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The Time The Cubs Played 4 Doubleheaders... In 4 Days

An even more grueling schedule than the one I wrote about previously.

This is how tired Cubs players, including Fergie Jenkins, must have looked after eight games in four days.
Getty Images

After I wrote about the Cubs’ stretch of four doubleheaders in eight days in 1968, I got this note via Twitter that they had an even tougher stretch a year earlier:

So I did, in fact, check that out. This ridiculous stretch of baseball was forced by what the New York Times termed “the rainiest summer since 1938.” The Cubs were scheduled to play a four-game series against the Mets at Shea Stadium on August 25, 26 and 27, 1967, with a doubleheader scheduled for the final date, a Sunday.

But it rained, and rained, and rained. The Friday, August 25 game was the first one postponed, wrote Richard Dozer in the Tribune:

Tonight’s opener was called off in mid-afternoon after 24 hours of continuous rain showed no sign of letting up in New York City. The forecast is better for tomorrow, so two games are on the program, giving New Yorkers — plus a fan tour of 250 Chicagoans — successive double headers for the weekend.

That didn’t work out at all. The forecast was good enough for the teams to start play on Saturday, August 26, but they fell just short of getting one game in. Dozer reported the teams played four innings, scoreless, before rain washed that out:

The delay was more than an hour before umpires finally called off the operation, which was to have been a double header to make up a game rained out the night before. The field was termed “unplayable, even if it stops raining.”

All of a sudden the Cubs found out they will have a full week of baseball activity at Wrigley field starting Monday after all.

The open date which appears next Thursday on the schedule now will be filled with at least one of the make-up games with the Mets, a Cub spokesman said.

And what was to have been a four-game series will now become six with a scheduled double header on Friday and another one on one of the other days of the series.

The Cubs and Mets did manage to play one game on the final date of the scheduled series at Shea, but even that game was shortened by rain to eight innings, with the second game postponed. Dozer wrote:

Nobody seemed quite certain here just how many of the three washouts in this series would be hooked onto the 4-game set which was to have opened Friday but now will begin with a single game Thursday — an open date for both clubs.

There will be a double header Friday. This had been on the card for a long time. The question hinges on the wisdom — or necessity — of putting double headers on Thursday, Saturday or Sunday. The following Monday, Labor Day, is the date of another double header.

That Monday DH was on the original schedule, against the Dodgers. As it turned out, the only way to make up the three rainouts was, in fact, to schedule two more double headers (it was written as two words back then):

The Chicago Cubs will play four double headers in four days this week-end, and baseball historians were stumped yesterday trying to discover the last time — if ever — that a major league team had played eight games in four days.

I don’t know that the answer to that was ever found, and certainly the Cubs haven’t done that in the nearly 50 years since then, but they wound up with a seven-game series against the Mets at Wrigley: a single game on an open date as noted above, then three straight doubleheaders.

The Cubs won five of the seven against the Mets, including two by shutout. The Mets were still pretty awful that year, losing 101 games, and the Cubs had briefly contended for the pennant before winding up 87-74. The Cubs finished that stretch of games by splitting the already-scheduled Labor Day doubleheader with the Dodgers. They bookended this nine-game stretch with identical 2-1, 11-inning wins: an RBI single by Al Spangler scoring Ernie Banks beat the Mets August 31, and Banks hit a walkoff homer off Don Sutton in the second game of the doubleheader September 4.

All told, the Cubs went 6-3 in those nine games, pretty good for such a tough stretch of baseball. Chuck Hartenstein, a workhorse reliever who had a good year overall in 1967, pitched in five of the nine games, posting two wins, a save and a loss -- the latter in the first game of the DH vs. the Dodgers, where he entered with a runner on, nobody out and a two-run lead in the ninth and proceeded to allow four straight hits, blowing the save and the game.

And that’s how the Cubs wound up playing 83 home games in 1967 and just 78 road games (one other home game, against the Cardinals in late September, was rained out and not rescheduled). You can look up all the boxscores here.

Back then there were no rules preventing teams from playing on 20 or more consecutive days, as there are now. The only way such a thing, or anything close, could happen today would be under similar circumstances, where a team’s final visit to one city got completely washed out and there was one series remaining in the other city. Still, in modern baseball some of those games might not be played at all if they had no bearing on playoff races.

Oh, and as for Randy Hundley? He started and played every inning of eight of those nine games, and came in to catch the last three innings of the one he didn’t start.

It was a different era of baseball, that’s for sure.