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Cubs historical sleuthing: Don Kessinger edition

Not enough clues, you say? Of course there are!

I don’t usually do a lot of sleuthing photos once Spring Training has begun, but I could not resist this one, found on Twitter on Monday.

There’s a reason I put that as a link instead of an embed, and I’ll explain why I did that later on.

First, that’s obviously Don Kessinger batting at Wrigley Field, and the catcher is a Cardinal.

You’re saying, well, that must have happened hundreds of times in Kessinger’s career, so how could I pin that down to one specific at-bat?

Here’s how. It’s the catcher. It’s Larry Haney, a backup catcher who played in 480 games in a 12-year career from 1966-78, mostly with the Orioles and Athletics.

The reason I was able to pin this down to one specific at-bat is that Haney played in exactly two games for the Cardinals. Yes, TWO. Both of those games were at Wrigley Field in September 1973.

The Cardinals were making an iron man out of Ted Simmons in ‘73 — he caught 153 games that year, starting 151 of them. But with roster expansion in September, Haney was acquired from the A’s — and then manager Red Schoendienst didn’t play him.

Haney entered the game of September 7, 1973 in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement and then entered in the sixth inning, also defensively, September 9, 1973.

Kessinger had one plate appearance in each of those games while Haney was catching.

So how do I know which one it was?

Weather. The game time weather in the boxscore for the September 9 game is “64° F, Wind 9 mph in unknown direction, Overcast, Rain.” It’s obviously sunny in this photo, and sure enough, the September 7 weather: “68° F, Sunny, No Precipitation.”

Kessinger led off the eighth inning Friday, September 7, 1973, just after Haney entered the game, so that’s what we are looking at here, the very first batter with Haney behind the plate for the Cardinals. The Cubs were leading the game 8-2 at the time, and that was the final score. Kessinger went 2-for-5 that afternoon, but in that at-bat he lined out to shortstop.

Now, here’s why I waited to the end of this article to show you the full photo:

It’s the cover of the Chicago Tribune’s TV Week magazine from early April 1975, obviously previewing local TV baseball coverage for that year.

Look at the ball. Kessinger has obviously just fouled off a pitch. (In the cropped version above. you could almost think he had a line-drive single on that swing.)

Why would anyone have saved a photo of THAT?

Credit to the great Twitter account @ChicagoTVGuides for this: