Bobby Murcer of the Chicago Cubs bats during an Major League Baseball game. Murcer played for the Cubs from 1977-79. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Editor's Note: Al had a really good idea this off-season, picking random games from the Cubs past to recap and reminisce about. I wanted to take a stab at it, but unlike Al, I wasn't willing to leave my choice of game to chance. Instead, I picked a game that was smack dab in the middle of one of the more interesting baseball seasons of all-time. On top of that, the Cubs were in first place in mid-July visiting Shea Stadium. Things all went downhill from there, both for the Cubs and the City of New York. The Mets just continued to be bad.
For the details, you'll just have to follow the jump. Just ignore everything in the game recap on Baseball-Reference.com after one out in the bottom of the sixth. That took place on September 16.
That was the night that the lights went out in Flushing. With the Cubs leading 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, everything went black.
The Cubs are used to playing suspended games because of darkness. It happens all the time at Wrigley. What we aren’t used to is having games called on account of darkness on the road. But tonight in the bottom of the sixth inning at 9:27 local time, with Lenny Randle facing Ray Burris, the lights went out throughout all of New York City. Auxiliary power went on at Shea Stadium that kept the public address system on as well as emergency exit lighting, but that was it. The teams hung around Shea Stadium for an hour waiting for the lights to come back on and then called it a night. The Cubs went back into the dark clubhouse at Shea Stadium and changed out of their uniforms by flashlight. After returning to the Waldorf-Astoria where the team was staying, they had to walk up 17 flights of stairs because the elevators weren’t working. Then the team had to try to sleep in the sweltering hot summer night as there was no air conditioning, naturally.
I don’t mean to make light of what went on in New York City last night and for any Cub fans in the city, stay safe. There are looters throughout much of New York: stealing televisions, appliances and stereo systems left and right. Many parts of the city were engulfed in fire and the Bronx is burning as I write this. The full extent of the damage won’t be known until the lights come back on. It’s hard to get any news out of New York as all three major networks shut down with their New York transmitters. The only channel with any programming in Madison is the local PBS channel, along with WGN out of Chicago and WVTV out of Milwaukee, which are the two independent channels I get on cable. And even WGN didn’t have much programming with the Cubs game not being played. It was pretty much Jack Brickhouse on the telephone describing darkness, which is more interesting than it sounds, but not by a lot.
New York certainly has seen better days. With the fiscal disaster that took the city to the brink of bankruptcy over the past few years and a serial killer that calls himself "The Son of Sam," the disaster that is the New York Mets seems pretty petty. But the Mets are bad. They traded Tom Seaver for four players and only one of them, former Rookie of the Year pitcher Pat Zachry, seems to be any good at all. Even he’s no Tom Terrific. Maybe that black cat has stayed in Shea Stadium and is paying the Mets back.
For five innings, Ray Burris shut down the weak Mets lineup. He allowed only two baserunners, a fourth inning single to outfielder Steve Henderson (one of the player the Mets got for Seaver) and a solo home run in the fifth inning to Mike Vail. I’ve been critical of Burris in the past, but if he can pitch this well against the Phillies or Pirates, he could be the solid second pitcher we need behind Rick Reuschel to win the pennant.
Burris was almost matched by Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman, who brings back bad flashbacks of 1969. But he allowed a two-run home run to third baseman Steve Ontiveros in the second inning that gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead. That was all the scoring for the Cubs tonight but against the Mets, that’s been enough so far.
I know I’ve been pretty critical of the trade that sent Bill Madlock to the Giants for Ontiveros and Bobby Murcer, but where would the Cubs be without those two? So far, Ontiveros has been every bit as good as Madlock and Murcer has been our best power hitter. Maybe I need to start admitting that GM Bob Kennedy knows what he is doing.
So that’s where we stand right now. The Cubs have a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning as we head back to the park tonight hoping to resume the suspended game and play the regularly scheduled game. Bill Bonham is scheduled to go in the full game, but your guess is as good as mine as to who is going to finish last night’s game. My guess is either Steve Renko or one of the relievers. With a double-header in Philadelphia on Friday, they might have to make a roster move. Dennis Lamp is pitching well down in Wichita. He’d be a possibility.
If the lights don’t come back on, the team will head to Philadelphia with a four game lead over the Phillies in the NL East. Yes, this team has been playing .500 ball since the red-hot June that gave them an 8.5 game lead, but they still hold a four game lead in mid-July. There is a double-header scheduled on Friday at Veteran’s stadium. The four-game series in Philadelphia is huge. If the Cubs can take three of four, that lead would balloon the lead back to six games and the Cubs first pennant since 1945 will be that much closer. Lose three of four or even get swept, and we’re going to be sweating like the Cubs were in the Waldorf-Astoria last night for the whole rest of the season.