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Cubs historical sleuthing: Pirates vs. Cubs edition

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This was probably a pretty good argument.

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Those all-yellow Pirates uniforms of the late 1970s and early 1980s were really something, weren’t they? Dave Parker, a Pirates star then, famously said he thought they made him look like a giant canary.

Anyway, the caption that comes with this photo via Getty Images reads:

Phil Garner #3 of the Pittsburgh Pirates argues with an umpire during a Major League Baseball game against the Chicago Cubs circa 1979 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. Garner played for the Pirates from 1977-81.

Garner later became a major-league manager, with the Brewers, Tigers and Astros, from 1992-2007. In this photo, he’s obviously angry at a call made by the second-base umpire. It has to be the 2B umpire, because Garner was a second baseman and Tim Foli, the other player in the photo, was a shortstop. It’s clear that photo is of Foli, who wore glasses while playing.

So that narrows it down. Foli was traded to the Pirates in April 1979, so it has to be after that.

The only player who wore No. 8 for the Cubs in those years was Barry Foote — no player wore that number as a Cub after Foote until Andre Dawson in 1987. Foote was traded to the Yankees in April 1981, so we’re looking at the 1979 and 1980 seasons (Foote played no games against the Pirates in ‘81 before he was traded).

All right, now we’ve got something to go on. Foote played in 12 games against the Pirates in Wrigley Field in 1979 and 1980. Two of them were in April, so we eliminate them because we see full ivy on the walls. We also see it’s a sunny day and everyone’s in short sleeves, so it’s probably a midsummer afternoon. Also, Foote didn’t reach base at all in three of those games, so we can eliminate those as well.

That leaves seven games to search. Given what we see here, we’re likely looking for a play where Foote was called safe at second base and Garner, uh, disagreed.

There is just one play among those seven games that even comes close to matching what we’re seeing here. It happened Tuesday, August 7, 1979. In the bottom of the fourth inning, with Steve Ontiveros on second base and two out, Foote singled, scoring Ontiveros. Foote took second base on what was ruled an E-9, per the boxscore. There’s no further detail in the boxscore (and none in the newspaper recaps of this game), but on a play like that, perhaps there was an attempted tag on Foote and he was ruled safe, with the error charged on a bad throw to right fielder Dave Parker. The second-base umpire in that game was Harry Wendelstedt, and I’ve looked at other photos of Wendelstedt and I can’t tell whether that’s him or not. I’m going to go with this play, though, as the one you see in the photo.

The Pirates were trailing 9-2 at the time, so you could see why Garner wasn’t too happy. The Cubs eventually won the game 15-2.

The Pirates got the last laugh, though; that was the “We Are Family” team that won the World Series that year. As of now, that’s the Pirates franchise’s most recent World Series title.