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Cubs historical sleuthing: Bill Buckner and Tim Raines edition

You might think a random throw to first base is unsleuthable. But you’d be wrong.

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Getty Images says (again, typo fixed):

Tim Raines #30 of the Montreal Expos beats the throw over to Bill Buckner #22 of the Chicago Cubs during a Major League Baseball game circa 1983 at Wrigley field in Chicago, Illinois. Buckner played for the Cubs from 1977-84.

Well, 1983 could be right. But so could 1982, or even 1981, though I leaned toward ‘82 or ‘83 because this photo on Getty’s website was in a group of photos that included some of Al Oliver in an Expos uniform, and Oliver played for Montreal in only ‘82 and ‘83.

Beyond that, this would seem impossible, right? A random throw to first base with Raines on base and Buckner the first baseman could have happened on any one of a number of occasions.

But then there’s the umpire. And I thought if I could ID him, that would at the very least narrow down the possibilities.

I sent this photo over to Mike Bojanowski and he made up these graphics for all the first base umpires in Cubs/Expos games at Wrigley in 1982 and 1983 — except for Doug Harvey and Joe West, who are both instantly recognizable and it’s obviously not either of them. Here’s what Mike sent me:

Steve Rippley is the match here, both by the facial structure and the 5 o’clock shadow.

That being the case, this photo had to be taken in the first inning Saturday, July 2, 1983. Raines led off the game with a walk and, as he was a constant base-stealing threat, Cubs pitcher Chuck Rainey was trying to keep him close. Raines didn’t steal second, but did advance to third on a single by Warren Cromartie and scored on a sacrifice fly by... our old friend Andre Dawson. That gave the Expos a 1-0 lead, but the Cubs won the game 5-2. Jody Davis homered in front of 32,718.

Just one more little slice of Cubs history, nearly 39 years ago.