to baseball-reference’s Play Index. How many runs did Billy score in St. Louis in 1969?

Two, as it turns out, and this play can be only one of them, because the other run was scored on a two-run single when Williams was on third base, so he wouldn’t have had to slide.

The play depicted above happened Wednesday, April 16, 1969, in the top of the fifth inning. Williams was on third and Ron Santo on second with two out. Randy Hundley hit a ground ball to third, and Cardinals third baseman Mike Shannon decided to go home with it instead of throwing to first for the out that would have ended the inning. The throw was off; Williams was safe.

It was the only run in a 1-0 Cubs win. Fergie Jenkins threw a five-hit shutout.

The Cubs probably should have scored more runs. They had nine hits (all singles) and drew four walks and were 1-for-11 with RISP. They left 11 men on base.

Speaking of baseball anniversary patches, MLB will have a 150th anniversary patch they’ll be wearing in 2019. It will look like this.

We’ll have much more on the 1969 Cubs season all year on its 50th anniversary.