Remembering the ‘Sandberg Game’

BY CHRIS REWERS
EDITOR

(Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Agony & Ivy on March 13, 2011.)

The Cubs’ season was at a crossroads when the St. Louis Cardinals visited Wrigley Field for a three-game series, June 22-24, 1984.

The North Siders were in third place in the NL East, 2½ games behind the first-place New York Mets. They had lost 10 of their previous 15 games. The most disheartening portion of that stretch came when they were swept at home in a four-game series at home against the Philadelphia Phillies, June 14-17, while getting outscored 33-13. Their 5-2 loss in the second game of that series knocked them out of first place for the first time in the month of June and ended a stretch in which they held the top spot after 29 of the previous 31 days.

General manager Dallas Green had already made a move to upgrade the Cubs’ starting pitching in late May when he acquired Dennis Eckersley from the Boston Red Sox, but it was apparent that more reinforcements were needed. A starting rotation that featured Steve Trout, an injury-prone Scott Sanderson, Dick Ruthven, Chuck Rainey, and a thought-to-be washed up Rick Reuschel  just wasn’t cutting it.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, but Green had proven earlier in the year that he wasn’t reluctant at making a bold move. With Opening Day fast approaching and the Cubs struggling through their spring training slate, Green remade his lineup on March 26 when he acquired outfielders Gary Matthews and Bob Dernier from the Phillies.

On June 13, Green had another surprise up his sleeve. He completed a seven-player trade with the Cleveland Indians that netted him the established starting pitcher he desired – Rick Sutcliffe. But it was a costly deal.

Among the four players Green sent to Cleveland were promising young outfielders Mel Hall and Joe Carter. Hall, at the time, was among my favorite Cubs and had been the left-handed portion of a right-field platoon with Keith Moreland.

The track record of Sutcliffe, who arrived to the Cubs along with reliever George Frazier and left-handed hitting backup catcher Ron Hassey, wasn’t that impressive. He had won 18 games for the Indians in 1983, but was just 4-5 with a 5.15 ERA in ’84, at the time of the trade.

Sutcliffe later blamed his poor early-season performance on the after effects of a root canal.

Plus, Sutcliffe was eligible to elect free agency following the season.

Because of a procedural snafu – Green had initially failed to put Hall, Carter, and pitcher Don Schulze through waivers – Sutcliffe did not make his debut until June 19 at Pittsburgh. He pitched eight strong innings as the Cubs snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory. But the Cubs dropped their next two in Pittsburgh.

The turnaround game came when they returned home on June 22 and trounced the Cardinals 9-3. Moreland hit a three-run homer, Jody Davis and Ron Cey added two-run shots, and Ryne Sandberg smashed a pair of doubles to lead the Cubs’ 13-hit attack.

The next day, the Cubs and Cardinals were featured on the NBC “Game of the Week.” It turned out to be one of the greatest games in major league history.

Trout was not sharp and the Cardinals scored six times in the second inning to race out to a 7-1 advantage. Dernier hit a two-run-double and Sandberg knocked in a pair with a single during a five-run Cubs sixth, but the Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 9-8 and the daunting task of rallying against St. Louis closer Bruce Sutter.

The former Cub and future Hall of Famer entered the game in the seventh. He had allowed just six earned runs and 40 hits (3 home runs) in 45⅓  innings (1.19 ERA).

Sandberg led off the bottom of the ninth and launched a Sutter fastball into the left-field bleachers, sending Wrigley Field into a frenzy.

But the Cardinals regained the lead in the 10th when Willie McGee (4-for-6, 6 RBI) completed the cycle with an RBI double off Cubs closer Lee Smith. McGee scored an insurance run after advancing a base on groundouts by George Hendrick and Steve Braun.

Sutter retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the 10th and had Dernier down in the count 0-and-2. Dernier fouled off several pitches and battled back to draw a walk. Up stepped Sandberg. He couldn’t do it again, could he?

Sutter hung a 1-and-1 split-fingered fastball and Sandberg was ready.

“Look out!” Bob Costas exclaimed on the NBC broadcast. “Do you believe it?”

“There’s a drive, way back, it might be out of here, it is!” Harry Caray exclaimed on the WGN Radio broadcast. “He did it again! He did it again! Oh, the game is tied! Unbelievable! How about that! Listen to this crowd! Everybody has gone bananas! Holy cow! What would the odds be if I told you that twice Sandberg would hit home runs off Bruce Sutter? Come on, you guys! He can’t do it all himself!”

It was only the second time Sutter had given up two home runs in a game in his nine major league seasons. He surrendered a pair of long balls, to Atlanta’s Dale Murphy and Claudell Washington, on May 13, 1982.

Sandberg, who finished the day with five hits and seven RBI on a national stage, had shot to stardom. He went on to win the 1984 NL MVP Award and was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame after an outstanding 15-year Cubs career.

“It was nothing to (Sutter’s) career,” Sandberg said years later. “It was everything to mine.”

Smith pitched around a walk to Andy Van Slyke to set St. Louis down in the top of the 11th and the Cubs won it in the bottom half. Leadoff hitter Leon Durham was walked by Dave Rucker. Durham stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by Cardinals catcher Darrell Porter. Jeff Lahti relieved Rucker and intentionally walked Moreland and Davis.

Up stepped rookie Dave Owen, the last available player on the Cubs bench, pinch hitting for Smith.

“The pitch to Dave Owen,” Caray said. “Base hit! The Cubs win! The Cubs win! Holy Cow! The Cubs win! Listen to the crowd! I never saw a game like this in my life, and I’ve been around a long time! Holy cow! Down 7-1! How ’bout the kid, hit a line drive like a bullet!

“Everybody up, high-fiving each other! Whoa, what a victory! What a victory! Listen to that crowd!”

St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog, following the game, was among the first to jump on the Sandberg bandwagon.

“Ryne Sandberg is the best baseball player I’ve ever seen,” Herzog said.

Sandberg, always a man of few words, said, “This day here has me in shock.”

“It was my wife’s first game at Wrigley Field, as a member of the Cubs, and after the game she looked at me and said, ‘Are all the games like this?’ ” Sutcliffe told Peter Golenbock in Wrigleyville (St.Martin’s Press, 1996). “We had come from Cleveland with 800 people in the stands. This was incredible, and my thought was, I got to pitch the next day. Gee, how do I follow this act?”

Sutcliffe, making his first Wrigley Field start, pitched a complete-game five-hit shutout while striking out 14 as the Cubs completed a three-game sweep of the Cards with a 5-0 triumph.

“I don’t know who was responsible for making the trade for the Cubs,” Sutcliffe said after the game. “Whoever was watching me must have seen something no else did.”

The ’84 Cubs were on their way.

Around the majors

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Game ball: Seattle’s Nelson Cruz launched a pair of three-run homers while going 4-for-5 and driving in seven. Cruz’s blast in the first inning, off knuckleballer Steven Wright, traveled an estimated 465 feet and bounced off a light tower above the Green Monster. Only two visiting players have driven in more runs in a game at Fenway Park – Oakland’s Reggie Jackson knocked in 10 on June 14, 1969 and Lou Gehrig of the Yankees had eight RBI on July 31, 1930..

Defining moment: J.D. Martinez broke a 10-10 tie in the bottom of the seventh with a bases loaded, groundball single through the middle off Seattle reliever Juan Nicasio plated two runs. Martinez, who was 4-for-5, also smashed a two-run homer, doubled, and drove in five. Martinez, with 23, is tied with the Angels’ Mike Trout for the AL home runs lead.

Bottom line: The Red Sox (51-26), who moved within one game of the first-place Yankees in the AL East, opened a six-game homestand.

It was the fifth straight loss for the Mariners (46-29) who have lost all four games on their current road trip against baseball’s best two teams and now trail first-place Houston by four games in the AL West.

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Game ball: Daniel Robertson laced a one-out double in the bottom of the fourth and scored Tampa Bay’s first run when Willy Adames singled. Robertson was initially ruled out when he was tagged out by New York catcher Gary Sanchez after a laser beam throw to the plate by right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, but the call was overturned after a replay review.

Defining moment: With the Yankees trailing 2-1 with two outs in the top of the seventh and runners on second and third, Didi Gregorius, facing Tampa Bay reliever Jose Alvarado, grounded out to second baseman Robertson on a 2-and-1 pitch to end the threat.

Bottom line: The Yankees (50-23), who had a four-game winning streak snapped, saw their lead over second-place Boston in the AL East trimmed to one game. New York, which managed just five hits, left 20 on base and were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

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Game ball: Jesus Aguilar broke up a no-hit bid by St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty with a game-tying home run in the seventh inning and followed with his team-leading 16th home run, off reliever Bud Norris (3-2) in the ninth, to give Milwaukee a dramatic victory.

Defining moment: With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Aguilar smashed an 0-and-2 Norris pitch over the right-field fence to snap a 1-1 tie.

Bottom line: The Brewers (45-30) won their third in a row and extended their NL Central lead to two games over second-place Chicago.

The Cardinals (38-36), who managed just three hits, lost for the ninth time in their last 12 games and trail the Brewers by 6 1/2 games.

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Game ball: Cincinnati starter Luis Castillo (5-8) – who had lost each of his previous four starts and won for the first time since May 24 – allowed three earned runs and four hits over 5 2/3 innings while striking out five and walking one.

Defining moment: Eugenio Suarez’s two-run homer over the center-field fence on a 1-and-0 changeup from Jose Quintana (6-6) in the fifth inning – his team leading 16th this season – gave the Reds a 4-3 lead. Suarfez leads the majors with 57 RBI despite missing 16 games earlier this season because of a broken thumb.

Bottom line: Kyle Schwarber homered for the third time in four games for the Cubs (42-31), who lost for the fourth time in their last five road games and fell two games behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central.

 The Reds (30-45) won their fifth in a row and for the eighth time in their last 10 games.

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Game ball: Odubel Herrera went 4-for-5 and became the sixth player in Phillies history to homer in five straight games. Herrera shares the club record with Chase Utley (twice in 2008), Bobby Abreu (2005), Mike Schmidt (1979) and Richie Allen (1969).

Defining moment: Herrera’s two-run homer to right on a first-pitch fastball from Washington starter Tanner Roark (3-8) snapped a 2-2 tie in the third inning.

Bottom line: Carlos Santana and Andrew Knapp also homered for the Phillies (40-33) who had 15 hits and leapfrogged Washington (40-34) to move into second place in the NL East.

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Game ball: Manny Machado’s 19th home run of the season broke a 7-7 tie in the 15th inning.

Defining moment: After Craig Gentry was hit by a Peter Moylan (0-1) pitch to open the 15th and advanced to second on an Austin Wynns sacrifice bunt, Machado crushed an 0-and-2 pitch over the left-field fence.

Bottom line: The Braves (43-31) saw their lead trimmed to 2 1/2 games over second-place Philadelphia in the NL Central while the Orioles (22-52) remained a half-game behind Kansas City for the worst record in the majors.

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Game ball: Arizona starter Patrick Corbin struck out 12 to match a career high, walked none, and permitted three hits – all singles – over seven innings. The left-hander retired 13 batters in a row between the first and fifth.

Defining moment:  Ketel Marte, who was 0-for-5 on the night, delieved a two-out single to center in the top of the 13th to score Jon Jay from second with the go-ahead run,

Bottom line: The first-place Diamondbacks (42-33) won for the fourth time in five games.

Rookie outfielder Austin Meadows had two of the four hits for the Pirates (36-39). Meadows is 8-for-18 over his last five games, raising his average to .347 in 29 games.

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Game ball: Cody Bellinger’s 13th home run of the season and second career grand slam, in the sixth inning, broke open a scoreless tie.

Defining moment: Bellinger, who is hitting just .232 and entered Friday’s play with a .167 average with runners in scoring position, sent 0-and-2 Zack Wheeler (2-6) fastball into the right-field upper deck at Citi Field.

Bottom line: The second-place Dodgers (39-35), who have been victorious in their last 10 games against the Mets, have won seven of their last 10 and remained 2 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona in the NL West.

The Mets (31-42) lost their fourth straight.

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Game ball: Shane Bieber (2-0) struck out nine to join Luis Tiant as the only Cleveland pitchers with six or more strikeouts in each of their first three major league starts.The 23-year-old right-hander tossed seven shutout innings, allowing a walk and four hits. He struck out five of the first six hitters he faced.

Defining moment: Yonder Alonso hit his 12th home run and second grand slam of the season in the seventh inning – one of three Cleveland homers – to extend the Indians’ lead to 8-0.

Bottom line: The Indians (41-33), who have scored in double digits in back-to-back games, extended their winning streak to five and extended their lead to six games over second-place Detroit (36-40) in the AL Central.

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Game ball: Rookie right fielder Rosell Herrera made a sensational catch in the eighth inning to rob Alex Bregman of a home run and smashed a triple off Ken Giles (0-2) in the ninth to drive in the game’s only run.

Defining moment: With a runner on third and one out, Herrera, who was acquired on waivers from Cincinnati earlier this month, smashed a 3-and-1 fastball to deep right-center,

Bottom line: The Royals (23-52) snapped a nine-game losing streak and won for just the third time in 19 games this month.

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Game ball: Franklin Barreto, a .158 hitter entering Friday’s action, had the best game of his brief 34-game career with a pair of three-run home runs. Barreto hit his first homer of the season in his previous game, on Wednesday – also a three-run shot. Three of Barreto’s five career homers have come against the White Sox.

Defining moment: Barreto’s three-run homer off White Sox starter James Shields (2-9), into the left-field bullpen, in the second inning, staked Oakland starter Sean Manaea (7-6), a native of nearby Valparaiso, Ind., a comfortable early cushion.

Bottom line: The Athletics (39-36) won their season-high fifth straight and had scored in double figures, with seven home runs, in back-to-back contests.  The A’s, in winning the first four games of the season series, had outscored the White Sox 41-16, They had homered in a franchise record 22 consecutive road games.

The White Sox (24-50) lost their season-high eighth in a row. The Sox were averaging just 2.25 runs per game and were hitting just .219 during the skid.

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Game balls: Lucas Giolito (5-7) established season bests with seven innings and eight strikeouts while walking two. He allowed four runs – all earned – and seven hits.

Defining moments: With the Athletics trailing 6-4 and runners on the corners with no outs in the eighth, reliever Xavier Cedeno was summoned. Matt Olson lined out to shortstop Tim Anderson, Mark Canha struck out swinging, and Chad Pinder grounded out to Anderson for an inning-ending forceout at second.

Bottom line: By salvaging the doubleheader split, the White Sox (25-50) halted a season-high eight-game losing streak while the A’s (39-37) had their season-best five-game winning streak snapped.

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Game ball: Mike Minor (5-4) limited Minnesota to one run and three hits over six innings. He allowed just one baserunner through five innings. After Joey Gallo reached on a two-out single in the first, Minor retired 12 straight Twins batters.

Defining moment: Shin-Soo Choo smashed a two-run homer in the fifth inning to stake Minor a 4-0 lead. It was Choo’s 14th home run of the season and extended his on-base streak to 35 games.

Bottom line: The Rangers (33-44) won their season-high sixth straight game.

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Game ball: Jon Gray (7-7) allowed one run and struck out 12 over seven innings. Gray scattered eight hits and walked none.

Defining moment: Nolan Arenado homered in his fourth straight game – a two-run shot in the fourth inning.

 Bottom line: The Rockies (38-38) won their season-high fourth straight home game to reach the .500 mark for the first time since June 9.

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Game ball: Manuel Margot went 2-for-3 – his third straight multi-hit effort – and drove in two runs.

Defining moment: San Diego was clinging to a 3-2 lead when San Francisco threatened with runners on the corners and two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The Padres escaped with the lead intact when Alan Hanson, facing reliever Craig Stammen, flew out to left fielder Wil Myers.

Bottom line:The Padres (35-43) halted a five-game losing streak.

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Game ball: Andrew Heaney (4-5) worked seven strong innings, allowing one run and nine hits while walking none and striking out four.

Defining moments: With the Angels leading 2-1 in the seventh, Toronto had runners at first and second with one out when Heaney struck out Justin Smoak looking and Yangervis Solarte lined out to left fielder Justin Upton.

Bottom line: The Angels (41-35) won their third straight and puled to within five game of Seattle for the AL’s second wild card spot.

Friday’s best

Nelson Cruz

The 37-year-old designated hitter launched a pair of three-run homers while going 4-for-5 and driving in seven during Seattle’s wild 14-10 loss at Boston. Cruz’s blast in the first inning, off knuckleballer Steven Wright, traveled an estimated 465 feet and bounced off a light tower above the Green Monster. Only two visiting players have driven in more runs in a game at Fenway Park – Oakland’s Reggie Jackson knocked in 10 on June 14, 1969 and Lou Gehrig of the Yankees had eight RBI on July 31, 1930.

Friday’s worst

Wei-Yin Chen, Marlins

The left-hander was blasted at Colorado for seven runs and nine hits in four innings. His ERA swelled to 6.70.  Chen (2-4), who uncorked a wild pitch and served up a towering home run to Nolan Arenado during Colorado’s six-run fourth inning. Chen will receive a scheduled $8 million payout on June 30, a deferred signing bonus that was included in the five-year $80 million deal that he signed before the 2016 season.

Quote of the day

“Ryno. I wonder how he got THAT nickname?”
clueless Cubs broadcaster Eric Soderholm during a 1983 telecast. Soderholm was filling in on WGN for regular color analyst Steve Stone who was away working for ABC’s “Monday Night Baseball.”

“They call him Ryno because his name is Ryne.” replied partner Harry Caray, matter-of-factly.

Photo of the day

White Sox fans, in a lame attempt to put Ryne Sandberg down, used to say, “He never dives for the ball!,” as if they preferred Julio Cruz or Scott Fletcher at second base. Sandberg rarely had to dive because he was always in the right position.

Stats of the day

Ryne Sandberg in 1984 led the Cubs to their first postseason appearance since 1945 with one of the most balanced MVP seasons of any player over the last 50 years. In only his third full major league season, Sandberg finished among the top five in the NL in six offensive categories. He led the league in runs scored with 114, and triples with 19. He was second in hits with 200, third in doubles with 36, third in slugging percentage with .520 and fourth in batting average with .314. He also hit 19 home runs, drove in 84, and stole 32 bases in 39 attempts.

In 156 games, Sandberg led NL second basemen in total chances (870), assists (550) and fielding percentage (.993). He had a 61-game errorless streak.

It was the first of 10 consecutive All-Star appearances, and the second of nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards for Sandberg.

It seems hard to believe now but, prior to 1984, Sandberg was considered an inferior second baseman to Steve Sax of the Dodgers. Sax beat out Sandberg for the 1982 NL Rookie of the Year Award and was chosen as the NL starting All-Star second baseman over Sandberg in the 1983 All-Star Game at Comiskey Park.

Best of the Web

“They’d Be Dyin’ without Ryne” (Sports Illustrated, May 28, 1984)

 

It’s the cost, stupid

557424_587623294610181_892653310_nBy CHRIS REWERS
EDITOR

While watching a game between the Cubs and Cardinals on TV last week, Cardinals announcer Dan McLaughlin and booth guest Ken Rosenthal discussed baseball’s attendance figures – they are down 6.5 percent from this point last season.

The discussion reminded me of scores that scrawled across the bottom of the screen as I watched games a couple of night earlier. One score, in particular, caught my attention: : “CIN 7, KC 0.”

“I feel sorry for the poor saps who paid to watch that game,” I thought.

The box score reported a paid crowd of 24,899 witnessed a boring game between two awful teams, with a combined record of 47-89, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City that evening. The Reds broke open a scoreless game with seven runs in the final three innings and cruised to a 7-0 victory.

It’s games like this that give interleague play a bad name. For every matchup between the Yankees and Nationals, we are treated to 10 battles of juggernauts like Reds-Royals.

Those 24,899 saps – excuse me, fans – did get to watch the greatly underappreciated Joey Votto hit, although he went 0-for-4. Adam Duvall, one of a plethora of Quadruple-A players who participated in that game, homered. Big deal. Admirers of a well-pitched game were cheated when Reds starting pitcher was removed by his manager, Jim Riggleman, in the seventh inning after just 88 pitches. The promising right-hander allowed just three hits and two walks. He was followed by an all-too-typical parade of mediocre relief pitchers who completed the shutout.

The crowd of nearly 25,000 in Kansas City was far below capacity but was way above what such a matchup was worthy of.

As happens far too often during contemporary baseball telecasts, McLaughlin and Rosenthal, seemingly oblivious to the action on the field, went off on a tangent about possible causes for the attendance decline. They surmised about the alarming strikeout rate, the defensive shifts, the length of games, how extra-inning games tend to drag on and on. There are a number of other problems with the game that should be addressed that the pair failed to mention, especially the most obvious one. Attending an MLB game is far too expensive.

For three years, just before the turn of the century, I worked the overnight shift at a downtown news bureau. The hours were grueling. In those days I lived in Wrigleyville, right around the corner from the Friendly Confines, close enough to the ballpark that I recall getting awakened one afternoon by Harry Caray’s rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

One of the few benefits of working those hours and living in that neighborhood were the ability I had to attend weekday games. Bleacher tickets for afternoon games played Monday through Thursday, I recall, cost just $10. I’d wake up on such days at 1 p.m., don a cap, put on some shoes, grab a premade sandwich out of the fridge, and run down the street to the ballpark. I’d usually be taking set in left field just as the Cubs were taking the field.

A ticket for such a game today would set me back $55. If I were a millennial, I’m certain my seat for a weekday afternoon game would be on my living room couch.

Before I was married, I attended 40-50 major league games per season. As recently as 2007, I was still going to 15-20 games every year. These days, with mouths to feed, I may make it to one, possibly two games.

I bought four tickets for a Cubs-Indians game last May that set us back $220. Add another $50 or so for food and beverages and it’s the equivalent of a car payment.

The Cubs, who entered Thursday’s action with the best record in the National League, are still packing them in. Even their new club behind home plate with season tickets that cost $56,000 apiece sold out. I am not missed at Clark and Addison.

It’s a team like the last-place White Sox who should cater to a fan like me. But even the bad teams have a payroll to meet. Even a guy like Adam Engel – at $552,000 per annum – is making a nice living playing in the majors.

Engel is not worried about making his next car payment.

Around the majors

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Defining moment: With the tying run on second base and two outs in the top of the ninth, Dee Gordon took a called strike one on a 100-mph Chapman fastball and then swung and missed at a pair of sliders.

Bottom line: The Yankees (50-22), who maintained a two-game lead over second-place Boston in the AL East, won for the 50th time in their first 72 games for the eighth time in franchise history. The previous seven teams to do it – in 1927, ‘28, ‘32, ‘36, ‘39, ‘53, and ‘98 – all won the World Series.

The Mariners (46-29), who were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, lost their season-high fourth in a row and for the fifth time in seven games. They were swept in a series for the first time this year and trail first-place Houston by 3½ games in the AL West.

9                            Recap | Box                                   2Game ball: Boston starter Rick Porcello (9-3) allowed only two baserunners – a single to Logan Morrison and walk to Ryan La Marre – over seven shutout innings en route to his seventh career win at Target Field. He retired the last 16 batters he faced.

Defining moment: Xander Bogaerts smashed a two-run double off Minnesota reliever Ryan Pressly in the seventh inning to extend Boston’s lead to 4-0.

Bottom line: The Red Sox (50-26), who remained two games behind first-place New York in the AL East, has a season-high 16 hits while completing a 6-4 road trip.

The Twins (33-38) failed to sweep their first three-game series this season. Their only series sweep came in a two-game set at St. Louis on May 7-8.

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Game ball: Nolan Arenado homered for the third straight game with a two-strike, three-run shot inside the left-field foul pole off Steven Matz in the first inning and added a two-run double, also with two strikes, to right in the second.

Stats vs. Matz: Arenado is 5-for-14 with four homers 12 RBI lifetime against Matz. Since ending a career worst 0-for-19 slump on June 15, Arenado is 12-for-28 with four homers, five doubles, and 14 RBI.

Bottom line: The Rockies (37-38), won three of four in the series and completed a 6-1 record against the Mets this season. The Mets (31-41) completed a 10-game road trip with just three wins.

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Game ball: A slumping Bryce Harper, who batted first in the Washington lineup for the first time in six weeks, walked twice, contributed a sacrifice fly, and led off the bottom of the eighth with a double to start a decisive two-run rally.

Defining moment: Rookie Juan Soto ripped an opposite-field double that landed just short of the left-field fence to score Hatper from third with the go-ahead run and Trea Turner from first with an insurabce run.

Max effort: Max Scherzer (10-3), who lost each of his two previous starts, did not figure in the decision despite a solid seven-inning effort (5 H, BB, 9 SO). Scherzer served up solo home runs to Colby Rasmus and Mark Trumbo.

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Game ball: Eric Thames went 2-for-5 with a three-run triple to lead a 12-hit Milwaukee attack.

Defining moment: After Matt Carpenter homered in the top of the first off Milwaukee starter Brent Suter to give St. Louis a 1-0 advantage, a two-run double by Jesus Aguilar off Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez put Milwaukee ahead to stay..

Bottom line: The Brewers (44-30) moved a game ahead of second-place Chicago in the NL Central and opened up a 5½ game lead over the third-place Cardinals..

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Game ball: Jesse Winker hit his first career grand slam and his fourth home run of the season. Winker is 15-for-52 with three homers and 11 RBI this month.

Defining moment: The left-handed hitting Winker’s two-out slam came in the sixth inning, a towering drive to right-center, off Cubs left-hander Randy Rosario.It gave the Reds a 5-2 advantage.

Bottom line: The Cubs (42-30) dropped a game behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central while the Reds (29-45) won their fourth in a row. Cincinnati has gone 26-27 since its miserable 3-18 start.

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Game ball: Alex Avila, who was hitting just .108 with two hits in his previous 49 at-bats, went 2-for-4 with a walk and three RBI. His two-run homer in the third off Chad Kuhl gave Arizona an 8-0 advantage.

Defining moment: Ketel Marte capped a three-run Arizona first inning with a two-out, two-run homer.

Bottom line: The Diamondbacks (41-33) won for the seventh time in their last 11 games to move 2½ games in front of second-place Los Angeles in the NL West while the fourth-place Pirates (36-38) fell eight games behind the first-place Brewers in the NL Central.

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Game ball: Madison Bumgarner (1-2) returned to his familiar form with eight shutout innings. In earning his first victory of the season, the veteran left-hander allowed three hits and two walks while striking out eight. Bumgarner, who broke his left hand in his final spring training start, was making his fifth start since being activated from the disabled list on June 5.

Defining moment: With a runner on first and San Francisco leading 3-0, Eric Hosmer ended the top of the eighth by tapping out to Bumgarner.

Bottom line: With their third straight win, the Giants (38-38) remained four games behind the first-place Diamondbacks in the NL West. The Padres (34-43) lost their fifth in a row.

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Game ball: Luis Valbuena homered in the fifth inning and again in the seventh – his eighth career multi-home run game.

Defining moment: Kole Calhoun, who has homered in back-to-back games, connected off Toronto’s John Axford (1-1) with a man on in the fourth inning to give the Angels a 4-3 lead that they never relinquished..

Injury report: Scheduled starter Tyler Skaggs, the only pitcher.in the Angels’ season-opening starting rotation not currently on the disabled list, was scratched prior to Thursday’s game because of a tight right hamstring. Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez exited after just one inning because of a bruised right index finger.

Thursday’s best

Nolan Arenado, Rockies

Colorado’s third baseman homered for the third straight game with a two-strike, three-run shot inside the left-field foul pole off Steven Matz in the first inning as the Rockies beat the Mets for the third time in the four-game series.

Thursday’s worst

Carlos Martinez, Cardinals

The St. Louis right-hander allowed seven runs (5 earned) and eight hits over four lackluster innings as he fell to 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA since coming off the disabled list because of a lat injury on June 5. In those four starts, he has worked 16⅔ innings, surrendering 15 earned runs and 20 walks.

Quote of the day

“He almost threw away his shot.”
Cubs broadcaster Jim Deshaies prior to a commercial break in the sixth inning Thursday after partner Len Kasper shared his opinion that the Reds’ Billy Hamilton didn’t deserve to score a run after he crossed the plate on a Eugenio Suarez bases-loaded walk. Earlier in the inning, Hamilton froze and failed to score from second on a two-out Scooter Gennett single when he apparently didn’t know how many outs there were.

Photo of the day

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sports and baseball

St. Louis second baseman Jedd Gyorko reacts to his throwing error during the Cardinals’ 11-3 loss at Milwaukee on Thursday night. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

Stat of the day

Oakland’s scheduled game against the White Sox in Chicago on Thursday was the 36th major league game postponed because of weather this season.

Best of the Web

“Entering 1,000th game, Trout remains peerless” by Maria Guadardo (MLB.com)

 

 

Memories of 8-8-88

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post originally appeared on Agony & Ivy on Aug. 8, 2010.

BY CHRIS REWERS
EDITOR

The 1984 Cubs ushered in the “yuppie era” at Wrigley Field. Seemingly overnight, the ballpark transformed from a slowly decaying, outdated, quirky facility to a 40,000-seat singles bar, a tourist attraction, and a baseball shrine. Harry Caray went from being an old, washed-up White Sox announcer to the hip grandfatherly Cub Fan, Bud Man. The bars that surrounded the park changed from quaint family-owned dives with juke boxes to corporate-owned establishments with dee jays. In the old days, the surrounding rooftops were usually empty and only occasionally would someone be seen watching the game from an across-the-street perch. After Ryno, Jody, The Sarge, and The Penguin, the rooftops became Big Business.

When the Tribune Company bought the Cubs, they expressed their desire to install lights at Wrigley Field but the ball did not really begin rolling until the explosion in the Cubs’ popularity after the ’84 division championship season.

There was some opposition to night baseball from groups like Citizens United for Baseball in the Sunshine, but with Major League Baseball applying much of the pressure, the installation of lights at Wrigley Field seemed inevitable. On Feb. 25, 1988, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance permitting the Cubs to play 18 night games annually through 2002. Eight night games were permitted for the 1988 season.

Construction of Wrigley Field’s six light towers began on April 7, 1988 and was completed on June 21.

The 1988 eight-game slate of night games was announced by the Cubs on June 20 with the first scheduled for Aug. 8. Demand for tickets to the 8-8-88 game was so great that a promotion by WGN Radio and True Value awarding 500 tickets received 400,000 applicants.

It certainly was the first baseball game at Wrigley Field scheduled under lights, but it was not the first night game. On Friday, June 25, 1943 the Cubs and Cardinals played a game at the Friendly Confines that was promoted as a “twilight game” and began at 6 p.m. Cubs pitcher Hi Bithorn, no doubt aided by the long shadows of the grandstand, pitched a two-hit complete game in the Cubs’ 6-0 victory.

The game lasted 2 hours, 17 minutes and was completed 13 minutes before sunset on what is one of the longest days of the year. As the Cardinals batted in the ninth, I imagine that it resembled a scene that played out in our neighborhood on so many occasions while I was growing up. Our evening pickup games would continue until we couldn’t see the ball, long after the streetlights had gone on.

As novel as that evening, it was not a rousing success at the box office. A wartime crowd of just 6.620 turned out which helps explain why the game has been long forgotten. I’ve never heard any of the old-timer Cubs fans I know discuss it. It also explains why the promotion was not repeated in subsequent years.

The Cubs’ 1943 season attendance of 508,247 was and still is the lowest total for the franchise since 1921 (strike years included).

Back to 1988:

I lucked out and had a pair of tickets to the Cubs-Phillies game on Monday, Aug. 8, 1988. I was 18. I purchased the tickets early in the season (they still listed a starting time of 1:20 p.m.), long before the night schedule was announced. The thought of scalping the tickets never crossed my mind.

I considered taking a friend to the game, but it was only a fleeting thought. My 68-year-old grandfather was the reason I was a Cubs fan and by far was the person who had taken me to the most games. Realizing the significance of the evening, it was a no-brainer. I had to take Pops.

Aug. 8 was typical hot and sticky Chicago summer day with the temperature in the 90s and no breeze to speak of. As Pops and I exited the Red Line train at the Addison stop, we noted that the flags atop the center-field were limp.

The Cubs announced that they were opening the park that night an hour earlier than usual, at 4:30, and we decided that we wanted to be there when the gates were raised. We wanted to be there for all the pregame festivities and also wanted to take advantage of a rare opportunity to watch the Cubs take batting practice.

The Cubs are usually done with BP by the time the Wrigley gates open. I’ve seen visiting teams take their pregame hacks at the Friendly Confines on hundreds of occasions, but that special night 22 years ago is still the only time I have seen the Cubs take BP in their home ballpark.

We had long been in our seats in Section 209, Row 15 and the grandstand was about half full when master of ceremonies Jack Brickhouse introduced 91-year-old Harry Grossman at 6 p.m. The crowd was instructed to holler, “Let there be lights!” on the count of three. When we did so, at 6:06 p.m., Grossman hit a switch that ended a 74-year tradition on the North Side. Hell had frozen over.

I asked my grandfather if he ever thought he’d live long enough to see what was happening before our eyes. He shook his head and i could see that he was choked up. It was a bittersweet moment for a man who attended his first game at Wrigley Field in the 1930s. The emotions that must have been washing over him were something that, because of my age and relative lack of experience as a fan, I could not totally relate to.

As the ballpark continued to fill up, the atmosphere that was developing was anything but typical. It reminded me of a postseason crowd – a lot of big shots and many more who were either casual fans or not Cubs fans at all. The event had taken precedence over the game.

Shortly after 7 p.m., in the instant that Rick Sutcliffe delivered the game’s first pitch to Philadelphia’s Phil Bradley, hundreds of flashbulbs lit up Wrigley Field. Three pitches later, Bradley launched a drive onto Waveland Avenue. It was an inauspicious start.

But Mitch Webster opened the bottom of the first with a line-drive single off Phillies starter Kevin Gross.

Up next was Ryne Sandberg and as the future Hall of Famer strolled to the batter’s box, Morganna “The Kissing Bandit” emerged from a section along the right-field line near the Phillies bullpen and charged toward home plate. The well-endowed trespasser never came close to planting one on Ryno. She was intercepted by several security guards by the time she reached the infield dirt and quickly was led away. The crowd booed.

On my tape of that evening’s broadcast, Steve Stone described what a great job the security crew did in apprehending Morganna.

“They may have done a great job, but it doesn’t say much for their imaginations,” was Caray’s response.

When the game resumed, Sandberg promptly homered into the left-field bleachers, near the well area, to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. The Cubs handed out white “Opening Night” caps (it remains one of my prized possessions) to fans as they passed through the turnstiles, and as Sandberg trotted around the bases, the fans waved their caps in the air. The Wrigley Field stands were a sea of white.

The Cubs added another run in he third inning, but by that time it was obvious that a storm was near. A stiff breeze kicked up and the air became noticeably cooler. Rumbles of thunder could be heard.

As the always-deliberate Sutcliffe worked in the top of the fourth, a flash of lightning caused the crowd to shutter and several moments later, at around 8:30, it started to, in the words of my grandfather, “Rain like hell.” The tarp was unrolled and placed over the infield.

Fortunately, the upper deck sheltered us from the deluge. As we waited for play to hopefully resume, we drank beer, we talked, we drank some more beer, we talked some more.

At about 9:30, a very young Greg Maddux, Jody Davis, Les Lancaster, and Al Nipper emerged from the Cubs dugout and entertained the crowd with several tarp slides. It was funny, but I also remember being concerned about our young 15-game winner’s health. Fortunately, there wasn’t a Cubbie Occurence but the quartet was later fined by a less-than-amused manager Don Zimmer.

Predictably, some fans, taking a cue from Maddux and Co., also decided to join in the tarp-sliding fun. Security spent much of the next hour running down those yahoos.

It continued to pour and at 10:30, umpire Jim Quick emerged from the third-base dugout and signaled to those who remained that the game was called. All records were scrapped and the game was replayed in its entirety as part of a September doubleheader.

The first official game under the lights was played on Aug. 9 as the Cubs topped the New York Mets 6-4.

I relaized that my Aug. 8 ticket stubs were possibly of value, but couldn’t pass up a free game. I exchanged them at the Wrigley Field box office and I took Pops to see the Cubs lose to the Cardinals on Sept. 16. It was as unmemorable as the Aug. 8 rainout was memorable. Oh well.

A popular theory regarding the Cubs’ failure to win a National League pennant since 1945 was the lack of night baseball at Wrigley Field until 1988. Playing under the sun on a daily basis, wore down the Cubs year after year. This maybe so, but pitcher Bill Hands, who won 20 games for the 1969 Cubs, disagreed.

In The Cubs of ’69 (Contemporary Books, 1989), Hands told Rick Talley that exclusive day baseball provided the Cubs with the ultimate homefield advantage. While Cubs players were often at home with their families getting a good night’s sleep, visiting teams were carousing on Division Street late into the night.

“If we would have won, everybody would be playing more day games today,” Hands said.

Chris and Ronnie’s grand night

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Agony & Ivy on July 6, 2010.

I lost interest in the All-Star Game long ago, but when I was a kid the Midsummer Classic was a very big deal.

The evolution of the separate but equal major leagues into the baseball equivalent of the NFC and AFC was well underway by 1983, but the National and American leagues of that era had distinct identities. Interleague play was a gimmick that was still far ahead in the future.

The AL was the league of old, dumpy ballparks like Cleveland Municipal Stadium and Fenway Park. It used the designated hitter. It was over-reliant on home runs and under-reliant on strategies like the double-switch.

The NL was the hip, modern league with futuristic ballparks like the Astrodome and Riverfront Stadium. Pitchers batted. Astroturf was the playing surface in six of the league’s 12 ballparks, and the parks generally had spacious dimensions. Such an environment placed a premium on speed and defense. It was an exciting brand of baseball.

There were players like Dave Winfield, Ted Simmons, Nolan Ryan, and Greg Luzinski who switched leagues – but more players tended to play their entire careers in the same league back in those days.

I was 13 – heading into eighth grade – and still enjoying the time in my life when summers seemed to last for years. There were few worries and plenty of time for watching Cubs games on Channel 9, Little League, pickup ballgames, pool hopping, and trading baseball cards with my friends.

The 50th anniversary All-Star Game was scheduled for July 6, 1983 at the old Comiskey Park – exactly 50 years to the day of the first showcase that was played on the South Side during the 1933 Chicago “Century of Progress” World’s Fair.

My 11-year-old brother, Ronnie, and I didn’t dare dream of attending the game. It was an event reserved for Sox fans and big shots. We were neither.

My Aunt Bea was a huge White Sox fan – almost annoyingly so. She never could understand why we were Cubs fans. We were South Siders and as far as Aunt Bea was concerned, it was our duty to back the Sox. The Sox were cooler. They played night games. They had fireworks. They had a Diamond Vision scoreboard.

The Cubs played on the North Side, and as far as Aunt Bea was concerned, anywhere north of Madison Street may as well have been a foreign country.

Aunt Bea recognized the significance of an All-Star Game in Chicago and she was determined to have my brother and me experience it. When the Sox announced that they were selling non-reserved tickets for $5 each for the All-Star workout day and an old-timers game on July 5, she jumped at the chance and bought tickets.

We sat several rows behind the third-base dugout. I remember that it was claimed the old-timer’s game represented the biggest gathering of Hall of Famers at a place other than Cooperstown. It was the only time that I ever saw Joe DiMaggio in the flesh and, as an added bonus, I got to see a 45-year-old Billy Williams hit an upper-deck home run to right.

The All-Star workout was also very cool. We were able to see some of our favorites up close, like Dale Murphy, George Brett, and Robin Yount. Future major leaguers Bret and Aaron Boone, who sporting Phiadelphia Phillies uniforms and were there with their All-Star father Bob, played catch in the outfield.

And I’ll never forget the power display of San Francisco’s Darrell Evans during batting practice. Evans hit towering fly ball after towering fly ball on top of and over the right-field roof. It was breathtaking.

The next day, I was eating lunch in our kitchen when the phone rang. It was Aunt Bea. She told me that she had scored two tickets for the All-Star Game and wanted to know if my brother and me wanted to go. I didn’t even have to ask. The problem we had, though, was finding a ride to my aunt’s home in Bridgeport. My parents were both working.

Fortunately, I soon learned that our across-the-street neighbor, Mr. Quinn, was attending the game and he said he’d be glad to give us a lift.

It was the first time we had ever attended a ballgame without adults and the sellout crowd made it somewhat intimidating. But we were blessed to have aisle seats in the right-field upper deck and and a couple cool middle-aged guys seated to our right. They bought us soda, gave us some Babe Ruth postage stamps, and asked me a trivia question I remember to this day:

Who was the last switch-hitter to win a league MVP award?

My answer: Pete Rose.

The correct answer: Vida Blue in 1971.

The seats weren’t that great, but there were very few decent seats at the old Comiskey. There was very little leg room, less elbow room, far too many obstructed view seats, and too many seats that were much too far away from the field.

The highlight of the game, of course, was Fred Lynn’s grand slam off Atlee Hammaker – still the only grand slam in All-Star Game history – during the American League’s seven-run third inning. The AL rolled to a 13-3 victory to end an 11-game NL winning streak. Lynn’s home run sailed high into the air and disappeared into the lower deck below us.

Fourteen of the players who participated in the contest, if you include the soon-to-be-inducted Andre Dawson, were Hall of Famers. It was the final All-Star Game for Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski.

The outcome of the game had long been determined by the time Cubs representatives Leon Durham and Lee Smith saw action. We saw Morganna “The Kissing Bandit” unsuccessfully attempt to plant one on Fernando Valenzuela and I suspect that actor George Burns had to be awakened in the middle of the seventh in order to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

As we exited the ballpark with fireworks filling the sky, I was certain that it was my favorite baseball experience at a ballpark other than Wrigley Field – and it remains so more than 30 years later.

1960: Don Cardwell’s amazing Cubs debut

(Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Agony & Ivy on Jan. 16, 2011.)

 

By CHRIS REWERS
EDITOR

When newly-acquired pitcher Don Cardwell arrived at Wrigley Field on May 15, 1960 he was still toting a Philadelphia Phillies gym bag.

 

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Boudreau selected the 24-year-old right-hander to pitch Game 2 of a Sunday doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Cardwell had never worked with Cubs catcher Del Rice before and the pair decided between games to keep it simple. Cardwell did not throw a slider the entire afternoon.

“Fastballs did it for me,” Cardwell said. “I threw almost all fastballs in the early innings … I just wanted to hum.”

Did he ever.

Cardwell walked the second batter of the game, Alex Grammas, and then set down the final 26 batters he faced. Cardwell’s no-hitter included plenty of late-inning drama for the 33,543 in attendance.

cardwell 2.jpg

Don Cardwell set down the final 26 St. Louis Cardinals he faced.

Darryl Spencer led off the eighth with a hot smash, but second baseman Jerry Kindall made a sensational stop and threw out Spencer at first by a step.

Carl Sawatski led off the ninth and ripped a 1-and-2 pitch to deep right, but George Altman made a leaping, one-handed grab on the warning track. Cardwell fell behind 2-and-0 on the next hitter, George Crowe, but recovered to retire him on a lazy fly to center fielder Richie Ashburn.

Joe Cunningham stood between Cardwell and history. Cunningham was upset with a strike call by home plate umpire Tony Venzon on a 3-and-1 pitch.

“And Cunningham is barking at Venzon,” Cubs radio play-by-play man Jack Quinlan reported. “He is letting him have it. He is really peeved at Venzon!”

cardwell 3.jpg

Joe Cunningham and home plate umpire Tony Venzon exchange pleasantries with two outs in the top of the ninth.

Cunningham stepped back in the box and then drilled Cardwell’s full-count offering the opposite way to left. It looked like a sure hit, but with Jack Brickhouse screaming, “C’mon, Moose! C’mon, Moose!” left fielder Walt “Moose” Moryn made a sensational shoestring catch.

Cardwell was mobbed by his teammates and by many of the fans who jubilantly raced onto the playing field. It took Cardwell more than 20 minutes to fight his way through the mob and into the Cubs clubhouse.

“This fame may mean I’ll never pitch again because while all the fans were crowding around me, they kept standing there beating on my shoulder and pulling on my arm like they wanted a souvenir – me!” Cardwell said. “But it was worth it.”

1938: Hartnett’s Homer in the Gloamin’

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Agony & Ivy on Oct. 7, 2010.

BY CHRIS REWERS
EDITOR

It was perhaps the most dramatic moment in Cubs history and was once considered one of the clutch hits in baseball history. Old-timers like my grandfather have always enjoyed sharing with me their recollections of Gabby Hartnett’s 1938 “Homer in the Gloamin’,” but unfortunately there aren’t many people around anymore who can share their firsthand recollections of the event.

 

Its glow has faded thanks to the unrelenting forward progress of time and the fact that it was not captured on film. In the 79 years since in happened, Hartnett’s blow has been surpassed by other home runs in the collective consciousness of baseball fans – Bobby Thomson’s in 1951, Bill Mazeroski’s in 1960, Carlton Fisk’s in 1975, Kirk Gibson’s in 1988, and Joe Carter’s in 1993.

My late grandfather was 18 years old in 1938 and has seen thousands of Cubs games and he insists that listening to the play-by-play account of Hartnett’s home run on the radio has always remained his biggest thrill in regards to his favorite team.

Hartnett, who had been the Cubs’ star catcher since 1922, was appointed the team’s player-manager on July 21, 1938. Hartnett, who at the time was widely considered as the greatest catcher in baseball history, replaced Charlie Grimm as skipper, 81 games into the season with the Cubs in third place, 5 1/2 games behind first-place Pittsburgh. The North Siders were still seven games behind the Pirates on Sept. 3, but then mounted a dramatic Colorado Rockies-like charge by winning 18 of their next 21.When Dizzy Dean pitched the Cubs to a 2-1 victory over the Pirates on Sept. 27 in the opener of a three-game series at Wrigley Field, the Pittsburgh lead had been trimmed to one-half game.

A crowd of 34,465 showed up at the Friendly Confines the next afternoon on a gloomy, overcast Wednesday to see if the Cubs could vault into first place.

The Cubs scored twice in the eighth inning to tie the game at 5. Fifty years before lights would be installed at Wrigley the impending late afternoon darkness was beginning to threaten play. The umpires announced that the ninth inning would be the last and under the rules of the time, it would be declared a tie game and would have to be made up in its entirety. Advantage, Pirates. An overtaxed Cubs pitching staff had already endured six doubleheaders in September.

Pirates reliever Mace Brown, using the darkening conditions to his advantage, easily retired the first two Cubs hitters – Phil Cavaretta and Carl Reynolds – in the bottom of the ninth. Just after 5:30 p.m., up stepped Hartnett and he quickly fell behind Brown 0-and-2.

Brown’s next pitch, a high fastball, caught too much of the plate and Gabby was ready, crushing a line drive into the darkening sky and depositing it into the first row of the left-field bleachers, just to the right of the “well” area. Bedlam ensued.

“I could hardly believe my eyes,” Pittsburgh left fielder Paul Waner told Lawrence S. Ritter in The Glory of Their Times (William Morrow, 1966). “The game was over, and I should have run into the clubhouse. But I didn’t. I just stood out there and watched Hartnett circle the bases, and take the lousy pennant with him. I just watched and wondered, sort of objectively, you know, how the devil he could get all the way around to touch home plate.

“You see, the crowd was in an uproar, absolutely gone wild. They ran onto the field like a bunch of maniacs, and his teammates and the crowd were mobbing Hartnett, and piling on top of him, and throwing him up in the air, and everything you could think of. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. So I just stood there in the outfield and stared, like I was sort of somebody else, and wondered what the chances were that he could actually make it all the way around the bases.”

By the time Hartnett reached second, he “couldn’t see third for all the players and fans there.” Once Hartnett reached third, he remembered that his feet never touched the ground until he reached home.

The Cubs completed a three-game series sweep on Sept. 29 and moved a game-and-a-half ahead of Pittsburgh.

“We could have beaten nine Babe Ruths that day,” Cubs second baseman Billy Herman remembered.

The Cubs clinched the pennant two days later.

Hail to the Chief: Presidents and baseball

“I’ll never forget the first time President Taft appeared at our ballpark, in the season of 1909. Our players got so excited that we booted the game away to the Red Sox.”
-Walter Johnson
Washington Senators Hall of Fame pitcher

BY CHRIS REWERS
EDITOR

Just five weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Commisioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis sent a handwritten letter to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

“The time is approaching when, in ordinary conditions, our teams would be heading for Spring training camps,” Landis wrote. “However inasmuch as these are not ordinary times, I venture to ask what you have in mind as to whether professional baseball should continue to operate.”

Roosevelt, in what became known as “The Green Light Letter,” responded to Landis the next day.

“I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going,” he wrote. “There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before. And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.”

Woodrow Wilson did baseball no favors during World War I. Wilson’s “work or fight” order forced the 1918 season to end on Labor Day. That year’s World Series, between the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, was played in early September.

The first president to host organized baseball teams at the White House was Andrew Johnson who met members of the Washington Nationals and Brooklyn Atlantics at the executive mansion on Aug. 30, 1865.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball’s first all-professional team who completed an undefeated 1869 campaign, were honored that year at the White House by President Ulysses S. Grant.

The 1924 world champion Washington Senators
during their White House visit in 1925
(Library of Congress).

The first world championship team to be feted at the White House were the 1924 Washington Senators who paid a visit to President Calvin Coolidge the following year.

The world champion White House visit became an annual tradition during the Ronald Reagan administration. The Chicago Cubs – then known as the White Stockings – first visited the White House to see President Grover Cleveland following their offseason world tour in 1889 and paid their second visit to the White House last week during the final days of Barack Obama’s stay in office.

Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president of the United States, was the first commander in chief to attend a major league game while in office when he witnessed the National League’s Washington Senators loss at home to the Cincinnati Reds on June 6, 1892. Harrison also attended the Senators’ game 19 days later when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

President William Howard Taft started a baseball tradition on April 14, 1910 when he attended Washington’s season opener against the Philadelphia Athletics at Griffith Stadium. Taft threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game from his front-row seat and then stayed to watch Walter Johnson shut out the Athletics, 3-0. Legend has it that the portly Taft, who tipped the scales at over 300 pounds, was feeling cramped in his seat. He stood up to stretch his legs midway through the seventh. Out of respect, other spectators also rose to their feet. The tradition of the “seventh inning stretch” was born.

Since Taft, every U.S. president, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, has thrown a ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day.

FDR owns the record with eight ceremonial first pitches between 1933 and 1941. Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy did not miss an opener during their three years in office.

Image result for john f. kennedy chicago white sox

President John F. Kennedy (left) was joined by managers
Mickey Vernon of the Washington Senators and Al Lopez
of the Chicago White Sox during pregame ceremonies on
Opening Day of 1961 at Griffith Stadium (JFK Presidential
Library).

On April 10, 1961, Kennedy attended Washington’s opener against the Chicago White Sox and was the guest of broadcaster Vince Lloyd on WGN-TV’s pregame “Lead-Off Man” show.

By that time, the ceremonial first pitch tradition had evolved to include two balls.

The second ball was sent to the White House as a presidential souvenir.

The first ball was a free-for-all. Players from both teams lined up in front of the presidential box. The president threw the ball into the crowd of players, like a groom hurling the bride’s garter into a crowd of bachelors at a wedding reception. The player lucky enough to catch the ball got to keep it.

Kennedy’s toss in 1961 was hauled in by Jim Rivera. The White Sox outfielder approached the presidential box and asked JFK to sign the baseball. The president sloppily scribbled his autograph on the ball and handed it back to Rivera.

White Sox trainer Ed Froelich, recalling the occasion years later to the Chicago Tribune’s David Condon, remembered that Rivera, upon inspecting the ball, barked at the president.

“What kind of garbage college is Harvard, where they don’t even teach you how to write?” Rivera shouted. “What kind of garbage writing is this? What is this garbage autograph? Do you think I can go into any tavern on the South Side and really say that the president of the United States signed this ball?”

Rivera shoved the ball back into Kennedy’s hands.

“Take this thing back and give me something other than this garbage autograph!” Rivera exclaimed.

Froehlich remembered that Kennedy laughed hysterically and wrote “JOHN F. KENNEDY” on the ball in big block letters.

Rivera looked at the baseball and told the president, “You know? You’re all right!”

President George Herbert Walker Bush – who was the captain of the baseball team while he attended Yale – attended all four Baltimore Orioles home openers during his one term in office and Herbert Hoover was a perfect 4-for-4 in attending Senators’ opening days during his time in office.

Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower each attended seven Washington opening days during their presidencies.

Gerald Ford had the ceremonial first pitch honors at the 1976 All-Star Game in Philadelphia during the nation’s bicentennial celebration.

President Reagan, who once broadcast Chicago Cubs games for Des Moines, Iowa radio station WHO, showed up at Wrigley Field for a late-season game between the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates on Sept. 30, 1988. Reagan donned a Cubs jacket, strolled out on the field and from several feet in front of the pitcher’s mound, fired a pitch to Cubs catcher Damon Berryhill.

ESPN Does 30 for 30 on George W. Bush's First Pitch and the Healing Power of Baseball

President George W. Bush throws a perfect strike to Derek Jeter before Game 3 of the 2001 World
Series (still from Fox broadcast).

One of the highlights of George W. Bush’s presidency came in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks when he let loose the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 30, 2001 before Game 3 of the World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Bush, who wore a bulletproof vest beneath a New York Fire Department jacket, walked out to the mound and gave the crowd a thumb’s up before firing a perfect strike to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

As Bush, who once was a managing partner of the Texas Rangers, warmed up in the tunnel beneath the stands, Jeter warned the president to not bounce the ball.

“They will boo you,” Jeter told him.

” I was nervous, really nervous,” Bush recalled. “The ball felt like a shot put.”

It was an emotional and powerful moment.

“What President Bush told us without uttering a single word was that we could once again attempt to carry on our lives,” sportscaster Jim Gray told the Dallas Morning News. “What an amazing symbol it was. It’s a moment that when I think about it, I get goosebumps.”

Image result for obama first pitch

President Obama delivers to Cardinals star Albert Pujols before the 2009 All-Star
Game in St. Louis.

President Obama handled ceremonial first pitch honors at the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis, at the Washington Nationals’ home opener in 2010 and before last year’s historic exhibition game in Havana between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team.

“We do a lot of tough stuff as president,” Obama told ESPN. “And by definition you don’t end up being president if you don’t handle stress well. [But] nothing is more stressful than throwing a first pitch.

“They just hand you the ball. And I don’t care if you’ve been practicing ahead of time. When they just hand you the ball…”