A Game From Cubs History: May 26, 1964

Courtesy Mike Bojanowski

The Cubs had optimism after finishing with a winning record in 1963. That was misplaced; they started losing almost as soon as 1964 began, and in late May suffered one quite embarrassing defeat.

With the retirement of Wrigley art director Otis Shepard, the Cubs appeared to be lost at sea for scorecard design. So in 1964, they recycled the 1959 design, only with a slightly different shade of blue.

The date of this game should look familiar, too; it's seven years to the day since Dick Drott's 15-K game against the Braves at Wrigley Field.

There were double digits involved May 26, 1964, too, but they weren't in favor of the Cubs. The Mets defeated the Cubs that afternoon; Richard Dozer of the Tribune recaps the ridiculous details:

Yesterday, history marched on, and the last-place Mets subjected the Cubs to a 19 to 1 rout in the worst Cubs defeat since June 1, 1957, in Cincinnati, when the Reds beat 'em, 22 to 2, on Bill Wrigley's wedding day.

Yesterday was a day the present assembly of Mets' retreads and rookies will never forget.

This was the all time high in runs and hits [23] for New York, a club that was scraped together with cash and castoffs in 1962 thru the efforts of George Weiss and Manager Casey Stengel and has suffered 259 losses in that time.

The massacre, which mercifully was exposed to only 2,5O3 paying customers and a cluster of carefree youngsters, was the 1O3d victory Stengel's Mets have achieved. It was the largest margin by which they had beaten anybody.

It's hard to imagine, almost 50 years later, how historically bad the Mets were for their first few years. 103-259 is a winning percentage of .285 -- that's the equivalent of winning 46 games in a full season, multiplied by 2⅓ years. The Mets' previous high in runs in a game had been 14; the Cubs had allowed 19 in a game three years earlier, but that was to a good team, the Giants. To allow the truly awful Mets to win by that margin...

Well, here's a story. The result of the game in Chicago made its way back to the offices of the New York Herald Tribune, now long defunct, but at the time one of NYC's biggest newspapers. Someone ran into the newsroom yelling, "The Mets scored 19 runs!" Columnist Jimmy Breslin, not missing a beat, quipped, "Did they win?"

Yes, the Mets won that game, and the 1964 Cubs suffered an embarrassing setback. They were over .500 just once that year, after winning on Opening Day, and finished 76-86.

There's one more note from the Tribune's archives from May 27, the day after that embarrassing loss. The Mets had a couple of decent pitchers (Al Jackson, Larry Bearnarth) and manager Stengel claimed teams were interested in dealing for them, perhaps including the Cubs. From the Tribune:

The Cubs, who need pitching worse than Stengel, obviously are among those interested in the Mets' mound talent. But Casey put his finger on the unlikelihood of any deal between these two teams when he jested, "I understand they want to give us [Ron] Santo for a pitcher."

Santo, who had just turned 24, was hitting .320/.415/.536 at the time with 20 RBI in 34 games; he was having his first big season, in which he led the NL in triples (!), walks and OBP. Even then-GM John Holland wouldn't have been dumb enough to trade Santo.

Here's the full 1964 scorecard image; click on it to open a larger version in a new browser window or tab.

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