At the suggestion of a BCB reader in the comments to yesterday's random recap, I'm going to recap the last game of the first 100-loss season in Cubs history.
The 1962 season was notable for a number of things; it was the second of the comical "College of Coaches", which led to a combined 123-193 record under five different "head coaches" -- Vedie Himsl, Harry Craft, El Tappe, Lou Klein and Charlie Metro. None of them was any good at it, though Craft later managed the Houston Colt 45s for their first three seasons. The rotating system confused both players and coaches. Metro wound up as "head coach" for the final 112 games of 1962 and hoped to be retained, but P.K. Wrigley and his "athletic director" Robert Whitlow replaced him with Bob Kennedy. The "head coach" system technically stuck around until Leo Durocher declared, "I'm the manager!" at his introductory news conference in October 1965, but the rotating system ended after 1962.
1962 was also an expansion year in the National League, with the Houston squad and the New York Mets added. Both teams were bad, but the Cubs managed to be worse than Houston, allowing them to finish eighth while the Cubs were ninth.
And for the final three days of the 1962 season, a unique thing in major league history occurred -- it has not been repeated. The three games between the Cubs and Mets were the only time that two teams that lost 100 games in a season met after both had already lost 100 games. The series began with the Cubs at 57-102 and the Mets at 39-118.
The photo above was taken on Sept. 14, 1962, about two weeks before the game I'm recapping here, during a Cubs/Dodgers game. Attendance that day was 5,356, only about 1,400 more than showed up for the 1962 season finale between the Cubs and Mets.
It's finally over, the worst season in Cubs history.
Never before had a Cubs team lost 100 games in a season, but this one cleared it good, losing 103. It's been 17 years since the Cubs won a NL pennant and never has another one seemed so far away.
Thank heavens for the Mets -- if not for them, the Cubs would have finished 10th in the new 10-team league. It's bad enough finishing ninth behind the Colt 45s, and it's all because the Cubs let them win the season series 11-7. Imagine that, losing 11 of 18 games to a brand-new team.
This weekend's series wasn't seen by many people, just 7,425. That wasn't for today, that was for all three games; it was beautiful today, one of those days you get in late September that you wish would stick around all winter, 70 degrees, cloudless and pleasant. And yet, just 3,960 paid to see the Cubs' season-ending 5-1 win over the Mets. Maybe I shouldn't say "just" -- 20 crowds this year have been smaller than that, and I use the word "crowds" advisedly. Despite having 10 more home dates this year over last (65 in 1961, due to 12 doubleheaders, 75 this year, with only six DH), attendance overall was down; the total this year was 609,802 (8,131 per date) compared to last year's 673,057, or 10,355 per date.
That's a pretty large decline, almost 20%. At least you can still get into the bleachers for 75 cents; there hasn't been a price increase there since 1958, when it was raised from 60 cents. Hopefully they won't raise prices next year to make up for the attendance drop.
Maybe today's game will be a harbinger of better things next season. The Cubs executed a neat triple play in the eighth inning. Joe Pignatano hit a soft liner to Kenny Hubbs on what looked like a hit-and-run. Hubbs threw to Ernie Banks at first to double off former Cub Richie Ashburn and then Ernie fired it to Andre Rodgers, covering second, where yet another ex-Cub, Sammy Drake, had wandered too far off, to complete the triple play. (Figures, right -- two ex-Cubs get caught off base. Ashburn, incidentally, played second base today for the first time in his career, just for fun, I suppose. It seems likely he'll retire.) It was the team's first triple play since April 27, 1958, when they turned one at San Francisco against the Giants.
Meanwhile, Bob Buhl threw a nice complete game, giving the Mets just five hits and a single run, on a homer by Frank Thomas, and striking out six, and the Cubs' hitting stars were George Altman, who went 3-for-3, and Nelson Mathews, who had a pair of doubles and drove in two runs. Mathews is only 20 years old and has hit really well in his September callup. He looks like a keeper, as does Altman, who has completed his second straight All-Star season and hit 22 home runs. Altman also stole 19 bases this year; with Maury Wills shattering the stolen base record this year, it looks like steals will be far more important in the future. Altman finished sixth in the NL; he should be a fixture around here for years to come.
So maybe there's hope for 1963. It couldn't get much worse, right? Enjoy the offseason.