Chicago Cubs' Ernie Banks #14 swings away during a game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images Sport)
I decided to try another real old date for a recap, this time setting the year range at random.org from 1954 to 1962 -- the first year because it was Ernie Banks' first season, the last was just before the Cubs finally broke their consecutive non-winning season drought in 1963.
The random number generator gave me this date, which was a Sunday doubleheader against the expansion Mets.
And Ernie played a key role, as it turned out.
Thank heavens for the New York Mets. Sort of.
If not for the Mets, the Cubs would be the worst team in the National League, and almost the worst in baseball (the Washington Senators are a bit worse than the Cubs as of today).
On the other hand, the Mets have won only 15 of their first 53 games since being created as an expansion team this year. Four of those wins have been against the Cubs, and the Mets were riding a 17 (!) game losing streak coming into this weekend's series at Wrigley Field.
Naturally, in this awful Cubs season, that meant the Mets would break the streak, which they did by winning Friday's first game; the Cubs only won Friday's second game because it got dark. It's been 14 years since the Tigers became the last of the "original 16" (how odd that sounds!) teams to put in lights; P.K. Wrigley still refuses, wanting to be a "good neighbor".
Do you think we'll ever see lights in Wrigley Field? It doesn't seem possible.
Anyway, the Mets were threatening to take four out of five in this extended series forced by a May rainout, until Ernie Banks -- thank heavens for Ernie -- slammed a three-run homer to tie the second game of today's doubleheader in the bottom of the ninth inning. He got that chance only because Mets 3B Rod Kanehl -- who had been inserted for defense -- made an error on Dick Bertell's easy grounder that should have ended the game with a 4-1 Mets win. Instead, a rattled Craig Anderson walked Bob Will, setting up Ernie's heroics.
The Cubs won the game, in front of the remnant of the second-biggest crowd of the year so far (16,332) when Billy Williams hit a one-out double in the last of the 10th; after another out and an intentional pass to Ron Santo (who's having a rough year; will he ever amount to anything?), Andre Rodgers singled Billy in with the game-winner.
Of today's first game, the less said the better; it was the Cubs' ninth one-run loss this year, and second in this series to the Mets. The only run was driven in by Kenny Hubbs; I really like the way he plays, hustling all the time and playing outstanding defense, and at 20 he looks like a keeper and could man second base at Wrigley well into the 1970s.
1970s. Is it going to be that long before we have a winning team? Or beat the Mets on a consistent basis? The visitors from New York are gone; they won't be back in Chicago until the last three games of the season. Tomorrow, Don Cardwell -- who seems to have permanently lost his no-hit form he showed in his Cub debut two years ago -- will face the visiting Pirates in the first of a three-game set.