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Cubs historical sleuthing: Gary Carter edition

This future Hall of Famer was involved in a close play at the plate at Wrigley. But when?

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Getty Images tells us the following about this photo (fixed a typo):

Gary Carter #8 of the Montreal Expos in action against the Chicago Cubs during a Major League Baseball game at Wrigley Field circa 1982 in Chicago, Illinois. Carter played for the Expos from 1974-84 and 1992.

One thing I can tell you for certain, right away, is that it’s not 1982. That’s Ivan De Jesus sliding in at the plate, and he was traded away after 1981 in the Ryne Sandberg deal.

The Expos didn’t start wearing uniforms with the red and blue stripes on the jerseys and pants until 1980, so this limits the search to 1980 and 1981.

De Jesus played in 15 games against the Expos at Wrigley Field in those two seasons. Carter caught all but one of those games, so now we’re down to 14 games. Also, Carter caught every inning of those 14 games, so he’d have been involved in any play at the plate involving De Jesus in those games. Here is the systematic approach I took.

In four of those 14 games, De Jesus did not reach base, and in one further game, he reached on an error but did not score and was not involved in a play at the plate.

So that leaves nine games to look at.

There were three other games in which De Jesus had one hit but no runs scored. He was not involved in a play at the plate in any of those games, so now we’re down to six games. Here are the details of his performance in those six:

May 27, 1980: De Jesus went 2-for-5 with a run scored. The run was on a home run and he didn’t come close to the plate the rest of the game.

May 28, 1980: This game was suspended in the 11th inning May 28 and finished August 8. De Jesus scored one run — on Cliff Johnson’s walkoff grand slam in the 14th inning. He didn’t come close to the plate the rest of the game.

September 24, 1980: De Jesus goes 1-for-5 and scores from second on a two-out single in the fifth inning. This is a possibility, but the crowd that day was just 2,915, seemingly too small for what we see in the photo.

May 23, 1981: De Jesus goes 1-for-3 with a walk and scores one run — but he was on third base when a single scored him, and Steve Henderson was thrown out at third on this play to end the inning, there was no play at the plate and De Jesus didn’t come close to the plate the rest of the game.

May 24, 1981: De Jesus goes 1-for-4 and scores a run on a Bill Buckner triple in the third. Two runs scored on that play, and De Jesus was on second base with Joe Strain on first when Buckner was batting, so there couldn’t have been a play on De Jesus at the plate.

September 11, 1981: With one out in the bottom of the first inning, De Jesus walked and was picked off first base, but made it to second safely on a throwing error. Bill Buckner then singled to right, scoring De Jesus.

Amazingly enough, there are actually video highlights from this game available, more than 40 years later. The play in question starts at :18 into this video:

That play at the plate looks like a match to me. The boxscore says it was 78 degrees and cloudy at game time that afternoon, and even with only 7,204 in attendance, it looks like the number of fans shown in the photo behind the plate matches what we see in the video.

So, this is Ivan De Jesus scoring the first run of the game in the first inning Friday, September 11, 1981, just ahead of an attempted tag by Gary Carter. The Cubs scored four in that inning and eventually won the game 6-5 despite a ninth-inning rally by the Expos. As you can see in the video, the game ended on a strikeout/thrown out stealing double play.

Here is Mike Bojanowski’s scorecard from this game. For a larger version click here.