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Cubs historical sleuthing: Tony Perez edition

The Reds Hall of Famer is making a play at third base here. But when?

Bettmann / Contributor

Getty Images says:

Cincinnati Reds’ third baseman Tony Perez reaches and grabs grounder hit by Chicago Cubs’ Jim Dickman in the third inning of ball game. Hickman beat the throw to first base.

“Dickman” is, obviously, not correct and Getty uses Jim Hickman’s correct name later in the caption.

The Reds uniform style shown was used through 1971, and Hickman started playing for the Cubs in 1968. But this is not 1969, because there’s no MLB 100th anniversary patch on Perez’ right sleeve. Hickman played in only two games against the Reds at Wrigley in 1968, and this description didn’t match anything he did in either of those games.

So this has to be from 1970 or 1971. Perez, mostly known as a first baseman, did begin his career at third base, and he played in 10 games at Wrigley as a third baseman in 1970 and 1971. Hickman played in eight of those games, so that’s a reasonably-sized group to search.

I eliminated three games in which Hickman did not have a hit, because the description says Hickman beat out an infield grounder. That left five to search.

This play happened Saturday, May 9, 1970. With one out in the third inning, Hickman did in fact single to third baseman Perez. He was stranded. He had earlier homered in the game.

The Cubs won this game 8-1. In the bottom of the seventh, Ernie Banks homered, the 499th of his career. That’s likely why this photo of Perez exists; photographers were following the Cubs because Ernie was approaching 500 home runs.

That 499th home run should have been Ernie’s 500th. I’ve previously written about the incident in Montreal in June 1969 when Banks hit a ball that appeared to leave a foggy Jarry Park in Montreal:

It had rained much of the day and early evening and frankly, the game shouldn’t have been played at all, since the teams had an afternoon contest scheduled the next day. But the rain stopped long enough for the umpires to have play begin, even though it was still a bit drizzly and foggy.

In the second inning, with the Cubs leading 1-0 (on a Don Kessinger leadoff homer, of all things), Banks hit a ball over the fence at Jarry Park for what should have been a home run.

Except Ernie didn’t get credit for that home run. Expos right fielder Rusty Staub kicked some dirt around the bottom of the fence and told the umpires, who were having trouble seeing in the fog, that the ball had gone under the fence.

Obviously, that’s ludicrous, but the umpires believed him and Ernie was given a ground-rule double instead of the home run he had actually hit. The Cubs played the game under protest, which was disallowed, and it wound up a 5-2 loss. Many years later Staub told writers that he had to walk away from the scene so the umps wouldn’t see him laughing. Staub passed away in 2018 so he can no longer talk about this, but seriously... he shouldn’t have done that.

Here’s the home run Banks hit against the Reds May 9, 1970 at Wrigley [VIDEO].

It really is a shame, what Staub did. If not for that, Banks’ 500th homer would have come on a Saturday afternoon in front of more than 33,000 at Wrigley, instead of the following Tuesday in front of a smallish gathering of about 5,000.