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Cubs historical sleuthing: 1950 edition

There’s a Hall of Famer in this photo.

Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images

Getty Images supplied the following information about this photo:

Ralph Kiner, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder, tries to break up a double play, while Cubs shortstop Roy Smalley makes the force and throws to first in a 1950 contest at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

That’s pretty specific. It’s definitely Smalley, who was the Cubs’ regular shortstop from 1948-50 and part-time the next three years, until Ernie Banks came on the scene. It’s also definitely Kiner, the uniform style matches the year. It has to be Wrigley, as Kiner’s wearing a Pirates road uniform, although that’s a real funky angle that I don’t think I’ve seen before.

The Cubs and Pirates played 10 times at Wrigley in 1950. Neither team was any good that year. The Cubs finished 64-89, in seventh place, and the Pirates brought up the rear at 57-96. The teams split the 10 Wrigley games.

I looked through the play-by-play of all 10 games. That’s a lot of baseball action, but there is, fortunately, only one play in those 10 games which matches what we see here.

It happened in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday, May 14, 1950. In the top of the eighth with the Cubs leading 5-4, Kiner led off with a walk. Nanny Fernandez followed by hitting into a 1-6-3 double play. That’s the only possible play from that entire season that matches Kiner sliding into second to try to break up a DP being turned by Smalley.

Unfortunately, Paul Minner blew the lead by giving up a two-run single with the bases loaded and two out in the top of the ninth. The Cubs got runners to first and third with two out in the last of the ninth, but Andy Pafko grounded out to end it.

Such was the life of the Chicago Cubs in most of the 1950s.