But then they hit a rough patch. They would lose six of their next nine games, including a Friday afternoon game, September 8 against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. That was a tough 11-8 loss not just for the score, but because the Cubs had blown a 7-1 lead.
Thus it was that they led the Cardinals by just half a game going into the Wrigley contest of Saturday, September 9. A loss would put the Cubs in second place.
What I remember most about this game, beyond the result, was that the entire contest was played in a steady light rain. That’s commonplace these days, but in 1989, games were usually delayed or even postponed with weather like that. Given the importance of the game and the fact that it wasn’t raining all that hard, the umpires chose to not delay the proceedings.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a successful squeeze bunt by Dwight Smith. Rick Sutcliffe held the Cardinals down until the sixth, when RBI singles by Tom Brunansky and Jose Oquendo gave St. Louis a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Smith led off with a single and when Brunansky hesitated picking up the ball in right field, Smith took off for second, much as you might see Javy Baez do that in 2019. Brunansky’s throw was late and he was charged with an error. Smith eventually took third on a groundout and scored the tying run on a single by Luis Salazar.
Neither team scored in the ninth and the game went to extras. Paul Assenmacher, an excellent late-season acquisition, set the Cardinals down 1-2-3 in the top of the 10th.
With one out in the bottom of the inning, Andre Dawson took a close 3-2 pitch for ball four. Four pitches later, Salazar — playing in just his ninth game as a Cub — smacked a Ken Dayley offering down the right-field line for a game-winning double. The video below includes both the game-tying and game-winning hits by Salazar:
The thing to really focus on in watching that video is Dawson tearing around the bases scoring the winning run. Andre had significant knee problems in 1989 that limited him to just 118 games and he went just 2-for-19 in the NLCS.
In that one play you can see every bit of the fierce competitor Dawson was. He was bound and determined to score that winning run on that rainy afternoon. Things like this are among the many, many reasons Andre Dawson was and is beloved by Cubs fans.
The Cubs thus stayed in first place and increased their lead to 1½ games. It was the first of a six-game winning streak that put the Cubs solidly in the N.L. East lead by 5½ games.
This article is part of a series commemorating important events in the 1989 Cubs N.L. East championship season, 30 years ago.