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Cubs historical sleuthing: Leon Durham edition

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You might think there aren’t enough clues here, but there are.

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Getty Images says:

Tom Herr #28 of the St. Louis Cardinals sets to take the throw down at second base against the Chicago Cubs during a Major League Baseball game circa 1983 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. Herr played for the Cardinals from 1979-88.

Nope nope nope. This is not 1983.

How do I know that? Because the Cardinals wore light blue road uniforms until 1984.

So that limits this to the years 1985-88, because Leon Durham, shown running the bases, was traded to the Reds in May 1988. Oddly enough, that trade was made on the very day that the Cubs completed their first home series that year against the Cardinals. Durham had been benched at the end of April when Mark Grace was called up from Triple-A to play first base and had only four PA for the Cubs in May before the trade, all as a pinch-hitter, and didn’t appear at all vs. St. Louis at Wrigley that year. Sadly, Durham’s career was derailed by substance abuse problems and he was out of baseball after 1989.

Back to the photo: There’s one other thing that narrows this down quickly — the lack of ivy on the outfield wall. That means this has to be from April, an early-season series.

There are four such games in this time frame: April 22, 1986, April 23, 1986, April 7, 1987 and April 9, 1987.

Thinking that there might be some ivy beginning to grow by late April, I decided to check the 1987 games first.

The April 9 game has a matching play. Durham led off the second inning with a walk, and one out later Shawon Dunston hit a ground ball to third on which Durham was forced at second.

I checked the other games and this is literally the only play that matches.

So: Bottom of the second inning, Thursday, April 9, 1987, in front of 12,441. The boxscore doesn’t give the weather conditions that day, but I checked the Tribune archive. It was a pleasant afternoon and the high temperature reached 72. The Cubs lost the game 4-2, the Cubs runs coming on solo homers by Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson. The Dawson home run was his first as a Cub.