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Cubs Cameos: Upper Deck

Two weeks ago I was frantically sorting boxes for a variety of teams for a couple large trades that were completed at last weekend’s Chicago Sports Spectacular.

Sorting through junk era cards, there were several cards I noticed a cameo of a Cubs player. Eventually I started to set them aside and wanted to research the image on the card. It’s a fun little research project, and I decided to write about a couple of Upper Deck Cubs cameos.

First up is the debut Upper Deck set from 1989. Rafael Palmeiro shares just as much of card #55 as Paul Runge. It was fairly easy to narrow down the potential games this picture could have been snapped. You can see Wrigley Field ivy in the background, though it’s a little blurry to see which stage it’s at.

Looking at Runge’s stats, 1988 was his final year in Major League Baseball, so it had to be taken the year before the set came out rather than early in the 1989 season. Runge only played at Wrigley Field three games during the ’88 season (May 24, May 25, and August 21).

Now we’ll take a look at the game stats. The image was taken at second base, so we’ll see which games Palmeiro reached second base. May 24 was a doubleheader, but Runge did not appear in game one, so if this were the game it would have been taken during the second game. Palmeiro doubled twice in the game. Moving onto the May 25 game, Palmeiro did not reach base as he was stymied by Braves rookie pitcher Tom Glavine.

Finally, in the August 21 game Palmeiro reached base twice. In the fourth inning he singled. He did advance on a Vance Law base hit, but he went directly to third base. Palmeiro walked in the sixth inning then stole second base while Law was batting.

This card was a bit tricky to narrow down, and the Wrigley ivy in the background is a bit blurry to see what stage it’s in, though it is green. The ivy will be green on either May 24 or August 21, so we can narrow this card down to one of these two games.

The 1990 Upper Deck #144 Rafael Ramirez was a fun one. Paul Kilgus is the Cub sliding into second base here. It would be easy to narrow this down as Kilgus only reached base five times his entire career.

One of those five times came during the 1993 season, so we can wipe that one out. The other four all occurred during the 1989 season with the Cubs. The only game in which Kilgus batted against the Houston Astros was on May 14, 1989. Kilgus singled off Mike Scott in the 3rd inning. Doug Dascenzo followed in the batting order and grounded into a double play in which Kilgus was forced out at second (4-6-3). This matches the card as Ramirez was the starting shortstop and is shown here turning a double play at second base. That was easy!

The next card, 1991 Upper Deck #178 Robby Thompson, had me going to a Google search to find who #15 was with the Cubs. My first guess was Hector Villanueva, but it was actually Domingo Ramos.

Ramos played at Wrigley Field against the Giants four games in 1990, but did not reach in the final game played on July 22, so it narrows it down to a three-game series in May. Ramos went 0-for-9 against the Giants that series, but did reach once on May 29 via walk.

In the third inning, Ramos drew a bases loaded walk that scored Mark Grace. Unfortunately that run didn’t matter in a 6-2 loss to the Giants. Shawon Dunston followed Ramos in the order and his grounder was hit to shortstop Jose Uribe, who flipped it to second baseman Robby Thompson for the force out. Mystery solved.

The final cameo features Ryne Sandberg on the 1993 Upper Deck #60 card of Wil Cordero. Again, this photo was snapped at second base. Initially, I thought this would be tough to find because the Cubs and Expos played nine games at Wrigley Field, and of course Sandberg was involved in each of them (he played 158 of 162 games in 1992).

However, Cordero was a rookie with the Expos in 1992 and logged just 45 games that season. Cordero didn’t make his debut until July 24, 1992, so that eliminates the first Cubs/Expos series played June 12-14. But then it gets tricky for the potential six games when this could have been captured.

Let’s take a closer look at the image. Sandberg is sliding into second base with Cordero on defense. But, look at the baseball and Cordero’s hand.

It appears this was a possible stolen base attempt, maybe a throwing error. Unfortunately, neither play happened when Sandberg and Cordero were both playing in the possible games. I’ll break it down game-by-game.

August 10 – Wil Cordero enters the game in the 3rd inning. In that frame Sandberg hit a line drive double, and that was the only play in which Sandberg would reach.

August 11 – Sandberg singles in the 1st inning, then Mark Grace follows grounder that goes for 4-6 put out at second base forcing Sandberg out. This seems a likely play with Cordero covering second and making the play. The placement of the ball and Cordero’s actions still have me baffled.

October 2 – Sandberg singles in the 3rd inning. Grace then singles deep in the infield between first and second base. Sandberg runs from first to third on the play, and this doesn’t seem to be a likely play for this image.

October 3 – Cordero doesn’t enter the game until the 8th inning. In the 8th, Sandberg singles. Grace then grounds out 4-1, allowing Alex Arias to take third base, and Sandberg reaches second. This seems unlikely to be the play on this card.

October 4 – Both Cordero and Sandberg played in this game, but not at the same time. Doug Strange entered the game for Sandberg in the top of the 4th inning, and Cordero entered the game at shortstop in the bottom of the 4th.

So, based on the possible plays above, it seems the likeliest this image occurred was the August 11, 1992 game. What are your thoughts?

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