When last we checked in on the Cubs, they were winning five of eight and extending their division lead to nine games. As the season was closing in on 40% of the schedule completed, the Cubs were 41-19 and well in front of the National League East. This was long unseen territory around Chicago. A year earlier, they’d won 84 games, but that was before division play began. In the pre-division play years, you’d more frequently see things like a Cubs team that was 68-61 on August 27, 1968 but 14 games out of first. They ultimately finished six games over .500 but 13 games out of first.
So this was a whole different feeling for the North Siders. But, that last week we covered included eight games in seven days. There was a day off, but there were two doubleheaders. Now we’ll cover a week that included eight more games in seven days and another doubleheader. Would three doubleheaders in a span of eight days be a bridge too far? Let’s find out.
Game 61, June 16: Cubs 8, Pirates 9 (41-20)
The Cubs got off to a good start with two in the top of the first. But Dick Selma started for the Cubs and only recorded a single out before leaving the game. That one out was a line drive. Selma was tagged for three singles and two walks before leaving the game. All five runs scored. Don Nottebart followed and allowed a triple and a single to the first two batters he faced. It was 6-2 after one.
The Cubs scored three in the fourth and two in the seventh and actually lead in this game. But three in the eighth for the Pirates gave them back the lead. The Cubs were only able to scratch out one run in the ninth and they fell to defeat in the opener.
- Superhero: Randy Hundley (.398). 2-5, HR, R, 3RBI, K
- Hero: Don Kessinger (.224). 2-4, 3B, BB, R, 2RBI
- Sidekick: Ron Santo (.134). 2-4, BB, 2R, RBI, K, DP
- Billy Goat: Dick Selma (-.354). ⅓ IP, 3H, 2BB, 5R, 0K
- Goat: Rich Nye (-.287). ⅔ IP, 1H, 0BB, 1R, 0K
- Kid: Ernie Banks (-.210). 1-5, 2K
Game 62, June 17: Cubs 0, Pirates 1 (41-21)
The Cubs bats were silenced in game one of a doubleheader. Fergie Jenkins went the distance allowing only one run. He took the loss to fall to 8-4. The Cubs managed six hits and four walks against two Pirates starters but couldn’t push any runs across.
- Superhero: Fergie Jenkins (.184). 8IP, 10H, 2BB, 1R, 11K
- Hero: Billy Williams (.068). 3-3, 2B, BB
- Sidekick: Al Spangler (.040). 1-1
- Billy Goat: Don Kessinger (-.201). 0-5, K
- Goat: Ernie Banks (-.177). 0-4, K
- Kid: Randy Hundley (-.111). 1-4, K
Game 63, June 17: Cubs 3, Pirates 4 (41-22)
Three games in two days, three one run losses. Some amount of fatigue and bad luck along with a Pirates team that was trying to stay relevant combined to stall the Cubs. This one was a tough one. The Pirates scored first with a single run in the second. But the Cubs pushed three across in the fourth behind starter... Dick Selma. Yep, Selma started games on consecutive games for the Cubs against the same team. This time, he threw seven innings. Unfortunately, Selma started the eighth. He faced two batters and allowed two singles. Hank Aguirre was summoned, but he allowed two more singles to score one run and then a double play scored a second to tie the game. The Pirates added one in the ninth off of Ted Abernathy for the walk-off.
- Superhero: Don Kessinger (.079). 1-4, HR, RBI, R, K
- Hero: Billy Williams (.072). 1-4, HR, RBI, R, DP
- Sidekick: Willie Smith (.068). 1-3, HR, SH, RBI, R, K
- Billy Goat: Hank Aguirre (-.198). ⅔ IP, 2H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
- Goat: Rich Nye (-.163). 0IP, 1H, 1BB, 0R, 0K
- Kid: Ted Abernathy (-.120). ⅔ IP, 1H, 0BB, 1R, 0K
Game 64, June 18: Cubs 2, Pirates 3 (41-23)
Make that four one run losses in four games, over three days. Ken Holtzman started and threw nine innings. He allowed two runs while striking out 12. But Phil Regan allowed the walk-off in the 10th and the Cubs suffered a four game sweep. The loss dropped Regan to 7-5 out of the Cubs pen. This game was scoreless through seven innings. But each team scored two in the eighth and then the Pirates scored the winner with two outs in the 10th.
- Superhero: Ken Holtzman (.191). 9IP, 8H, 2BB, 2R, 12K
- Hero: Ron Santo (.143). 1-5, 3B, 2RBI, K
- Sidekick: Don Kessinger (.043). 3-5, 2B, R, 2K
- Billy Goat: Phil Regan (-.374). ⅔ IP, 2H, 1BB, 1R, 1K - L
- Goat: Paul Popovich (-.138). 0-4, SH, K
- Kid: Don Young (-.084). 1-3, BB, SB, CS, 2K
Game 65, June 20: Cubs 2, Expos 0 (42-23)
What’s that old phrase? Momentum is as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. The Cubs lost four straight in Pittsburgh. They got to Montreal and Bill Hands went the distance to lead the Cubs to a win. That improved his record to 6-6. This was his fifth complete game and second shutout of the season.
- Superhero: Bill Hands (.580). 9IP, 5H, 2BB, 0R, 5K
- Hero: Ron Santo (.113). 1-1, 3BB, RBI
- Sidekick: Billy Williams (.103). 1-3, 2B, BB
- Billy Goat: Randy Hundley (-.117). 0-4
- Goat: Ernie Banks (-.091). 0-3, RBI, SF, K
- Kid: Don Young (-.086). 0-3, DP
Game 66, June 21: Cubs 2, Expos 3 (42-24)
Fergie Jenkins only allowed one run over the first seven innings. Unfortunately, he also pitched the eighth inning, or part of it. He retired the first batter, then hit a batter. The next batter doubled to give the Expos a 2-1 lead. Jenkins did get the next batter out on a fly ball. But then an RBI-single finished his day. The Cubs did plate a run in the ninth to cut the deficit to one, but they stranded a runner and then went down in order in the ninth to lose for the fifth time in six games.
- Superhero: Ernie Banks (.202). 2-3, BB, 2RBI
- Hero: Ted Abernathy (.053). 1⅓ IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
- Sidekick: Paul Popovich (.049). 0-3, BB, K
- Billy Goat: Randy Hundley (-.342). 0-4
- Goat: Don Young (-.122). 0-2, 2BB, K
- Kid: Ron Santo (-.098). 2-4, K
Game 67, June 22: Cubs 7, Expos 6 (43-24)
This was a 1-1 game through four innings. Then the Expos put four on the board in the fifth, including the first of two homers for Bob Bailey who had four hits on the day. Bailey batted cleanup and raised his season OPS to .698. The homers were his first two of the season (in 31 games and 116 PA). The Cubs bounced back with two runs of their own in the fifth. The Expos scored another run in the eighth and lead 6-3 heading to the bottom of the ninth. But the Cubs walked it off with a four run rally on Jim Hickman’s two-run homer. Al wrote this about the game.
- Superhero: Jim Hickman (.804). 1-3, HR, 2RBI, R
- Hero: Ron Santo (.099). 3-5, RBI
- Sidekick: Billy Williams (.069). 2-4, BB, 2R
- Billy Goat: Ted Abernathy (-.130). 1⅔ IP, 2H, 0BB, 1R, K
- Goat: Rich Nye (-.100). 4⅓ IP, 6H, 1BB, 4R, 3K
- Kid: Randy Hundley (-.097). 1-4, K
Game 68, June 22: Cubs 4, Expos 5 (43-25)
Certainly, the Cubs didn’t do themselves any favors in this one, making three errors and allowing three unearned runs. But, I’m sure a team that scored four in the ninth to win game one of a doubleheader would have loved to have played nine in this one. But the game was called due to darkness after six innings with the Cubs trailing by one. Al wrote this story about the game during his fabulous series this past summer looking back at key events of the 1969 season.
- Superhero: Ron Santo (.185). 2-3, 2B, 2RBI, R
- Hero: Paul Popovich (.141). 2-3, 2B, BB, RBI, R
- Sidekick: Dick Selma (.110). 2IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 3K
- Billy Goat: Billy Williams (-.204). 0-4, K
- Goat: Hank Aguirre (-.168). ⅔ IP, 3H, 0BB, 1R, 0K
- Kid: Archie Reynolds (-.149). 3⅓ IP, 5H, 4BB, 4R (1ER), 2K
Looking Back: The Cubs played eight games in seven days and lost six of them. That actually marked two weeks in a row that the Cubs played eight games in seven days. They did get one off day, but three doubleheaders in eight days is a brutal stretch of games. The Cubs entered the week nine games up on the NL East, but they ended it just five up. The Expos were an expansion team in 1969, but the Cubs had their struggles with them. They did win 10 of 18, but compare that to the NL West division winning Braves who the Cubs won nine of 12 against. The other expansion team, the Padres, the Cubs beat 11 of 12.
Week 11 Hitter Feature: Jim Hickman
Jim was originally signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1956. The Mets selected him in the 1961 expansion draft. In 1962, Hickman reached the majors for the first time, playing in 140 games and getting 453 plate appearances with a .729 OPS for the Mets. He played five seasons for the Mets before being traded after the 1966 season to the Dodgers. He played one season for the Dodgers before being part of an early season trade in 1968. He came to the Cubs along with Phil Regan for Jim Ellis and Ted Savage. He played with the Cubs until he was traded to the Cardinals in 1974 near the end of spring training.
In all, Hickman played in 13 seasons in the major leagues. He had 4,536 plate appearances with a .760 OPS. His best seasons were the six he spent with the Cubs. As a Cub, he appeared in 682 games, had 2,333 PA and an .829 OPS. He slugged 97 homers as a Cub.
Hickman had the first cycle in New York Met history, accomplishing the feat in the old Polo Grounds on August 7, 1963. He also had the distinction of hitting the last ever homer at the Polo Grounds on September 18, 1963. He hit three homers in a game at Sportsman’s Park on September 3, 1965, becoming the first Met to do that. He was the final original Met at the time of his trade in November 1966. He was the first Met to walk in Shea Stadium and the first to be hit by a pitch. Both of those accomplishments were on April 17, 1964.
Jim was comeback player of the year in 1970 when he hit .315 with 33 doubles, 33 homers, 115 RBI, 102 runs and 93 walks. That was easily the best season of his career. He placed eighth in NL MVP balloting that year and played in his only All-Star game. Not many people recall that Hickman had the game winning RBI single in the 12th inning. But most baseball fans have seen the play as that is the one where Pete Rose plowed Ray Fosse to score the winning run. Here’s video of that play:
Week 11 Pitcher Feature: Archie Reynolds
Archie was a 38th round draft pick by the Cubs in the 1966 draft. He reached the majors at 22 years old with the Cubs in 1968 and pitched in seven games, starting one of them and ending with a 6.75 ERA in 13⅓ innings. In 1969, he started two games for the Cubs, throwing a total of 7⅓ innings. Those starts were both the second game of doubleheaders, one was June 15 (covered last time) and the other was on June 22 (covered above) His ERA looks great at 2.45, but of course we know from the game he pitched that is covered above, he allowed three unearned runs. So in fact, he allowed five runs in those seven plus innings. His defense didn’t help matters, but he also allowed 11 hits and seven walks (WHIP of 2.455).
He pitched in seven more games for the Cubs in 1970, again starting once. He threw 15 innings and had a 6.60 ERA. The Cubs traded him to the Angels in July 1970. He pitched for the Angels in 1971 (0-3, 4.61 ERA in 27⅓ IP), then was traded to the Brewers in 1972 (0-1, 7.23 ERA in 18⅔ IP). Put together, Reynolds had an 0-8 record with a 5.73 ERA in 81⅔ innings over five seasons. He last pitched in the majors at the age of 26 in 1972. He did pitch in the minor league systems of the Brewers and Padres in ‘73 and ‘74, but never again pitched in the majors.
Looking Ahead: The grueling schedule doesn’t stop for the Cubs. The Pirates came to town for four games in four days and then the Cardinals followed with four games in three days. From June 9 to July 6, the Cubs had only one day off. They played five doubleheaders in that time. To the team’s credit, they were 36-16 after the game played on June 7 that ended in a tie. They were 53-31 after the games of July 7. They played that stretch at 17-15. But, this was a team that had been playing blistering ball until that stretch of games.
Of course, 1969 was a different time. Doubleheaders were part of the schedule. Most teams had similar schedules. Then, as now, many of the games were packed into the summer months while school was out and the weather was warm. In actuality, the depth of the team was exposed by that schedule and the team was unable to keep up its torrid pace.
But, we get ahead of ourselves. There is a lot of good baseball to be played, starting with week 12 that we’ll cover next time. As the month of June moves towards its close, the Cubs were still leading their division and there were multiple good weeks ahead as we continue our look back at the 1969 Cubs.