It’s been a while for one of these mystery plays; here’s one from a while back in honor of David Ortiz’s retirement:
2003 Upper Deck #114 David Ortiz
Is he out? Safe?? Well, hopefully we can find out by nailing down exactly when this play occurred — what can we tell from the photo?
1) Day game with away uniform — it’s not the Metrodome
2) they’re wearing their long sleeves, so cool weather
3) being it’s a 2003 card, it should be a 2002 ballgame
I originally put this together for the good Citizens at WGOM for pledge week, and (like always) they were very up to the task:
– there was some debate about the visiting team uniform. Initial thoughts were Milwaukee and then Seattle, but with the very short (non-existent?) sleeves, it was suggested it was Cleveland’s pixie vests
– the backdrop (what little is showing, out of focus) is not a bad match for Jacob’s Field
– The first inning of the April 8th game ended with Ortiz trying (and failing) to score from second on a line drive to center of the bat of Dustan Mohr. Einar Diaz applied the tag.
Despite the Twins scoring two in the first, the Indians respond with three in the bottom of the inning, and went on to win 9-5 putting the Twins a game back in the AL Central race. The game was played in front of a full stadium in less than three hours, which was good as the 55° temperature at game time was no doubt falling.
The best part? We even found an image of the play from a different angle. You can see part of Cristian Guzman in the background, who scored just ahead of Ortiz.
The new Topps 2014 Update set just came out, and of the dozen Twins cards in the set two are nice NCIS-worthy horizontal action shots. Let’s see if we can use the clues in the photos to nail down the exact plays they captured…
2014 Topps Update #US-230 Kurt Suzuki
So, what do we have here? Well:
- Looks like a day game
- Runner looks safe
- That’s obviously not Tom Nieto scoring; looks like Adrián Nieto of the White Sox
The usual gang at WGOM made the observation that all the players pictured are wearing long sleeves, indicating a good chance that the game was played early in the season; this also makes sense given Topps’ timeframe for the set release. Knowing that, there really is only one game he has a sniff of home plate against the Twins before the end of July.
On April 2nd in the second game of the season, in the 9th inning while Glen Perkins is in the process of blowing a save, Nieto comes in as a PR for pinch hitter Paul Konerko. He takes second on a single, and then scores on a single to left fielder Jason Kubel. Sox go on to win 7-6 on a 11th inning walkoff BB/WP. Easy peasy.
2014 Topps Update #US-125 Jason Bartlett
What can we tell about this photo?
- Another day game
- Bartlett scores on the play
I’m afraid this one’s going to also be an easy one — Jason Bartlett played in three games during the 2014 season (why Topps has to include him in the set, I don’t know). Based on the catcher’s uniform, it’s got to be Yan Gomes of the Indians waiting on the ball. Well, Bartlett only played in one game against the Indians this season.
On April 6th, in the top of the 6th in his third AB in the game, he is HBP to load the bases. Chris Colabello, the next batter, hits a deep fly to the LF gap to clear the bases, Bartlett scoring all the way from first. The Twins would go on to win the game 10-7, and that at bat would be the last of Jason Bartlett’s career.
Don your detective hats — it’s time to track down the play. Once again Chuck Knoblauch is at the heart of it:
1995 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice #490 Chuck Knoblauch
This game tends to favor the middle infielders, and Chuck is an acrobatic favorite of the card companies. So, we need to know if we can tell which play this was — what do we know from the photo?
1) Day game, so it’s not at the Metrodome
2) Chad Curtis sliding into second; looks to be Pat Meares in the background
3) it’s a 1995 card, so this play was most likely from the 1994 season
WGOM Citizens continue to tackle these puzzles with gusto:
– Curtis was an Angel in ’94, and the Twins played three games in the Big A, in the beginning of June. First two are night games, and neither are good prospects.
– The third of the three games was a getaway day game. Curtis reached second twice: once on a SB, and once on a inning ending force out. Okay, I guess on a 6-4 force play he didn’t technically reach second.
– based on the position of Meares (backing up second instead of backing up the third baseman fielding the ball) and Knoblauch’s positioning, it sure looks more like a high throw on a stealing attempt than a toss from the shortstop.
With one out and a one run lead already in the bottom of the first, Chad Curtis successfully steals second on a high throw from Matt Walbeck. The Twins would mount a futile rally in the 9th but come up short, 5-4, with Jim Deshaies taking the loss.
More detective work! Topps in 2009 sets the scene for us:
2009 Topps Updates & Highlights #UH126 Matt Tolbert
Matt Tolbert’s card showed up as an afterthought in the Updates & Highlights set; can we identify exactly when this play took place?
Well, here are some clues:
1) Gabe Kapler is barrelling into second
2) appears to be an indoor ballgame, in 2008 or maybe early 2009 since this is from an update set
3) Matt’s probably the shortstop, and it looks like a DP attempt
The guys at WGOM took it and ran. They discovered:
– In 2008, Gabe Kapler was a Brewer and played in uniform #33, so this is definitely an early season 2009 game against the Rays at The Trop.
– Gabe Kapler played in three home games versus the Twins. On May 29, Kapler’s only AB is a walk followed by a caught stealing.
– May 31, Tolbert isn’t in the lineup. That leaves…
– …May 30th, when Tolbert comes in as a replacement at short in the 4th inning. Kapler immediately walks, then is forced out in a 4-5-3. Kapler doesn’t reach base the rest of the game.
The Twins lose 5-2, Francisco Liriano picks up his seventh loss against two wins, and Joe Mauer’s only hit is a double, lowering his BA to a miserable .414 — booooo!
Time for another investigative baseball card post. This card arrived in a recent trade, and the presence of an action shot with a throwback uniform made me think that we could probably nail down the actual play in the photo:
2002 Fleer Ultra #197 Corey Koskie
What do we see initially? Well,
1) Corey Koskie has made a headfirst slide into second base
2) It’s a day game, and it’s not in the Metrodome
3) That’s a White Sox player in a throwback uniform
What did the Citizens of WGOM determine this time?
– the uniform is the 1917 Throwback, which the White Sox wore at home on Sundays that season
– the Twins only played one Sunday game (3PM) at New Comisky, on April 22nd
– Koskie only reached second twice; the first was when he walked, and then Ortiz walked right after him, but in the 8th inning he hit a line drive double to deep right field. He then scored on the next at bat when David Ortiz hit his 5th HR of the year. The White Sox player looks to be shortstop Royce Clayton, who would correctly be covering the bag on that play.
The Twins went on to win the game 4-2, and the two runs scoring on the HR turned out to be the difference in the game. As was pointed out in the discussion at WGOM, Koskie had only one game in the 19 that year against the White Sox in which he didn’t reach base: July 4th. He was a likable and under appreciated ballplayer — in his 2001 season, he was a 20/20 man that was 25th in the MVP voting.
Time to do the NCIS treatment to a 2012 Topps card; here’s the Series 1 Trevor Plouffe card (and it’s really him, not Drew Butera this time):
2012 Topps #249 Trevor Plouffe
This shouldn’t be too bad. What do we know?
1) Plouffe! is playing shortstop, or maybe second base
2) it’s a day game at the Oakland Coliseum
3) Ryan Sweeney is coming in hard with a take-out slide
Once more this was a no-brainer for the WGOM Citizens.:
– Plouffe! only played four games in Oakland at SS/2B; two in May and two in July
– Sweeney never played on 7/29 and was in no plays at second on 7/30, and Plouffe! played 2B those two July games
– the play never happened on 5/18, but 5/19 looks good. In that game in the bottom of the 4th, Sweeney drew a walk and then was doubled up on a Matsui grounder to second, 4-6-3.
– Minnesota won 11-1, and Plouffe! hit one of the three HRs that the Twins hit that day. They also made three errors.
There you have it — another case solved.
Here’s a great card from 2011 Topps Update. It has a cool photo: bright colors, action shot, foreground image, and I like the horizontal format.
2011 Topps Update #177 Rene Tosoni
Now the question is, can we identify exactly what play is captured on this card? What can we tell right off the bat, so to speak?
1) no, it’s not Busch Stadium, this is in fact Target Field in Minneapolis
2) it’s a day game
3) #12 is shortstop Alexi Casilla
4) in order to make any deadlines for the Update set, it had to be a game from earlier in the season, and the long sleeves bear that up
Also, this isn’t a typical toss to the cutoff; probably an XBH or a deep flyball with a runner on first.
Once more I’m amazed with the gang at WGOM for their dogged investigations. What did they determine?
– Tosoni and Casilla only played in six home games together in which they were in the field and the opponent got a base hit
– of those six games, the first game of the April 28th doubleheader looks promising
– there were two doubles hit to left in that game, both by Ben Zobrist; since both were scoring plays, there was a chance it would be in the MLB archives, and it was!
– the play is a two-out, two-run double in the 7th inning
– the Rays won a 15-3 laugher; Ben Zobrist set a team record with 8 RBIs in this game
– the photo was of Tosoni playing in his first game in the majors; he collected his first two hits and was 2-for-4
So there you have it — another case successfully solved.