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Today in Cubs history: The time the Cubs scored 22 runs... and lost

The Cubs have scored 22 or more runs eight times in franchise history. This is the story of the only time they did that and lost.

Dave Kingman
Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In this era of baseball, where snowouts seem common and games seem to often be played in a cold rain, today I want to remember a game from the 1970s, a time when the wind always seemed to be blowing out on warm spring days at Wrigley Field.

Between 1970 and 1980 the Cubs played 16 games in which both teams scored in double figures. The Cubs, not being such a good team during that time, went 4-12 in those games, many of which are memorable.

Perhaps the most memorable of them happened 40 years ago today, May 17, 1979, a windy, warm day at Wrigley Field, with the Cubs hosting the Phillies.

Dennis Lamp started for the Cubs and didn’t complete the first inning. He allowed six hits, including two home runs, and the Cubs trailed 7-0 before they even got a chance to hit.

Phillies starter Randy Lerch got pounded around in the bottom of the first by Cubs batters, allowing five hits including a three-run homer to Dave Kingman. After he was replaced, Cubs reliever Donnie Moore hit a triple off Phillies reliever Doug Bird, a righthander who would later pitch a couple of years for the Cubs.

The barrage of hits and runs kept coming. The Cubs had cut the lead to 7-6, but an eight-run third for the Phillies, including a three-run homer by Garry Maddox, made it 15-6. Going into the bottom of the fifth, the Phillies led 21-9.

But the Cubs began coming back at that point. A seven-run fifth included homers by Bill Buckner and Jerry Martin, and Kingman, who had also homered in the fourth, slammed another one in the sixth. That was part of a three-run inning which made the score 21-19.

The Phillies scored one in the seventh to give themselves a three-run lead, but the Cubs tied it in the bottom of the eighth, on RBI singles by Buckner, Martin and Barry Foote.

22-22, then, as the game went to the ninth. Bruce Sutter, the Cubs’ ace reliever, allowed a walk but no runs, and the Cubs went 1-2-3, sending the game to extra innings.

That’s when Mike Schmidt, who always seemed to kill the Cubs, homered off Sutter with two out to make the score 23-22, and the Cubs went 1-2-3 in the last of the 10th, one of those outs being Kingman, who was batting with a shot at a four-homer afternoon. In his career, Schmidt homered 78 times against the Cubs, third-most of any opponent (Willie Mays, 92, holds the record), and 50 times at Wrigley Field, second-most for any opponent (Mays, 54, hit the most).

There have been, in major-league history, just two games in which both teams scored 20 or more runs. Both were at Wrigley Field. The other happened August 25, 1922, when the Cubs beat the Phillies 26-23.

One more curious note about this game, which you can see at the boxscore link at the top of this post:

Umpires: HP - Dick Cavenaugh, 1B - Bill Lawson, 2B - Dennis Riccio, 3B - Dave Slickenmeyer.

And you’ll scratch your head and wonder, “Who are those guys?” MLB umpires were on strike at the time, and Cavenaugh, Lawson, Riccio and Slickenmeyer were local guys who were called on to replace the MLB umpires. Cavenaugh and Slickenmeyer also wound up umpiring Games 1 and 2 of the 1984 NLCS at Wrigley Field when there was another umpire labor dispute.

There were 11 home runs hit in this game: three by Kingman, one each by Buckner, Martin and Steve Ontiveros for the Cubs, and two by Schmidt, and one each by Maddox, Bob Boone and pitcher Randy Lerch for the Phillies. To this day this remains the National League record for home runs by both teams in a game. It’s been done four times, three at Wrigley Field, but this was the last such occurrence.

The full game on YouTube is in Duane’s Baseball history unpacked post for today, but if you’d rather just see 25 minutes’ worth of highlights, here they are: