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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: 2000s edition

Here’s another interesting slice of Cubs and Wrigley history.

© Jenny Solomon/

This nice color photo of the bleachers and scoreboard caught my eye and so I thought I’d do some sleuthing.

One thing you see right away is the shrubbery in the hitters’ background. That was replaced by the current bleacher suite when the Ricketts family bought the Cubs. So this has to date before then.

ARIZONA and FLORIDA are on the board, so this has to date from 1998, when the Diamondbacks entered the league, and before 2012, when the Marlins changed their designation to MIAMI.

It’s probably a Saturday or Sunday, as there’s only one night game listed, the White Sox at the Mariners. It’s a sunny, mid-summer day, with full ivy on the board. It’s a 1:20 p.m. start, as indicated by everything being ready to go with the clock reading 1:05.

Before No. 31 was retired by the Cubs for Greg Maddux in 2009, the following pitchers wore it from 1998-2011: Kevin Foster (1998), Bobby Ayala (1999), Brad Woodall (1999), Mike Fyhrie (2001), Donovan Osborne (2002), Mark Guthrie (2003) and Greg Maddux (2004-06). Ayala, Fyhrie and Guthrie never started a game for the Cubs and Foster didn’t start any in ‘98, so that leaves Woodall, Osborne and Maddux.

Woodall did not start a game against the Pirates at Wrigley Field. Osborne did, but his opponent (Josh Fogg) did not wear No. 22.

So that leaves Maddux, in his second stint with the Cubs from 2004-06. He started six games against the Pirates at Wrigley Field in those three seasons. Two of them were in April (no ivy), so we can eliminate those. Two others were night games, so throw those out.

At that point it’s easy. The Pirates starting pitcher in one of the other two games was Zach Duke, who wore No. 57.

That leaves the game of Sunday, June 6, 2004 as the only possibility, and indeed, the Pirates starter that day, Ryan Vogelsong, wore No. 22.

The Cubs won the game 4-1. It was one of Maddux’ better games in that second go-around with the Cubs. He threw seven innings, allowed four hits and one run, didn’t walk anyone and struck out six.

The Cubs, though, trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh. Aramis Ramirez led off that inning with a home run to tie the game. You can see that homer here — but was it?

You can see umpire Gary Darling ruling home run after Ramirez made a head-first slide into the plate, thinking the ball was in play — and if you look closely, it probably was. Looks like it bounced off the wall just below the basket.

The Cubs added another run in that inning and two more in the eighth to nail down the win. At the time, the win made the Cubs 29-26 and they inhabited fourth place in the N.L. Central, 4½ games out of first place. We all know that season didn’t end well, so I won’t further belabor that.

This game, though, played in front of 39,016 on a sunny, 79-degree day, was one of the better ones of 2004.