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Cubs historical sleuthing: Ron Santo edition

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There are more clues here than you might think.

Here’s Cubs Hall of Famer Ron Santo batting at Wrigley Field.

But when? And against whom?

Here’s where I found this photo:

Unfortunately, Santo didn’t do anything with that pitch, but let me explain.

We are watching Santo bat against the Mets — you can see the “Mets” sleeve patch on the catcher. The pitcher’s number begins with “3.”

Those are the obvious clues. Less obvious are these:

The seats behind the plate are empty. This suggests a small crowd, or late in a game, or both. The seats are also folding chairs, not the permanent plastic seats we’ve known in recent years. The Cubs installed permanent box seats in 1965.

Thus, this game has to be from 1962, 1963 or 1964. We can eliminate 1964 because that year, the Mets wore a New York World’s Fair patch instead of the “Mets” team patch.

So, 1962 or 1963. I checked all the Mets pitchers whose numbers began with “3” in those two years.

There is only one possibility that matches what we are seeing here. Earlier today I posted this article about a photo taken of Mets manager Casey Stengel at Wrigley Friday, June 8, 1962, and this game happened the following afternoon, Saturday, June 9, 1962. Attendance was 7,544. The Cubs entered the game with a 19-36 record and the Mets were 13-37. Ugh.

Per the bb-ref boxscore linked above, it was 70 degrees and rainy during this game, and indeed, the Retrosheet boxscore indicates there were two rain delays. The Tribune recap of the game says the 11-6 Mets win, which ran 3:34 of game time, didn’t end until about 6:30 p.m. You can understand why, with the Cubs losing and rainy weather, why the seats behind the plate were empty at the time this photo was taken.

Dave Hillman, a former Cub, is the pitcher. He wore No. 34 for the Mets. The catcher is Sammy Taylor, another former Cub, and the plate umpire is Al Barlick. We are looking at Santo batting in the bottom of the ninth against Hillman, with runners on first and second and two out.

It is, of course, impossible to tell exactly which pitch in that at-bat we are seeing here, but the result of the at-bat was a walk, loading the bases. Sorry to disappoint the BaseballHistoryNut Twitter account, but Santo didn’t “take care” of that baseball.

Ken Hubbs, the next hitter, hit into a force play at second base to end the game. Tribune writer Richard Dozer noted:

10 minutes after game’s end the day’s final downpour left the industrious Stengel alone with TV’s Jack Brickhouse under an umbrella discussing the day’s adventures in front of a glistening tarpaulin that served as a television background.

Now that would have been must-see TV. Too bad it was in an era where little or nothing from WGN-TV was saved for posterity.

The photo is an cool slice of Cubs history from that era, and the colors are excellent.