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​The 40th Anniversary Of The Worst Cubs Day Ever​

The Cubs have had a lot of bad days in their history. But dear reader, 40 years ago today they topped 'em all.

Rennie Stennett
Rennie Stennett
Sporting News via Getty Images

I've written many times here about how the Pirates dominated the Cubs in the 1970s. From 1970 through 1980, a period when the Cubs were sort-of contenders but the Pirates dominated the National League by winning the N.L. East six times and also taking two World Series during that span.

The Cubs went 74-121 against the Pirates for those 11 seasons, by far their worst record (.379 winning percentage, next worst was vs. the Astros, .424) against any team. But there was one of those 195 games that rose above, to become the worst of the worst.

No game epitomized the dominance of the Pirates over the Cubs than the game played at Wrigley Field 40 years ago today, September 16, 1975. The Pirates were close to clinching the N.L. East title and the Cubs were on their way to a 75-87 season. Just 4,932 fans filed into Wrigley Field, not knowing they were about to see an historic game.

The Pirates shut out the Cubs 22-0, the biggest shutout game in major-league history. In the Tribune the following day, Richard Dozer started by recapping the facts of the game, then continued:

It was the biggest rout ever started and finished by brothers. Rick Reuschel faced nine in the first inning, and eight of them scored in what became a nine-run outpouring finished against Tom Dettore. Later, when the onslaught was winding down, Paul Reuschel pitched two scoreless innings.

Another record: most organists to play in one game. Nancy Faust chose this occasion to drop in on Frank Pellico, and the White Sox music lady sat in to play a couple of tunes after a six-run fifth inning made the scoreboard read something like 18-0.

Nancy left at this point, but most of the 4,932 who paid to see history being made were still on hand. Among them was Jim Kaat, White Sox pitcher who came home a day ahead of time and offered another record. He was probably the only active 20-game winner to watch a game with this many "firsts" while sitting in street clothes, although he, too, left early -- not wanting to pick up any bad habits, perhaps.

Beyond the record shutout, another mark was set in this game by Pirates second baseman Rennie Stennett. When he tripled in the eighth inning, it was his seventh hit of the game, in seven at-bats. Stennett is the only player to have seven hits in a nine-inning game in modern baseball. Wilbert Robinson did it playing for Brooklyn in 1892, but that was before the pitching distance was standardized at 60 feet, six inches.

I wasn't at this game, but Mike Bojanowski was, and sent me this regarding Stennett's seventh hit:

It was a slicing line drive to right, Champ Summers charged it, then pulled up to play the first hop. The ball had so much spin that after it landed it bounced almost straight left, hit the brick wall just beyond the bullpen mounds and rolled down the drainage gutter that used to be along both foul lines. By the time Summers ran it down and threw it in, Stennett had made third base, and was then removed for a pinch-runner: Willie Randolph, playing in his 24th major-league game. I knew of Wilbert Robinson's record, and so paid particular attention. As it happened, Stennett's spot in the order nearly came up again. Note the time of game.

Here is Mike's scorecard from the game (link opens .pdf).

This game stood alone as the biggest shutout in MLB history for nearly 29 years, until the Indians matched it by shutting out the Yankees 22-0 on August 31, 2004, and Cleveland had to score six runs in the ninth to do that. It's still the National League record for such things.

Perhaps the Cubs can avenge this 40-year-old drubbing tonight in Pittsburgh.