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Cubs historical sleuthing: Candlestick Park edition

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This is a good action photo from that era in Cubs history.

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Getty Images supplies the following caption with this photo:

Bill Buckner #22 of the Chicago Cubs steals second base beating the tag of Johnnie LeMaster #10 of the San Francisco Giants during an [sic] Major League Baseball game circa 1981 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. Buckner played for the Cubs from 1977-84.

All right, we’ve got a starting point, at least.

The Cubs wore that style of road uniform from 1978-81. The Giants wore that style of home uniform in all those years, so that doesn’t narrow it down any.

Johnnie LeMaster played 12 seasons in the big leagues, the first 11 with the Giants. A good fielder, he couldn’t hit — even by the standards of the time. He hit .222/.277/.289 — not for one year, but in over 3,500 plate appearances. He had negative career bWAR (-5.4). He played shortstop in all but 10 of his 1,009 career games.

Anyway, let’s go back to the play depicted in the photo. LeMaster played in 16 games against the Cubs at Candlestick Park from 1978-81.

We are obviously looking at a day game here, so that eliminates nine of the 16 games, and Bill Buckner didn’t play in one of the remaining seven, so that leaves us with six games to investigate. We appear to be looking at a play where Bill Buckner appears to be pulling into second base with a standup double, with a throw that was just a bit late.

There is only one such play in any of those six games. On Saturday, September 5, 1981, in the top of the seventh inning with the Cubs already leading 7-0, Buckner came to bat with Steve Henderson on third base and two out. Buckner hit a double to right. Obviously on a hit like that, Henderson would have scored easily from third and a play was made on Buckner at second, but he was safe.

Buckner had also homered earlier in the game and the Cubs won 8-2 behind a complete-game performance by Mike Krukow, who struck out 11. Krukow, of course, eventually played for the Giants and has been one of their TV broadcasters since 1994.