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Cubs historical sleuthing: Reds vs. Cubs edition

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Another slice of team history.

Bettmann/Contributor

Getty Images supplied the following caption to the photo:

Cincinnati Reds short stop Dave Concepcion leaps over Chicago Cubs Gary Martin as he slides in at 2nd, on the front end of a doubleplay, during the second inning of the first game of a double header in Chicago, Illinois.

Well. First, that’s not “Gary” Martin, it’s Jerry Martin, who played for the Cubs in 1979 and 1980. He had been acquired from the Phillies, along with Barry Foote and Ted Sizemore for Greg Gross, Dave Rader and Manny Trillo. While Foote and Martin played reasonably well for the Cubs, this was not a good trade. Trillo had several good years for the Phillies and played in the 1980 World Series, eventually returning to the Cubs in 1986. Gross, who had a 17-year career that ended in 1989, was an excellent bench player. He always posted good OBPs (career .372), rarely struck out (250 times in 4,355 plate appearances) and had 143 career pinch hits, which ranks fifth in MLB history. He’d have been a really nice player to have on the 1984 NL East champion Cubs.

Oh, yes, the photo. I went under the assumption that the game details listed in the caption were correct: The first game of a doubleheader, second inning.

The Cubs played two doubleheaders against the Reds at Wrigley Field in Jerry Martin’s two years with the team: Sunday, July 22, 1979 and Saturday, September 6, 1980.

The PBP of the September 6, 1980 first game matches what we see here. Jim Tracy and Martin singled to lead off the bottom of the second inning, and Tim Blackwell hit into a double play. This is a photo of Martin sliding somewhat out of the baseline attempting to break up the DP, something you can’t really do now under the “Chase Utley Rule.”

The 1980 Cubs were a pretty bad team, losing 98 games, but they won this one. They went into the bottom of the ninth trailing 3-2. Mike Vail doubled in the tying run, and in the 10th, Bill Buckner singled and Cliff Johnson was hit by a pitch. Carlos Lezcano attempted a bunt, but Reds third baseman Ray Knight threw the ball away and Buckner scored the winning run.

As for Martin, he hit .250 /.302/.437 with 42 home runs in his two years with the Cubs, but he was such a lousy fielder that those two seasons wound up with negative bWAR (-0.8). In December 1980 the Cubs traded Martin and Jesus Figueroa to the Giants for Phil Nastu and Joe Strain. Nastu never played a single MLB game for the Cubs and Strain, after being the Opening Day Cubs second baseman in 1981, wound up going 14-for-74 (.189) in 25 games the rest of that year, never playing in the majors again.

Such were the dying years of the Wrigley regime.