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Cubs historical sleuthing: Another Ryne Sandberg photo

This one got narrowed down quickly.

Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

Getty Images supplied the following information with this photo:

Second baseman Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs tries to tag out an opponent during a game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.

Well, that’s not quite right. Sandberg is clearly trying to complete a double play, with Luis Alicea of the Cardinals the baserunner.

Alicea played for the Cardinals in 1988, then again from 1991-94. But this photo has to be from 1988. Why? Because the Cubs gave up the beltless look in 1990. Thus this photo has to be from before then, and Alicea’s only Cardinals year pre-1990 was 1988.

Alicea played in five games at Wrigley Field in 1988. Here they are:

May 17: Alicea went 2-for-4 with a walk, but was not involved in any play at second base resembling what we see here.

May 18: Alicea again went 2-for-4, and twice he was forced at second base when the hitter behind him hit into a double play.

May 19: Alicea went 0-for-4 and wasn’t anywhere near second base.

September 16: Alicea had one plate appearance, as a pinch-hitter, and sacrificed a runner to second base.

September 17: Alicea went 0-for-3, one fly ball to right and two strikeouts.

Given all that, this photo has to be one of the two force plays at second base in the May 18 game. The weather conditions that afternoon were reported in the boxscore as 56 degrees and sunny. I’m going to say that given the shadows, which seem more late-game than early-game, that the photo is of the double play that was hit into by Tom Lawless in the top of the ninth inning. The game ran 2:41, so this play would have happened around 4 p.m.; the previous double play about an hour earlier. It’s a subtle difference, but that looks like more like a 4 p.m. shadow on May 18 than a 3 p.m. shadow.

The date, though, is not in doubt — it has to be from that game, Wednesday, May 18, 1988, which the Cubs lost 4-1.