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Cubs historical sleuthing: Shea Stadium edition

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Yet another look at a Cubs/Mets game from the 1970s.

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Here’s what Getty Images says about this photo:

Catcher Jerry Grote #15 of the New York Mets in action against the Chicago Cubs during a Major League Baseball game circa 1970 at Shea Stadium in the Queens borough of New York City. Grote played for the Mets from 1966-77.

While Grote did in fact play for the Mets from 1966-77, the Cubs wore that style of road uniform only from 1973-77, so that narrows it down a bit.

The Cubs player has a “4” on his jersey. The only Cubs player to wear “4” during that time was Vic Harris — that’s definitely not Harris. So it has to be a player wearing 40 through 49.

I didn’t recognize him, though, so I sent this photo to Mike Bojanowski. He wrote back that it’s definitely Burt Hooton, and once he said that, sure, I could see Hooton there. Hooton wore No. 44 for the Cubs.

He also noted that in the photo, just next to Hooton’s leg, sitting in the dugout is Jim Marshall. That definitively dates this photo to April 1975, because Hooton was traded to the Dodgers May 2, 1975 for Eddie Solomon and Geoff Zahn and Marshall managed the Cubs in 1975 and 1976 (he was the third-base coach in 1974, so he wouldn’t have been in the dugout when the Cubs were batting). The Hooton deal was another one of the usually-awful trades made in that era. Hooton went on to have several fine seasons for the Dodgers, finishing second in Cy Young voting in 1978 and pitching in three World Series for L.A. He was NLCS MVP in 1981 and posted 26.1 bWAR after leaving the Cubs.

On the other hand, that wouldn’t have been a horrendous trade if the Cubs had just kept Geoff Zahn. Instead, they never really gave him a chance (5.20 ERA in 19 appearances, 12 starts) and released him in January 1977. He signed with the Twins, had several good years there, then moved on to the Angels via free agency after 1980 and pitched in the ALCS for them in 1982. All told, Zahn posted 19.8 bWAR after leaving the Cubs. They could have used him in 1977-78-79, years they contended before fading late.

Sigh.

Anyway, back to the photo. Since this is definitively 1975, it has to be from the second game of a doubleheader Sunday, April 20, 1975, because that’s the only game Hooton pitched for the Cubs at Shea Stadium that year.

Sure enough, in the top of the fifth Hooton attempted a squeeze bunt with Pete LaCock on third base. Unfortunately, Mets pitcher Randy Tate pounced on the ball and threw LaCock out at the plate.

Hooton threw six innings and allowed four runs in that game. The Cubs entered the ninth inning trailing 4-0, but loaded the bases with two out. All three runners scored on a Jose Cardenal single plus a Mets error, making it 4-3 and putting the tying run (Cardenal) on third. But Bill Madlock flied to right to end the game.

Such were the Cubs of the mid-1970s.