The Top 20 Cub HR Of All Time - #8 Gary Gaetti 9/28/1998

It seemed, at the time, like a useless acquisition. The Cubs signed Gary Gaetti, who had been released by the Cardinals, on his 40th birthday, August 19, 1998. Gaetti had hit decently for St. Louis -- .265/.339/.454 -- but appeared mostly done, and had had only one really good year (1995) in the previous ten.

Suddenly, those ten years melted away. In 37 games as a Cub in August and September 1998, Gaetti hit .320/.397/.594 with 8 HR in 128 AB. He even looked less statue-like at third base than he had for the past several seasons.

And on the night of September 28, he broke up a scoreless tie in the fifth inning with a home run after Henry Rodriguez had singled. Steve Trachsel still had a no-hitter going (despite six walks), although that was broken up in the 7th. For a while, it appeared the two runs would be all the Cubs would need to win the game and make the playoffs. In true Cub fashion, though, what appeared to be an easy 5-0 win into a nailbiter; the first four Giants reached base in the 9th inning and after a long fly ball by Barry Bonds put a scare into all of us who were there (it wound up caught for a sacrifice fly, making the score 5-3), Rod Beck was summoned to retire Jeff Kent and Joe Carter for the final two outs and the Cubs won what was at the time, the first winner-take-all game at Wrigley Field since Game 7 of the 1945 World Series.

The mistake then-GM Ed Lynch made was thinking that Gaetti (and the other oldsters who wheezed into the postseason with the 1998 Cubs) could do it again in 1999. Lynch kept most of that team together, and they played well for 1/3 of a season; after beating Arizona on June 8 they were 32-23 and a game out of first place. The next day, Lance Johnson got picked off first base to end the game, and that seemed to unravel the 1999 Cubs; they went 33-74 (yes, .308 ball, a 112-loss pace for a full season) the rest of the year. Gaetti hit .204/.260/.339 for the 1999 Cubs, and was released at season's end.

But for about five weeks, and especially in the 1998 tiebreaker game, Gary Gaetti was a Cub hero.

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