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Cubs historical sleuthing: Rainout edition

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This one didn’t appear in the record books, and it cost the Cubs.

Bettmann / Contributor

In this case, we have quite a bit of description from Getty Images to help us out on this photo:

Three umpires move in around Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson, angered at the alleged “dirty name” calling of Chicago Cub manager Phil Cavarretta (left, with 4 showing on his shirt), in the fifth inning of their game at Ebbets Field, August 2nd. Robinson later admitted, “I could have been wrong,” when Cavarretta denied having used a dirty word. the flare-up occurred when umpire Augie Donatelli called time because of rain with the Cubs leading, 4-0. Cavarretta allegedly demanded that Donatelli discipline Robinson for stalling tactics. The game was postponed.

The date is the clue; the only time the Cubs played the Dodgers on August 2 during Phil Cavarretta’s three years as manager was 1952.

The caption is correct. I don’t have a boxscore link to share with you because this game was indeed postponed, with the Cubs leading in the top of the fifth..

Edward Burns of the Tribune recaps what happened:

The weatherman was cruel to the Cubs in regard to their team and individual statistics today when rain washed out the Chicago-Brooklyn game, five putouts short of official status.

The umpires waited an hour and 15 minutes after calling the game before postponing it.

When Burns writes “five putouts,” that’s combined between the two clubs. Toby Atwell, the Cubs’ leadoff hitter in the fifth, had been retired when the game was stopped. Cubs pitcher Warren Hacker, who Burns described in his article as the “hottest pitcher in the National League,” needed just three more outs for a win. 1952 was by far Hacker’s best year in baseball; he had a 15-9 record, a 2.58 ERA and led the major leagues in WHIP, 0.946. He finished 23rd in MVP voting, in the days before a Cy Young Award. It was a 6.2 bWAR season for Hacker, not that anyone knew what bWAR was in 1952, and tied for third-best among NL pitchers that year.

Burns went on to note that Hank Sauer, who was eventually voted NL MVP in 1952, had hit a three-run homer in the game, which was lost to the rain. The game was made up as part of a doubleheader the next day, and Sauer homered in Game 1 of that twin bill, so perhaps he didn’t really “lose” a homer to rain.

What might have been lost is this: The Cubs had a 4-0 lead and had they been able to get through five more outs with it, they’d have had a win. They got swept in the makeup doubleheader the following day, so it can be said, to some extent, that this rainout cost the Cubs a winning season in 1952. They finished 77-77, their only non-losing season between 1947 and 1962. That was the Cubs in the 1950s — couldn’t even beat the weather.

Burns adds a bit more description of what you see in the photo above:

While the teams were proceeding to shelter, Jackie Robinson wanted to fight somebody, but forcibly was detained by Umpire Gorman. It is said he overheard somebody, possibly Manager Phil Cavarretta, make a remark about how happy and lucky the Dodgers were to have rain interrupt the contest.

Somehow, I doubt that’s what was said. Others visible in the photo are Bill Serena (6), Randy Jackson (2) and Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese (1).