Last time, we covered Week 16 of the 1969 MLB season. That included the All-Star Game in which five Cubs participated, followed by the first four games after the break, a series with the Dodgers that the teams split. The Cubs continued to lead the NL East by five games. The last three weeks, their lead ended at exactly five games.
In Week 17, we’ll look at the final seven games of what was an 11-game homestand to start the second half. It will feature the other two California teams, San Francisco and San Diego. The Giants would remain in contention into September, but the Padres would tie the other expansion team (Expos) for most losses in MLB. There are 60 games left to cover in the season, so things are entering the stretch run. Let’s get right to it.
Game 103, July 28: Cubs 4, Giants 3 (64-39)
Bill Hands finally made his second half debut and he received a very tall order, locking up with Juan Marichal. Marichal had made the All-Star team for the eighth consecutive time on his way to a Hall of Fame selection in 1983. The game was scoreless until the fourth inning when the Cubs scored two on Ron Santo’s 22nd home run of the season. Hands held the Giants scoreless until the eighth when the Giants tied it at two. Phil Regan allowed the first three batters in the tenth inning to reach base via three straight hits. But Rich Nye finished the inning with just one run allowed. That became important as after Marichal retired the first two Cubs in the tenth, he walked pinch hitter Willie Smith. Don Kessinger followed with a single and when Glenn Beckert also singled, the game was tied at three. But Billy Williams added a third straight single for the walk-off.
- Superhero: Glenn Beckert (.381). 2-5, RBI, K
- Hero: Billy Williams (.308). 2-5, RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Ron Santo (.258). 3-4, HR, 2RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Phil Regan (-.290). ⅓IP, 3H, 0BB, 1R, 1K
- Goat: Randy Hundley (-.152). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Ernie Banks (-.102). 0-4
Game 104, July 29: Cubs 2, Giants 4 (64-40)
The Giants bounced back in the second game of the series. This one was started by rookie Jim Colborn. Colborn allowed two runs in 4⅓ innings. He left in the fifth, trailing 2-0 after allowing a run in the second, a run in the third and allowing a single, double and a walk in the fifth. Hank Aguirre wiggled out of a bases loaded, one out jam. The Cubs then scored two to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. But that was it. The Giants scored two in the seventh and the Cubs fell to defeat.
- Superhero: Hank Aguirre (.112). ⅔IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 1K
- Hero: Glenn Beckert (.099). 1-4, RBI
- Sidekick: Don Young (.082). 2-2
- Billy Goat: Ted Abernathy (-.176). 1⅓IP, 2H, 1BB, 2R, 3K, L(4-3)
- Goat: Don Kessinger (-.165). 0-4, BB, DP
- Kid: Billy Williams (-.161). 0-4
Game 105, July 30: Cubs 3, Giants 6 (64-41)
For the third straight day, the Cubs and Giants played a tight, back and forth game. In this one, the Cubs scored first with a run in the first off of Gaylord Perry, another Giants starter on his way to the Hall (elected in 1991). The Giants tied it with one off of Cubs starter Dick Selma in the sixth, then took the lead in the sixth with another. The Cubs scored a run in the seventh and each team added a run in the eighth. But the Giants scored four runs in less than two innings off of Rich Nye to win this one.
- Superhero: Glenn Beckert (.273). 2-5
- Hero: Willie Smith (.130). 0-2, 2BB
- Sidekick: Dick Selma (.124). 7IP, 5H, 4BB, 2R, 6K
- Billy Goat: Rich Nye (-.551). 1⅓IP, 3H, 4R, 2BB, 1K, L(2-5)
- Goat: Jim Hickman (-.129). 0-3, RBI, SF, K
- Kid: Paul Popovich (-.117). 0-1
Game 106, July 31: Cubs 12, Giants 2 (65-41)
After three hard-fought games, the finale of the series was a laugher. It didn’t start out that way, reaching the bottom of the third scoreless. But then the Cubs offense broke out in a big way. They scored two each in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. Then kept that two run average going by scoring three in the seventh but only one in the eighth. The Cubs pounded out 12 hits and drew three walks in the onslaught. The Cubs slugged three homers, a triple and two doubles off of Giants pitching on their way to the win.
- Superhero: Fergie Jenkins (.171). 9IP, 4H, 1BB, 2R, 8K, W(14-9)
- Hero: Jim Qualls (.156). 2-4, 3B, 2B, 2RBI, R
- Sidekick: Ernie Banks (.079). 1-4, HR, 2RBI, R, K
- Billy Goat: Willie Smith (-.018). 0-2, K
- Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.012). 2-5, 2B
- Kid: Jim Hickman (.007). 0-0, 2BB, 2R
Game 107, August 1: Cubs 5, Padres 2 (66-41)
Bill Hands was back on the hill and was given an early lead to work with after the Cubs scored two in the bottom of the first. The Padres got one in the fifth, but the Cubs answered with one in the bottom of the sixth to get the lead back to two. The Padres scored a run in the seventh, but the Cubs added two in the bottom half of the inning to put it away.
- Superhero: Phil Regan (.179). 2⅔IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 1K, SV(11)
- Hero: Ernie Banks (.156). 1-3, HBP, 2RBI
- Sidekick: Bill Hands (.117). 6⅓IP, 7H, 0BB, 2R, 4K, W(12-8)
- Billy Goat: Don Kessinger (-.056). 1-4, BB, K
- Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.048). 1-5, 2B
- Kid: Willie Smith (-.009). 1-3, R
Game 108, August 2: Cubs 4, Padres 1 (67-41)
The Cubs won their third straight as the Padres reached 39 games under .500 in only their 107th game. The Cubs staked Ken Holtzman to a 2-0 lead with two in the second. Then added another in the third. The Padres broke the shutout in the sixth, but it was too little. The Cubs added an insurance run in the seventh and coasted to the win.
- Superhero: Ken Holtzman (.379). 9IP, 2H, 4BB, 1R, 5K, W(13-5)
- Hero: Don Kessinger (.152). 1-4, 2B, 2RBI, K, DP
- Sidekick: Ron Santo (.125). 2-3, BB, 2HR, 2RBI, 2R
- Billy Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.108). 0-4
- Goat: Billy Williams (-.045). 1-4, DP
- Kid: Ernie Banks (-.024). 1-4
Game 109, August 3: Cubs 4, Padres 3 (68-41)
The Cubs completed a three-game sweep of the hapless Padres for their fourth straight win overall. This one was far from easy though as ex-Cub Joe Niekro held the Cubs to one run through his first seven innings of work. Former Padre Dick Selma was the Cubs starter in a match-up of two starters who were traded for one another earlier in the year. Meanwhile, the Padres offense scored one in the fourth and two in the sixth. Niekro started the eighth inning against the bottom of the order, but Paul Popovich lead off with a single. One out later, Glenn Beckert added a second single and Billy Williams went deep to give the Cubs the lead.
- Superhero: Billy Williams (.595). 2-4, HR, 3RBI, R
- Hero: Phil Regan (.165). 1IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 0K, SV(12)
- Sidekick: Paul Popovich (.079). 1-1
- Billy Goat: Don Kessinger (-.147). 0-4
- Goat: Jim Hickman (-.102). 1-3, RBI, DP
- Kid: Don Young (-.047). 1-3
Looking Back: The Cubs split four games with the Giants and then swept the Padres for a 5-2 week. They entered the week five games in front of the Central, right where they had finished for three straight weeks. But with the five-win week, the lead swelled to 6½ games.
WPA Hero of the Week: Hank Aguirre, Ken Holtzman, Ferguson Jenkins, Billy Williams (+3)
WPA Goat of the Week: Don Kessinger (-6)
Week 17 Featured Player: Hank Aguirre
Hank had one of more unusual entries on his Baseball Reference page that I’ve ever seen. The start of his career is noted as such:
Before 1952 Season: Sent from Duluth (Northern) to the Cleveland Indians in an unknown transaction.
Hank reached the majors with the Tribe in 1955, appearing in four games at the age of 24 and going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 12⅔ innings. He pitched for them again each of the next two years. He then was traded to the Tigers where he pitched for 10 years. His best season by a wide margin was 1962. That season he was 16-8 with a 2.21 ERA in a swing role, starting 22 games and appearing in 42 overall. He had 11 complete games and three saves. He logged 216 innings, lead the majors in ERA+ (185) and ERA (2.21), and lead the AL with 2.99 FIP, 1.051 WHIP and 6.8 H/9. He appeared in both All-Star games that year (back when there used to be two games). He also received some MVP votes. He registered a 7.4 bWAR, also tops among AL pitchers.
In 1968 he was traded to the Dodgers where he pitched for one season. He then signed as a free agent with the Cubs in 1969 at the age of 38. He pitched the final two seasons of his career with the Cubs. In 1969, he was 1-0 with a 2.60 ERA in 41 games and 45 innings. In all, he pitched 16 seasons in the majors, with a 75-72 record and a 3.25 ERA. He started 149 games and appeared in 447 total games.
Some players who show up on Aguirre’s Baseball Reference Most Similar by Age chart are Norm Charlton (31) and Jeff Fassero (32-34). After his playing career, Aguirre spent three years as a Cubs coach, including time as a bench coach under Leo Durocher. He later spent time as a bullpen coach and pitching coach. Later he managed in the Oakland A’s minor league system. Aguirre was noted to be one of the worst-hitting pitchers of his day, with an .085 average (33-388) with no homers and 236 strikeouts (14 walks).
Looking Forward: Week 18 marked the start of what looked like it could be a make or break trip for the team. Heading out with a 6½-game lead over the resurgent Mets, the Cubs were embarking on a two-week, four-city, 13-game trip to face the Astros and the three California teams. Houston was always a tough trip for the Cubs and both the Dodgers and Giants were in contention for the NL West title.