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Cubs historical sleuthing: Fergie Jenkins warmup edition

No clues here, you’re thinking. Again, you’d be wrong.

Before we begin, again, credit where it’s due. Here’s where I found this one:

And I know what you’re thinking: C’mon, Al, you can’t possibly figure this one out. It’s just warming up in the bullpen pre-game. No scoreboard visible, no opponent, just part of the bleachers and Fergie Jenkins and Leo Durocher (and a partly-visible coach, probably the pitching coach).

Of course I can figure this one out! It wasn’t even that difficult.

Your first clue is the uniform. The Cubs began wearing the beltless pants in 1972. Fergie made 19 starts at Wrigley Field in 1972.

But we can quickly narrow that down with clue number 2: Durocher, who was fired July 23, 1972. So it can’t be after that date. That eliminates seven games, now we’re down to 12 possible starts.

The ivy is full-grown on the bleacher wall. Now we can eliminate April and early May, that’s three more games, nine to go.

The next thing to do is check weather conditions. It’s clearly a warm summer day — bleacher fans are dressed for summer. It could possibly be that warm in late May, and Fergie made three starts at Wrigley then, May 23, 27 and 31. Game time temps: 63, 67 and 50. I suppose 67 is a “maybe,” but the fans look dressed for warmer weather than that, and the ivy likely wouldn’t be that full-grown by then.

So that leaves six games, as follows. All but one had weather conditions listed in the boxscore:

  • June 14: Weather reported as 85 degrees, sunny. It’s partly cloudy in that photo.
  • June 18: Weather reported as 62 degrees, sunny. Fans are not dressed for 62 degrees.
  • June 23: Weather reported as 57 degrees, cloudy. Nope.
  • June 27: Here’s the one with no weather in the boxscore. I looked it up in the Tribune archive. Sunny, temps around 80. Again, it’s partly cloudy in that photo.
  • July 13: Weather reported as 78 degrees, cloudy. This is a maybe.
  • July 17: Weather reported as 68 degrees, overcast, rain. Nope.

The Tribune further reported that it was going to be sunny June 27, cloud up overnight June 28 and storms were forecast for June 28. The Cubs were out of town June 28, but I am inclined to say “no” for June 27 — because that was a doubleheader and would have started at 12:30 instead of the 1:30 single game time in 1972. Further, it’s not really “sunny” in that photo, though you can see some sun, it’s actually partly cloudy.

I’m going to say this is the July 13 game. “Cloudy” is relative, and back in the day the conditions reported for game time were generally taken from the official Chicago lakefront reading at 1 p.m. It very well could have been “cloudy” at that point at the lakefront station, which at the time was at Meigs Field, about five miles from Wrigley. The temperature would seem to be a match, though.

Fergie was having a fine afternoon, allowing just one run and seven hits through eight innings, and the game tied 2-2. Now? You’d bring in a reliever. Then? Fergie went out for the ninth and got hit pretty hard, allowing four hits, including a home run. Then reliever Dan McGinn came in and allowed another homer, and the Cubs lost the game 7-2 in front of 13,427. Also, if that’s the pitching coach in the photo, that’s Larry Jansen, who was Cubs pitching coach in 1972 and 1973.

Durocher was fired only 10 days later. Jenkins won 20 games, his sixth straight 20-win season, and finished third in Cy Young voting that year.