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The Top 20 Cub HR Of All Time - #3 Kiki Cuyler 8/31/1932

Here's one you probably didn't expect to see on this list.

Or maybe you did -- if you read the top 100 profile of Kiki Cuyler that I wrote a year ago. The 1932 Cubs, who won the pennant by four games, had to come from behind -- as late as late July, they were 5.5 games out of first place. But they had a 22-6 August -- one of the best months in Cub history, capped by a 14-game winning streak which put them as many as 8 games ahead, and they were never seriously challenged after that.

The winning streak was, in large part, due to an unbelievable sequence of hitting by Cuyler. Here's what I wrote about it last year:

8/27, first game vs. Giants: Three-run homer, Cubs won, 6-1, eighth win in a row. Second game, single and run, nine straight wins.

8/28, vs. Giants Three hits, 8th inning homer, game-winning sac fly, Cubs won 5-4, 1O straight.

8/30, vs. Giants: Two hits, two RBI, 8th inning homer, 5-4 win, 11 straight.

8/31, vs. Giants: Four hits. Singled in a four-run ninth that tied the game at 5-5. Giants scored four in the top of the tenth, taking a 9-5 lead. In the last of the tenth, after the first two men are out, the Cubs score two and have two on for Cuyler, who hits a walkoff HR for a 1O-9 win, their 12th straight.

9/2, vs. Cardinals: homer, fifth in six games, 8-5, 13 straight. The Cubs' winning streak reached 14, then halted on a day Cuyler was hitless; perhaps that wasn't a coincidence.

Read that August 31 description again. The Cubs had come from four runs behind to tie the game in the ninth, then gave up four runs in the top of the tenth, and got to within 9-7 with two runners on base when Cuyler hit a three-run walkoff -- not too dissimilar to Aramis Ramirez' two-run walkoff last June 29. If a game like August 31, 1932 happened today, it would be legendary. Bill Veeck said it was the greatest game he ever saw; this quote from his book Veeck as in Wreck was also in the Cuyler profile:

I saw him (my father, Wm. Veeck Sr., Cubs president) forget his dignity only once. He was entitled to this one fall, for it came at the end of the greatest ball game I have ever seen...

Late in the season, we were playing the Giants to break a tie for first place, a game of such importance that we found Judge Landis sitting with my father. The Giants seemed to have the game sewed up right into the ninth inning when the Cubs scored four runs to tie it up. The Giants bounced right back with four runs in their half of the tenth.

In our half, the first two batters went out. Mark Koenig kept us alive with a home run. The next three batters got on to load the bases. Up came Kiki Cuyler, representing the winning run. And Cuyler belted one. The ball was still climbing over the fence when William Veeck, Sr. let out a rebel yell and vaulted over the railing. Marsh (Bill Jr.'s friend) and I had leaped out toward the railing, too, but we were somewhat delayed because we had to untangle ourselves from the harrumphing Commissioner. By the time we got onto the field, my father was in the very center of a mob scene, grabbing for Cuyler's hand.

Veeck didn't get the details quite right -- it was a three-run walkoff, not a grand slam, and it wasn't to break a first-place tie (the Cubs were already 7.5 games ahead going into August 31) -- but he captured the mood perfectly. If only there were film existing of this moment. Cuyler is one of the most forgotten of the great Cubs of the 1930's, likely because he died so young (at age 51, of a heart attack, in 1950). He's in the Hall of Fame, and if not for several serious injuries might have wound up with 3000 hits. His .325 average as a Cub ranks fourth all-time on the team list.