The Cubs had briefly contended for division titles in 1977, 1978 and 1979, and there was no reason to think 1980 would be any different, even though manager Herman Franks had quit near the end of the '79 season, apparently disgusted with the attitude of some of his players.
Thus Pedro "Preston" Gomez, former manager of the San Diego Padres, took over for the 1980 season and the Cubs came home after a season-opening trip to New York and Pittsburgh, sweeping the Mets and outscoring them 22-13 in a three-game set, setting up a series with the division rival Cardinals to begin April 22.
It was warm and windy that day, as it had been so many times over the previous decade in April in Chicago. But this day was warmer and windier than most. At 1:20, game time, the temperature at Wrigley Field was reported as 85 degrees, with a 22 mile-per-hour wind blowing out.
The results were what you might have expected; Cardinals hitters smacked three home runs and scored 12 runs -- in the first five innings. They led 12-9 going into the bottom of the seventh and... well, let me allow Richard Dozer of the Tribune tell what happened:
"From batting practice on," Preston Gomez observed quietly afterward, "you could see it was going to be one of those days." And the Cub manager was right. The Cardinals scored in each of the first five innings for a total of 12 runs, but, strangely, nothing after that. The Cubs never led until the storybook ending. Ivan DeJesus hit for the cycle -- and then some -- for the first time in his career. And finally, Barry Foote climaxed the greatest day in his major-league career -- eight runs batted in -- with a dramatic grand slam with two out in the ninth that put the crusher on the Cardinals, beating them 16-12 before a delirious Wrigley Field crowd of 18,889. His first, in the eighth, tied the score at 12-12.
"Delirious" is right. I remember this one well; people were walking out of Wrigley that afternoon as if the Cubs had just won the World Series, not just improved their record to 6-3 in the very young season. It was mostly downhill from there, although the Cubs managed to hang around .500 until early June. From a 22-22 mark June 3, they went 42-76 the rest of the way, by far the worst in the National,League rom that point, and manager Gomez was fired not long after the All-Star break, with the Cubs floundering in last place. Just one Cub -- Mark Grace on May 9, 1993 -- has hit for the cycle since DeJesus did it on this 1980 day.
The temperature eventually got to 92 degrees that warm and windy Tuesday afternoon. It still stands as the warmest day ever in Chicago in the month of April.