When last we checked in on the 1969 Cubs, they had a 4-2 week, despite two straight losses in Los Angeles to the end of the week. The four straight wins to start the week ran their winning streak to five and saw their division lead increase to six games. Even with the two losses at the end of the week, that’s where the lead ended the week.
The final three games of the week were played in Houston. That was the first stop on a 12-game, four-city trip west. This week, we see the next two stops. The Cubs visited Los Angeles for three, then went to San Diego for four, including a Sunday doubleheader. With an off day Monday, that meant seven games in six days. That’s a busy week, so let’s jump right to the action.
Game 38, May 20: Cubs 7, Dodgers 0 (25-13)
Ken Holtzman and Don Sutton locked up in this one. It was a scoreless duel for five innings. But the Cubs pushed two across in the sixth, aided by two errors, and added two more in the seventh. The Cubs added three more in the ninth inning, including a pair of homers by Ernie Banks and Randy Hundley. Holtzman went the distance for his third straight complete game shutout (fourth overall). After the game, Holtzman was 7-1 with a 1.45 ERA.
- Superhero: Ken Holtzman (.374). 9IP, 5H, 5BB, 0R, 7K
- Hero: Randy Hundley (.223). 3-5, HR, RBI, R
- Sidekick: Al Spangler (.098). 0-3, SH (reached on an error that scored a run with two outs)
- Billy Goat: Don Young (-.094). 0-2, 2K
- Goat: Willie Smith (-.032). 0-1. K
- Kid: Ernie Banks (-.024). 2-5, HR, 2RBI, 2R, K, DP
Game 39, May 21: Cubs 1, Dodgers 3 (25-14)
The Cubs lost for the third time in four games as they managed only one run off of Claude Osteen. The Dodgers scored a run in the first and then added two more in the fifth. Bill Hands took the loss and dropped to 3-5. The Cubs offense managed only five hits and two walks.
- Superhero: Jim Hickman (.067). 1-3, 2B, BB
- Hero: Billy Williams (.018). 1-4, 2B, RBI
- Sidekick: Phil Regan (.011). 1IP, 1H, 1BB, 0R, 1K
- Billy Goat: Ernie Banks (-.111). 0-4, 2K
- Goat: Bill Hands (-.095). 7IP, 6H, 0BB, 3R, 9K
- Kid: Randy Hundley (-.086). 0-4, K
Game 40, May 22: Cubs 3, Dodgers 0 (26-14)
The Cubs left LA with two wins in three games. Once again, strong pitching lead the way. Fergie Jenkins went the distance, for his fourth complete game shutout. After this appearance, he was 6-2 with a 2.47 ERA. Holtzman and Jenkins were quite a formidable duo, particularly early in the season. The offense came in the form of a single run in the sixth and two more in the seventh.
- Superhero: Fergie Jenkins (.459). 9IP, 4H, 0BB, 0R, 7K
- Hero: Glenn Beckert (.140). 2-5, RBI
- Sidekick: Adolfo Phillips (.083). 1-2, 2B, R, K
- Billy Goat: Ron Santo (-.086). 1-4, K
- Goat: Randy Hundley (-.056). 0-3, BB, 2K
- Kid: Ernie Banks (-.018). 0-3, BB, R, K
40 Game Heroes and Goats Standing Update (top/bottom 5):
- Ken Holtzman 19
- Fergie Jenkins 11
- Al Spangler 8
- Phil Regan 7.5
- Hank Aguirre 6.5
- Ron Santo/Billy Williams/Don Young -7
- Glenn Beckert/Nate Oliver -8
- Ernie Banks -9
With Holtzman and Jenkins picking up a total of 12 of the first 40 Superhero spots, they dominate the early standings on the positive side. With so many points going to starting pitchers (and pitchers in four of the top five spots), it leaves a lot of negative points around for the hitters.
Game 41, May 23: Cubs 6, Padres 0 (27-14)
The Cubs get back to a season-high 13 games over .500 with their third shutout of the week. This was his second shutout of the Padres in 11 days. You might recall, he had been dealt by the Padres to the Cubs in April. In this one, he allowed only two hits. With the complete game shutout, the Cubs bullpen had thrown a total of one inning in the first four games of the trip. The Cubs scored one in the first, two in the third, two in the fifth and one more in the eighth to cruise to victory.
- Superhero: Dick Selma (.252). 9IP, 2H, 2BB, 0ER, 9K.
- Hero: Billy Williams (.207). 2-4, HR, BB, 2R, 2RBI
- Sidekick: Ernie Banks (-.143). 2-4, 2B, 3RBI, K
- Billy Goat: Randy Hundley (-.046). 0-4
- Goat: Adolfo Phillips (-.022). 1-4, 3B, K
- Kid: Ron Santo (-.003). 0-2, 2BB, R
Game 42, May 24: Cubs 7, Padres 5 (28-14)
The Cubs push to a season-high 14 games over .500 as they continue their torrid start to the season. It didn’t always look like it would go that way. This was a rare early 1969 clunker for Ken Holtzman who allowed four runs in 3⅔ innings. The Padres scored a run in the first, but the Cubs bounced back with two of their own in the third. Then the Padres chased Holtzman with three in the fourth. But the Cubs started the fifth inning with two singles and a walk to chase Padres starter Dick Kelley. Ernie Banks then greeted reliever Jack Baldschun with a grand slam. The Cubs would add another run on a single by reliever Ted Abernathy, who would be the winner and threw four innings, in the inning.
- Superhero: Ernie Banks (.249). 1-4, HR, BB, 4RBI, R
- Hero: Ron Santo (.231). 1-4, HR, BB, 2RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Billy Williams (.160). 2-4, BB, R
- Billy Goat: Ken Holtzman (-.376). 3 2⁄3 IP, 5H, 1BB, 4R (2ER), 5K
- Goat: Don Kessinger (-.111). 0-5
- Kid: Jim Hickman (-.026). 1-4
Game 43, May 25: Cubs 2, Padres 10 (28-15)
Rich Nye got the start and it didn’t go well. He pitched only one inning and allowed three runs (one earned). Don Nottebart followed and didn’t do any better. He allowed four runs over two innings. Hank Aguirre followed with three runs allowed over four innings. The Cubs bullpen threw seven innings in this game after 5⅓ innings the day before. This after only throwing one total inning over the first four games of the week.
- Superhero: Billy Williams (.090). 2-5
- Hero: Glenn Beckert (.072). 2-5, R
- Sidekick: Adolfo Phillips (.028). 1-4, BB
- Billy Goat: Rich Nye (-.256). 1IP, 2H, 0BB, 3R (1ER), 1K
- Goat: Don Nottebart (-.159). 2IP, 3H, 1BB, 4R, 1K
- Kid: Ron Santo (-.091). 0-3, 2BB
Game 44, May 25: Cubs 1, Padres 0 (29-15)
The Cubs moved back to 14 over with another shutout. This one was a nail biter start to finish. Bill Hands and Joe Niekro, who was traded away from the Cubs earlier in the season, each were scoreless through six. Hands left for a pinch hitter in the seventh, but Niekro threw all nine innings, finally yielding the game’s only run in the top of the ninth. Ted Abernathy threw three scoreless for the win. The two Cubs pitchers combined to allow only three hits. A Ron Santo homer leading off the ninth was the game’s only run.
- Superhero: Ted Abernathy (.358). 3IP, 1H, 1BB, 0R, 4K
- Hero: Bill Hands (.335). 6IP, 2H, 1BB, 0R, 4K
- Sidekick: Ron Santo (.279). 1-4, HR, RBI, R, K
- Billy Goat: Manny Jimenez (-.246). 0-1, DP
- Goat: Don Kessinger (-.167). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Adolfo Phillips (-.138). 1-2, 2B
The Cubs took three of four in San Diego after taking two of three in Los Angeles. A 5-2 week for the Cubs pushed them to 14 games over .500. The Pirates sequenced things different but ended up with a 5-2 week of their own. The sequencing difference saw the Cubs briefly reach seven games in front of the NL East before settling back at six. The Mets? They finished the week in fourth place and nine games out of first and were just 18-22.
Week 7 Hitter Feature: Billy Williams
Billy helped power the offense that week, reaching the positive side four times in seven games (+8 total). Billy was 31 years old in 1969 when he had a line of .293/.355/.474 for the Cubs. He had 21 homers and 10 triples and drove in 95 runs. He received MVP votes for his impressive season.
Billy was far from done in 1969. A year later, he had a major league-leading 205 hits, and in 1972 he paced all of baseball with a .333 average and a .606 slugging percentage. Unfortunately, Johnny Bench slugged 40 homers that year and nudged Williams out for the MVP.
Billy was signed by the Cubs in 1956. He had two brief stops in the majors with the Cubs in 1959 and 1960, playing in 30 games over two seasons. But in 1961 he arrived for good, winning the Rookie of the Year award as he slugged 25 homers and drove in 86. Those were team rookie records that stood until Kris Bryant broke them in 2015. Billy would go on to be selected to six All-Star teams, receive MVP votes eight times and reach the Hall of Fame in his sixth year of eligibility in 1987.
Williams appeared in 2,488 games (2,213 for the Cubs), had 10,519 plate appearances, slugged 426 homers, drove in 1,475 runs, and had a career line of .290/.361/.492. Billy finally reached the playoffs in 1975 with the Athletics after the Cubs traded him for three players, including Manny Trillo, following the 1974 season.
Week 7 Pitcher Feature: Ted Abernathy
Ted was used in relief twice in the week and won both games, also picking up an RBI single along the way. Abernathy was 36 years old when he came to the Cubs in 1969. But he would have a pretty effective season for them. He was 4-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 85⅓ innings (sadly, after his Sunday win, he was 4-0 on the season).
Abernathy had been a Cub earlier in his career as well. In 1965, he had major league highs in games (84), games finished (62) and saves (31) as he compiled a 2.57 ERA in 136⅓ innings (all in relief). In 1967 with the Reds, he was even better. He had 28 saves (major-league high) and a 1.27 ERA in 106⅓ innings of relief. He was so dominant that he received MVP votes that season. By and large, Ted was effective all of the way to the end of his career. At 39 years old, he appeared in 45 games for the Royals, throwing 58⅓ innings with a 1.70 ERA and 1.080 WHIP.
For his career, Abernathy pitched in 14 seasons for seven different teams (which was a ton for a guy ending his career in 1972). He compiled a 63-69 record in 681 games (34 starts), finishing 416 of them. He saved 149 games. He threw 1,148⅓ innings. His career ERA was 3.46 and his WHIP 1.395.
Looking Ahead: Week eight will see the end of the West Coast trip. It concludes with two games in San Francisco. The Cubs conclude a light week with their first look at the Atlanta Braves in a three-game set. The Giants would go on to win 89 games and the Braves 93 and reach the playoffs, so this would potentially be a tough week. But the Cubs come in red hot. Would their momentum propel them even against two difficult opponents?