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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: Brian McRae edition

No, you can’t see McRae here... but he was at bat when this photo was taken.

Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This is an interesting snapshot in time of the iconic Wrigley Field scoreboard (and yes, I think all of us writers have to call it “iconic” these days), and I’ll get to the reason why in a moment.

First, let’s sleuth out this game. The Cubs are playing the Rockies, the game’s in the bottom of the third inning and Brian McRae is batting. I’m going to show you the entire photo now, as it came in a vertical format and I had to crop it to fit up top, so you can see the clock:

Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

It’s about 2:23, so this was a 1:20 start game.

Brian McRae played for the Cubs from 1995 through early August 1997, when he was traded to the Mets. So that narrows down our search range. There are a surprisingly large number of games McRae played against the Rockies at Wrigley Field during his time with the Cubs, 17 in all, large considering the Rox are not a Cubs divisional opponent.

Four of those games were in April and it’s obviously not April, so now we’re down to 13 games. Two others were night games, leaving 11. Of those remaining 11, two started at 3:05 and two at 2:20, and so we’re down to only seven games to search.

After eliminating games in which runs were scored by the Rockies in the first three innings or the Cubs in the first two, or both, we’re left with three games: June 10, 1995 and July 19, 1997.

I could have looked through those two but I didn’t have to. This game was played Saturday, July 19, 1997. How do I know that? Here’s where I come back to what I told you in the first paragraph of this article about this being an “interesting snapshot” in time.

You’ll note at the top left of the board a game between SAN FRANCISCO and ST. LOUIS. That immediately dates this photo to after 1996, because after the board was repainted in 1987, for some reason the painters decided to abbreviate the Giants’ home city to SAN FRAN, which you have probably seen on a few photos here and elsewhere from that era. A new paint job after ‘96 fixed that. Here’s a view of the board from June 1991 where you can see SAN FRAN (and you can also see the 1987 paint job had already started to fade):

Photo by:Bernstein Associates/Getty Images

So, this at-bat. McRae led off the bottom of the third inning, as you see here, and hit a fly ball to right field. The Cubs broke through on the board in the fourth on a Tyler Houston RBI single, and eventually won the game 7-0. Steve Trachsel threw seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out eight, and Turk Wendell finished up with two hitless innings.

McRae, as noted above, was traded to the Mets about three weeks later, along with Mel Rojas and Turk Wendell for Lance Johnson and two PTBNL, who turned out to be Mark Clark and Manny Alexander. That was a very good deal for the Cubs, as Johnson and Clark were key players for the Cubs’ 1998 wild card team.