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Cubs historical sleuthing: Joe Torre edition

You wouldn’t think there are enough clues here... but there are.

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Getty Images says:

Infielder/Catcher Joe Torre #9 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action a home plate against the Chicago Cubs during a MLB baseball game circa 1970’s at Wrigley Fields in Chicago Illinois. Torre played for the Cardinals from 1969-74.

Now we have a mystery, because this gives us only a six-season spread and says “circa 1970’s.”

There are some things we know here, though. This cannot be 1969, because the MLB 100th anniversary patch doesn’t appear on Torre’s uniform. There’s another slightly different photo of the same scene available:

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

No 100th anniversary patch on Santo’s jersey, either.

Next clue: Torre did not catch any games in the major leagues at all after 1970 — not once.

Thus, this has to be from 1970.

Torre caught all nine games the Cardinals played at Wrigley Field in 1970, so the next clue is the umpire. Here’s the full photo from the top of this post:

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

I sent this photo over to Mike Bojanowski and told him I thought it was John Kibler. He found this photo of Kibler that looks like a match (next to a closeup of the umpire from the photo above):

There was only one game where Kibler was the plate umpire in a Cubs/Cardinals game at Wrigley Field in 1970. That game took place Wednesday, September 16, 1970. The weather conditions in the boxscore (62 degrees, cloudy) match what we’re seeing, as does the size of the crowd (21,121).

This was actually quite an important game for the Cubs. After being as far as six games out of first place August 15, they went on a 17-10 run and entered that September 16 game tied for second place, just one game behind the Pirates. This is probably why a photographer was assigned; photos from that era generally weren’t taken on an everyday basis.

Now, as for the specific scene: That’s obviously Ron Santo standing at the plate next to Torre and Kibler. Santo went 2-for-3 and homered in this game, but that’s not what we see here.

This isn’t a certainty, but in the bottom of the ninth, Santo came to bat with Jim Hickman on first base and one out. During Santo’s at-bat, Bob Gibson wild-pitched Hickman to second. That could match what we are seeing here, Torre with his mask off holding the ball. But again, I am just speculating.

I’m certain this is the game, though. The Cubs wound up losing 8-1, Santo’s homer was the only run off Gibson.

The Cubs won three of their next four after that loss and with 11 games remaining were in second place, just 1½ games behind the Pirates. Unfortunately, with that year being the final year the Bears played at Wrigley Field, the Cubs finished the season on a 14 (!) game road trip, and weren’t very good away from home that year (46-34 at home, 38-44 on the road). They went 4-7 over those last 11 games while Pittsburgh went 8-4 and the Cubs finished second, five games behind the division-winning Pirates. It’s as close as that core group of the late 1960s and early 1970s ever finished to first place.