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Cubs historical sleuthing: National anthem edition

Here’s a stumper for you to solve. Can you help find the date this was taken?

The woman singing the national anthem in this photo is Karla Kaufman.

Or, at least, that was her name then. I was sent this photo by her now-husband, who was wondering exactly when this photo was taken. Neither of them can remember the exact date.

So I had a look, and I also sent it to Mike Bojanowski.

There are a number of players — as well as a coach and manager — 100 percent identifiable in this photo. The key is that Jim Essian is in this photo, and that definitively dates it to 1991, since that was the only year Essian was in uniform for the Cubs as manager. Standing next to Essian is Joe Altobelli, who served as interim manager that year after Don Zimmer was fired, and who stayed around as a coach the rest of that year.

Players definitely visible are Jerome Walton (20), Rey Sanchez (15) and Paul Assenmacher (45). At the left is Mike Harkey, you can’t see his number but he’s recognizeable.

Now we get into a bit of speculation. Look at the scoreboard that’s on the upper deck facade. In that era the score was indicated by CUBS (on the left), followed by an abbreviation of the visiting team’s city. It looks like it says “PITT” (yes, back then “Pittsburgh” was abbreviated that way on the board).

If that’s correct, this can be one of only four games, because Essian didn’t become manager until after the Pirates’ first series at Wrigley in 1991.

Those dates are: July 2, July 3, July 4 and September 9.

To me, that looks like a full house at Wrigley. Attendance — and remember, attendance counts in 1991 were actual turnstile counts, not tickets sold — on September 9 was 18.775. This looks like a bigger crowd than that.

The boxscore for July 2 says it was sunny that afternoon and here’s video from that game confirming that was a sunny day. It’s obviously overcast in the photo, so it can’t be July 2.

My Cubs By The Numbers co-author Kasey Ignarski has the full video of the July 4, 1991 game and he told me Wayne Messmer sang the anthem that afternoon.

By process of elimination, then, this photo was probably taken Wednesday, July 3, 1991. But without any definitive proof I’m still not 100 percent convinced. Attendance that day was 33,432, pretty close to a full house.

So I’m throwing this one open to you, the BCB reader. Do you know Karla? Were you at the game where she sang the anthem? Can you provide more definitive proof of this date?

Have at it. Incidentally, the Cubs lost the July 3, 1991 game to the Pirates 11-7, despite a three-run homer by Andre Dawson in the eighth inning. The Cubs weren’t very good in 1991, finishing 77-83 and in fourth place in the NL East, while the Pirates won 98 games and won the second of three straight NL East titles.