A Day In Wrigley Field History: July 5, 1987

Kasey Ignarski

This article is going to be about something that didn't happen, and why that's important.

Can you identify the Cub in the photo above?

You probably can't, and that's the reason this otherwise ordinary 7-5 Cubs loss to the Giants is the 1987 entry in this series.

The Cubs had gone through June still close to contending, but then, as in 1985, injuries began to take their toll. They had lost six of eight when Dickie Noles, who was having a halfway decent year as a middle reliever, joined Scott Sanderson on the disabled list.

Recalled from Iowa to replace Noles on the 25-man roster was a skinny righthanded reliever who had begun the 1987 season at Double-A Pittsfield: Mark Leonette. Fred Mitchell's note from the Tribune had the details:

Leonette, 25, was one of the minor-league players obtained from Oakland in the deal involving Dennis Eckersley this spring.

The 6-foot-4 inch, 170-pounder didn't allow an earned run in his first 15⅔ innings at Pittsfield in the Double-A Eastern League. 

Leonette was 0-0 at Iowa, where he worked six innings in seven games and had an earned run average of 15.00. He was 4-0 with two saves and a 0.74 ERA in 25 appearances at Pittsfield.

"He struggled a little bit at Iowa after we brought him up from Pittsfield," said Cubs President Dallas Green.

"But this will probably be only a four-day cup of coffee because Scott Sanderson should be ready to go on July 7."

That is, in fact, exactly what happened. Sanderson was activated July 7 and Leonette was optioned to Iowa, where he pitched somewhat better the rest of 1987 (17 games, 54⅔ innings, 4.28 ERA).

But Leonette did not pitch in any of the four games in which he was on the active big-league roster. The July 5 game was the only one in which he was asked to warm up during a game. I was at that game and specifically recall him warming up, as do Mike Bojanowski and Kasey Ignarski, who took the photo above. Most likely, it was in the eighth inning, when Ed Lynch blew a 5-4 lead and gave the Giants the game.

Leonette is the only player in Cubs history to be on the roster during the time of the 25-man limit, be issued a uniform number (32), yet not appear in a game. For that, he's worth remembering. He pitched again at Pittsfield in 1988, did reasonably well, yet never got another recall. It's possible that the photo here is the only one of him in a Cubs major-league uniform.

Footnote: Neither of the other players who were acquired in the Eckersley deal -- Brian Guinn and David Wilder -- ever played in the major leagues, either. Wilder was Cubs farm director and assistant general manager from 1996-2001, later also worked for the Brewers and White Sox and was highly thought of as a possible future GM. You've probably heard what happened to him.

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