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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: Panoramic edition

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This beautiful photo is a great snapshot in time of the ballpark.

The headline says “panoramic edition” of my Wrigley historical sleuthing series, but our photo cropping system only allows part of the image to be shown. So, here’s the full panoramic Wrigley Field image:

You might not think there are enough clues here, but there absolutely are. Surprisingly, this one was actually pretty easy.

First, of course, there are no video boards. That puts this game pre-2015. Then, you see the Torco and Budweiser ads on the buildings on Sheffield and Waveland, respectively. That pushes the date of this back to sometime in the 1990s or early 2000s, when those ads were prominent.

Your next clue resides at the bottom of the photo, near the first-base dugout. It’s a Diamondbacks logo on the on-deck circle. That means it’s 1998 or later.

I looked closely at the scoreboard. It’s not easy to read when you blow up this photo, but there are enough clues even though it was a bit blurry. The Cubs are batting, obviously (there’s a Cub in the third-base on-deck circle). They have scored in the bottom of the fifth inning while the hitter is at the plate. There’s a number in that inning on the board, meaning the inning is still in progress.

Number 17 is batting. I immediately thought, “Mark Grace,” and that matches the rather blurry image on the mini-board below the scoreboard.

That narrowed it down quickly. Grace, of course, signed with Arizona as a free agent for the 2001 season. So the photo has to be from 1998, 1999 or 2000.

Grace played in 13 games against the D-backs at Wrigley in those three years. This is obviously from a night game — the clock on the scoreboard reads 8:30 — so I eliminated all the afternoon games among those 13.

That left five games. There’s one more clue on the scoreboard. Look at the game second from the top on the N.L. side. It clearly shows “NEW YORK” as the home team, and a single panel where the final score would be. That’s how a rainout is indicated, with an “R” in that scoreboard position.

There’s only one of those dates where the Mets were rained out in a home game. That’s June 6, 2000.

Paydirt. All the other things match. Grace was indeed batting in that game in the bottom of the fifth inning. The board shows one out, and yes, Grace was at bat with one out. Two runs had already scored when Grace came to the plate, and he singled, driving in the Cubs’ third run of that inning.

Kevin Tapani was two outs away from a complete-game shutout when a D-backs player homered off him. I’m not going to name that player. Go look at the boxscore, you’ll be amused. Don’t ruin the fun by naming him in the comments, either. I will tell you that the homer was one of only two that player hit in the 2000 season.

The Cubs won the game 4-1 and Tapani finished up for a complete game, the last one of his career.

Hard to believe that in a few months, that photo will be 20 years old.