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Cubs historical sleuthing: Jody Davis edition

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You might think this one’s impossible to sleuth, but there is one significant clue.

Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

Getty Images supplied this information about the photo of 1980s Cubs catcher Jody Davis you see above:

Jody Davis #7 of the Chicago Cubs takes a throw at home plate in Wrigley Field in August 1981 in Chicago, Illinois.

That seems pretty detailed, but there’s a problem with “August 1981.” At first it appears you’re just looking at Davis in this photo, but look at the right side of the image, where you see part of an opposing player’s leg.

In 1981, there was just one team with that look — the Atlanta Braves. But the Cubs didn’t play the Braves at Wrigley in August 1981.

The Braves maintained that road uniform look through 1986. The Cubs also had the identical uniform you see Davis wearing in the photo through those years.

So, the next thing I checked, figuring “August” might be right — the shadows look right for that time of year — was whether the Cubs had played the Braves in other years at Wrigley in August in that time frame.

They did, in 1983, 1984 and 1985. So, I looked for plays at the plate that would have had a scene like this — Davis receiving a throw with a runner trying to score, and apparently about to slide. It’s not clear whether the runner is safe or out.

There are no plays at the plate in any of those Cubs/Braves games where a Braves runner was out. So a run must have scored on this play. That makes it more difficult, because without video or a player number or other identifying information, it’s almost impossible to know from a play-by-play description of a run scoring whether there was a play made at the plate or not.

I’m going to take a stab at this, then, without certainty. This play could have happened Saturday, August 20, 1983 in the top of the sixth inning. The Braves had the bases loaded with one out and Gerald Perry singled in two runs. This could be the second of those runs scoring.

This was actually a key series for the Cubs, though they were far out of contention. Perry, then a rookie, was playing in just his fifth MLB game that afternoon. He torched the Cubs in that series, going 4-for-9 with a double, homer and six RBI. Lee Elia, then the Cubs manager, was asked about Perry after one of the games and replied that he’d never heard of him. That was the last straw for Dallas Green, who fired Elia the day that series ended.

If you’ve got a different idea about this photo let us know, but I think I’ve got it.