A Day In Wrigley Field History: May 2, 1956

Courtesy Mike Bojanowski

After decades of being one of the top teams in the National League, the Cubs were in a two-decade slumber; 1956 was one of the worst years in that stretch.

Despite the smiling faces and sunshine shown on that year's Wrigley Field scorecard pictured above, 1956 was a bad Cubs year. They lost 94 games (though, again, were below their Pythagorean projection by five games). It was the second year in three for 90-plus losses and the team never came close to contention, eventually finishing 33 games out of first place.

Once again, the Cubs played an inordinately large number of doubleheaders -- 33 of them (based on the usual pattern of Sunday/holiday doubleheaders being scheduled, it appears the Cubs had 20 scheduled twin bills and the rest were makeups of rainouts or games called for darkness).

They swept four, got swept 12 times, and split 14 of them, with the other three involving a tie game. Overall, they were 24-39-3 in doubleheader games, a bit better than their 1950 showing, and were still well under .500 (36-55) in games not involved in doubleheaders. Also, due primarily to darkness, but also to rain, the 1956 Cubs had a large total of nine games that went less than nine innings.

Looking through all that, I decided to choose what I thought to be the most pathetic loss of 1956 and write about it here. With 94 to choose from, there were a lot of possibilities, but I settled on this game, a 6-5 loss to the Giants in 17 innings in front of a very small crowd of 2,389.

Here's how Irving Vaughan recapped it in the Tribune:

An army of 25 Giants and one of 23 Cubs battled through 17 innings yesterday in Wrigley field and, after 5 hours and 13 minutes, the home troops netted their seventh straight defeat. The score of the melee was 6 to 5 and, except for its length, it was hardly spectacular. 

Anyway, the losers had the dubious satisfaction of participating in a record breaking event, and for the New Yorkers, it was a case of double satisfaction. The previous high for players in a game was 42. The record for one team was 24 and the Giants boosted that by one. And Don Hoak, Cub third baseman, set a National league mark by fanning six times.

The six K's in one game by Hoak is still the National League (and major league) record; it's been matched by one National Leaguer (Geoff Jenkins of the Brewers in 2004) and five American League players since Hoak's non-performance. The total number of players record has since been broken; it's now 53, set in this Cubs/Astros suspended game from 1986.

Here's how it all ended, described by Vaughn:

Stan Hack's fifth pitcher was Jim Brosnan, who came along in the 16th, and held his own, even tho he had filled the bases. The lethal punch dazed him. It was a double by Al Dark, who proceeded to third on a wild pitch. The situation called for intentional passes to Willie Mays and Dusty Rhodes. Spencer hit a fly ball that drove Dark across.

The Cubs, who had a potential winning run on second with none out against Joe Margoneri, in the 16th, only to do another fade-out, still were trying to get back into a tie in the 17th. Clyde McCullough batted for Brosnan and paddled a two-bagger to left with two out. Ruben Gomez promptly became the eighth Giants pitcher. He ended it with Hoak's sixth strikeout.

Pathetic enough for you? How about this post-game report from Wrigley?

Ralph O. d'Albert, 58, of 102 E. Chestnut st., died of a heart attack yesterday after being stricken in a box seat at Wrigley field. He was a regional manager of the Topics Publishing Co., 520 N. Michigan av., publisher of trade papers. D'Albert and Vincent Francis, 8049 Langley av., a regional manager of the same firm, were chatting prior to the Chicago Cubs-New York Giants game when d'Albert was stricken.

A sad event, indeed.

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