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Cubs historical sleuthing: Mid 1980s edition

Here’s yet another Cubs player photographed in Pittsburgh.

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Getty Images says:

Pitcher Ron Davis #39 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a Major League Baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1986 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

That’s absolutely Ron Davis, it’s absolutely Pittsburgh, and I went into this assuming it was 1986.

Before I tell you when this photo was taken, let me tell you a bit about Davis, subject of one of the worst trades in late-Wrigley ownership Cubs history.

The Cubs selected Davis in the long-ago January phase of the Draft in the third round in 1976. He didn’t do too well in the Cubs system so two years later they traded him to the Yankees for the remainder of Ken Holtzman’s career, which wasn’t very good.

Davis thrived after the deal. In 1979 he finished fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting and three years later the Yankees traded him to the Twins, along with Paul Boris and Greg Gagne for Roy Smalley Jr.

That was a great trade for Minnesota and Davis posted 108 saves for the Twins over the next four seasons before a bad start in 1986 got him traded back to the Cubs, along with a minor leaguer who never made it, for George Frazier and Ray Fontenot.

That was one of those deals that turned out to do nothing for either team. Davis posted a 6.54 ERA and 1.701 WHIP in 38 games for the Cubs in 1986 and 1987 and the team eventually released him. Fontenot had a 9.92 ERA for the Twins the rest of ‘86 and was let go after the season and Frazier’s numbers were only slightly better, though he did pitch for Minnesota in the 1987 World Series.

Anyway, Davis pitched in two games for the Cubs at Three Rivers Stadium in 1986. So which one was this photo taken in?

This photo provides the answer:

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

That’s Drew Hall, who was the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in 1984. He made his MLB debut in Pittsburgh Sunday, September 14, 1986. It was not successful — he threw four innings and allowed four hits, four walks and five runs. Davis pitched the last two innings of that game, allowing a pair of runs, and the Cubs lost 9-2.

The debut of a No. 1 pick is likely why we have that photo of Hall — or any photos of Hall at all, given that he pitched pretty poorly for the Cubs in 45 games (four starts) for the Cubs from 1986-88, posting a 6.41 ERA and 1.564 WHIP and accounting for -1.3 bWAR. The photographer likely snapped a bunch of photos that afternoon, and these two survive.

Hall did eventually help provide some value for the Cubs, as he was included in the nine-player deal that sent him, Jamie Moyer and Rafael Palmeiro to the Texas Rangers for Paul Kilgus, Curt Wilkerson, Mitch Williams, Steve Wilson and a pair of minor leaguers. Teams just don’t make huge player deals like that anymore.

Anyway, that deal helped the Cubs win the NL East in 1989, but Moyer and Palmeiro obviously went on to much longer careers while none of the players the Cubs acquired in the trade played a single game for the Cubs after 1991.

Hall had a decent year in relief for Texas in 1989 and then was traded to Montreal for Jeff Huson. He hung around in the minors until 1994, yet another wasted Cubs No. 1 draft pick. The Cubs had the third overall pick that year; players chosen in that first round after Hall include Jay Bell, Mark McGwire and future Cub Terry Mulholland.