A Day In Wrigley Field History: May 31, 1954

David Banks

The Cubs scored a lot of runs in 1954. This game is a good example of how they did it.

The 1954 Cubs probably should have had a better record than the 64-90 they finished up with. They scored 700 runs -- a decent total for the era -- and allowed 766, for a 71-83 Pythagorean record, even though no one calculated those things in those days. Seven games below the Pythagorean record for an entire season is quite a bit.

Why did this happen? Because the 1954 Cubs were good in both hitting home runs (159, third in the league) and allowing home runs (131). Further, the Cubs' pitchers led the league in walks allowed with a horrifying total of 619 (4.01 per game), thus assuring that there would be plenty of baserunners aboard when opponents went deep.

The Cubs' 14-4 win over the Cardinals May 31 was a perfect example. Edward Prell of the Tribune describes the fun:

Hank Sauer blasted homers the only two times he was permitted to swing by rookie Bill Greason and Cotton Deal, his successor and much more harshly treated associate. Sauer, raising his total to 16, broke a tie with the Cardinals' Stan Musial for the major league lead.

In his other two times up, Sauer was walked, once purposely, an errant piece of strategy because Randy Jackson, the next batter, hit his ninth.

Others joining in the Cubs' biggest home run festival of the season were Ernie Banks, Bill Serena and Pitcher Paul Minner.

As many runs as were scored, the reason I chose this game wasn't solely for the home-run barrage, but because that game made it only through seven innings due to rain -- and the rain washed out not only the last two innings, but another scheduled game:

Then came the big spill which forced suspension of play for 59 minutes before umpires called off the scheduled doubleheader. But the drenched spectators, officially 34,268, saw enough in those seven power packed innings to agree that the downpour had not spoiled their day.

In 1954, all Wrigley Field games, including doubleheaders, started at 1:30. The teams had played for an hour and 53 minutes before the rain delay. The 59-minute delay means that the afternoon's festivities were called off at approximately 4:20 p.m. This is another example of poor field conditions and (perhaps) a forecast of an all-day rainstorm forcing postponement of a game that today would likely be played. Of course, weather radars didn't exist in 1954, so there was no real way of knowing if or whether the rain would clear in time to either finish the first game or even start the second before darkness hit.

It was a different time, when not as much money was at stake and a postponement wasn't thought of as a big deal. As in 1950, the 1954 Cubs played 30 doubleheaders; the postponed second game was made up as part of a doubleheader September 21. The second game of that twin bill also lasted just seven innings, that time due to darkness.

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