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1969 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: part 16

The All-Star Game, All-Star break, and crossing the 100 game plateau

Phil Regan as Cubs pitching coach in 1997
Getty Images

In both week 14 and 15, the Cubs played three games against the Mets and four against the Phillies. Both times, they lost two of three to the Mets and won three of four from the Phillies. The net result was the division lead remaining largely intact at five games in the National League East.

Week 16 included the All-Star Break and All-Star Game. The Cubs had five All-Stars. Don Kessinger and Ron Santo were each selected to start the game. Ernie Banks, Randy Hundley and Glenn Beckert also made the team.

All-Star Game, July 23: NL 9, AL 3

The NL scored a run in the top of the first, aided by an error. They added two more in the second. They gave one back in the bottom of the second, but then put the game away with five runs in the third. Willie McCovey slugged two homers in the game and was named the game’s MVP. The Cub contingent combined for nine hitless at bats, with three each by the starters and one each by the bench players. Santo actually had a fourth plate appearance and drew a walk.

  • Superhero: Johnny Bench (.179). 2-3, BB, HR, 2RBI, 2R
  • Hero: Willie McCovey (.110). 2-4, 2HR, 3RBI, 2R, K
  • Sidekick: Hank Aaron (.098). 1-4, R, K
  • Billy Goat: Ron Santo (-.039). 0-3, BB
  • Goat: Don Kessinger (-.032). 0-3
  • Kid: Willie Mays/Bob Gibson (-.003). Mays: 0-1; 1IP, 2H, 1BB, 1R, 2K

Game 99, July 24: Cubs 5, Dodgers 3 (62-37)

Ken Holtzman and Don Sutton were the starters in the first game after the break. The Dodgers actually jumped out to the early lead with a run in the second. The Cubs tied it up in the fourth inning. The game was busted wide open with four in the sixth by the Cubs. The Dodgers did get two back in the seventh, but Phil Regan recorded the final seven outs for his 10th save.

  • Superhero: Phil Regan (.216). 2⅓IP, 2H, 1BB, 0R, 0K, SV(10)
  • Hero: Billy Williams (.189). 1-2, 2BB, 2B, RBI, R
  • Sidekick: Al Spangler (.172). 1-4, 2B, 2RBI, R
  • Billy Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.105). 0-4
  • Goat: Ron Santo (-.058). 1-4, R, 2K
  • Kid: Ernie Banks (-.042). 0-2, BB, R, K

Game 100, July 25: Cubs 2, Dodgers 4 (62-38)

In the second game back from the break, the Cubs turned to Ferguson Jenkins while for the Dodgers it was Claude Osteen. This game had the reverse script from the one before it. The Cubs scored first, getting a run in the first. But then the Dodgers scored two in the third, one in the fourth and one in the fifth. The Cubs got one back in the eighth, but it was too little too late.

  • Superhero: Fergie Jenkins (.056). 2⅓IP, 2H, 2BB, 2R, 1K, L(13-8)
  • Hero: Don Nottebart (.047). 2IP, 3H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
  • Sidekick: Gene Oliver (.044). 1-1, 2B
  • Billy Goat: Hank Aguirre (-.255). 2⅔IP, 5H, 0BB, 2R, 2K
  • Goat: Paul Popovich (-.126). 0-1
  • Kid: Randy Hundley (-.117). 0-3, BB, DP

Game 101, July 26: Cubs 3, Dodgers 2 - 11 innings (63-38)

Dick Selma was the starter in the third game back, taking the ball before the first Bill Hands appearance in the second half. That’s a curious decision in hindsight, but Selma was good in this one. He threw 7 innings and allowed only one earned run (two overall). But, this game went to extra innings with each team having last scored a single run in the sixth inning. In the 11th, Billy Williams led off with a double. That brought an intentional walk for Ron Santo. Ernie Banks struck out and the Cubs sent Gene Oliver up to pinch hit for Al Spangler. While he was batting, Williams stole third. That drew a second intentional walk. Randy Hundley then walked it off with a single.

  • Superhero: Randy Hundley (.335). 3-5, 3RBI, 2K
  • Hero: Rich Nye (.266). 2⅔IP, 1H, 0BB, 0R, 3K
  • Sidekick: Phil Regan (.140). 1IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 0K, W(11-5)
  • Billy Goat: Al Spangler (-.209). 0-4
  • Goat: Ernie Banks (-.156). 0-4, BB, 2K
  • Kid: Glenn Beckert (-.123). 0-5

Game 102, July 27: Cubs 2, Dodgers 6 (63-39)

Fergie Jenkins started on one day of rest and lost for the second time in the series. Each team scored a run in the third, but the Dodgers added on with two in the fourth and two in the fifth behind starter Don Drysdale. Jenkins was tagged with all five of those runs and the Cubs were only able to manage eight hits and two runs.

  • Superhero: Billy Williams (.083). 2-4, HR, RBI, R
  • Hero: Ron Santo (.081). 2-4, HR, RBI, R
  • Sidekick: Paul Popovich (.055). 1-2
  • Billy Goat: Fergie Jenkins (-.276). 4⅓IP, 10H, 3BB, 5R, 5K, L(13-9)
  • Goat: Don Kessinger (-.162). 0-5
  • Kid: Al Spangler (-.107). 0-4

Looking Back: The Cubs split a four-game set coming out of the break. It was certainly a curious decision not to throw Bill Hands in the four-game set against the Dodgers. He did start the first game of the subsequent series, so it is hard to imagine he wasn’t healthy. Jenkins started two of the four games and those were the two games the Cubs lost. No harm was done to the Cubs’ division lead. They left with the same five-game lead that they had ended each of the previous two weeks. That meant that the Cubs were still five up with just 60 games left.

Week 16 Pitcher Feature: Phil Regan

Regan has one of my all time favorite nicknames (“The Vulture). He received that nickname from Sandy Koufax while the two were with the Dodgers in 1966. We’ll talk more about that in a bit, but we should establish the basics. Phil was signed as an amateur free agent by the Tigers in 1956. He reached the majors at age 23 with the Tigers in 1960. He pitched for the Tigers through the 1965 season. He appeared in 170 games as a Tiger, starting 101 of them and having a 4.50 ERA.

The Tigers traded Regan to the Dodgers after the 1965 season. That’s the big turning point in Regan’s career. Regan made just four more starts for the rest of his career. But, he flourished in the Dodgers bullpen. In 1966, he went 14-1 with a 1.62 ERA in 65 relief appearances covering 116⅔ innings. He led the National League with 48 games finished and 21 saves. He made an All-Star team and finished seventh in the MVP voting.

In 1968, he was 12-5 and saved 25 games with a 2.27 for the Dodgers and Cubs with the vast majority of that being for the Cubs. He was traded in April with Jim Hickman for Jim Ellis and Ted Savage in one of the more underrated trades in Cubs history. In 1969, Phil won 12 more games, going 12-6 with a 3.70 ERA. He saved 17 games.

All the wins got Regan that “Vulture” nickname, as he often came into tie games or games when his team was behind, and got the “win” when his club won the game. This, in an era when individual pitcher wins meant more than they do now.

In all, Regan was 96-81 in his career with 92 saves and a 3.84 ERA over 551 games and 1,372⅔ innings pitched. I often enjoy looking at the “Similar Players by Age” listing on Baseball Reference and this one is a fun one to me. Included on the list are Carl Pavano (25), Jake Westbrook (27), Al Nipper (28), Dave Stewart (30), Derek Lowe (31-33) and Dick Tidrow (35). Largely, this suggests that Regan was a man ahead of his time. A lot of those pitchers had some middling results as starters and then some decent results as relievers. That certainly describes Regan.

Many will think of Regan as a pitching coach, a role he served on several coaching staffs, including with the Cubs in 1997 and 1998 (see photo above). Most recently he was interim pitching coach for the Mets this past season (at age 82!).

Looking Forward: Week 17 will see the other two National League California teams visit. The week started with a four game set against the Giants, including a make-up of a game that was rained out on May 10. The week concludes with three games against the Padres. The Giants were very good that season, winning 90 games and finishing second. The expansion Padres were not. They were en route to a 110 loss season (tied for worst MLB record with the expansion Expos) in their inaugural season. They also drew only 512,970 fans, good for dead last in the National League.