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Today in 1969 Cubs history: Tying one on

The Cubs had a winning streak ended without a loss.

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The Cubs had won seven in a row through June 6, 1969 and entered action against the Reds June 7 with a 36-16 record and an 8½-game lead in the N.L. East.

The flying-high Cubs had been selected for the national Saturday Game of the Week telecast, then carried by NBC.

That’s a fortuitous thing, actually, having that game carried by a national network, because this video of Ernie Banks’ two-run homer in the first inning of that game was saved. Thus I can show it to you 50 years later:

The announcer, if you’re not familiar with him, was Curt Gowdy, a former Red Sox announcer who’d been NBC’s principal baseball and football play-by-play since 1966. Personally, I found Gowdy’s style to be rather dull, and he eventually left baseball broadcasting in 1975.

The video is interesting because NBC used more cameras for their games than WGN’s typical four-camera setup from those days. As a result we have a field-level shot, about halfway through the video, of Banks rounding third base and being congratulated by Verlon Walker (No. 4), then serving as third-base coach. An Andy Frain usher also congratulates Ernie, and the shots of the dugout are interesting too. Look how small it is compared to today’s!

The Cubs had a 5-1 lead going into the seventh, but the Reds scored a run in the seventh and three in the eighth to tie things up. After the top of the ninth, at 3:50 p.m., it started raining and umpires held up play. 50 minutes later the game was called as a tie, though the Tribune reported that “20 minutes after that, it stopped raining.”

The resulting 5-5 tie was the Cubs’ only tie game from 1969. Would they have won it if they had been able to play the bottom of the ninth, or go into extra innings? We’ll never know, but the Cubs’ seven-game winning streak was ended by a tie game.

It rained again the next day and the June 8 game was postponed and made up on Monday, June 9, a previously scheduled off day. The Cubs lost that game 4-1.

The Tribune reported on June 8 that the June 7 tie was to be made up (as ties were in those days, replayed in their entirety) as part of a doubleheader Tuesday, August 26, the next time the Reds came to Wrigley Field. But that didn’t happen, possibly because the Cubs had another doubleheader against the Astros on August 24. Instead, it was made up on another off day, Monday, August 25. The Cubs lost that game too, 9-8, despite a furious four-run ninth-inning rally (after giving up three in the top of the ninth), part of a four-game losing streak.

Was giving up an off day something the Cubs shouldn’t have done? We know now that the team tired out late in the season. Would a doubleheader as originally planned August 26 have been better?

Just another question from the 1969 season we’ll never be able to answer 50 years later.

This series will continue throughout the season, noting key events on the 50th anniversary of the Cubs’ memorable 1969 season.