Hopefully everyone had a happy Thanksgiving with family and/or friends. As the off-season rolls along and the roster ever so slowly begins to come into focus for the 2020 season, we continue our look back at the 1969 Cubs. When last we checked in on them, we looked at the seventh week of the season. That was a week that saw them play seven games on the West Coast and come away with five wins. The second place Pirates managed to match that number and so the division lead remained at six games.
Week eight begins with two games in San Francisco to finish out the trip west. Then they finally return home after two weeks on the road and face the Atlanta Braves for three. A short week after a long trip sounds like just what the doctor ordered. Let’s see how the Cubs did.
Game 45, May 27: Cubs 4, Giants 5 (29-16)
The Cubs had a day off Monday after splitting a doubleheader with the Padres on Sunday. Fergie Jenkins started this one. It initially looked like this might be a high scoring affair with the Cubs scoring one in the top of the first and the Giants answering with two in the bottom of the inning on a Willie McCovey two-run homer. The two teams settled in and it was 2-1 when Jenkins departed for a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth. That’s when the scoring resumed. The Cubs plated three in the top of the eighth. Unfortunately, the Giants responded with three of their own in the bottom of the eighth aided by a Glenn Beckert error and the Cubs fell 5-4.
- Superhero: Ernie Banks (.355). 1-3, BB, 2RBI, K
- Hero: Ron Santo (.154). 0-3, BB, RBI, K
- Sidekick: Bill Heath (.088). BB
- Billy Goat: Ted Abernathy (-.409). ⅓ IP, 3BB, BS
- Goat: Phil Regan (-.332). ⅓ IP, H, BB, 3R (0ER), K
- Kid: Al Spangler (-.150). 0-4
Game 46, May 28: Cubs 9, Giants 8 (30-16)
The Cubs jumped out to an 8-0 lead for Ken Holtzman. Unfortunately, Holtzman had his second consecutive rough start. In this one, he was tagged for seven runs in six plus innings, raising his season ERA from 1.60 to 2.22 (up from 1.45 two starts earlier). He did escape with his eighth win (8-1) in 12 starts. The Cubs scored nine runs on 11 hits and six walks. The Giants plated eight on 15 hits and five walks. This was a wild one. The Giants pushed across their eighth and final run in the ninth inning with the tying run thrown out at home for the final out with Billy Williams starting the relay.
- Superhero: Phil Regan (.234). 3IP, 4H, 0BB, 1R, 0K, SV (4)
- Hero: Randy Hundley (.159). 3-5, HR, 2B, 2R, 5RBI
- Sidekick: Billy Williams (.119). 2-4, BB, R, RBI
- Billy Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.061). 1-5, R, DP
- Goat: Dick Selma (-.052). ⅓ IP, H, K
- Kid: Don Young (-.051). 0-4, BB, SH, K
Game 47, May 30: Cubs 2, Braves 0 (31-16)
The Cubs had an off day on Thursday after returning home and then returned to action on Friday. This one was scoreless through six behind Bill Hands for the Cubs and Ron Reed for the Braves. The Cubs scored their two runs with a Randy Hundley single, Don Young hit by pitch, and a Bill Hands sac bunt/error to load the bases. A Don Kessinger force out at second plated the first run and Glenn Beckert singled in the second. Hands went the distance for the shutout and improved his record to 4-5.
- Superhero: Bill Hands (.599). 9IP, 5H, 0BB, 0R, 6K
- Hero: Glenn Beckert (.088). 2-4, RBI, SB
- Sidekick: Billy Williams (.058). 2-4, 2B
- Billy Goat: Ernie Banks (-.139). 0-4
- Goat: Ron Santo (-.127). 0-3, BB, K
- Kid: Don Kessinger (-.047). 0-4, RBI
Game 48, May 31: Cubs 3, Braves 2 (32-16)
The Cubs finished out May with back-to-back wins against the Braves, who came into this series 28-14. This one was a duel between two pitchers destined for the Hall of Fame. The Braves started Phil Niekro and the Cubs had Fergie Jenkins on the mound. The Braves scored first in the first and Niekro nursed a 1-0 lead into the sixth. But the Cubs scored in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game. The Braves scored their second run in the seventh but the Cubs answered right back. It was knotted at two heading to the bottom of the ninth when Ron Santo lead off with a triple. Ernie Banks and Randy Hundley were each intentionally walked. Willie Smith struck out as a pinch hitter but Don Young came through with the walk-off single. Jenkins went the distance to move to 7-2.
- Superhero: Don Young (.448). 2-4, 2B, R, RBI
- Hero: Fergie Jenkins (.315). 9IP, 5H, 2BB, 2R, 2K
- Sidekick: Ron Santo (.136). 1-4, 3B, R, K, DP
- Billy Goat: Willie Smith (-.103). 0-1, K
- Goat: Randy Hundley (-.077). 1-2, BB, SH, CS
- Kid: Al Spangler (-.066). 0-1
Game 49, June 1: Cubs 13, Braves 4 (33-16)
The Cubs finished a three game sweep of the Braves. The Braves came into this series with a 2½-game lead in the NL West and left with just a half game lead. The Cubs scored six in the third inning to open the scoring. The Braves scored two runs in each of the fourth and fifth inning, sandwiched around the Cubs seventh run in the fourth. The Cubs plated four more in the sixth and the rout was on. They added two more for good measure in the eighth. All together, the Cubs had 13 runs on 16 hits and four walks. Ken Holtzman started, but had another difficult start, leaving without picking up the win. Dick Selma picked up the win in relief (5-3).
- Superhero: Ernie Banks (.214). 2-4, HBP, 2R, 2RBI
- Hero: Dick Selma (.108). 4⅔ IP, 2H, 2BB, 0R, 7K
- Sidekick: Randy Hundley (.065). 1-4, HR, BB, R, 3RBI
- Billy Goat: Don Kessinger (-.055). 1-5, R
- Goat: Don Young (-.035). 1-5, K
- Kid: Billy Williams (-.016). 2-4, HR, BB, 2R, RBI
The Cubs compiled a four-game winning streak to finish out the week against two tough opponents. The Giants and Braves would finish first and second in the NL West in a division that saw three teams within four games and four within eight. Behind that streak, the Cubs moved out to a 7½-game lead in the NL East. The Pirates held onto second for another week, despite a 3-3 record. The Mets finished the week with four straight wins, by a total of five runs. Two of those wins were walk-offs including a 1-0, 11 inning win. That pushed their record to 22-23, they moved into third place and were sitting just 1½ games behind the Pirates who were finally fading after a hot start.
Week 8 Hitter Feature: Don Young
Young was signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1963. The Cubs selected him off of waivers in 1964 and he reached the majors with them the following year. In his first major league at bat, he popped out in what was the first out of a perfect game by Sandy Koufax. Young, then 19, appeared in only 11 games that season. Then he didn’t reach the majors again until 1969. That season he appeared in 101 games for the Cubs and had 323 plate appearances. The Cubs used him that year in all three outfield spots. After 1969, Young never again played in the major leagues. His career line was .218/.313/.345.
Those who were alive for the 1969 season or who have followed Bleed Cubbie Blue may remember Young best for a game in July that we’ll cover in the future. That game saw Young drop two fly balls in the same game. Both were ruled as doubles, but Young received criticism publicly from both Leo Durocher and Ron Santo. That game is one that some circle as the start of the downfall of the ‘69 Cubs. I wasn’t there and I didn’t experience it, but it sure is hard to imagine that any one game led to a swing from nine games ahead of a team to eight games behind that same team.
Young never again played in the majors after 1969. He played parts of two more seasons in the minors before hanging it up.
Week 8 Pitcher Feature: Dick Selma
Selma was signed as an amateur free agent by the Mets in May 1963. Two seasons later he made his major league debut. In only his second career start, he threw a 10-innings shutout in a 1-0 victory against the Milwaukee Braves. Selma came to the Cubs from the Padres in 1969 as part of the Joe Niekro trade discussed earlier in this series. Selma pitched in the majors in 10 seasons. Four of those were pitched for each of the Mets and Phillies. One season was split between the Padres and Cubs and another between the Angels and Brewers.
Selma pitched in 307 games, starting 76 of them. He started 51 of those games in 1968 and 69. His career ERA in 840⅔ innings was 3.62. He had one season as a closer for the Phillies in 1970. That year he appeared in 73 games, threw 134⅓ innings, had a 2.75 ERA, and saved 22 games. He saved 31 games in all during his career.
Selma only made four starts for the Padres before being dealt to the Cubs. But, Selma started, pitched a complete game and won the first game in Padres history.
For the 1969 Cubs, he had a 3.63 ERA in 168⅔ innings. He started 25 games and relieved 11 others. He had four complete games, two shutouts and a save. He had a record of 10-8 for his only career 10 (or more) win season. Notably, Selma was 7-1 as a Cub by July 3, having won his last seven decisions. His last six decisions as a Cub were all losses. During the 14 games (nine starts) that Selma was 7-0, he threw 69⅓ innings with a 2.60 ERA. From that point on, he was 3-7, threw 88⅔ innings in 20 games (14 starts) and had a 3.96 ERA. Not terrible, but certainly his performance tailed off as the season wore on.
Selma only started 10 games after 1969, all in 1972. From 1972 through 1974, Selma was 5-12 with a 5.73 ERA in 132 innings of work. Selma last pitched in the majors in 1974.
Looking Ahead: Week 9 was another short week. The Astros would come to town for two, and the Reds would follow with three. The Reds series would be confounded with rain, ending one game in a tie and pushing another game back a day. We’ll look at those game next week as continue our journey back to 1969.