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Cubs historical sleuthing: 1930s edition

Here’s an action shot from 90 years ago.

Bettmann Archive

I’m pleased to report to you that Getty Images has added literally thousands of Cubs (and other baseball) photos to its database since I last did a lot of photo sleuthing last offseason. So — there will be plenty more to sleuth between now and Spring Training!

This photo came with the following information:

Elwood English of the Chicago Cubs makes a futile leap for first base in the first inning of the first game of the current crucial series of games with the Brooklyn Dodgers here. The Cubs won out by 6 to 4 and their victory, made the national league pennant chances all the brighter.

Spelling and capitalization as in the original.

Anyway, Elwood English was better known in his playing days as “Woody” and he was the Cubs’ regular shortstop (and sometimes third baseman) from 1928-34.

Your clue here is the Dodgers uniform. The then-Brooklyn Dodgers wore those uniforms only in 1932 and 1933 — otherwise in that era their road uniforms read “BROOKLYN.”

So we need to find a 6-4 Cubs win over the Dodgers at Wrigley Field in those two years. The problem is, there isn’t one.

However, this play perfectly matches an out at first base against English in a game August 24, 1932, which as the caption indicated, was “the first game of the current crucial series of games with the Brooklyn Dodgers.”

English grounded out, first baseman to pitcher, in the first inning of that game, just as the caption indicates. The pitcher in the photo is Van Lingle Mungo, whose name (along with some other old-timers) was made famous in this song by Dave Frishberg:

The umpire visible in the photo is Cy Pfirman, who umpired in the National League from 1922-36, calling 2,242 games before he died of a kidney ailment during 1937 spring training, aged just 48.

Anyway, the Cubs won that game 7-4. They’d gone behind 2-0 in the first, but a four-run fourth gave them the lead for good. Billy Herman went 3-for-3 with a double and triple. The Cubs had taken over first place in the National League about two weeks earlier, and this win was the fourth straight in a winning streak that would eventually extend to 13. It gave the Cubs a 4½-game lead, and they eventually finished 90-64 and won the NL pennant by four games, only to be swept by the Yankees in the World Series.

Just a little slice of Cubs life from 90 years ago. One last note on the photo: The uniform style used that year (and also in various permutations from 1927-36) was the one that this year’s Field of Dreams uniforms were loosely based on.

Incidentally, if you have any personal Cubs/Wrigley photos you’d like me to sleuth, send ‘em along!