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Cubs historical sleuthing: Bobby Bonilla edition

Just when did this play at the plate happen?

Photo by Tom G. Lynn//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Getty Images says:

Rear view of NY Mets Bobby Bonilla #25 in action vs Chicago Cubs Rick Wilkins #2.; Bonilla safe at home

Accurate! That’s a rear view of Bobby Bonilla.

This game has to be from 1994, because you can see the MLB 125th anniversary patch on some of the player sleeves.

The Mets played just three games at Wrigley in 1994 due to the players’ strike. That was the opening three games of the season. This isn’t from Opening Day, because it was sunny that day and clearly, it’s cloudy and there’s a smaller crowd (see the empty seats behind the plate).

So this is from either April 5 or 6, 1994. Bonilla scored a run in each of those games, and by the PBP description it could be either one.

The clinching clue is the player wearing No. 6 standing behind the plate. That’s Joe Orsulak. In the April 5 game, Orsulak batted one spot ahead of Bonilla and in the inning in which Bonilla scored that day, Orsulak had popped out, so he wouldn’t have been out of the dugout watching the play at the plate.

So this play has to be from Wednesday, April 6, 1994.

With two out in the top of the sixth and the Mets leading 1-0, Orsulak came to bat with one out and runners on first and second. He hit into a force play, with the runner on second advancing to third.

Then Bonilla came to bat and singled in a run, with Orsulak moving up to second. Both runners then advanced on a wild pitch.

Jeff Kent was the next hitter. He singled and Orsulak scored, and then Orsulak stood behind the plate as Bonilla also tried to score, and was also safe. That’s what we are looking at here.

Eventually Eddie Zambrano, the Cubs’ second-best Zambrano, singled in a run, but the Cubs lost 4-1. As you’ll recall, that was the year the Cubs lost their first 12 home games.

Meanwhile, Bonilla, thanks to a fortuitous contract restructuring, is still on the Mets’ payroll. He’ll be paid $1.19 million every July 1 through 2035. Here’s the explanation of how that all came to be.