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1969 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: Part 5

Two wins and two losses in a light week; Ken Holtzman and Gene Oliver

Bettmann Archive

In the fourth week of the season, the Cubs rode some very good pitching to a 4-1 start to the week before dropping both ends of a doubleheader to the Mets to end the week. That still had them at 18-9 and two games in front of the National League East.

Now, we turn our attention to week five and the Cubs’ first foray outside of the East. The schedule called for an off day Monday and then two games with the Dodgers. Three games against the Giants were scheduled to finish off the week, but a rainout meant that only four games were played.

Game 28, May 6: Cubs 7, Dodgers 1 (19-9)

The Cubs beat future Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton in this one. The teams each scored once in the third inning, but the Cubs busted the game open in the sixth with three, chasing Sutton. In the eighth they added three more off of the Dodgers bullpen and the Cubs won in convincing fashion. Ken Holtzman went the distance and picked up his fourth win in five decisions. Randy Hundley hit his fourth home run of the season in the eighth inning rally as part of a two hit, one walk day.

  • Superhero: Ken Holtzman (.334). 9IP, 6H, 1BB, 1R, 7K
  • Hero: Al Spangler (.173). 3-4, HR, 2R, 2RBI
  • Sidekick: Ron Santo (.157). 1-4, R, RBI, 2K
  • Billy Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.108). 0-4, SH
  • Goat: Adolfo Phillips (-.070). 0-3, BB, 2K
  • Kid: Billy Williams (-.024). 0-3, BB, R

Game 29, May 7: Cubs 2, Dodgers 4; 12 innings (19-10)

This is one of those games that had two entirely different parts. Fergie Jenkins and Claude Osteen pitched to a 1-1 tie through nine innings. Each man threw the entire nine innings. The Cubs pushed across a run in the fourth but the Dodgers matched it in the sixth. The game then moved to extras and the Dodgers turned to their bullpen. The Cubs did not. Fergie Jenkins threw 12 innings, allowing three runs in the 12th inning. The Cubs were only able to answer with one in the 12th and lost a tough one.

  • Superhero: Fergie Jenkins (.360). 12IP, 11H, 2BB, 4R, 6K
  • Hero: Willie Smith (.056). 1-1, RBI
  • Sidekick: Ron Santo (.010). 1-4, BB
  • Billy Goat: Billy Williams (-.173). 1-5, R
  • Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.160). 1-5, DP
  • Kid: Jim Hickman (-.133). 0-4

Game 30, May 9: Cubs 1, Giants 11 (19-11)

The Cubs lost a second straight, but there was very little drama in this one. The Giants drew first blood with two in the second. The Cubs did score a run in the fourth to cut the deficit to one. But then the Giants erupted for nine runs over three innings between the sixth and the eighth, scoring three in the sixth and five in the seventh to blow this one out. In a rarity for that time period, the Cubs used six pitchers in this one.

  • Superhero: Hank Aguirre (.060). ⅓ IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
  • Hero: Ron Santo (.048). 1-4, DP
  • Sidekick: Billy Williams (.028). 2-4, 2B, BB, 2K
  • Billy Goat: Ted Abernathy (-.205). 0IP, 1H, 2BB, 1R, 0K
  • Goat: Randy Hundley (-.125). 1-4, 2K
  • Kid: Bill Hands (-.111). 5IP, 10H, 2BB, 4R, 2K

Game 31, May 11: Cubs 8, Giants 0 (20-11)

The Cubs snapped their two-game skid after having been rained out on Saturday. This one was never in doubt as the Cubs scored two in the first and added a run in the second. The Cubs added one in the sixth and four more in the seventh. Ken Holtzman had a complete game shutout for his fifth win.

  • Superhero: Ken Holtzman (.317). 9IP, 9H, 1BB, 0R, 10K
  • Hero: Billy Williams (.154). 1-3, HR, BB, 2R, 2RBI
  • Sidekick: Randy Hundley (.056). 2-4, HR, R, 3RBI
  • Billy Goat/Goat (tie): Adolfo Phillips/Don Kessinger (-.038). Phillips 0-3, BB, 2K, DP; Kessinger 0-4, BB, R, 2K
  • Kid: Jim Hickman (.005). 1-4

The Cubs split four games in a short week. Dating back to the two losses on the previous Sunday, the Cubs did lose four games out of five. They were competitive in three of the four, but just couldn’t come up with the runs when they needed to. In the one win during that stretch and then the one that followed it, they scored seven and eight runs. So they were going through a little bit of a feast or famine stretch.

In the division, the lead actually grew to three games. The Pirates had a similarly light week, also only getting in four games. The big difference is that the Pirates only won one of their four games. They were also playing the California teams. They split with the Padres and got swept in a two game set with the Dodgers.

Week 5 Pitcher Feature: Ken Holtzman

It was a strong week for Holtzman, starting two of the Cubs’ four games and winning both. Ken was born in St. Louis, went to college at University of Illinois and was the fourth round pick of the Cubs in 1965. He appeared in three games that summer after being drafted, reaching the majors for the first time at just 19 years old.

In 1966, Ken started 33 games for the Cubs. Then in 1967, Ken was in the National Guard and was only available to the Cubs on weekends. The results? He started 12 games and went 9-0 with a 2.53 ERA. Ken is most known for the two no-hitters he threw for the Cubs, but he should also be known for durability and consistency. Between 1968 and 1976, Ken started 325 games and won 145 games. Basically, he averaged 36 starts per year and 16 wins. His ERA over that span was 3.31.

After a subpar 1971 season (29 starts, 9-15, 4.48 ERA) the Cubs traded him to the Athletics for Rick Monday. Monday would, of course, be a mainstay with the Cubs for a number of years, but that move worked out fantastically for Holtzman. He pitched in two All-Star games, both as a member of the Oakland A’s where he also pitched on three World Series champions from 1972-74. All together, Ken made 410 starts (451 appearances) and won 174 games. He made 209 of those starts with the Cubs and threw 1,447 innings in a Cubs uniform. He threw 2,867⅓ lifetime innings for four teams (Cubs, A’s, Yankees, Orioles). Holtzman finished his career with the Cubs in 1979 after he was traded back to the Cubs mid-season in 1978.

Holtzman has some interesting comparables on his Baseball Reference page: Steve Avery (22-23), Larry Dierker (27-29), Vida Blue (30), Milt Pappas (31), Jim Kaat (32) and Frank Viola (33). That is a strong group of pitchers. For his whole career, you can add in names like Mike Flanagan, Dave Stieb, and Fernando Valenzuela among his most similar pitchers.

Week 5 Hitter Feature: Gene Oliver

Typically, I select a guy who did something significant during the week. I picked Gene Oliver this week as an answer to a question: Who was the Cubs backup catcher in 1969? For the early part of the season, Gene is the answer to that question. Indeed, he’s appeared a couple of times so far in HH&G, but each time as a pinch hitter. So I had to look. Randy Hundley caught every one of the first 68 games of the season. So that doesn’t give a lot of opportunity to his backup.

So who was Gene Oliver? Well, Gene was born in Moline and died while living in Rock Island, so he was more or less always a local guy. Gene was originally signed in 1956 by the Cardinals. He was once traded for Bob Uecker. He debuted in 1959 for the Cardinals at the age of 24. He played for the Cardinals, Milwaukee Braves, Phillies, Red Sox and Cubs in a 10 year career. He had 786 total games and 2,467 total plate appearances. He did play some first, left and right in his career. But for the ‘69 Cubs he only did two things, pinch hit and catch. He didn’t do much of either. He had just 23 games, 29 PA, and a line of .222/.276/.333.

For his whole career, Gene had a line of .246/.315/.427. His best year was in 1965 with the Braves. He played in 122 games that year, slugged 21 homers and had a line of .270/.336/.482 (OPS+ 129). His career nose dived after that season and he was running on fumes by the time he got to the Cubs in ‘68. He only appeared in 31 games over two seasons and then retired.

Up Next: The Cubs host the Padres for three games to start the week and then head out on a four-city, 12-game, 15-day road trip. We’ll look at the first three of those games in Houston. The Padres were the other expansion team, with the Expos, in 1969. They’d lose well over 100 games. The Astros were more competitive, finishing at exactly .500. But this certainly looks like a week where the Cubs might take control of things.