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Cubs historical sleuthing: Joe Pepitone edition

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This photo came with some incorrect information attached, so I found out the real story.

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Getty Images supplied the following information with this photo:

Joe Pepitone #8 of the Chicago Cubs in action against the St Louis Cardinals during an Major League Baseball game circa 1970 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. Pepitone played for the Cubs from 1970-73.

Apart from the information about Pepitone and the Cubs, this is almost completely wrong.

First, that’s clearly Doug Rader running to first base. Rader, a Northbrook native who went to Glenbrook North High School, played in MLB from 1967-77, all but the last two of those years with the Astros. Number of games he played for the Cardinals = zero.

So this has to be a Cubs game against the Astros. But when?

It can’t be 1970. Why? Well, first, Pepitone and Rader were Astros teammates in 1970, until Pepitone was suspended in early July for leaving the team. The team suspension was lifted when the Cubs claimed him on waivers July 29. He played his first game with the Cubs July 31, 1970, and by then the Cubs had played all six games scheduled vs. Houston at Wrigley Field.

It can’t be 1972, because the Cubs were wearing the beltless-look uniforms by then and Pepitone’s uniform in this photo definitely has a belt. Same for 1973, though Pepitone had been traded by the time the Cubs hosted the Astros in 1973.

Thus this photo has to be from 1971.

The first two Cubs/Astros games at Wrigley in 1971 were in April. It can’t be either of those, because the crowds (6,199 and 4,100) and game-time temps (57 and 44) are wrong for what we see in the photos.

Thus we are left with a doubleheader August 20 and single games August 21 and 22.

This was a tough one, but I think I have it. In this photo, Pepitone looks like he’s getting a throw from the left side of the infield. But... it could also possibly be a double-play relay.

The shadows would seem to indicate fairly early in the afternoon. I ruled out a play in the second game of the August 20 doubleheader for that reason — you wouldn’t have seen shadows like that at that time. There were no plays in Game 1 of the doubleheader, or the August 22 game, that match what we see here.

Thus I believe this was a double play that Rader grounded into in the top of the fourth inning Saturday, August 21, 1971. The Cubs lost the game 3-0, shut out on three hits by Jack Billingham, who went on to bigger fame later that decade with the Reds.

Here’s a larger version of the photo. For an even larger version click here.

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images