The 1966 season, like the 1962 season, was among the worst in team history. Both teams lost 103 games, still the club record and still the only 100-loss years in Cubs history.
And yet, toward the end of the 1966 season, if you looked very closely, you could see signs of the renaissance to come. Fergie Jenkins was installed in the rotation to stay at the end of August and made nine starts; the team went 6-3 in those games and Fergie posted a 2.13 ERA and 0.916 WHIP. Ken Holtzman, just 20 years old, spent the entire season in the rotation and pitched credibly, giving hope for the future.
This game is one that Holtzman started and won. I chose it, though, for another reason...
Yes, I know there were dire forecasts of rain today and a chance that the game might be rained out. It rained for a short time, but otherwise temperatures held in the 60s and the rain held off.
And yes, I know the Cubs have been awful most of this season, and that kids are back in school, and it's Wednesday.
But the Cubs are at least playing close to .500 ball over the last month. Today's 9-3 win over the Reds gave the Cubs an 11-12 record since they reached their low point of 41 games under for the first time at 44-85 back on August 28.
Yes, I know that isn't much. And apparently, pretty much everyone thinks so, because only 530 people paid admission to Wrigley Field this afternoon.
Five hundred and thirty people. If you put them all in one area, they could comfortably fit in one section of the right field bleachers. Most of the people at today's game were in the bleachers; when I say "most", maybe that was 300 people, with a couple hundred more huddled under the upper deck until it stopped raining, and it was never raining that hard.
Numbers from years gone by are sketchy; it wasn't until after World War II that the Cubs and other teams began consistently reporting daily attendance figures. But I'm reasonably sure that this is the smallest "crowd" for a game at Wrigley Field since at least the early 1930s, in the depths of the Depression, and maybe ever.
It's unfortunate, too; those who were there were entertained with an offensive explosion from Cubs hitters, particularly Don Kessinger, who went 4-for-5, and Billy Williams and Adolfo Phillips, who both homered. Phillips has been great since he was acquired along with Fergie Jenkins last April in one of John Holland's best trades. He should be a fixture in center field for the Cubs for many years to come.
Pete Rose had three of the Reds' six hits off Kenny Holtzman, who has had a solid season, including his 16th home run. I never thought of Rose as a power hitter, but he hit 11 last year and now with 16, maybe he could become a slugger; the Reds could use another one after that ill-advised trade of Frank Robinson last winter.
Cal Koonce threw the last three innings after Leo pinch-hit Lee Thomas for Holtzman with the Cubs up just 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth. Thomas, whose power pretty much has been totally gone since the Cubs acquired him, struck out with the bases loaded, but Kessinger bailed him out with a two-run single.
Too bad hardly anyone saw it.