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Cubs historical sleuthing: Leo Durocher edition

Think there aren’t enough clues? Think again.

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Leo Durocher made a career out of arguing with umpires. Per baseball-reference, he was ejected 100 times during his managing career, third-most among all managers. (Bobby Cox and John McGraw lead the list.)

Now, what we are looking at here is not necessarily an ejection, but after going through a number of possibilities, that’s where I looked, and found the answer.

First, though, let’s establish a couple of other things and for that, I’ll show you the entire photo:

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The Cubs road uniform style shown was worn only from 1969-71, and since we don’t see the 1969 100th-anniversary patch on the right sleeve of No. 19, this has to be from either 1970 or 1971.

No. 19 was worn by three players in those two seasons: Phil Gagliano, Danny Breeden and Pat Bourque. You can see the player in the photo is wearing a first baseman’s mitt. Breeden played only catcher for the Cubs, so he’s eliminated.

Bourque played in nine road games for the Cubs in 1971, in New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Montreal. That’s definitely not Jarry Park in Montreal, and... well, I looked at photos of Shea Stadium, Veterans Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium from 1971 and not one of them had any advertising on the outfield walls at that time, nor did any of them have red seats in the location shown in the photo.

Thus, this has to be 1970 and No. 19 has to be Gagliano. At first, I was stumped, because in my very vague recollection of Phil Gagliano, he was a middle infielder, mostly a second baseman. He’d been acquired from the Cardinals May 29 for Ted Abernathy.

Next I went and looked up Durocher’s list of ejections on Retrosheet, thinking this argument might have resulted in an ejection. Leo was tossed three times in 1970. I eliminated two of them right away: May 2 in Atlanta and August 28 in San Diego. Both of those were night games and we’re definitely looking at a day game here. Further, neither of those ballparks had a seating configuration like the one in the photo.

But the third one... does. In 1970, the Phillies were still playing in Connie Mack Stadium; they didn’t move into the Vet until 1971. And on Saturday, August 8, 1970, Durocher was ejected arguing a call at first base.

Phil Gagliano was playing first base for the Cubs that afternoon.

How many games did Gagliano play first base for the Cubs in his only year as a Cub, 1970?

One. That one. That was it.

Here is a screenshot from the Tribune archive of Durocher arguing that call:

That’s definitely the same umpire, Lee Weyer, and the Tribune recap of this game noted that Weyer was 6-foot-6, “biggest umpire in the National League,” per writer George Langford. You can see in the original photo that the umpire is quite tall, and I’m certain that’s Weyer.

Here is Langford’s description of the play:

Denny Doyle... hit a slow-bouncing ball to Glenn Beckert and the Cubs’ second baseman threw to Phil Gagliano, who was stationed at first base for this contest, for the apparent out. Lee Weyer... signaled Doyle out, then reversed himself and spread his arms indicating safe. Instead of the inning being over, the Phillies had tied the score and had the eventual winning run safely aboard.

The Cubs were outraged, Durocher was ejected in the ensuing argument and the Cubs seemed to let the play demoralize them and were not up to the task of overcoming the decision.

“The man was safe. He beat the play,” Weyer said. “I just started to come up with the out call too quickly, Gagliano did not pull his foot off the bag. My job is to make the right call and I did.”

“That call cost us the ballgame,” Gagliano said. “There was no question the ball beat the runner. At first I thought he claimed I had pulled my foot off the bag.”

Of course, in modern baseball that play would have been sent to review. With no video surviving of this 1970 play, we can’t know if the correct call was made.

But I am 100 percent certain that’s the play we are looking at in the photo at the top of this post.

The Cubs lost the game 6-3. Durocher, as was his style, then pretty much benched Gagliano the rest of the season. He did not start another game and played just seven more times the rest of the year, five as a defensive sub, two as a pinch hitter, mostly in blowouts. After the 1970 season he was traded to the Red Sox for Carmen Fanzone.

One last note: The photo featured in this post was clearly taken from behind first base looking toward left field. That’s Billy Williams, Cubs left fielder that day, in the background.