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Cubs historical sleuthing: Forbes Field edition

The information that came with this photo is likely wrong.

Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images

Here’s what Getty Images provided with this photo:

First baseman Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs takes his position as Richie Hebner of the Pittsburgh Pirates leads off during a game in 1970 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I’m here to tell you that I believe the year quoted in that caption is incorrect, and here’s why.

The Pirates moved into Three Rivers Stadium July 16, 1970. In fact, the Cubs played in the final games at Forbes Field a couple of weeks earlier, a doubleheader on June 28. (The Cubs got swept in the DH.)

Anyway, here’s the full version of the photo:

Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images

You can see trees in the background with no leaves, and both Banks and Hebner are wearing long sleeves. This implies April; further, we are obviously looking at a photo from a day game. The Cubs played a three-game series at Forbes Field in April 1970, but all those games were night games.

After that they played that final set at Forbes Field in June 1970, all day games, but you would have seen leaves on those trees by late June. Also, in that series Banks didn’t play in the last two games, and in the other one, June 27, he had been removed from the game by the time Hebner singled in the ninth inning, the only time he was on first base that day.

So I think this photo was taken in April 1969, when Hebner played in both games of a doubleheader Tuesday, April 22. Both those games were played in the afternoon. Hebner hit a two-run single in the bottom of the second inning of the first game of that doubleheader and this is what I believe we are looking at, Hebner leading off first base after that hit. The Cubs lost the game 7-5.

While Hebner played in Game 2 of that DH, Banks didn’t, so that eliminates that one from consideration. The Cubs played two other series in Forbes Field in 1969, but the June series was all night games and Hebner didn’t play at all in the September series.

Hebner, as you might know, was a Cubs-killer his entire career. He hit .331/.391/.547 (214-for-647) with 30 home runs against the Cubs. The .938 OPS was by far his best against any team against whom he had more than a handful of at-bats. The Cubs signed him as a free agent before the 1984 season and at age 36, he hit .333/.407/.444, though in a small sample size of 91 plate appearances. He had just two PA in the NLCS against the Padres, flying out in one of them, being hit by a pitch in the other. He had significant postseason experience with the Pirates and Phillies, winning a World Series ring in 1971. Maybe the Cubs should have played him more in that postseason series.