From 1952 through 1972, the Cubs were involved in nine no-hitters — six by Cubs pitchers, three thrown against them. They seemed almost commonplace.
Now, of course, we know that the Cubs hold the record for the longest streak of games without being no-hit, 7,920 games in between Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965 through Cole Hamels’ no-hitter in 2015.
But in July 1969, that streak was nearly broken before it was even four seasons long.
Future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, who had put together very good seasons for terrible Mets teams in 1967 and 1968, was off to a good start in 1969, posting a 13-3 W/L record and 2.62 ERA in 19 appearances (18 starts) entering the Wednesday, July 9 game against the Cubs in Shea Stadium. Another 50,000+ crowd crammed into Shea, after the Mets’ ninth-inning comeback the previous day, to see the 24-year-old star face the Cubs.
And he began mowing them down. Seaver struck out six of the first nine batters, retiring them all. And then he did the same in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, 24 in a row retired. Only seven Cubs hit the ball out of the infield through eight innings and 11 had struck out.
The Mets had taken a 3-0 lead early and made it 4-0 in the seventh, and so Seaver needed only three more outs for a perfect game. At the time there had been only seven perfect games thrown in the modern era (since 1900).
Randy Hundley grounded out to begin the ninth. Two outs to go.
Up stepped Jimmy Qualls, who likely would not have even played in this game had Don Young not made his famous “caught and dropped” play the previous day. Leo Durocher benched Young, and Qualls started in center field.
Seaver then got pinch-hitter Willie Smith to pop up and Don Kessinger on a fly to left to complete his one-hit shutout, a 4-0 Mets win.
This game was one of 22 in which the Cubs had one hit during the no-hit streak of 7,920 games, and one of just four of that group in which the Cubs broke up the no-hitter in the ninth inning. One of those four was another near-no-hitter by Seaver, at Wrigley Field September 24, 1975. Joe Wallis broke that one up with a two-out single in the ninth and the Cubs won the game 1-0 in 11 innings.
As for the July 1969 series in New York, the Cubs salvaged the final game of the set at Shea the next day, ending a five-game losing streak by defeating the Mets 6-2.
This series will continue throughout the season, noting key events on the 50th anniversary of the Cubs’ memorable 1969 season. Thanks to BCBer MN exile for his assistance with the video clip.