What is your favorite Cubs game? I thought about posting this as a poll, but I decided not to because I'd like to read your comments. It could be a game that you witnessed personally at the ballpark, one that you watched on television or one that you listened to on the radio.
There are many Cubs games that I have loved over the years, but my favorite is the division clincher from September 24, 1984. Chicago had just come off back-to-back victories against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in a Sunday doubleheader. Next up was their final road series of the regular season against the Pittsburgh Pirates who were just five years removed from the "We Are Family" days, but in the first year of what would be four consecutive losing seasons. Rick Sutcliffe got the start for the Cubs against lefty Larry McWilliams of the Pirates. Going into this game, I felt like tonight would be the night the Cubbies would clinch it having Sutcliffe on the mound. He was nearly unbeatable that year, going 16-1 with a 2.69 ERA and winning the NL Cy Young Award.
The Cubs struck first with a double by Ryne Sandberg that was then followed up by an RBI single by Gary "Sarge" Matthews. Cubs took the lead 1-0 after one. In the top of the 2nd, Larry Bowa singled and reached second on an error by Pirates third baseman Jim Morrison. Bowa then scored on an RBI single by pitcher Rick Sutcliffe to make it 2-0 Cubs. Incidentally, the Pirates had two guys on their team who had the names of famous singers, Johnny Ray and Jim Morrison. Morrison made a second error in the top of the 3rd on a bunt by Keith Moreland which allowed Ryne Sandberg to score from third to make it 3-0 Cubs. The score would stay that way until the bottom of the 4th when after a Joe Orsulak triple, his musical counterpart Johnny Ray drove him in a groundout to second base to make it 3-1 Cubs.
It was a close game, but I was still feeling pretty confident having Sutcliffe on the mound. His only loss in the regular season that year came against his former team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, on June 29, 1984 at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers beat the Cubs 7-1 and Rick didn't even make it past the fourth inning. Other than that, he was excellent for the Cubs and I think he was the key to Chicago winning the division that year. If Chicago doesn't get Sutcliffe, they don't win the division in 1984.
Chicago added one more run in the top of the 5th after they loaded the bases with no outs and Matthews scored on a double play by Jody Davis to make it 4-1. Sutcliffe mowed down the Pirates the rest of the way and struck out Joe Orsulak, who had the only two Pirates hits in the game, to clinch it for the Cubs. It was the first vivid recollection that I had of watching my team win a division to make the playoffs. Back then there was no division series so the Cubs would go straight to the NLCS to take on the San Diego Padres. We all know how that turned out, but at this point I was feeling great as a Cubs fan. I remember the team celebrating on the field and in the clubhouse. This was back in the day when guys didn't wear goggles to protect their eyes from having champagne spilled on them. And as much as people want to bring up the "failures" of the Chicago Cubs, I don't think anyone in that clubhouse was even thinking about the goat, 1969 or any of that stuff. That Cubs team seemed to be very confident, maybe even a bit overconfident, and I remember many fans thinking that this was a different time and a different year. Yes, I know that we've had that same mentality quite a few times since then, but most people believed that the Cubs were a better team than San Diego.
This is my favorite game, not just because the Cubs clinched the division, but because I genuinely loved those guys on the team. I would play Wiffle Ball outside and I would imitate all of the Cubs batters and their stances. I would also imitate Rick Sutcliffe when I pitched because I used to love the way he cradled the ball behind his back before he threw the pitch. Before each Cubs game started, Van Halen's "Jump" would precede the broadcast and, to this day, whenever I listen to that song I immediately think of the 1984 Chicago Cubs. I'm sure that many people will list the "Sandberg Game" from June 23, 1984 as their favorite. I would have listed that one except that I didn't personally see it that day. I didn't see it because the local NBC affiliate didn't carry that game. So the division clincher from 1984 is my favorite and I'll never forget how genuinely giddy I was after that game. That was the high point of 1984 for me.