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Cubs historical sleuthing: 1966 spring training edition

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Here are some Cubs I can’t identify. Perhaps you can.

Photo by Art Rickerby/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Getty Images says, of this photo:

Chicago Cubs manager Leo Durocher, playing baseball in the field, circa 1966

Well, that’s sort of right. That’s definitely Durocher at the right, but he’s not “playing baseball,” he’s just kind of standing there smiling, perhaps talking to someone just out of the frame.

What I’m more interested in here are the other people in the photo. Here’s a larger version so you can see what I’m talking about:

Photo by Art Rickerby/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

This photo was taken at Cubs spring training in 1966, Durocher’s first year as manager. It’s an interesting photo just for that. The Cubs had held spring training at Rendezvous Park in Mesa, Arizona from 1952-65, but departed for Long Beach, California in 1966 because apparently the city of Mesa didn’t have sufficient facilities for their minor-league teams. They had considered spending part of spring training 1966 at the site of their former spring location on Catalina Island off the coast of California before moving to Long Beach, per a Tribune report May 24, 1965, but that never happened. At the time they were considering a proposed spring complex that was to be built in Escondido, California, north of San Diego, but that plan was later abandoned.

In any case, the Long Beach spring camp lasted just a year, largely because it wound up being difficult for the Cubs to play spring games, being so far away from most other teams’ spring camps. They played only eight spring games in Long Beach, traveling to Phoenix, Palm Springs, Tucson, Nogales, Arizona, and San Diego for 21 other contests. I’m pretty sure you can see how that travel got tiresome for spring games, and beyond that, the Cubs often had to cede the use of Blair Field in Long Beach to local high school and college teams in the afternoons. Lastly, it wound up raining on quite a few days, cancelling workouts.

So the Cubs departed Long Beach after one season, noted in a Tribune article May 4, 1966, and returned to Arizona for spring training. They trained in Scottsdale from 1967-78 and then went back to Mesa in 1979, where they have had spring camp ever since.

Anyway, the reason I’m posting this photo is the three men with visible numbers. I can identify just one of them. No. 43 is Wes Covington, an outfielder who’d had some good years with the Braves and Phillies and who was acquired in trade in January 1966. He played in just nine games as a Cub before he was released in early May.

The Cubs, though, did not have anyone who wore No. 24 or No. 50 in 1966 — neither player nor coach. No. 50 has gray hair, likely a coach who was there just for spring training. It’s possible that could be Charlie Grimm, who the Tribune reported in early 1966 was going to be in Long Beach as an instructor, but it’s impossible to tell for sure.

It is possible that No. 50 is this guy talking to Durocher, as this photo is by the same photographer and very possibly taken on the same day:

Photo by Art Rickerby/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

I don’t recognize him. Do you?

Meanwhile, No. 24 could be just about anyone.

If you’ve got any idea who those two men are, let us know.