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1969 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: Part 2

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Could the Cubs build on a 5-1 start to the season?

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In our last look at the 1969 Cubs, they opened their season by winning five of their first six games. All of those wins were at home and so their three last at bat wins were all walk offs. What an incredibly exciting, and surely mildly exhausting, time to be a Cub fan. We’re back to take a look at the second week of the season. Week two included the final two games of an opening eight-game homestand, the first two road games of the year (in St. Louis), the first off day, and then three games in two days to finish out the week. For those of you who, like me, weren’t alive in that era of baseball, teams used to have a schedule filled with actual doubleheaders and not ones forced by rain.

5-1 was a great start to the season, but the Pirates had matched that streak day by day. Could the Cubs maintain that hot start? The Pirates are the next team up, so as little as such things matter, there was already a first place clash in the second week of the season. Let’s take a look and see if the Cubs can continue their fast start.

Game 7, April 14: Cubs 4, Pirates 0 (6-1)

In a game that took only 2:27 to play, the Cubs won 4-0. This one was basically over after two innings. The Cubs scored two in each of the first two innings and Ken Holtzman went the distance for the shutout. Talk about different times, that marked four times in the first eight games that a Cubs starter threw nine innings. This was also while they were running a four-man rotation.

  • Superhero: Ken Holtzman (.305). 9IP, 7H, 5BB, 8K
  • Hero: Billy Williams (.115). 1-4, 2B, R, RBI
  • Sidekick: Don Kessinger (.114). 3-5, 2B, R, RBI
  • Billy Goat: Ernie Banks (-.072). 1-4, K
  • Goat: Jim Hickman (-.041). 0-3, BB
  • Kid: Glenn Beckert (.004). 1-4, R, RBI (tough crowd!)

Game 8, April 15: Cubs 7, Pirates 4 (7-1)

On tax day, the Cubs completed a two game sweep of the Pirates in the short series. This one also looked like it would be over early. The Pirates scored a run off Joe Niekro in the top of the first on a Roberto Clemente homer, but the Cubs responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning on a Billy Williams long ball. They plated two more in the second on a home run by Don Young and three more in the fourth. Unfortunately, with a 6-1 lead, Niekro allowed two singles and two walks among the first five hitters he faced in the fifth inning. That was capped by an unusual play. Roberto Clemente batted with the bases loaded and one out with the Cubs still leading 6-1. He singled to center, initially looking like a two-run single. But when the ball was misplayed in center, all three runs would score and Clemente would come around to third. The bullpen was summoned and they held the Pirates scoreless over the final 4⅔ innings to preserve the win and sweep.

  • Superhero: Hank Aguirre (.198). 3 IP, 3H, 1BB, 1K, win (inherited the runner at third in the fifth)
  • Hero: Don Young (.195). 1-2, HR, 2R, 2RBI, BB, K
  • Sidekick: Ted Abernathy (.127). 1⅔ IP, 3H, 0BB, 1K, save
  • Billy Goat: Joe Niekro (-.125). 4⅓ IP, 5H, 3BB, 4R (3ER), 0K
  • Goat: Jim Hickman (-.021). 0-2, SF, RBI, K
  • Kid: Don Kessinger (-.008). 1-4, 2B

Game 9, April 16: Cubs 1, Cardinals 0 (8-1)

The Cubs headed on the road for the first time and faced their arch-rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. Ferguson Jenkins had two rough starts to start the season, but he righted the ship with a complete-game shutout. Randy Hundley’s RBI single in the third inning supplied the offense as the Cubs continued their blazing start. Steve Carlton was the loser in a battle of future Hall of Fame pitchers.

  • Superhero: Fergie Jenkins (.794). 9IP, 5H, 1BB, 6K
  • Hero: Randy Hundley (.130). 3-4, RBI
  • Sidekick: Don Kessinger (.098). 2-3, 2BB
  • Billy Goat: Billy Williams (-.102). 1-5, R, GIDP
  • Goat: Ernie Banks (-.086). 0-3, SH
  • Kid: Glenn Beckert (-.057). 2-4, GIDP

Game 10, April 17: Cubs 3, Cardinals 0 (9-1)

The Cubs completed back-to-back mini-sweeps with a shutout of the Cardinals. The Cardinals managed only nine hits in the two games and of course, no runs. The Cubs did go to the bullpen in the ninth after Bill Hands issued his fifth walk of the game, but Phil Regan closed it down for his first save. Billy Williams knocked in two to lead the offense.

  • Superhero: Bill Hands (.478). 8IP, 3H, 5BB, 4K
  • Hero: Billy Williams (.134). 1-4, 2B, 2RBI
  • Sidekick: Phil Regan (.078). 1 IP, 1H, 0BB, 0K
  • Billy Goat: Jim Qualls (-.079). 0-4
  • Goat: Ron Santo (-.047). 0-3, BB
  • Kid: Don Kessinger (-.040). 0-3, BB, 2R, SB

Game 11, April 19: Cubs 6, Expos 5, 11 innings (10-1)

The Expos jumped out to a 2-0 lead in their half of the fourth inning. The Cubs battled back with five of their own in the top half of the fifth. Ron Santo hit a two-run homer to tie the game and the Cubs added three more as they sent 10 men to the plate. The inning was assisted by an Expos error. The Expos scored three runs in the seventh to chase Ken Holtzman from the game and the game was knotted at five. That’s where it stayed until the Cubs added yet another last at bat win on a Jim Hickman two-out pinch-hit RBI single in the 11th. Phil Regan held Montreal scoreless in the 10th and 11th to pick up his third win of the season.

  • Superhero: Jim Hickman (.363). 1-1, RBI
  • Hero/Sidekick: Ted Abernathy/Phil Regan (.312). Abernathy: 3IP, 1H, 0BB, 2K; Regan 2IP, 2H, 0B, K
  • Billy Goat: Ken Holtzman (-.440). 6IP, 5H, 5R (4ER), 3BB, K
  • Goat: Randy Hundley (-.216). 0-5, BB, R, K, GIDP
  • Kid: Glenn Beckert (-.079). 0-6

Game 12, April 20: Cubs 6, Expos 3 (11-1)

The Cubs ran their winning streak to seven in the first game of the doubleheader. The Cubs scored a run in the second and three more in the fourth. They added two in the sixth and coasted to an easy win. Fergie Jenkins went the distance despite allowing a run in the eighth and two in the ninth.

  • Superhero: Ferguson Jenkins (.235). 9IP, 5H, 4BB, 3R, 10K
  • Hero: Ron Santo (.137). 0-2, 3BB, 3R
  • Sidekick: Randy Hundley (.133). 1-2, 2BB, R, RBI
  • Billy Goat: Don Kessinger (-.052). 0-4, BB
  • Goat: Billy Williams (-.032). 0-5
  • Kid: Glenn Beckert (-.022). 1-5, R

Game 13, April 20: Cubs 2, Expos 4 (11-2)

The expansion Expos beat the Cubs twice over the first 14 games of the Cubs season, the only two losses they had. The Expos scored three in the first off of Joe Niekro and the Cubs couldn’t complete the comeback after cutting the deficit to 3-2 with single runs in the seventh and eighth. Randy Hundley caught all 18 innings of the doubleheader after catching 11 innings Saturday afternoon. In fact, most of the Cubs regulars played all of both games.

  • Superhero: Don Kessinger (.180). 1-2, 2B, 3BB, R
  • Hero: Al Spangler (.099). 2-3, 2B
  • Sidekick: Ernie Banks (.035). 1-4, RBI, K
  • Billy Goat: Ron Santo (-.213). 0-4, 2K, GIDP
  • Goat: Joe Niekro (-.185). 4IP, 8H, 2BB, 3R, 5K
  • Kid: Glenn Beckert (-.128). 0-3, BB, GIDP

With the 11-2 start, the Cubs had built a 2½-game lead in the division. The two game sweep of the Pirates played a big part in that lead as they continued to sit in second place through the first two weeks.

Week 2 Hitter Feature: Ron Santo

If you are a Cub fan, it’s unlikely you don’t know at least a little bit about Ron. The Cubs signed him as an amateur free agent in 1959. The next year, at 20 years old, he played in 95 games for the Cubs and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. From 1961 until 1973, he played in over 130 games per season as a Cub. He made nine All-Star teams. He received MVP votes in seven different season. He won five consecutive gold gloves, between 1964 and 1968.

In all, Ron played in 2,126 games for the Cubs over 14 seasons. He amassed almost 8,979 plate appearances for the Cubs. He had 337 homers and 1,290 RBI for the team. He did all of this with a lifetime line of .277/.362/.472. He posted 70.5 bWAR in his career, including a 9.8 in 1967 and two 8.9’s. He posted 3 or more bWAR in 11 of his 14 Cub seasons. At age 21, Baseball Reference notes Manny Machado as the most similar comparable player to Santo. From age 22 on, that player is Adrian Beltre for every single year.

Beltre, of course ,played several more seasons than Ron did, retiring after a 21-year career. That allowed Beltre to post 140 more homers and drive in 400 more runs. Beltre will almost certainly sail right into the Hall of Fame. Ron never got the call while he was alive, instead being elected posthumously in 2012 after he passed in 2010. I’m far from alone in saying that not electing Ron while he was living was one of the bigger mistakes Hall voters have made.

Week 2 Pitcher Feature: Ferguson Jenkins

Last week we looked at a couple of bit players, today we look at two Hall of Fame players. If you are my age, you probably had to do some double thinking on Jenkins. I remember him initially as an old, somewhat out of shape guy. I have a vivid memory of a late-career triple that he hit and everyone basically thought he might just die from the effort. Then, as I grew as a Cub fan, I learned just how good Jenkins had been as a pitcher and even after that, how accomplished he was as a hitter. He hit six homers and had a .761 OPS in 1971. That’s still the Cubs franchise record for home runs by a pitcher. Carlos Zambrano tied it in 2006, and only one other pitcher has hit more since 1971 — Mike Hampton had seven in 2001.

Fergie was signed by the Phillies in 1962. He was traded along with Adolfo Phillips to the Cubs in 1966. That started the first of two stints for Jenkins with the Cubs. Jenkins appeared in 664 games over 19 big-league seasons, 10 of them with the Cubs. He won 284 games (167 with the Cubs). He won 20 or more games seven times, including six straight years from 1967 to 1972. He threw 267 complete games. He completed 20 or more games in a season eight times including 1971 when he threw 30 complete games and threw a total of 325 innings.

Jenkins was selected as an All-Star three times. He won a Cy Young for that 1971 season with a 2.77 ERA. He had four other top three Cy Young finishes and a sixth. He received MVP votes in six different seasons. He was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1991 in his third year on the ballot. He ranks 24th all time in bWAR for pitchers. He still sits as 12th overall in career strikeouts. He also allowed third most homers of any pitcher ever. He’s fifth in career putouts as a pitcher.

His similarity scores on Baseball Reference also include some great names. At 24 there is recent World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. At 28, Bret Saberhagen. At 29, Greg Maddux. At 30, Felix Hernandez. Then for nine straight years: Don Sutton. Gaylord Perry checks in for Fergie’s age-40 season. Maddux, Sutton and Perry are all in the Hall. Felix will be talked about (and likely fall well short), Strasburg is still working on his resume, but just added an extremely important entry on that resume.

Up Next: Once again, the Cubs will start their week against the Pirates. After the Sunday doubleheader, the Cubs had an off day and then played a doubleheader in Pittsburgh on Tuesday before another off day caused by a rain out in St. Louis. That rainout left the Cubs with a one-game series in St. Louis and then four games in three days on the weekend against the Mets.