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Cubs historical sleuthing: Mike Schmidt edition

The Phillies slugger tormented Cubs pitching for years.

H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStoc

Getty Images says:

1980s Mike Schmidt Number 20 Batting Phillies And Chicago Cubs Baseball Game Veterans Stadium Philadelphia Pa USA

Well. That’s less articulately phrased than some of the other Getty descriptions I’ve found, and it’s also wrong.

Why? Because both Schmidt and the Cubs catcher are wearing the National League centennial patch on their right sleeve. That means this photo has to have been taken in 1976.

The number on the Cubs catcher is kind of hard to read, but the Cubs used four catchers in 1976: Tim Hosley (6), Ed Putman (8), Steve Swisher (9) and George Mitterwald (15). Hosley played in just one game for the Cubs that year and Putman just five and none of those were in Philadelphia. Swisher, who was the Cubs’ primary catcher in ‘76 and bizarrely, made the All-Star team, caught only one game in Philadelphia that year and it was a night game.

So that’s got to be George Mitterwald behind the plate. Now, we’ve got to narrow it down to day vs. night and there were just two Cubs games in Philadelphia that year that were day games.

The next clue is the plate umpire. That’s Doug Harvey, and now we’ve got the game: Wednesday, July 29, 1976.

That game went 11 innings and the Phillies won 3-2.

It’s almost impossible to tell which of Schmidt’s five at-bats in the game this shows. I am going to hazard a guess that it’s in the first inning, when Schmidt hit a two-out double (and was then stranded). The batters’ boxes still show, but they’ve been wiped out to some extent and there are a lot of footprints around the plate area. Five batters (three Cubs, two Phillies) had batted before Schmidt in the first inning, so that would seem to be about right for seeing that much of the batters’ boxes. Schmidt didn’t bat again until the fourth; by that time the Cubs had scored a run in the third and there was a play on that runner at the plate, implying a slide, which would have wiped out more of the chalk marks.

If that’s the play we’re seeing, the Cubs pitcher was Rick Reuschel.

Schmidt finished third in MVP voting in 1976 and the Phillies won 101 games and made the postseason for the first time in 26 years, losing the NLCS to the Reds.

Schmidt was a tormentor of the Cubs his entire career. He hit 78 home runs against the Cubs, by far his most against anyone (second-most: 62 against the Pirates). Those 78 home runs are the third-most all-time by anyone against the Cubs (Henry Aaron with 87 and Willie Mays with 92 hit more). Just to show you that those marks are not likely to be matched or broken. Albert Pujols just retired with 59 career home runs against the Cubs. The active leader is now Joey Votto with 48. No one else has more than 29 (Paul Goldschmidt, Eugenio Suarez).

Just another little slice of Cubs history from the 1970s.