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Cubs historical sleuthing: Milt Pappas edition

Check out those sideburns!

This photo was found on Facebook, and as is often the case, you might not think there are enough clues.

I’m here to tell you there are, and possibly down to the exact at-bat.

First, here’s the full photo:

Milt Pappas is unmistakable here — those sideburns were common in that era. (Thank heavens they aren’t anymore!)

So, let’s start narrowing this down. First, Pappas is wearing the Cubs’ beltless look. That began in 1972, so this is from either 1972 or 1973.

No. 15 is Ken Rudolph, who was a Cubs backup catcher from 1969-73, though he played in just 178 games in those five seasons, averaging only a little more than 35 games a year — and even fewer games caught, just 123, or about 25 per year.

The last clue is the almost-imperceptible uniform number of the visiting hitter. That’s the Montreal Expos’ uniform number style, and it’s No. 19. No other NL team had road uniforms like that in 1972 or 1973.

Thus we have to locate a game started by Pappas against the Expos, at Wrigley Field, in either 1972 or 1973, with Rudolph as the starting catcher.

There was only one such game. It was played Wednesday, September 20, 1972, near the end of yet another lost season. Only 3,083 paid to see the Cubs defeat the Expos 6-2, with Pappas throwing a complete game. Billy Williams and Ron Santo homered for the Cubs.

No. 19 for the Expos in 1972 was Tim Foli, their everyday shortstop. I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and say this was Foli’s first at-bat of the game, based mostly on the shadows, which appear more early afternoon than late afternoon.

If that’s the case, Foli hit into a double play in this at-bat.

Pappas had a really good year in ‘72, going 17-7 with a 2.77 ERA, the no-hitter, throwing two other shutouts and finishing ninth in NL Cy Young voting.

Just another slice of Cubs history from more than half a century ago.