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Cubs historical sleuthing: 1961 special edition

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This one has a cool story behind it.

A couple of weeks ago I posted this sleuthing article with a photo of the Wrigley Field marquee showing the Cubs playing the Cardinals on May 19, 20 and 21 (a doubleheader on the 21st). Turned out that was 1961, and that prompted this comment from BCB reader BrunoCubs:

This picture has special meaning for me and so I want to begin by thanking Al for bringing up this memory. My very first Cub game was on Sunday, May 21, 1961, which was a doubleheader against the Cardinals. The Cubs lost both games. It was my 8th birthday. We spent the morning visiting my grandmother on my dad’s side, who lived in an apartment not too far from Wrigley Field. I was fascinated about the bed that went up into the wall and also about having to go down the hall to go to the bathroom, including a pull chain to flush the toilet, which I had never seen before. Her gift to me was a kid’s desk set with a calendar, pen and pencil holder, pen and pencil set, etc. I had that for years, covering a desk at home.

When we got to the game and walked up the stairs to the first base grandstand, I could not believe how green and beautiful the place was as I had only seen it in black and white on TV. I also remember asking my dad where they played the commercials between innings as I did not see a screen. I then remember the guys behind us chuckling over the comment. I also had to quickly finish my hot dog in time for the national anthem as I didn’t know how I could hold the hot dog and yet put my hand over my heart.

When the day was over we went home and there was a surprise birthday party with a house full of relatives. It was the best day ever. That day spawned two loves of my life: the love of learning, given to me by my grandmother, and the love of the Cubs and Wrigley Field, given to me by my dad.

P.S. This was the last day that Banks played SS for a while. For a while he moved to LF because of his bad knees. In 1962 he would move permanently to 1B.

He also posted this:

I have a Cubs room in my home and one of my prized possessions is a picture my older son gave me, showing the pitcher, catcher, batter and umpire from that day. I have to look at the back to remember who everyone was. It is also framed with a ticket stub from that day my son found on eBay.

He sent me a photo of that framed item, which contains the photo that you see above. That’s what we are going to be sleuthing here today. Who was that Cardinals batter and when, exactly, in that 1961 doubleheader did that happen?

Your first clue is the catcher. He’s wearing No. 7. That’s Sammy Taylor, which means this has to be Game 2 of the doubleheader — Taylor didn’t play in Game 1.

In 1961, doubleheaders at Wrigley Field started at 1:00. That day’s Game 1 ran quite long for a nine-inning game in those days — 3:20. Thus it ended around 4:20. In 1961 teams only got about 25 minutes in between doubleheader games, so Game 2 would have started around 4:45. A note on the weather that day: The boxscores say it was cloudy and 50 degrees for both games, but a check of the Tribune archive for the weather that day showed that it cleared in Chicago by mid-afternoon and a Tribune photo of action from Game 1 in the sixth inning showed shadows, so it was definitely sunny for Game 2.

Now look at the shadows cast by the batter, catcher and umpire. They are fairly long shadows, but you don’t see any shadow cast by the left field upper deck near the plate. Sunset on May 1, 1961 was 8:09 p.m. Thus this photo has to be from fairly early in that doubleheader second game, so it has to be a Cardinal in that game’s starting lineup.

There are only four possible players that Cardinals batter could be: Ken Boyer, Daryl Spencer, Charlie James or Hal Smith. The other Cardinals in the starting lineup for that game were either Black (Curt Flood, Bill White, Bob Gibson) or would have batted lefthanded (Red Schoendienst, Joe Cunningham).

Another clue is that the batter’s box is still visible. As you surely know, by the second or third inning of most games, batters have eliminated most of the chalk of the batter’s box, even to this day. I have looked closely at photos of Boyer, Spencer, James and Smith and I am reasonably certain we’re looking at Ken Boyer in this photo. At the time Boyer was one of the top players in the National League; he was a three-time All-Star who had finished sixth in MVP voting the previous year (and who would eventually be NL MVP in 1964). The other three were journeymen. It would make sense, 60 years ago, for a photographer to want pictures of one of the best players in the league, especially on the Cardinals’ first visit of the season to Wrigley.

So what I believe we are looking at is Ken Boyer batting against the Cubs in the top of the first inning of the second game of that May 21, 1961 doubleheader. At the time there were two out and a runner on third — Dick Drott, the Cubs pitcher, had issued a walk and then thrown two wild pitches. The result of the at-bat was a popup to second base, ending the inning.

The Cubs were swept in the doubleheader, 6-3 and 3-0. Drott matched Gibson through seven shutout innings in that second game, but after the Cubs batted for Drott in a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the seventh, Joe Schaffernoth (who wound up with a 6.34 ERA for the 1961 Cubs) allowed a pair of runs and that, as they say, was that. FWIW, the plate umpire shown is Augie Donatelli.

Here’s a ticket stub from that afternoon:

I am not certain where this seat would have been. The upper deck at Wrigley was rebuilt and renumbered in 1970, and I do not have a pre-1970 seating chart available. $2.50 in May 1961 is the equivalent to about $23 today. If anyone’s familiar with the pre-1970 upper deck seating arrangement, let us know where this seat would have been.

Just another little slice of Cubs history, and given the nature of this post and the ticket shown above, I have a personal request. I have been looking for a ticket stub from my first game, July 6, 1963. I have checked eBay — no luck, though I did see one there from the next day, July 7. If any of you have any idea where I might locate a 7/6/1963 ticket, let me know.