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Today in 1989 Cubs history: Clinching the division title in Montreal

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The Cubs had to go to another country to win the N.L. East.

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The Cubs completed their 1989 Wrigley Field season September 24 with a 4-2 win over the Pirates, their fourth in a row and 11th in their last 15 games since that thrilling 4-3 win over the Cardinals September 9, chronicled in the last installment of this series.

Their lead over the second-place Cardinals was 4½ games with six games remaining, a division-clinching magic number of three. So they’d have to go on the road to clinch, and the first stop on a season-ending road trip was Montreal.

The Cubs have since clinched a division title at home (2008) and won the N.L. pennant at home (2016). But in 1989, no Cubs team had clinched a postseason berth at Wrigley Field since the 1932 N.L. pennant. So it was a bit of a disappointment to watch them try for the clincher away from home.

On September 25, the Cubs lost a tough extra-inning game to the Expos 4-3, blowing a ninth-inning lead. But the Pirates beat the Cardinals that night and so the Cubs’ magic number was reduced to two.

The next night, the Cardinals/Pirates game in Pittsburgh was scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. ET, while the Cubs would not begin in Montreal until 30 minutes later. Thus at about 9:30 ET, when the Bucs completed their second straight win over St. Louis, the Cubs knew that they could clinch the division by winning their game against the Expos.

The Cubs scored single runs in the second and sixth innings, but Montreal tied it up with a pair of runs off Greg Maddux in the bottom of the sixth. In the eighth, Ryne Sandberg singled and scored when Expos right fielder Hubie Brooks made a wild throw after a single by Dwight Smith.

Maddux, who wound up finishing third in Cy Young voting in 1989, was left in to try to finish the game (in those days when many starters still did that), but he allowed a single to Tom Foley leading off the bottom of the ninth. Otis Nixon ran for Foley and was sacrificed to second, after which Don Zimmer pulled Maddux for Mitch Williams.

Watching Williams try to save games was always a high-wire act. Think along the lines of Dillon Maples, a guy who has great stuff but doesn’t always know where it’s going. Williams got Wallace Johnson to pop up for the second out, and then Nixon stole third.

Williams got a 1-2 count on Mike Fitzgerald and...

The Cubs won three of their final four regular-season games to finish 93-69 and win the N.L. East by four games. In those days, home field in the NLCS was still rotated between divisions rather than go to the team with the best record (that wasn’t changed until after the 1994-95 strike). The Cubs had home field, but only because it was the N.L. East’s turn. It didn’t help, as the Giants won the NLCS four games to one. Still, the “Boys of Zimmer” season was a happy, memorable year in Cubs history.


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