The 1986 Cubs never had a chance. Eight games under .500 and 10½ games out of first place by May 17, they were never going to catch the Mets. New York won 108 games and won the division by 20½ games; Cubs manager Jim Frey was fired and Gene "Stick" Michael was hired to replace him. It didn't make any difference; the team was just as bad after the managerial change.
Thus we were reduced to trying to find interest in unusual or weird or wild games, and the one at Wrigley Field against the Astros September 2 filled all of those categories, and more. To begin with, it was started by two pitchers who combined for 593 big-league wins, Nolan Ryan and Jamie Moyer. (That total presumes Moyer doesn't come back yet again.)
Houston was headed to a N.L. West title and the Cubs were falling toward the bottom of the N.L. East, but a sacrifice fly by Jody Davis scored Bob Dernier with a run in the last of the ninth to tie the game 4-4. Little did the players know that they'd be playing for quite some time after that happened.
The Cubs came close to ending it in the bottom of the 11th on an extremely weird sequence. Even with extra players on the roster due to September callups, Michael sent Rick Sutcliffe up to bat for reliever Frank DiPino. Sutcliffe got hit by a pitch, upon which Michael sent another pitcher, Scott Sanderson, in to run for him. A pitch bounced in the dirt and Keith Moreland, who was on second, tried to advance. Moreland was thrown out while Sanderson took second. Michael then sent in another pinch-runner, Manny Trillo, to take Sanderson's place now that he was in scoring position. The Cubs loaded the bases with two out, but Thad Bosley struck out to end the inning.
The Cubs, in that pre-lights era, had some weekday games start at 3:05. It wasn't such a great idea to do that so late in the season; sunset September 2, 1986 in Chicago was 7:23 p.m. Here's what happened in the top of the 15th inning, according to Phil Hersh in the Tribune:
It was dark at least an inning before the game was suspended at 7:13 p.m. with the score tied 4-4 after 14 innings. It will be resumed Wednesday at 12:O5 p.m., followed by the scheduled game. A fan was walking through the stands with a lighted match when that noted torch singer, Harry Caray, sang for his supper with a second seventh-inning-stretch rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." That came at 7:O6 p.m., Central No Longer Daylight Time, but the game had moved into the twilight zone before that. This was the fourth game suspended this year, two of them after 3:O5 starts. The umpires' persistence in letting the teams keep roaming in the gloaming seemed like another part of management's plan to underscore the need for lights at Wrigley Field. In Dernier's mind, it wasn't just the extra innings or the time of year that created the problems. "You can't see after 5 p.m. all year, and they've known that for a long time."
(This is why, now, you'll often see the lights turned on in the late afternoon on sunny days; they do help with visibility in the infield.)
When this game was resumed the next afternoon, more frivolity occurred. 53 players participated in this mess -- 26 Astros and 27 Cubs -- and the game appeared to be over when Houston put together a three-run rally off Dave Gumpert in the top of the 17th. But the Cubs mounted a comeback against Astros reliever Julio Solano. Ryne Sandberg led off the inning with a walk, and Dernier doubled him to third. Keith Moreland tied the game with a three-run homer, and here's where it got really weird. It was now 7-7, with nobody out, and the middle of the order up -- except the "cleanup" hitter was now Manny Trillo.
Trillo flied to center, and Davis walked.
That's when one of the most popular Cubs of all time made his major-league debut.
Yes, that's right. Greg Maddux, just 20 years old and in his first callup, made his first appearance on a big-league field as a pinch-runner for Jody Davis. He advanced to second on a two-out single by Shawon Dunston, but was stranded.
Maddux was left in the game to pitch the 18th inning. He got Craig Reynolds to ground out, but then former Cub Billy Hatcher homered off him, the first major-league run Maddux allowed. The Cubs were retired 1-2-3 in the last of the 18th to end the game with an 8-7 Cubs loss. It's just around the time Maddux tried what became known as the "porn star mustache" you see above, presumably in an attempt to make himself look older.
And now you can win trivia bar bets with the question, "Which all-time great pitcher made his major-league debut as a pinch-runner?" (Presumably, a year from now, you can substitute "Hall of Fame" for "all-time great".)