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Cubs historical sleuthing: 1938 edition

This is a remarkable photo.

This photo is quite obviously colorized, but whoever did the work did an excellent job, and I thought I’d post it here even though I don’t quite have the answer to the precise date.

At the left, obviously, is Babe Ruth. Ruth looks strange in a Dodgers uniform, doesn’t he? He was hired as a first-base coach by the Dodgers in 1938. The Dodger franchise started becoming a powerhouse in the early 1940s, but in ‘38 they had been pretty lousy for more than a decade. They hadn’t finished higher than fourth in the eight-team National League since 1924 and hadn’t won a pennant since 1920.

Ruth badly wanted to manage but the Dodgers really had no intention of doing that; they hired him mainly as a gate attraction. He only worked that one year as a coach and never again had a field job in baseball.

On the right is Dizzy Dean, who the Cubs had acquired early in 1938. Dean had dominated the National League with the Cardinals in the early 1930s but had been seriously injured in the All-Star Game in 1937 when Earl Averill of the Indians hit a line drive off Dean’s foot. Dean tried to come back too fast and altered his motion, giving him shoulder problems. (Side note: I am convinced that the same thing happened to Mark Prior when a line drive hit him in the elbow in 2005, causing him to subtly change his motion and give him shoulder issues.)

Anyway, Dean made four decent starts for the Cubs in 1938 but injuries kept him from pitching from early May through mid-July.

The Cubs made two visits to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn after mid-July 1938. The first was a two-game series July 26 and 27; the other, a single date, a doubleheader September 18.

To show you how I arrived at my conclusion, here’s the full photo from the top of this post:

There you can see the upper deck is almost full. The only one of those three dates that had a full house was Thursday, July 27, a 3-2 Dodgers win. 34,414 paid to see that game; the July 26 game drew 8,207 and the September 18 doubleheader only 3,000. Further, the shadows plus the people standing in the background appear more summerlike than September, and the New York Times story on the September date said there was a “drizzling rain” that afternoon.

Thursday, July 27, 1938, then, was the day these two star players, future Hall of Famers both, posed for a photo in uniforms unfamiliar to them, and to most fans who knew them. Fascinating bit of baseball history.