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Cubs historical sleuthing: Jackie Robinson edition

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This is a cool action photo from a bygone era.

Bettmann / Contributor

Jackie Robinson, as you all know, was a pioneer for Black players in Major League Baseball.

Robinson played 195 games against the Cubs in his 10-year career. This photo shows him sliding into third base, and the information we have from Getty Images is:

In the 6th inning of today’s game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, played at Ebbets Field, Robinson of Brooklyn is shown sliding safely into third, after hitting a triple to center field. Pafko, of the Cubs, is waiting for the throw as the umpire stands by. Chicago took the ball game with a score of 6 to 4.

You might think this would be moderately difficult, as without looking I’d think there would have been a fair number of 6-4 games between the two teams in that era, but indeed, it’s not.

The first clue is that Andy Pafko is the Cubs third baseman. First, Pafko was traded to the Dodgers mid-1951, so that eliminates about half of Robinson’s career. But more important, Pafko played third base for the Cubs in only two seasons — 1948 and 1949.

In those two years, the Cubs went 11-11 and then 5-17 (!) against the Dodgers. We’re looking for one specific game, though, a 6-4 Cubs win.

Here’s the game: Friday, June 18, 1948. Robinson hit a triple in the bottom of the sixth inning off 1945 Cubs star Hank Borowy and later scored in a two-run inning that gave the Dodgers a 4-0 lead.

But the Cubs scored two in the seventh and four in the eighth for a 6-4 win. The Cubs would go on to have a terrible year in 1948, finishing in last place for the first time since 1925 and losing 90 games for the first time in franchise history. It was the beginning of a dark time in Cubs history.

The other players (besides Pafko, No. 48, and Robinson) visible in this photo are Borowy (No. 26) and Cubs first baseman Eddie Waitkus (No. 36). The Dodgers third base coach signaling Robinson to slide (No. 27) is Ray Blades, who also coached and scouted for the Cubs from 1953-56.

Just a snapshot in time out of Cubs history.