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1969 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: Part 4

Cubs get some very good pitching, would it be enough?

Al Spangler
Wikimedia Commons

After going 3-4 in the third week of the season, the Cubs were hoping to get back into a groove to close out the month of April. They’d have three games in Philadelphia against a Phillies team that wasn’t much of a contender to start the week. Then they’d come back home to face the same Mets team they had just taken three of four from. Once again, they’d face the Mets for four games in three days. Let’s see if the Cubs were able to take care of business and buff up their one-game division lead.

Game 21, April 28: Cubs 2, Phillies 1; 10 innings (15-6)

The Cubs outlasted the Phillies in a pitchers’ duel. Rick Wise actually went the distance for the Phillies, allowing just a single earned run and lowering his ERA to 1.42. The Cubs got their initial run in the sixth and the Phillies got their only run on a solo homer in the seventh. Wise and Cub starter Ken Holtzman were both fantastic.

  • Superhero: Ted Abernathy (.380). 1⅔ IP, 2H, 1BB, 0R, 0K
  • Hero: Don Kessinger (.248). 1-4, 2B, R, RBI
  • Sidekick: Ken Holtzman (.217). 8⅓ IP, 3H, 1BB, 1R, 9K
  • Billy Goat: Randy Hundley (-.128). 0-4, BB
  • Goat: Ernie Banks (-.091). 1-4, BB, 2K
  • Kid: Billy Williams (-.041). 1-3, 2BB, 1K

Game 22, April 29: Cubs 10, Phillies 0 (16-6)

The Cubs reached 10 games over .500 for the second time with a trouncing of the Phillies. The Phillies managed only four hits off of Ferguson Jenkins, who registered a fourth consecutive complete game victory. Meanwhile, the Cubs scored one in the first, three in the third and four in the fourth to put this one out of reach quickly.

  • Superhero: Billy Williams (.232). 2-4, 3B, R, 2RBI, K
  • Hero: Fergie Jenkins (.150). 9IP, 4H, 1BB, 0R, 7K
  • Sidekick: Don Kessinger (.106). 3-4, BB, 2 2B, 4R, 2RBI
  • Billy Goat: Ernie Banks (-.034). 0-4, 2K
  • Goat: Randy Hundley (-.007). 2-5, R
  • Kid: Nate Oliver/Willie Smith (.000). Both 0-1

Game 23, April 30: Cubs 1, Phillies 3 (16-7)

The Cubs had to settle for two out of three in Philadelphia. Cubs bats pushed across only a single run in the second inning. Bill Hands allowed single runs in the first, fifth and sixth and took is second loss in five decisions. The Cubs had seven hits and drew a couple of walks and a hit by pitch, but the offense was slowed by three double plays.

  • Superhero: Glenn Beckert (.074). 2-4
  • Hero: Randy Hundley (.034). 1-3, HBP
  • Sidekick: Phil Regan (.026). 1⅓ IP, 0H, 1BB, 0R, 1K
  • Billy Goat: Ernie Banks (-.224). 0-4, DP
  • Goat: Billy Williams (-.166). 1-4, K, DP
  • Kid: Bill Hands (-.105). 6IP, 8H, 2BB, 3R, 4K

Game 24, May 2: Cubs 6, Mets 4 (17-7)

With this win, the Cubs had a seven-game lead on the Mets in the division. This one was scoreless until the fourth inning when the Cubs busted out for four runs, including two solo homers by Ron Santo and Al Spangler. The Mets answered with two in the fifth, but the Cubs added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings and held on for a 6-4 win. Ken Holtzman moved to 3-1 and Phil Regan picked up save number two.

  • Superhero: Al Spangler (.210). 2-4, HR, 2B, 2R, 3RBI
  • Hero: Ron Santo (.181). 2-4, HR, R, 2RBI
  • Sidekick: Ken Holtzman (.129). 5⅓ IP, 4H, 3BB, 2R, 4K
  • Billy Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.056). 1-4
  • Goat: Billy Williams (-.049). 0-4, 1K
  • Kid: Randy Hundley (-.022). 1-3, 3B, BB, CS

Game 25, May 3: Cubs 3, Mets 2 (18-7)

The Cubs won for the sixth time in eight games to move 11 games over .500 and eight games ahead of the Mets. This one wasn’t easy. They fell behind 2-0 after three innings, after the Mets plated single runs in the second and third innings off of Fergie Jenkins. Mets starter Nolan Ryan threw 6⅓ scoreless innings, but his bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. The Cubs scored a run in the seventh and then two in the eighth on their way to victory. Jenkins had his streak of four consecutive complete games snapped. Phil Regan vultured the win in relief.

  • Superhero: Ron Santo (.401). 2-4, 3B, R, RBI
  • Hero: Al Spangler (.277). 0-2, BB
  • Sidekick: Adolfo Phillips (.242). BB, RBI
  • Billy Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.173). 0-4
  • Goat: Manny Jimenez (-.165). 0-1, K
  • Kid: Gene Oliver (-.141). 0-1, K

Game 26, May 4: Cubs 2, Mets 3 (18-8)

The Mets turned the tide on the Cubs with a 3-2 win of their own in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader. The Cubs scored a single run in the second off of Mets starter Tom Seaver. But the Mets scored one in the fourth and two more in the fifth off Bill Hands. The Cubs scored a second run off of Seaver in the fifth, but that was it. Seaver held the Cubs scoreless over the final four for the complete game win and moved back within seven of the Cubs.

  • Superhero: Al Spangler (.127). 2-4, 3B, RBI, K
  • Hero: Rich Nye (.113). 2IP, 2H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
  • Sidekick: Don Kessinger (.084). 2-4, 2B, SH, R
  • Billy Goat: Ernie Banks (-.194). 0-4, K
  • Goat: Billy Williams (-.181). 0-4, IBB, RBI
  • Kid: Glenn Beckert (-.162). 1-5.

Game 27, May 4: Cubs 2, Mets 3 (18-9)

In a little bit of oddity, the two teams played three consecutive 3-2 games. The Cubs lost both of them in a single day against the Mets and dropped to a mere six games ahead of the Mets in the division. This one looked like it might be a totally different kind of game with each team scoring two in the first. But it remained knotted at two until the seventh when the Mets pushed across what turned out to be the winning run.

  • Superhero: Phil Regan (.110). 1⅓ IP, 2H, 1BB, 0R, 0K
  • Hero: Ernie Banks (.107). 2-4, K
  • Sidekick: Glenn Beckert (.052). 1-3, BB, R
  • Billy Goat: Ron Santo (-.204). 0-3, BB, 2K, DP
  • Goat: Gene Oliver (-.203). 0-1, K
  • Kid: Don Young (-.190). 0-3, K

After winning four of five to start the week and moving to a season-high 11 games over .500, the Cubs were swept in a Sunday doubleheader by the Mets. The net result of a 4-3 week? The Cubs expanded their lead by a game, finishing the week with a two game lead in the division. During that first part of the week, it got up to 2½ games, but the Pirates were still hanging tough through the first weekend in May.

Week 4 Pitching Discussion:

One of the oddities about going into the wayback machine to look at a historic season is that baseball was SO different in 1969. I’ve been featuring one hitter and one pitcher per week. But that pattern will not last through the entire season. Why? Because only eight pitchers threw more than 20 innings for the 1969 Cubs. Those eight pitchers combined to throw 1,352⅓ innings. The entire Cubs staff threw 1,454⅓ innings. So that group of eight pitchers threw 93% of the innings for the Cubs.

It’s certainly the right move to protect pitcher arms, but can you imagine for a minute the difference that it would make if the 2019 Cubs had been able to essentially use only four starters and four relievers? Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester could take 75%+ of the starts and then healthy Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana could in some capacity take the remainder of the starts and/or work out of the pen? Combine that with say Steve Cishek, Kyle Ryan, Brandon Kintzler and Rowan Wick and have that group of players handle virtually all of the innings? Even in this scenario, I’ve cheated and used nine. It really is mindboggling to think that only 50 years ago it was totally normal to have this kind of pitcher usage pattern.

Week 4 Hitter Feature: Al Spangler (nickname “Spanky”)

Al was essentially the left-handed part of a platoon in right field in 1969, but he didn’t get a ton of playing time. He appeared in 82 games, took 238 plate appearances and produced a line of .211/.284/.315. In the series against the Mets to end this particular week, Spangler did get three straight starts and he responded with four hits and a walk in 11 plate appearances over three games. He slugged a double, a triple and a homer, scored two runs and drove in four. When a team is going good, like the 1969 Cubs were in April and May, you’ll usually see them getting contributions up and down the roster and including their bench and bullpen. Spangler was given a larger than usual opportunity and ran with it. He had two Superhero and one Hero awards for those three games and earns our player of the week award.

Al Spangler was nearing the end by 1969. He was 35 years old that summer, and he’d retire after the 1971 season when he appeared in only five games. A career outfielder, Spangler was originally signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1954. He reached the majors for the first time with the Braves for six games in the 1959 season. He later was drafted by the Houston Colt .45s in the 1961 expansion draft. As a member of the Colt .45s, he had the distinction of driving in the first run in franchise history with an RBI triple off Cubs starter Don Cardwell. He came to the Cubs in 1967 after the Angels released him. He played there until the end of his playing career in 1971. Spangler spent time in the Cubs system as a coach and minor league manager from ‘71-’74.

In all, Al played in 912 games and had 2,612 plate appearances across 13 major league seasons. He had a career line of .262/.347/.351. He got a lot of playing time with the expansion Colt .45’s and had two very good seasons there in ‘62 and ‘63 (OPS+ of 116 and 120 respectively). In 1968, he’d had a bit of a renaissance year for the Cubs. Though he only had 203 plate appearances, he had a .733 OPS, good for an OPS+ of 114. Still, his biggest game as a Cub was still to come. We’ll cover that one later in this series.

Up Next:

The first 27 games of the season for the 1969 Cubs were all against National League East foes, playing all five division mates for at least one series and playing the Mets eight times. Now though, our attention turns west for the first time. After a Monday off day, the Dodgers came to town for two. The Giants were supposed to follow with three, but due to rain there were only two games played. So it will be a short week with just four games played.

That is another thing to note. When people look back and look at the number of games played and the plate appearances, there are definitely some differences between the modern schedule and the one that was utilized back in 1969. With scheduled doubleheaders, there were many more off days on the schedule then than we see now. For the week we just covered, the Cubs played seven games, but only played on six days. In part three of this series, the Cubs were also scheduled for seven games in six days but had one game rained out. This did allow the players to get full days off a little more frequently than they do in the modern game.