I mentioned Cubs manager Joe McCarthy earlier in this series and in the comments, it was suggested that I look into exactly how he came to leave the Cubs, which was one of the biggest mistakes made by owner William Wrigley and team president William Veeck, because McCarthy went on to manage 16 more years and win eight pennants and seven World Series.
Turns out, and I had forgotten, I did all that last year in the Game From Cubs History series. Re-reading what I wrote, it appears that what happened is that Wrigley and Veeck had made up their minds to let McCarthy go, and they allowed him to resign, due to the respect they had for him. (I know -- if they had that much respect, why not let him stay?) McCarthy was asked to manage the rest of the year, but he left with four games left. The Cubs won all of them, but still fell short of the pennant, after leading the National League much of the way.
Part of that way ran through Wrigley Field August 28, a game against the Cardinals that started in a rather ordinary way; the Cardinals took a 5-0 lead into the seventh inning, but the Cubs tied the game with three in that inning and two more in the eighth. And then... no one scored for quite a while. Both teams scored twice in the 15th inning. The Cubs tied the game in the bottom of the inning; Edward Burns of the Tribune describes what happened next, with one out in the inning:
Bell moved to second on Osborn's sacrifice hit, which Bottomley captured for the first of his two superb plays of the inning. Blair was then given an intentional pass. English shot a single over first which Bottomley knocked down with a great dive. He recovered the ball and, throwing while still on his knees, got the ball to Jimmy Wilson. It evaded Wilson momentarily, but the Cardinal catcher somersaulted, grabbed the ball from under his body, and tagged Bell for the putout which saved the game for the Cardinals.
Note 1 on that play: Wilson later became Cubs manager, from 1940 through the first 10 games of 1944. A 1-9 start that year got him fired.
Note 2 on that play: If Wilson doesn't make that play, the Cubs win the game. At the time, the Cubs had a five-game lead, and the Cardinals were in fourth place. St. Louis won the pennant by two games, 92-62 to 90-64. If the Cubs win that game, the two teams would have been tied at 91-63 and had to play a tiebreaker -- which would have been the first such game in major-league history.
The game continued, and Burns picks up the story:
Then came the twentieth inning, which probably would have been the last inning regardless of the happenings therein, for it was 7 o'clock and darkness was gathering. But the Cards were after their ninth straight and wanted no tie. A single by Douthit, an infield out, and a single by High gave them the ball game, and placed them in position to go after their tenth straight this afternoon.
Sunset in Chicago on August 28, 1930 was 7:38 p.m., so indeed, it's likely that the game would have been called after the 20th inning had neither team scored. The boxscore indicates a game time of 4:10; in those days a 3 p.m. start meant 3 p.m., not 3:05, so it was 7:10 when the game ended, getting too dark to play another inning. Again, if the game had been declared a tie, it would have had to be replayed from the start, under the rules of the time. What if the Cubs win that? Again -- that would have forced a pennant tiebreaker.
The Cubs remained in first place for two weeks after this game; as late as September 6, following a 19-14 win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh, they had a four-game lead. That's four games up with 17 remaining, a lead they blew.
What if they hadn't? Would that have saved McCarthy's job? I'd guess if the Cubs had won their second straight pennant in 1930, Wrigley and Veeck would have kept him. How different the history of the Cubs -- and maybe the Yankees -- would have been.
Finally, this 20-inning game is one of only three games of that many innings or longer in Wrigley Field history. The first was a 21-inning, 2-1 win over the Phillies July 17, 1918. The 1930 game was the second, and it took 52 years to have another one, a game that began on August 17, 1982, suspended and finished the next day, a 2-1 loss to the Dodgers. The longest game by innings in Cubs history was May 17, 1927, a 4-3 win over the Braves in Boston.