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Cubs historical sleuthing: Foul ball edition

Here is a play that was not made.

Bettmann Archive

The original caption for this photo reads:

Stan Hack, Cubs’ third baseman, couldn’t quite reach Pirates’ pinch-hitter Bill Salkeld’s foul into the box seats in the 9th inning of Chicago-Pittsburgh doubleheader opener at Wrigley Field. Hack has plenty of helpers as he leans over the infield tarpulin and box seat rail, but it did him no good. Cubs swept twin bill, 4-3 and 2-1.

Well, that’s pretty specific, although there’s no year nor date.

Stan Hack, of course, played 16 years for the Cubs and in four World Series for them and also managed the team. He’s a borderline Hall of Famer.

Bill Salkeld, though, had just a six-year big-league career and only three of those years were with the Pirates: 1945-46-47.

Well, that narrows down the search parameters, anyway. The next clue: The scores of the games of the doubleheader mentioned, 4-3 and 2-1 wins by the Cubs.

That doubleheader happened Wednesday, July 3, 1946, a makeup DH for a previous rainout on May 10. (Back then, teams didn’t care how many doubleheaders players played in a row; there was another one the next day, that one on the schedule for the 4th of July holiday.)

Indeed, Salkeld did bat in the ninth inning of that game, as the caption says. We don’t know how many pitches there were in that at-bat — but there were at least two, the foul ball that Hack couldn’t catch shown in the photo, and a fly ball to center field, which was the last out of the Cubs’ 4-3 win.

The Cubs were hopeful they could repeat their 1945 pennant and in fact, that doubleheader sweep was the start of a 12-7 run that put them four games out of first place later in July. But they faded and finished 82-71 and in third place. That would be their last winning season until 1963.

If the name “Salkeld” sounds vaguely familiar, Bill Salkeld’s grandson Roger Salkeld was the No. 1 draft pick of the Mariners (third overall) in 1989 out of high school in California. He was a Top 100 prospect four straight years (1990-94) but never did much in the big leagues, posting a 5.61 ERA in 45 games for the Mariners and Reds in 1993, 1994 and 1996.

Anyway, the photo is just a little slice of Wrigley and Cubs history from about 75 years ago.