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Cubs historical sleuthing: 1970s edition

A couple of good clues made this one relatively easy.

I was sent three photos to sleuth by BCB reader Scott Holmgren. I’m going to show you the first two, both taken before the start of the game in question, describe the scene, then show you the third.

Here’s the full photo above, plus the second:

In the first photo, we see Bill Madlock walking toward the Cubs dugout with a bat in his hand. On the bullpen mound is Ray Burris. Presuming that’s the pitching coach shown, it’s Marv Grissom.

It’s not hard to determine the year these photos were taken. See the patch on the Cubs’ players right sleeve? That’s this patch:

The National League centennial patch was worn, obviously, in 1976. So now we know the year this photo was taken.

In the second photo, we see Cubs outfielders Larry Biittner and Rick Monday, and a third player who I can’t identify. More importantly, the American League side of the scoreboard is shown. Though it’s a bit blurry, we can make out the matchups by the shapes of the letters. Top to bottom:


Also important, there are no NITE GAME indications anywhere on that side of the board, which strongly hints we are looking at a Sunday. In the 1970s no one (other than the Rangers, due to heat) played on Sunday night.

I began by looking at the White Sox at Royals games. The first series was May 13-16, and it cannot be those games — because the Cubs acquired Biittner May 17. There were two weekday Sox at Royals games in June. On one of those days the Cubs didn’t play, and on the other four of the AL games were night games.

Thus this has to be in September, when the Sox were at the Royals for a weekend series. All of the matchups above match Sunday, September 19, 1976, so that’s the date of the two photos above. Attendance was 17,764, and that seems about right for seeing the bleachers about 80 percent full.

The Cubs won this game 1-0. Burris, who had a fantastic second half in 1976 (11-3, 2.04 ERA, 0.995 WHIP, NL Pitcher of the Month for August), threw a seven-hit shutout, striking out five. Jerry Morales’ solo homer in the second inning was the only run of the game.

Interestingly, that game was part of a skid by the division-leading Phillies that came close to an epic choke. The 1976 Phillies had an amazing first half and on August 26 were 83-42 and led the NL East by 15 games. They then went on a 6-17 run — the last of which was this loss to the Cubs — and their lead dropped to only three games over the Pirates. Had they blown that lead, it would have been the biggest blown lead in a division or league in MLB history (still would, FWIW). But they recovered and went 12-2 after this game and won the division by nine games. They won 101 games, the first 100-win season in Phillies franchise history. Then the 108-win Reds swept them out of the NLCS.

Here’s the third photo sent to me by Scott Holmgren:

Scott says this is from the same game and here’s why it probably is, even though it’s sunny and in the first two pics, it’s cloudy.

  • The scoreboard matchups visible on the third photo are identical to the ones we saw above
  • But, wouldn’t there be scores visible, then, if Sutter is even beginning to warm up, say in the ninth inning?
  • Not necessarily. The bottom two matchups are both West Coast games. Sunday games in this era began at 1:15 p.m. and this game ran a snappy 1:49, so it wasn’t even 3:05 when it ended. West Coast games would have been just starting at that point.

So, I’m going to say that the weather cleared by the end of this game and all three photos were from the same game.

One thing that really dates that third photo: the woman’s hairstyle, the fact that she is smoking, and the fedora on the man next to her.

It was a different time.