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Cubs historical sleuthing: Rick Monday edition

The best clue here didn’t come from either of the players in this photo.

Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Getty Images says:

Outfielder Rick Monday #7 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the New York Mets during a Major League Baseball game circa 1976 at Shea Stadium in the Queens borough of New York City. Monday played for the Cubs from 1972-76. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

I can tell you one thing about this photo without looking up anything at all: It wasn’t taken in 1976.

How do I know that? Because in 1976, the Cubs wore a team centennial patch on the right jersey sleeve. There’s no such patch visible on Monday here — nor on the on-deck batter, nor on the player in the dugout.

So it’s not 1976. The Cubs played 45 games at Shea Stadium from 1972-76, when Monday was a Cub, and Monday played in 36 of them. That’s a lot of games to search.

Except we can narrow it down by the plate umpire, who is wearing No. 18.

Here are the umpires who wore No. 18 in those years:

1972-73: Dick Stello
1974-75: Ed Sudol
1976: Sudol, then Ed Vargo

Retrosheet has umpire daily logs from that era, so off I went to look up when these men were plate umpires for Cubs/Mets games at Shea in those years.

It can’t be 1972, because the Cubs didn’t wear that style of road jersey until 1973.

Oddly, Sudol did not have a single instance of being a plate umpire for a Cubs/Mets game at Shea any of those years, which narrowed it down quickly.

There’s only one possible game left after that: September 16, 1973 with Dick Stello as the plate umpire.

This makes sense because the Mets were on their improbable run to the NL East title that September, so it would have been logical for a photographer to be sent to cover that game. The Mets wound up winning 4-3.

Monday went 0-for-4 that afternoon, as follows: Line drive to second, popup to second, called strikeout and ground out to second.

Monday has obviously hit the ball here, as he has completed follow-through on a swing and no ball is in catcher Jerry Grote’s mitt. It could be a foul ball here, or it could be one of the plays hit to the second baseman. I’d lean toward one of the later innings, because the batter’s boxes are not visible and the first play was in the first inning.

So while it’s impossible to tell exactly what at-bat Rick Monday was taking here, the photo had to be taken Sunday, September 16, 1973.