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Cubs historical sleuthing: 1950s play at the plate edition

This is a nice action photo from more than 70 years ago.

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Bettmann / Contributor

Getty Images says:

Sam Jethroe slides home safely on a double steal in the fifth inning of game with Cubs as Cub catcher Al Walker stretches high for a bad throw from Shortstop Roy Smalley. Braves won, 3-0.

We have quite a bit of detail here: Three player names, an inning, the team the Cubs were playing and the final score of the game.

The only year all three of these players could have been in the same game is 1950. Al Walker and Roy Smalley were Cubs in 1948 and 1948, but Sam Jethroe came from the Negro Leagues to the National League in 1950. In fact, he was named NL Rookie of the Year, scoring 100 runs and leading the league with 35 stolen bases.

Armed with the knowledge of the year, this game was easy to find. It was played Thursday, May 11, 1950.

The game was scoreless entering the fifth inning. With two out, Braves pitcher Johnny Sain singled. That was followed by a single by Jethroe, and the runners moved to second and third on a throwing error by Cubs second baseman Wayne Terwilliger.

Then Jethroe stole home, which is what we’re looking at here. Here’s a more complete view of the photo:

Bettmann / Contributor

The boxscore says the attendance was 6,326, but the crowd looks even smaller than that. The Braves went on to win 3-0, as noted. The Cubs had only four hits, all singles. That was another pretty bad Cubs team; though they were 8-7 after that loss, they finished 64-89, spared a 90-loss season only by a tie game that was not replayed.

Al Walker became known as “Rube,” and had a long coaching career, mainly as the pitching coach of the Mets in the 1960s and 1970s. Al’s brother Verlon was also nicknamed “Rube” and I’ve written here previously about Verlon Walker’s daughter’s search for her father’s voice, as he passed away at age 42 in 1971, when she was just three years old. You can read her story here and here.