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The Time A Cubs Outfielder Lost A Ball In His Cap

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There have been many weird occurrences at Wrigley Field. This is one of the weirdest.

Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images

The fellow depicted at the top of this post is Larry Biittner, a spare-part outfielder/first baseman who played four and a half seasons for the Cubs between 1976 and 1980. He's not wearing a cap in the photo. That's a coincidence (it's the only good photo of Biittner I could find that we have the rights to publish), but a capless Biittner is the point of this story.

In the early autumn of 1979, the Cubs were winding down another disappointing season, playing their final Wrigley Field game of that season on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, September 26 against the Mets. Just 5,827 diehards -- this writer included -- were in attendance.

Our hero, Biittner, not only started this game in right field but batted cleanup, right behind Dave Kingman, which ought to give you an idea of how offensively-challenged the 1979 Cubs were.

The Mets were leading 2-0 in the top of the fourth. John Stearns led off the inning with a walk. Donnie Moore, in the only game he started that year for the Cubs (the last start of his career, in fact), picked Stearns off, but then made a throwing error allowing Stearns to take second.

Bruce Boisclair, who wasn't a very good hitter (.184/.210/.255 in 1979) was next to the plate. He hit a ball into the right-center field gap.

Our hero, now 33 years old and whatever little speed he once had pretty much gone, lumbered after Boisclair's blast. In doing so, Biittner's cap flew off, landed behind him, and somehow, the ball rolled directly into it.

He couldn't see it from where he was and looked around quizzically. However, those of us in the right-field bleachers (where I sat in those days) could clearly see the ball in Biittner's cap.

As Boisclair (who wasn't a very fast man either) chugged around the bases, those of us who could see the ball started yelling, "Hat! Hat!" Whether Biittner could hear us or not, he finally figured out where the ball was, retrieved it from his cap, and flung it toward the infield with all his might.

Biittner's throw was right on the money. Third baseman Steve Ontiveros caught the ball and tagged Boisclair out trying to stretch his hat-double into a triple. What could have been complete embarrassment turned into this funny anecdote that I relate to you today, 36 years later. I wish video of this game had survived, but it doesn't appear that there's any around today. The Cubs eventually lost the game 8-3. Biittner singled and walked and scored two of the Cubs' three runs, in addition to his defensive, uh, "heroics."

Biittner played one more year for the Cubs in 1980 and then two in Cincinnati and one in Texas before hanging it up. Boisclair played just four more big-league games; he was released by the Mets at the end of spring training in 1980 and played a year in Japan before leaving baseball. But the two will be forever remembered, at least by this writer, for one wacky play at Wrigley Field in 1979.