The April 22 home game against the Pirates was rained out, the third such rainout of the Cubs first homestand of the year. The following day, the Cubs embarked on a three-city, eight-game road trip against National League East foes. Following a 5-2 home stand, the Cubs were 8-6 and just a game out of first place.
Game 15, April 23 - Cubs beat Cardinals 6-2 (9-6)
- Superhero - Ron Cey (.203). Ron had four plate appearances on this day and reached base four times. He singled in the second, walked in the fourth and scored, doubled in the sixth and had an RBI single in the eighth. He scored later in the eighth as part of a three run inning that busted open a 3-2 game.
- Hero - Larry Bowa (.192). It was a two-hit, three-RBI game for Larry. This game was his biggest RBI day of the season. Even more unusually, he drove in the three runs with an RBI single in the second, a squeeze in the fourth, and an RBI ground out in the eighth.
- Sidekick - Scott Sanderson (.181). The big righthander threw seven innings allowing just two runs on two hits and two walks. He allowed a home run and didn’t strike anyone out.
- Billy Goat - Henry Cotto (-.072). With a nod to Scott Sanderson who had a (-.083), Henry ends up on the top negative podium. Henry lead off on this day and was hitless in five at bats.
- Goat - Ryne Sandberg (-.060). Ryne had five plate appearances and reached just once on a hit by pitch in the ninth inning.
- Kid - Keith Moreland (-.020). The man they called “Zonk” had five plate appearances and just one walk to show for it, though he did manage to score a run.
Ron Cey was 36 years old in 1984. He made two brief cameos for the Dodgers in 1971 and 1972 before becoming a regular in 1973. Ron had 12 seasons out of his 17 year career in which he appeared in over 140 games. Ron finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting in 1973. He appeared in six straight All Star games starting in 1974. Known as “Penguin,” Cey was traded to the Cubs in January 1983 for two players, the main one being Vance Lovelace. In 1984, he appeared on MVP ballots for the fifth time in his career, finishing at 17 in the MVP voting. He had over 1,100 RBI in his career. He was fifth in the NL in home runs in 1984 with 25 and fourth in RBI with 97.
Game 16, April 24 - Cubs defeat Cardinals 3-2 (10-6)
- Superhero - Richie Hebner (.416). Despite not starting the game, Richie ends up on the top spot. He batted for the first time with two outs in the seventh inning and singled (.024). He remained in the game and got to bat again with the game tied in the ninth inning. With Bruce Sutter in his second inning of work after blowing a save in the eighth, Hebner took him deep (.392) to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
- Hero - Ryne Sandberg (.244). Ryne had two hits on the day, the first was a two out RBI single in the fifth (.170) and the last being a lead off double (.152) off of Sutter in the eighth after which he scored the tying run.
- Sidekick - Leon Durham (.228). “Bull” had an RBI single in the eighth off of Sutter to tie the game (.213) as part of a two hit game.
- Billy Goat - Jody Davis (-.345). Jody had one walk to show for four plate appearances, but lands here after grounding into a double play with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth inning (-.286).
- Goat - Ron Cey (-.103). Ron also had four plate appearances and just a walk to show for it.
- Kid - Larry Bowa (-.103). A fifth inning single after which he scored the game’s first run wasn’t enough for Larry to stay off of the podium on a one hit in four tries day.
Richie Hebner, like Ron Cey, was 36 years old in 1984 when he played for the Cubs. Richie signed as a free agent with the Cubs in 1984 and played two seasons with them. He wasn’t much of a player by the time he came to the Cubs and was used as a pinch hitter most of the time, but earlier in his career, his Baseball Reference comps include players like Gary Sheffield, Pablo Sandoval and Robin Ventura, giving some insight into the talented player he was earlier in his career. In 1974, he finished 21st in MVP voting. Between 1969 and 1980, Richie appeard in over 100 games every single year, and hit 10 or more home runs in all but one. The home run off of Sutter in 1984 was one of just two home runs he hit that season. As was noted last week, Richie was known for being a grave digger in the offseason.
Game 17, April 25 - Cubs fall to Cardinals 7-5 (10-7)
- Superhero - Richie Hebner (.101). He didn’t get a lot of starts, but on this day Richie made the most of his opportunity, collecting two hits, an RBI and a walk in four plate appearances and became the first Cub to be Superhero in consecutive games.
- Hero - Tom Veryzer (.053). It was bench day for the Cubs as spare part Veryzer also got a start and collected a hit and an RBI in three at bats.
- Sidekick - Gary Woods (.045). Woods had a pinch-hit single in the seventh but moved no further than first.
- Billy Goat - Dick Ruthven (-.348). Dick last just four innings plus four batters in the fith allowing six hits and five runs, though he didn’t walk anyone.
- Goat - Rich Bordi (-.234). Bordi came in and finished the fifth, allowing two inherited runners to score to give the Cardinals the lead at 5-4 and two runs of his own in the sixth. Rich allowed two hits and two runs in two innings of work.
- Kid - Keith Moreland (-.150). Keith was hitless in five at bats, though he did drive in a run with a ground out in the first to start the scoring. Despite being hitless in the previous four at bats, Keith was almost even on the day before dropping (-.138) after flying out with the bases loaded against Sutter to end the game.
Dick Ruthven made five starts in April 1984 and the Cubs won four of them. This was the first one that the Cubs didn’t win. In all, he threw 31⅔ innings in April and had a 2-1 record with a 4.55 ERA. At least in April he was giving them a chance to win. This start though was the beginning of a stretch of five starts in which he lost all five, throwing a total of just 23.1 innings and allowing 23 runs (21 earned). Opponents hit .350 against him with an OPS of .870 over this stretch. One week after the last of those five starts, the Cubs made their first in season pitching acquisition, trading for a future Hall of Famer.
Game 18, April 27 - Cubs lose a close one to the Pirates 3-2 (10-8)
- Superhero - Mel Hall (.169). Mel had a two for four game, with an RBI single in the second that put the Cubs up 1-0 (.107) and a one out single in the ninth with a runner on first (.089). This was his second of eight two hit games for the Cubs that season before he was traded away (spoiler alert!).
- Hero - Richie Hebner (.088). The grave digger fell one spot short of a third consecutive Superhero performance. Richie had a pinch hit single in the eighth with a runner on first and one out with the Cubs down 2-1 (.088). Unfortunately, the Cubs left the bases loaded in what most of us would surely have thought at the time “this will come back to haunt them.”
- Sidekick - Bill Buckner (.060). He pinch hit one batter before Hebner and also had a single. I was all set to make a joke about base cloggers and then I saw that Henry Cotto pinch ran for Buckner and was the one that failed to advance to third on the single.
- Billy Goat - Gary Matthews (-.228). He didn’t have a lot of them that season, but Gary was hitless in four at bats. He lands here for making the final out in the eighth with the bases loaded (-.174) against Kent Tekulve who was no slouch out of the Pirates pen.
- Goat - Jody Davis (-.156). Jody was also hitless in four tries, but comes in a notch better because he drove in a run with a ground out in the ninth to make it 3-2.
- Kid - Gary Woods (-.100). Gary pinch hit against Tekulve with two outs in the top of the ninth, a runner on second and the Cubs down 3-2 and struck out to end the game.
Jody Davis was 27 years old in 1984. He received MVP votes in both 1983 when he finished 21st and 1984 when he finished 10th. He was an All Star in 1984 and again in 1986. He won a Gold Glove in 1986. Davis had six seasons in which he played 125 games including four with over 140. He had double digit home runs in all six of those seasons. Davis had a short career of just 10 seasons. He was originally drafted by the Mets in the third round of the 1976 draft and in 1979 was traded to the Cardinals. The Cubs selected him from the Cardinals in one of the more successful Rule 5 pickups for the Cubs.
Game 19, April 28 - Cubs bounce back from consecutive losses with 7-1 win (11-8)
- Superhero - Scott Sanderson (.352). Scott had his highest game score of the season in a game in which he threw a complete game and surrendered just two hits and no walks. This was one of those games with controlling contact was a thing, as Scott drew 12 ground balls and two pop ups with just one line drive recorded. This was the third straight win for Sanderson to end April. Following into May, the Cubs won six consecutive games started by Sanderson with the pitcher picking up four wins.
- Hero - Ryne Sandberg (.244). It was a three hit game for Ryno. He singled with a runner on first in the first (.103), had a two out RBI single in the second (.121), and singled with a runner on first in the ninth (.013). He also drew a seventh inning walk (.022) and scored two runs.
- Sidekick - Gary Matthews (.086). Sarge had a hit and a walk as well as two sacrifice flies en route to driving in three runs on the day.
- Billy Goat - Leon Durham (-.084). The first baseman had a hitless day in four at bats including two strike outs.
- Goat - Ron Cey (-.062). It was another tough WPA day for Cey as he did hit a three run homer in this game (.020) as well as draw a walk. Unfortunately for Ron, it was already 4-1 in the ninth when he hit the home run and the Cubs were already almost certain to win.
- Kid - Keith Moreland (-.030). Keith had a walk in four plate appearances and did not figure in the scoring.
Hopefully, Ryne Sandberg is a guy virtually all of you are very familiar with. Ryne was drafted in the 20th round of the 1978 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. He was traded to the Cubs with Larry Bowa for Ivan DeJesus before the start of the 1982 season in what was undoubtedly one of the greatest trades in Cubs history. Sandberg appeared in 13 games for the Phillies as a utility infielder in 1981 before reaching the majors to stay in 1982 when he finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year balloting, primarily playing third base. In 1983, Ryne moved to second base on a full time basis and won the first of 11 consecutive gold gloves. In 1984, he made the first of 11 consecutive All Star selections. He won the MVP in 1984. By bWAR, he was first in WAR among position players three times, lead the league in scoring three times, lead the league in total bases once, triples once, home runs once, and has the tenth highest fielding percentage among all Major League second basemen.
Game 20, April 29 - Cubs take two out of three from Pirates with 2-1 victory (12-8)
- Superhero - Lee Smith (.285). Lee came in with no outs and a runner on first and retired three straight hitters on fly outs to center field.
- Hero - Steve Trout (.155). The lefty threw six plus innings allowing five hits, no walks and one run.
- Sidekick - Tim Stoddard (.115). Tim came in after Trout allowed the first two hitters to reach base on singles to start the seventh and allowed a sacrifice bunt, a sacrifice fly and then got the third out after allowing the inherited runner to score. He then retired the side in order in the eighth. He went back out to start the ninth, but the leadoff hitter reached on an error.
- Billy Goat - Ron Cey (-.091). He was hitless in four tries with the largest negative being a fly out in the sixth with runners on first and third and no outs (-.033).
- Goat - Jody Davis (-.065). Davis had one hit in four tries and had two strike outs. The biggest negative for Jody was a strike out with runners on first and third and one out in the sixth (-.043).
- Kid - Leon Durham (-.038). Bull had a single and three strike outs in his four at bats.
Tim Stoddard was 31 years old in 1984. He was drafted in 1974 by the Rangers but didn’t sign. The following year he was selected again, this time by the White Sox in the second round. Ultimately the Cubs acquired Stoddard in a trade with the A’s along with Stan Kyles for Stan Boderick. Tim pitched for the Cubs for just one season but won 10 games out of the pen in that one season. He pitched in parts of 13 seasons, working entirely in relief for his entire career including 1980 in which he had 26 saves. He had five seasons in which he threw in 50 or more games.
Game 21, May 1 - Cubs battered late by Mets 8-1 (12-9)
- Superhero - Mel Hall (.232). Mel finds his way to the Superhero podium for the second time on the road trip as he has another two hit game and adds a walk and an RBI on a day when the Cubs only managed four hits off of Dwight Gooden.
- Hero - Bob Dernier (.048). Dernier had two walks in five plate appearances as the Cubs did draw five walks against Gooden.
- Sidekick - Gary Matthews (.009). Singled leading off the sixth in a 0-0 game, stole second and scored on Hall’s double to give the Cubs a short lived 1-0 lead.
- Billy Goat - Dick Ruthven (-.295). This was surely a frustrating one for both Dick and the Cubs. He opened the game with five scoreless innings as the game reached the six scoreless. The Cubs scored in the top of the inning and then Ruthven allowed four singles, a double and a home run, eventually departing with one one, runners on second and third and the Cubs trailing 4-1. He would ultimately be charged with all six runs.
- Goat - Jody Davis (-.124). Davis was hitless in four at bats in the game with the largest negative being a ground out in the fourth and runners on first and second (-.052).
- Kid - Ryne Sandberg (-.098). It was one hit and three strike outs in five at bats for Ryno. The biggest negative was his strike out in the first with no outs and a runner on third (-.045). The Cubs had a runner on first with no outs and the next two hitters struck out. And you thought that only happened in modern baseball?!?
Mel Hall was just 23 years old in 1984. He had played in 112 games the year before during which he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting after hitting 17 home runs. Hall was drafted by the Cubs in the second round of the 1978 draft. He first reached the major leagues for a handful of games in 1982. A career that started with promise as that rookie season has a Baseball Reference most similar score with Andre Dawson, was derailed by off the field issues. Fortunately for the Cubs, they were able to use Hall as a trade piece in one of the more important trades in team history.
Game 22, Cubs swept by Mets in 4-3 loss (12-10)
- Superhero - Leon Durham (.120). One of three Cubs with two hits on the day, he received most of his WPA in the third inning. He singled with a runner on third and one out to drive in a run to make it 2-0 Cubs (.057). He stole second (.014). He scored on a balk (.075). It was 3-0 after that inning.
- Hero - Bob Dernier (.112). He also had two hits and scored a run. His big inning for WPA was the first and it looks a lot like Leon’s, except there was nobody on base at the time. He singled (.036), was balked to second (.025) and then stole third (.032). Unfortunately, he was stranded there. Two days in a row the Cubs had a great opportunity in the first inning and failed to cash in.
- Sidekick - Ryne Sandberg (.108). Also had two hits and a run. For the second consecutive day, he struck out after Dernier reached third with no outs in the first. He doubled in the third (.139) and Dernier scored on a fielding error on the play.
- Billy Goat - Lee Smith (-.268). Lee threw a perfect eighth inning with the game tied 3-3. He went back out for the ninth and allowed a triple, two intentional walks and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Keith Hernandez and that was that.
- Goat - Ron Cey (-.125). Cey had just one walk to show for four plate appearances with the largest negative being his first inning fly out with runners on second and third to end the inning (-.058).
- Kid - Mel Hall (-.115). Hall was hitless in four at bats with the largest negative being a fly out with two outs and a runner on first in the eighth in a tie game (-.049).
This was a tough one for Lee and it snapped a run of six consecutive scoreless outings covering a total of 8⅓ innings, during which he recorded three saves. I never remember Lee as a guy who was a dominant reliever and indeed, he was not in any way out of this world in 1984. Of course, looking over his career numbers I realize that part of the problem is that I wasn’t really watching baseball yet in 1983 when he was lights out, throwing 103⅓ innings with a 1.65 ERA. Lee pitched in 458 regular season games for the Cubs over eight seasons, more than he had for any other team. He saved 180 of those games. He pitched for 10 more years after he left the Cubs and threw in 564 more games, saving 298 of those. Very much like Cubs management at the time, I’d have never guessed he had that much left in the tank when they traded him. Lee was an All-Star six consecutive seasons beginning in 1991 which was his age 33 season. I’ve always believed that Smith was one of those guys who didn’t go into the Hall of Fame because he was viewed as a guy who hung around to pile up stats. The thing is, he didn’t really pile up a lot of stats in his last three seasons in baseball. Those did nothing to really add to his totals (just seven saves). But chopping those three seasons off, you’d have had a guy who was an All Star the last six years of his career and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting the second to last season.
Cumulative Standings (22 games)
- Richie Hebner 13
- Gary Matthews 9
- Scott Sanderson 8
- Steve Trout 6
- Ryne Sandberg 3
- Bob Dernier 3
- Dickie Noles 1
- Larry Bowa 1
- Keith Moreland 0
- Henry Cotto 0
- Gary Woods -1
- Lee Smith -2
- Rich Bordi -2
- Tim Stoddard -2
- Tom Veryzer -2
- Leon Durham -3
- Porfi Altamarino -3
- Bill Buckner -3
- Chuck Rainey -3
- Dick Ruthven -3
- Jody Davis -3
- Mel Hall -4
- Ron Cey -13
The Cubs booked a 4-4 road trip. That was a slight disappointment after winning the first two games of the trip to move four games over .500 for the first time. But treading water on the road and doing damage at home has been a baseball formula for as long as I can remember and so certainly not too disappointing. On April 29, the Cubs finished the day tied for first with the Mets after their second consecutive victory against the Pirates. The two losses in New York dropped the Cubs two games behind. One fun piece of the box score in that last Mets game is that the winning pitcher in the game was future Cubs GM Ed Lynch.
Next week, we’ll look back at the Cubs seven game homestand against California teams. We’ll see how the Cubs did against the Padres, Giants and Dodgers seeing each for the second time. I’ll also be back on Monday with a look at the ninth largest positive WPA of the year for the 2017 Cubs.