Monday, December 24, 2012

Inspectah On Deck Presents: 1988 Red Sox Leaders Card

It's time once again to take a baseball card someone else was talking about and figure out the date of the photo!

1988 Topps Red Sox Leaders. I remember 1988 as if it were the moment when I started typing this sentence. I probably had ten of this card. (Meaning three but it felt like way more--you know how we humans are.)

Let's get down to biz. What jumps out at me right away is that it's Yankee Stadium. The wall, the angle, the stuff just above the wall... check out these shots to see the spot where white meets black (before they started putting ads out there) at the old Toilet Bowl:

Just to the left of Billy Martin's arm here. (1983)

And behind Righetti here. (1983) (Note in both shots that it's beneath the "BIG" in the BIG HIT mustard ad above the bleachers.)

Zoom out and see the white/black line again, right under the same spot on the BIG HIT sign. (1987)

In that wide shot, draw a line from the third base dugout area out to the white/black divider, and you've got Boggs and Owen on the left side of the infield, probably fielding between-inning grounders from the first baseman.

So that clinches the ballpark, now we move onto the date.

Card is from 1988, so it's likely a 1987 photo. But wait. Look at Spike Owen's jersey. He's got the BO on the left, and the STON on the right. We all know (right?) that Owen had switched to the BOS/TON style for the '87 season. Check out my thesis on those unis, which includes '88 cards of Owen and Boggs (with pics from '87 as proven by the 75th anniversary sleeve patch). You'll notice Owen has the BOS/TON style, which he doesn't in the card pictured here. (Also, they've both got facial hair in those '87 photos, unlike here.)

Since Spike Owen joined the Red Sox in mid-1986, that leaves only one year that this photo could have taken place. 1986.

And since the Red Sox only played one series in Yankee Stadium in 1986 after the Spike Owen trade, we know it has to be that series. September 12, 13, and 14.

Owen only appeared in two of those games. One was Friday night, the 12th. We've clearly got a day game here, though. That leaves one date: Saturday, September 13, 1986.

High was in the 80s that day at LaGua, according to the ever-important (for baseball photo detective work) Farmer's Almanac site. A little windy, too. No precipitation. And the Ft. Lauderdale Evening Independent's "traveler's forecast" for that day says "sunny and mild" for New York. The sun is out, and Boggs and Owen are dressed properly.

Owen left the game in the 8th (following his collision with Jim Rice, after which a fan took Jim's hat and he famously went into the stands after the guy--I believe fellow Sox bloggers John Quinn and Allan Wood were there that day), so this picture was taken somewhere between the first and seventh innings. That's as far as I can definitively go. But if I had to guess, based on the clean uniforms and my theory that baseball card photographers usually snap at the beginning of games, I'd say it's the first inning. The game started at 3:20 and it looks like a pretty low sun, so that matches up too.

But wait--what the hell are they looking at? It doesn't look like they're actually fielding grounders. I wondered if I could find in the game story something about an elephant entering the field behind home plate, causing the players to stop and watch. But then it hit me. They're looking toward their dugout. They're...waiting. For the first baseman! You can't take infield grounders from him if he isn't there. And why would he still be in the dugout while you're already out on the field? Because he made the last out of the previous inning! I checked the play-by-play again, and sure enough, Bill Buckner ended the first inning. He grounded out to first. So while Boggs (who led off the game by making an out) and Owen (whose spot the batting order wasn't even close to yet) were taking the field, the slow-footed Buckner probably hadn't even gotten back to the dugout yet. (Or was still waiting over by first base ripping his batting gloves off while another player ran his glove out to him.) In every other inning, Buckner would have been in the dugout ready to run out to his position as the last out was being made. Only after the top of the first would there have been a delay in him starting infield grounders.

So. Yankee Stadium. Saturday, September 13th, 1986, approximately 3:25 p.m., middle of the 1st, Red Sox 0, Yankees coming up to bat. The Yanks would win 11-6, after having gone ahead 9-0 before a 6-run Red Sox 6th, which Boggs started and ended. He would go 2 for 5, and Spike would go 0 for 2 with a sac fly. The Red Sox would go on to win the division, a fact largely ignored by Yankee fans who always said that the Red Sox never beat the Yanks "when it counted," in those pre-2004 days.

I feel like we've talked about this card before. Or at least the game, which is why I feel like I remember Quinn and Allan and Laura were there that day. But I could be wrong.
Owen's 1987 Topps card (which has to be a photo from '86) was taken at Yankee Stadium, probably the same day, before the game, and shows the same uniform style, batting glove, and creased hat brim as the photo above.
Yep, we were there. It was my first game ever at the Toilet. I moved from VT to Brooklyn 3-4 months later. (I don't recall talking about the card, though.)

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Location: Rhode Island, United States