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Cubs history: Ron Santo’s MLB debut

This might be the only photo taken of Ron on his first day in the big leagues.

Photo by Hy Peskin/Getty Images

I’ve been doing a series of historical Cubs sleuthing photos, having located a treasure trove of them via Getty Images.

This one’s a bit different, because the caption given with this photo gives away the date:

Roberto Clemente #21 of the Pittsburgh Pirates steps into the batters box as third baseman Ron Santo #10 and catcher El Tappe #2 of the Chicago Cubs get ready to defend during an MLB game on June 26, 1960 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The reason I found this photo interesting is that Sunday, June 26, 1960 was the day Ron Santo made his major-league debut.

On that afternoon, the Cubs and Pirates played a doubleheader at Forbes Field. The Cubs swept it, interestingly, in a year that would end up with the Pirates World Series champions and the Cubs in seventh place at 60-94. The sweep broke a nine-game losing streak.

Santo would have been just another rookie breaking into the game at that time; no one likely would have thought, on that day, that he’d have a Hall of Fame career and become beloved to Cubs fans as a radio broadcaster. He did have a great debut day, though, going 3-for-7 with a double and five RBI in the twin bill.

In the photo, Santo is shown taking his position at third base. We are looking at the second game of the doubleheader, and the Pirates are batting in the bottom of the sixth. Seth Morehead, pitching for the Cubs, has just wild-pitched a run in, tying the game 5-5. Clemente had not started that game; he was sent up to pinch-hit for Bill Virdon, and he appears to be just stepping in for his at-bat. The result for Clemente: a called strikeout. The on-deck hitter (24) is Dick Groat, who would be voted NL MVP that year.

The Cubs scored two runs in the top of the eighth and won the game 7-5.

The whole scene is fascinating; if you have watched Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, you’ve previously seen Forbes Field that season, but this color photograph captures the scene that year quite well. I like the abbreviations used on the scoreboard, which was quite similar to Wrigley’s manual scoreboard (“CIN’TI” and “KANS” are my particular favorites).

Incidentally, there were several doubleheaders played that Sunday and you can see the final scores of the first games placed in the later inning boxes on each line, as well as the final scores for a couple of single games played that day.

All of them are correct — except the score of the first Cubs/Pirates game. The board says the Pirates won 7-6. As you can see in this boxscore, the Cubs actually won that game 7-6, despite the Pirates scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth. A little hometown fun, perhaps?

Other interesting notes about what’s on that scoreboard: As you can see, night games in that era typically started far later than they do now, 8:15 local time in Pittsburgh. I’m not sure what the numbers listed next to “SCORE CARD” at the bottom of the board are, though. 1960 was also the last year both leagues had only eight teams.

As for the time of day this photo was taken? The doubleheader was scheduled to start at 1 p.m. local time. The first game ran 2:58, so it ended just about 4 p.m. In those days, teams were given 20-25 minutes in between doubleheader games. Let’s assume Game 2 began at 4:25. It ran 2:46, so it likely ended somewhere around 7:10. Sunset in Pittsburgh on that day was 8:54, so there would still have been plenty of daylight in the bottom of the sixth inning, though you can see fairly long shadows. I’m going to guess that this is about 6 p.m. local time.

The old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Perhaps not quite on this one, but I’ve given you over 600 on this little slice of Cubs history.