1968 was a vital year for the Cubs. After finally posting a winning season in 1967, they needed to prove it was no flash in the pan and that they had what it took to be a true winning team.
As it turned out, 1967 was a turn of the tide for the Cubs and in 1968 they proved it by posting yet another winning season and finishing third in the National League for the second straight year.
Standing: 3rd in the National League
Managers: Leo Durocher
There were the usual suspects contributing to the Cubs success this season, with both Billy Williams and Ernie Banks belting over 30 home runs apiece and Ron Santo not far behind at 26. Second baseman Glenn Beckert hit .294/.326/.369 in his first Gold Glove season, and ushering in his own era of stardom as he would appear in four straight All-Star Games from 1969 through 1972. On the pitching side, Fergie Jenkins had his second 20-win season with a 2.63 ERA, really starting to make people take notice of the skills that would make him a Cy Young winner.
And among these blossoming talents was a 28-year-old first baseman in what would be his only season with the Cubs.
Dick Nen, like many of the men we feature in this series, is not a well-known player in the rich history of baseball. He played just six seasons in the majors, starting with the Dodgers, before spending three years with the Washington Senators. He came to the Cubs for a single year, before returning to the Senators in 1970 to finish his major league career.
Nen’s most riveting moment of baseball was also, quite literally, his only hit with the Los Angeles Dodgers. On September 18, 1963, Nen made his major-league debut in a game between the Dodgers and the Cardinals in St. Louis. In his second at-bat of the game, in the ninth inning, he belted his first major league home run to tie the game. The Dodgers went on to win that game in extra innings, and in spite of Nen appearing in only seven games for the Dodgers that season, it cemented his legend among fans.
His career after that mammoth game-tying bomb was not much to write home about. He ultimately had a .224/.288/.335 line and hit 20 more home runs after that debut one, two with the Cubs.
While his major league career ended in 1970, he toiled away in the minors for two seasons after that before retiring completely from professional ball. The photo above was taken in 1972, when he played for the Triple-A Denver Bears.
His son, Robb Nen, might be better known to you. The younger Nen was a closer who spend most of his career with the then-Florida Marlins and the San Francisco Giants in the 1990s and early 2000s. Robb was a three-time All-Star with the Giants who had 314 career saves, 45 of which came in a single season in 2001. He was also a member of the 1997 Marlins World Series team, and returned to the World Series again in 2002 with the Giants.
Dick Nen might not be a legend in baseball, but he paved the way for his son to do great things in the game.