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Cubs historical sleuthing: 1940s play at the plate edition

Close play, and as it turned out, a close game. But when?

Bettmann / Contributor

Getty Images says:

The Run That Won. Chicago: Erv Dusak, St. Louis Cardinals, scores the winning ninth-inning run, the only run scored in the game with the Cubs, McCullough. Ralph La Pointe’s ninth-inning double carried the Cards to a 1-0 victory.

Why McCullough didn’t rate a first name in Getty’s description we’ll never know, but that’s Clyde McCullough, a Cubs catcher from 1940-48.

Erv Dusak played for the Cardinals from 1941-50, so we still have a range of years.

It’s narrowed down quickly by Ralph LaPointe, who played for the Cardinals only in 1948. He was an infielder who played only two big-league seasons (the other with the Phillies in 1947).

This one got narrowed down quickly by the score. As it turns out, this game was the Cubs’ home opener, played Friday, April 23, 1948. Opening Day is likely the reason there were photographers at the ballpark.

Johnny Schmitz was the Cubs starting pitcher, and he had allowed St. Louis just one hit through eight innings, a leadoff single in the fifth by Nippy Jones. (No, I did not make that name up, he was a real player who, nine years later, would be involved in a pivotal play in the World Series as a member of the Braves.)

Anyway, this game went to the ninth inning 0-0, because the Cubs, despite seven hits in the first eight innings, couldn’t score either.

In the top of the ninth, Schmitz walked Dusak and LaPointe, the next hitter, doubled him in. The Cubs got a pair of runners on base with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but Harry Brecheen struck out Roy Smalley and Bob Scheffing flied to right to end the game in a 1-0 St. Louis victory.

This game is famous for another reason — it was the very first Cubs game televised by WGN-TV, as chronicled here in 2019. Here’s a photo of WGN’s cameras taken that afternoon:

Courtesy WGN-TV

Ralph LaPointe, though he had only a brief MLB playing career, had an interesting life afterwards. He returned to his hometown in Vermont and in 1951 was named head baseball coach at the University of Vermont. Per his SABR biography:

In 16 years, his teams posted a 216-127 record, never suffered a losing season and won 13 State Championships and two Yankee Conference crowns. Over the years Lapointe sent eight players into professional baseball.

LaPointe died of cancer, far too young at age 45, in 1967.

The Cubs were not a very good team in 1948. They finished 64-90, the first 90-loss season in franchise history, and also finished last in the National League, their first last-place finish.