As most of you know, I like quickly-played games. Those are a vanishing species; the Cubs played just six games in 2013 in fewer than two hours, just one in less than 2:15.
That wasn't the case back in the 1970s, but even then, few games went as quickly as the first game of a doubleheader between the fourth-place Cubs and first-place Phillies on this Tuesday afternoon in August. Oddly enough, this was a scheduled doubleheader -- why the Cubs scheduled a DH for a random Tuesday in August is beyond me. Anyway, two masters of control, the Cubs' Rick Reuschel and the Phillies' Jim Kaat, matched up in Game 1.
Kaat had reinvented himself after an injury and was pitching without a windup. Reuschel always challenged hitters and threw strikes. Bob Logan recapped the action in the Tribune:
All good things must come to an end, but they should last a trifle longer than the Cubs' five-game winning streak. Rick Reuschel blanked the Phillies 4-0 in the opener of Tuesday's Wrigley Field double-header and the 27,638 fans were basking in bright sunshine, thinking about the delightful prospect of a sweep. The fans' euphoria lasted just long enough for Steve Stone to unleash the first pitch of the nightcap. Wham. Dave Cash rapped it to right for his customary single and the Phillies were on their way to an 8-5 victory.
There was absolutely no mention anywhere in Logan's recap about the lengths of the two games. The first game was completed in one hour, 32 minutes -- that's the quickest game in Wrigley Field in at least the last 40 years. Game 2 took a bit longer, with more run scoring: 2:19. Mike Bojanowski was at that doubleheader -- here's his recollection of the day's events:
On the face of it, nothing about either remotely suggests that one would be the shortest single game, and the pair the shortest doubleheader, at Wrigley Field in years, and ever since. Concentrating on the more remarkable first game, consider these combined numbers: eighteen hits, fourteen left on base, only two double plays, two bases on balls, six time-consuming strikeouts. But, consider also: much shorter between-innings times, two complete games, half the runs scoring on time-saving home runs, and two starters renowned for their speed in-game. The last one is the rub. As I recall, the pace of the game was remarkable from the outset, and all of us in our little group noticed early. There are a handful of games I've seen wherein a starting pitcher falls into a rhythm that seems almost as though a spell has been cast. Frank Castillo's one-hitter was like that, but only on his end. I've seen Mark Buehrle throw three starts like that, including both no-hitters. This game had both pitchers in that rhythm. What I remember is a game played with no wasted motion, as though an efficiency expert were in charge. This is one game for which I'd love to see a pitch-count. It should perhaps also be noted that it was a scheduled doubleheader, and not a getaway day, no subconscious pressure to get things done. The first game began at 12:03 pm (I used to make that notation in my cards), a little late, but typical. It ended at 1:35; the second game began at 2:03, and ended at 4:22. I lived in Cary in those days, a 40-mile train ride, and used to judge the speed of my postgame getaways by whether I could catch a certain super express that used to leave Northwestern Station at the beginning of the evening rush. I only occasionally could catch it after single games. That was the only DH I was ever able to catch that train from. Those of us who were there (and have since rolled our eyes at many a four-hour crawler), always remembered those games with a certain bemused reverence, even though there was otherwise nothing special about them.
Try doing that with a doubleheader in 2014. For that matter, try doing what Reuschel did that day in modern baseball. He threw a nine-hit shutout -- all singles. The Phillies did get a couple of runners in scoring position, but Reuschel got out of one of those with a double play, another with Jerry Morales throwing a runner out at the plate. There have been 86 CG shutouts thrown with nine or more hits allowed since Reuschel's -- that's a little more than two per year -- but just three of those since 2006, one by current Cub Edwin Jackson for the White Sox against the Tigers in 2011.