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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: Keith Hernandez edition

And just who is that Cubs player?

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Getty Images says:

First baseman Keith Hernandez #17 of the New York Mets takes the throw over at first base against the Chicago Cubs during a Major League Baseball game circa 1986 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. Hernandez played for the Mets from 1983-89.

Yep, that’s clearly Keith Hernandez. And, in fact, we know this is 1986 for sure. Why? Because Hernandez is wearing a patch on his left sleeve. The patch is for the 25th season of the Mets — not their 25th anniversary, that would have been 1987. Anyway, that’s the only possible year for that uniform, the Mets otherwise did not wear any such sleeve patch between 1976 and 1994.

That narrows things down right away. The Mets played nine games at Wrigley Field in 1986, three at the end of June, four in early August and two in late September.

While the ivy would have been full at any of those times, I eliminated the late September games due to the shadows. The next clue is the uniform number of the Cub diving back into first base. Just three Cubs wore single-digit numbers in 1986 — Dave Martinez (1), Keith Moreland (6) and Jody Davis (7). Pretty sure you’ll agree with me that the body build isn’t Moreland or Davis.

So, this is Dave Martinez — a 21-year-old rookie that year — diving back to first base on a pickoff throw. But when?

The next clue is the one that gives it away, the umpire number. There were only three umpires in 1986 who wore a number ending in 0 — John McSherry (10), Tom Hallion (20) and Randy Marsh. I asked Mike Bojanowski to do another graphic with these umps:

The umpire in the photo is definitely Randy Marsh. So, when was Marsh a first base umpire in a Cubs/Mets game at Wrigley in 1986?

Retrosheet has an umpire directory that (at least for more recent years) shows each umpire’s daily record. From there we learn that Marsh was the first base umpire for a Cubs/Mets game at Wrigley on Sunday, June 29, 1986.

Martinez was on first base twice in this game. In the first inning after Davey Lopes walked, Martinez forced him at second. And in the fourth inning, Martinez led off with a single. Given the shadows I’m going to say this one’s from the first inning.

The Cubs didn’t score in that inning and eventually lost the game 7-4. As you know, the Mets went on to win the World Series that year, and the Cubs lost 90 games (and went 6-12 against the Mets).

Lastly, as I noted, Martinez was a rookie in 1986. That was just his 11th MLB game, in what wound up as a 16-season, 1,918-game career, and of course now he’s won a couple of World Series rings as a Cubs coach (2016) and Nationals manager (2019).