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Cubs historical sleuthing: Ernie Banks and Ron Santo edition

But when? And where?

The men shown above are two of the greatest players in Cubs history, Hall of Famers Ron Santo and Ernie Banks.

They’re wearing home Cubs pinstripes — but that isn’t Wrigley Field. So where is this?

The background and batting cage of the photo matches two others I’ve sleuthed that came from 1966 Cubs spring training, held at Blair Field in Long Beach, California. The Cubs had held spring camp in Mesa, Arizona, from 1952-65, but moved to Long Beach in 1966 largely to placate new manager Leo Durocher, who wanted to stay close to his Southern California home during spring camp.

Unfortunately, it rained in SoCal in March 1966. A lot. Blair Field, which had originally opened in 1924, was extensively renovated in 1958, but didn’t have the full facilities the Cubs needed. Further, there was a lot of drizzly, bad weather in southern California that spring, not really conducive to getting ready to play baseball. Another reason was the long bus rides for travel to away spring games, as shown on this schedule from the Cubs’ spring media guide:

The following year, they’d move spring training back to Arizona, though to Scottsdale Stadium, where they’d play through 1978 before moving back to Mesa.

The batter wearing No. 21 in the background of the photo is George Altman, who had a couple of good years for the Cubs in 1961 and 1962, was then traded away (in a pretty good deal that brought Larry Jackson and Lindy McDaniel to the Cubs), and returned in 1965. Unfortunately, back injuries ended Altman’s MLB career, but he would go on to play eight seasons in Japan’s NPB, hitting 205 home runs.

Can’t tell you the exact date of this photo, but it had to be batting practice before one of the Cubs’ home games that year at Blair Field, which, incidentally, after further renovations in 1993 and 2016, is still in use as the home park for the Long Beach State Dirtbags. (Yes, that’s the actual team name.)

If you’d care to take a guess as to the exact date of this photo, note the dates of the Cubs’ seven spring games in Long Beach in 1966: March 19, March 20, March 21, March 23, March 24, April 2 and April 3.