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Cubs historical sleuthing: Manager/umpire argument edition

We have enough clues to figure this one out, and there are a couple of interesting sidelights from this game.

Photo by Bill Meurer/Sporting News via Getty Images

Getty Images says:

Manager Frankie Frisch (L) of the Chicago Cubs, Frisch was sent to the showers by Umpire Larry Goeiz (C). Emil Verban (7), Cub second baseman, watches, while catcher Rube Walker prepares to join the argument circa 1950.

There’s a typo in there — the umpire’s name was actually “Goetz,” not “Goeiz.” He previously appeared in this sleuthing series last Friday.

Presuming this was in fact 1950, I started my search there, looking for games where Larry Goetz was the plate umpire of a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. It’s a home game for sure, because the uniforms are white, not gray. The Cubs didn’t start wearing home pinstripes until 1957.

There were four such games. Emil Verban didn’t play in any of them, so it can’t be 1950. Verban and Walker both left the Cubs after 1950, and Frisch wasn’t Cubs manager until mid-1949, so that has to be the year.

Back to Goetz’ umpire game log, this time from 1949. Frisch took over as Cubs manager June 14, 1949, so this game has to be after that.

There were seven games in 1949 where Goetz was the plate umpire at a Cubs home game after Frisch took over as manager. In three of those Verban played second base and Walker was the catcher — Friday, June 17 and Sunday, June 19 against the Dodgers (yes, twice in one series, there were still some two-man umpiring crews back then) and Friday, July 1 against the Pirates.

This argument — and ejection — happened Sunday, June 19, 1949. Frisch was managing just his seventh game for the Cubs and the team had lost the first six (and one previous, so they were riding a seven-game losing streak).

The ejection happened in the top of the third inning. Retrosheet’s boxscore notes:

Rube Walker and Cubs Manager Frankie Frisch ejected by HP umpire Larry Goetz; Bob Scheffing ejected by 1B umpire Lou Jorda

Neither the boxscore nor the Tribune recap of the game give a reason for the ejections, but Edward Burns of the Tribune did write of the two-man crew (capitalization or not as in original):

Frankie was chased to his tub by Larry Goetz, one of the more irate of the National league umpires, who has been overworked because of the two umpire system which has been imposed on Wrigley field for the last six games.

Frisch was banished when he came to the rescue of Catcher Al Walker, who had been debating with the overworked Goetz. Larry also heaved Walker, and, television being what it is in Wrigley field, where there are more channels than umpires, Umpire Lou Jorda shooed the wounded Bob Scheffing from the bench.

Well. They don’t write ‘em like that anymore, that’s for sure.

Some explanations are required. First, yes, three different TV channels in Chicago carried Cubs games in 1949. That situation existed in an era pre-television rights, and in the early days of television channels were looking for any sort of programming to fill time. WGN-TV, WENR-TV and WBKB-TV all covered Cubs games until 1953, when WGN was left alone covering Cubs games as the other channels had more national network commitments.

About the two-man umpiring crews, per the great umpire site Steve The Ump:

The two-umpire system was the norm during the 1920s, but it became common practice to assign one of the reserve umpires to critical games or series; by 1933 three umpires were assigned routinely to regular-season games. The four-man crew was instituted in 1952.

So at that time, a three-man crew was standard, but for some reason only two had been assigned to several games in a row at Wrigley. The reason is lost to the mists of time, but it was different enough to be remarked upon by a sportswriter.

In any case, the Cubs broke their seven-game losing streak that afternoon at Wrigley Field. Andy Pafko homered twice and the Cubs beat the Dodgers 8-2, giving Frisch his first win as Cubs manager in front of a full house of 42,089. It was one of only five times the Cubs defeated the Dodgers in 22 tries that year, and one of just two Cubs wins in 11 games vs. the Dodgers at Wrigley in 1949.

The ‘49 Cubs were pretty bad. They had fallen into last place during that seven-game losing streak, never got out of the basement the rest of 1949 and wound up setting a franchise record with 93 losses (breaking the previous year’s record of 90). They finished last in the eight-team National League, 36 games behind the pennant-winning Dodgers.