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Today in 1989 Cubs history: The record-tying comeback win

The Cubs were down 9-0 after five... and won.

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What I remember most about this game is leaving it before it was over.

I left early because I had to. In 1989, I was working the afternoon/evening shift at ABC7 and had to leave games early on work days. Sometimes this was tough, if the score was close. But I had to get to work, so I figured I’d rather see some baseball than no baseball.

This day, the decision was easy, or so I thought. Mike Bielecki had been pounded for six runs in the first four innings, and then a guy you probably have never heard of, Dean Wilkins, served up a three-run homer to Rafael Ramirez in the fifth to make the score 9-0 Astros.

I very clearly remember saying to my friends who were sitting with me on that Tuesday afternoon, “We’ll get ‘em tomorrow.”

The Cubs paid no attention to that, not at all.

A walk, two singles and an error brought the Cubs to within 9-2 in the sixth. Lloyd McClendon homered with a runner on in the seventh, and Dwight Smith’s RBI single made it 9-5.

Hmmm. This game is now sort of within reach.

“Sort of” became reality in the bottom of the eighth. Joe Girardi led off with a single and went to second on a passed ball. After a fly out, Jerome Walton reached on an error, putting runners on first and third. Ryne Sandberg singled to score Girardi and it was 9-6. Now the tying run is at the plate. McClendon singled in Walton to make it 9-7, and another passed ball moved the runners up to second and third.

A single by Mark Grace made it 9-8 and moved McClendon to third.

Smith was the next hitter. He hit a fly ball to center that tied the game, but Grace was thrown out trying to take second to end the inning.

The Cubs had come all the way back, scoring nine unanswered runs. They had the winning run in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth, but Darrin Jackson hit into a double play to send the game to extras.

Paul Assenmacher, who had been acquired from the Braves just five days earlier, threw a scoreless 10th.

In the bottom of the inning, Walton led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second. McClendon singled, sending Walton to third and Grace was intentionally passed.

That brought up Smith:

The Cubs had completed a 10-9 victory after being down nine runs, tying the biggest such comeback in franchise history, also accomplished September 28, 1930, when they spotted the Reds a 9-0 lead and won 13-11.

I wish I could have seen the comeback, but in those days I didn’t get to see the end of many weekday afternoon games. The Cubs maintained a 2½-game lead in the N.L. East after defeating the Astros that day, although the high of the win didn’t last long. They lost six of their next nine, their lead shrinking to half a game over the Cardinals... but that’s a tale that’s going to be told in the next installment in this series, coming up next month.

This article is part of a series commemorating important events in the 1989 Cubs N.L. East championship season, 30 years ago.