Cubs historical sleuthing: Shawon Dunston edition

Getty Images says:

Shortstop Shawon Dunston of the Chicago Cubs throws to first base to complete a double play as Joe Orsulak #11 of the Pittsburgh Pirates slides into second base during a Major League Baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium circa 1985 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Well, that’s definitely Dunston, and it’s also clearly Orsulak. It appears to be showing Dunston making a double play relay to first base after Orsulak is out at second.

The only years this could have happened are 1985 and 1986, the only two years both players were with the teams indicated (Orsulak played several years in Baltimore after 1986).

Orsulak played in just five day games against the Cubs in those two years. Dunston didn’t play in one of those, so now we’re down to four.

I went through the PBP multiple times and could not find anything resembling this, and so it had me scratching my head until I found a sequence that happened in the bottom of the sixth inning Sunday, April 13, 1986.

It was a stinker of a game by Rick Sutcliffe, who threw four innings and allowed seven hits and five runs. The Cubs were trailing 5-0 when Orsulak batted with nobody out and a runner at first base in the sixth. Orsulak hit into a force play and reached first base. The next hitter was Johnny Ray, and here’s what that baseball-reference link says he did:

Groundout: 1B-SS-1B; Orsulak to 2B/Adv on E6

So what appears to have happened is that Ray grounded to first baseman Leon Durham, who stepped on the bag retiring him, then threw to second to try to get Orsulak. Orsulak needed to be tagged after that, which Dunston apparently didn’t do — perhaps not realizing Durham had already stepped on first — and then Dunston thought he’d get a double play with a throw back to Durham, only he threw the ball away for an error, allowing Orsulak to reach third.

That’s the only possible explanation for what we see here.

After that, Lee Mazzilli walked and somebody named Mike Brown, of whom I have absolutely no recollection, hit a three-run homer. All three runs were unearned off Dick Ruthven because of Dunston’s error.

The Cubs wound up losing the game 8-0.

Just another slice of Cubs life from the 1980s. This is the first of three Dunston sleuthing photos I’ve found — another one will run tomorrow and a third on Sunday.

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