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Cubs historical sleuthing: Mark Grace edition

A snapshot — literally — in time.

This photo was sent to me by Michael McNerney, a BCB reader and lifelong Cubs fan who also has promised to send me a set of photos taken by his great-grandmother in the 1930s. When I get that, I’ll sleuth them and run the entire set.

But this relatively recent photo has some excellent sleuthing elements. First, here’s a larger version of the photo:

The first thing you’ll notice is the winter hat in the foreground. It’s cold. Then you see bunting on the wall at the right, so this has to be Opening Day.

The visiting team is obviously the Atlanta Braves. Enlarging this photo shows “Hey! Hey!” on the right-field foul pole. That’s in honor of Jack Brickhouse, who died in 1998, so this has to be after that.

Number 8 for the Braves in that era was their longtime catcher Javy Lopez, who played for Atlanta from 1992-2003.

There are a few other clues in the photo that you can probably make out, but the only time the Braves participated in the Wrigley Field opener in that time frame was Monday, April 10, 2000. The Cubs had already made a trip to Japan that spring, split two games with the Mets, then lost five of six on a trip to St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Yikes. You could probably tell from that record that 2000 wasn’t going to be the Cubs’ year.

Who’s at bat here and when during this game was this photo taken? We have a lefthanded Cubs batter facing a lefthanded Braves pitcher.

The Braves used four pitchers in this game: Kevin Millwood, Mike Remlinger (later a Cub!), Kerry Ligtenberg and Luis Rivera. Of those four, only Remlinger is lefthanded, so it has to be him.

Remlinger faced five batters. He pitched the entire eighth inning all vs. righthanded hitters and allowed a run. He was left in the game to begin the ninth with the Braves leading 3-0. The leadoff hitter in that inning was Mark Grace.

That’s definitely Grace at bat against Remlinger, so that’s what we’re looking at here, one of the pitches during Grace’s leadoff walk. He walked on four pitches.

We have video of this at-bat!

Based on the position of Lopez’ mitt, I believe the photo is of the first pitch of the at-bat, which landed in the dirt.

You can see a pitcher warming up in the Braves bullpen in the background. That’s Ligtenberg, who entered for the next hitter, Glenallen Hill. Ligtenberg walked Hill and then Shane Andrews hit a three-run homer, tying the game. A single and sacrifice bunt put the winning run in scoring position and Jeff Reed singled in the game-winner.

It was a rare high point in a 97-loss season.