When last we checked in our 1969 Cubs, they lost two games to start the week in New York, including a very tough one that featured some subpar outfield play leading to a Mets walk-off. But, the Cubs did rebound to win four of the last five games to close out the week. Despite the two losses to the closest rival, the National League East lead ended at five. At 57-34, the team still stood 23 games over .500 and in very good shape.
In this edition of Historical Heroes and Goats, we move on to week 15 of the season. This is the final week of the “first half.” I’ll always be amused that we treat the All-Star game as the half way point, but generally almost 100 games are played before the break, making it well past the halfway point. In week 15, the Cubs will host the Mets for three and then head to Philadelphia for four. So the Cubs will play the same two teams they played in week 14, for the same amount of games each, just swapping the home team. Would the results be any different? Let’s find out.
Game 92, July 14: Cubs 1, Mets 0 (58-34).
The Cubs sent Bill Hands to the mound to face Tom Seaver. Seaver had nearly no hit the Cubs a week earlier in New York. Seaver would eventually win 25 games and the Cy Young with it (and finish second in MVP voting). On this day, Bill Hands out dueled Seaver. Hands allowed a single with two outs in the ninth and that caused Leo Durocher to summon Phil Regan who recorded the final out to preserve the win. The lone run was an RBI single by Billy Williams in the sixth inning. Seaver went the distance in the loss, dropping to 14-4 but also reducing his ERA to 2.39.
- Superhero: Bill Hands (.662). 8⅔IP, 6H, 3BB, 0R, 5K, W(11-7)
- Hero: Billy Williams (.229). 2-3, RBI, K
- Sidekick: Phil Regan (.080). ⅓IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 0K, SV(9)
- Billy Goat: Ron Santo (-.126). 0-3, K
- Goat: Jim Hickman (-.062). 0-1, DP
- Kid: Randy Hundley (-.057). 0-3
Game 93, July 15: Cubs 4, Mets 5 (58-35)
The Cubs turned to fourth starter Dick Selma while the Mets had third starter Gary Gentry. The teams exchanged single runs in the third. But the Mets busted out for three in the fourth and then added one in the fifth. That deficit proved insurmountable, but the Cubs didn’t go down without a fight. They scored one in the sixth and two more in the eighth on back to back homers from Billy Williams and Ron Santo. But Ron Taylor was summoned from the Mets bullpen following those homers and retired the final four Cubs to close out his eighth save.
- Superhero: Ron Santo (.075). 2-4, HR, RBI, 2R, 2K
- Hero: Rich Nye (.056). 2⅔IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 3K
- Sidekick: Hank Aguirre (.055). 2 IP, 1H, 1BB, 0R, 3K
- Billy Goat: Dick Selma (-.310). 4⅓IP, 8H, 1BB, 5R, 5K, L (9-4)
- Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.142). 0-4, DP
- Kid: Randy Hundley (-.139). 0-4, 2K
Game 94, July 16: Cubs 5, Mets 9 (58-36)
Fergie Jenkins got hammered in this one. He faced 10 batters and five of them scored. He allowed six hits and a walk. The Mets scored four in the top of the first and led 6-0 before the Cubs even batted in the second. The Cubs did score four in the second and one in the third to get close. But, the Cubs dropped two of three to the Mets for the second time in as many weeks.
- Superhero: Billy Williams (.201). 3-4, HBP, RBI
- Hero: Glenn Beckert (.031). 2-4, BB, RBI, DP
- Sidekick: Paul Popovich (.022). 1-1
- Billy Goat: Fergie Jenkins (-.354). 1IP, 6H, 1BB, 5R, 3K, L(12-7)
- Goat: Ron Santo (-.171). 1-5, DP
- Kid: Ernie Banks (-.117). 2-4, 2B, 2R, DP
Game 95, July 18: Cubs 9, Phillies 4 (59-36)
The Cubs traveled to Philadelphia and got off to a great start, scoring three in the top of the first. They added a run in the third and another in the sixth to lead 5-2, heading to the bottom of the sixth. But Ken Holtzman ran into trouble, allowing three runs to tie the game. The Cubs scored another run in the seventh and three in the eighth to finish this one off. The Cubs had three homers among six extra base hits and 11 hits overall.
- Superhero: Ernie Banks (.542). 2-5, HR, 4RBI, R
- Hero: Randy Hundley (.070). 1-5, HR, RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Billy Williams (.060). 1-4, BB, 2B, 2RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Ken Holtzman (-.216). 5⅔IP, 6H, 3BB, 5R, 5K
- Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.092). 1-5
- Kid: Don Kessinger (.003). 0-5, 2R
Game 96, July 19: Cubs 3, Phillies 5 (59-37)
The Phillies bounced back with a late rally to win the second game of the set. The Cubs scored the game’s first run in the second. The Phillies tied it with a run of their own in the fifth. The Cubs scored two in the sixth, but that was it. Meanwhile, the Phillies scored one in the seventh and then three more in the eighth for the win.
- Superhero: Ron Santo (.180). 1-4, 2B, 2RBI, 2DP
- Hero: Jim Hickman (.161). 2-4, HR, RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Glenn Beckert (.071). 2-3, BB, R
- Billy Goat: Bill Hands (-.520). 7⅔IP, 10H, 2BB, 5R, 3K, L(11-8)
- Goat: Jim Qualls (-.109). 1-4
- Kid: Don Kessinger (-.076). 0-4, 3K
Game 97, July 20: Cubs 1, Phillies 0 (60-37).
Fergie Jenkins made the start and bounced back fantastically from getting shelled in the Mets series. He went the distance despite allowing seven hits and one walk. The Cubs scored just a single run in this game, that was in the third inning. They did it with a bit of old school baseball. Don Young lead off the inning by drawing a walk. Jenkins sacrificed him to second and Kessinger laced a single for the game’s only run. The Cubs reached 60 wins before the All-Star break and it took them 97 games to get there.
- Superhero: Ferguson Jenkins (.786). 9IP, 7H, 1BB, 0R, 9K, W(13-7)
- Hero: Don Kessinger (.125). 1-3, BB, RBI, 2K
- Sidekick: Don Young (.006). 0-2, BB, R, K
- Billy Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.095). 0-4, K
- Goat: Jim Hickman (-.069). 0-4, 3K
- Kid: Ron Santo (-.059). 0-3, BB
Game 98, July 20: Cubs 6, Phillies 1 (61-37)
The Cubs held the Phillies to just one run in sweeping both ends of a doubleheader. The offense busted out in the second game, notching 14 hits and drawing five walks. They scored in the first, third(two), fifth, sixth and seventh innings as they tormented Phillies pitching all day long.
- Superhero: Ron Santo (.251). 3-4, BB, HR, 2RBI, 2R, K
- Hero: Dick Selma (.200). 9IP, 4H, 2BB, 1R(0ER), 7K, W(10-4)
- Sidekick: Glenn Beckert (.107). 2-5, RBI
- Billy Goat: Jim Hickman (-.059). 0-4, BB
- Goat: Willie Smith (-.040). 0-3, 2BB
- Kid: Don Kessinger (.005). 3-5, 2 2B, 2R
Looking Back: Week 15 looked quite a bit like week 14. The Cubs lost two of three to the Mets in each week and won three of four from the Phillies in each week. Four out of seven is nothing to sneeze at, but boy would you have liked to take at least three of the six against the Mets and four could have been huge. The Mets stole the first of the six games over two weeks with the aid of some questionable outfield play. In the home series, the Cubs couldn’t capitalize on not seeing Jerry Koosman and his sub-2.00 ERA along with beating Tom Seaver in a season when he wasn’t often beatable. The division lead finished right where it started, at five games. That’s a pretty good lead at the All-Star break.
WPA Player of the Week: Billy Williams (+6). All three times Williams placed in HH&G, were on the positive side. He had one each of a Superhero, Hero and Sidekick. He reached the All-Star break with an .863 OPS. Williams had been an All-Star four times before, but he wouldn’t reach the game in the summer of ‘69. He’d get back to it twice more in 1972 and 1973.
WPA Goat of the Week: Jim Hickman (-5). Jim reached the standings four times, with one of those being a Hero spot. But, he had a Billy Goat and two Goats to land him at the bottom. Hickman would be an All-Star with the Cubs the following season in 1970, his only career appearance in that game.
WPA Oddity of the Week: Don Kessinger. He reaches the standings in each of the final four games. He had one Hero placing and three Kid placings. Two of those placings were games in which Kessinger had positive scores. That’s some tough luck. The net result was a -1 week.
Honorable Mention: Glenn Beckert reaches the standings in six straight games. He had a Hero, two Sidekicks, two Goats and a Billy Goat. In all, a -3 week.
Looking Ahead: In week 16, the Cubs had a short week, playing four games at home against the Dodgers. With three days off for the break, the Cubs were able to come out of the break with Holtzman, Jenkins and Hands lined up for the first three games. The Dodgers were having a decent season, but were not really a contender. They ended up winning 85 games and finishing fourth in the NL West. Still, they were likely to be a tough challenge, even at home. But first, I’ll take a look at the All-Star game. We’ll remind you of which Cubs made the game, let you know if they played and how they did. And, for the first time we’ll apply Heroes and Goats to the All-Star game and see what that looked like.