When last we checked in on the 1969 Cubs they were losing six of eight, including four straight at the hands of the Pirates. That was the second straight week with eight games in seven days and it looked like maybe it was taking its toll on the Cubs. They recovered to split the four game weekend set, but even that was against the expansion Expos, who were only 18-46 through the end of the series. Those losses saw the lead trimmed from nine games to five. That is not a great way to make a living.
This week, we’ll look at two home series. Four games in four days against the Pirates and then four games in three days against the Cardinals. That marks the third straight day of eight games in seven days.
Game 69, June 23: Cubs 5, Pirates 4 (44-25)
Ken Holtzman started this one for the Cubs. He allowed single runs in the second and fourth innings to put the Cubs behind 2-0. Both of those runs were aided by errors by the Cubs defense. The Cubs bats roared to life in the fourth, scoring three on the strength of four hits and two walks in the inning. The Pirates plated two in the sixth and took a 4-3 lead to the bottom of the ninth. They got a pair of singles to start the ninth. One out later Billy Williams had an RBI single to tie the game. Then Don Kessinger dashed home on a Ron Santo fly out with the winning run.
- Superhero: Billy Williams (.297). 1-5, RBI, K
- Hero: Don Kessinger (.274). 2-4, 2B, BB, R, RBI
- Sidekick: Phil Regan (.244). 32⁄3IP, 2H, 1BB, 0R, 1K, W(8-5)
- Billy Goat: Ken Holtzman (-.316). 51⁄3IP, 8H, 1BB, 4R(2ER), 2K
- Goat: Paul Popovich (-.225). 2-5, K
- Kid: Al Spangler (-.100). 0-1
Game 70, June 24: Cubs 3, Pirates 2 (45-25)
Bill Hands allowed a single run in the first inning as the Pirates jumped ahead. Ron Santo turned the game around in a hurry with a three-run homer in the third. Hands went the distance to push his record to 7-6. He did allow a run in the fifth inning, but that was it as the Cubs won a second straight. Hands was quite a bit less heralded that Ken Holtzman and Ferguson Jenkins at the top of the Cubs rotation. But after this game, he had four of the top 10 WPA games of the year to date for the Cubs.
- Superhero: Bill Hands (.520). 9IP, 9H, 2BB, 2R, 4K, W(7-6)
- Hero: Ron Santo (.204). 1-4, HR, 3RBI, R
- Sidekick: Paul Popovich (.064). 2-4, R
- Billy Goat: Billy Williams (-.091). 1-4
- Goat: Randy Hundley (-.077). 0-3, K
- Kid: Ernie Banks (-.068). 0-4, K
Game 71, June 25: Cubs 5, Pirates 2 (46-25)
Finally, one that wasn’t particularly close. The Cubs scored one in the second and two more in the third. That was pretty much all Ferguson Jenkins needed. Jenkins went the distance allowing only two hits, one walk and striking out 10. He also had a walk and scored a run. The Cubs managed just three hits themselves, but they drew five walks and the Pirates made two errors. Fortunate sequencing allowed the Cubs to score five of the 10 men who reached base.
- Superhero: Ferguson Jenkins (.277). 9IP, 2H, 1BB, 2R(1ER), 10K, W(9-5)
- Hero: Jim Hickman (.120). 1-1, 3B, BB, RBI
- Sidekick: Willie Smith (.082). 0-1, RBI
- Billy Goat: Rick Bladt (-.063). 0-3, K
- Goat: Nate Oliver (-.028). 0-3, SH
- Kid: Ernie Banks (-.021). 1-4, R, 2K
Game 72, June 26: Cubs 7, Pirates 5; 10 innings (47-25)
Easy go, easy come? The Cubs lost four straight in Pittsburgh a week earlier. But they bounced back and won four straight at home in the rematch. The Pirates came in four over .500 and surely hoped to crawl back into the race by taking three or four from a team they had swept a week earlier. But the Cubs really dented any chance the Pirates had of being competitive in the division with this four game sweep.
It wasn’t easy by any means. The teams mirrored each other for nine innings. Each scored one in the first, two in the sixth and two in the eighth. But the Cubs walked it off on a two-run homer by Jim Hickman. The teams combined for seven homers in this one. Here’s Hickman’s blast:
- Superhero: Ken Rudolph (.395). 1-4, BB, HR, 2RBI, 2R, K
- Hero: Phil Regan (.328). 3IP, 1H, 2BB, 0R, 0K, W(9-5)
- Sidekick: Ron Santo (.309). 2-4, BB, HR, 2RBI, 2R
- Billy Goat: Ted Abernathy (-.314). 0IP, 2H, 0BB, 1R, 0K
- Goat: Willie Smith (-.209). 1-4
- Kid: Don Kessinger (-.090). 1-5
Game 73, June 27: Cubs 1, Cards 3 (47-26)
Two of the better pitchers in the National League squared off in this one. The Cubs scored the first run of the game in the third inning off of future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. But the Cardinals scored two in the seventh and added another in the eighth. The Cubs did manage 10 hits and two walks off of Carlton, though 12 strikeouts helped keep them off of the board. A day after scoring five of 10 baserunners, the Cubs scored just one of 12. Carlton lowered his ERA to 1.85, but on a subpar Cardinals team he was just 8-5.
- Superhero: Ron Santo (.137). 2-4, 2B, RBI
- Hero: Ted Abernathy (.057). 11⁄3IP, 1H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
- Sidekick: Ken Holtzman (.040). 7IP, 3H, 0BB, 2R, 4K, L(10-2)
- Billy Goat: Phil Regan (-.122). 2⁄3IP, 2H, 1BB, 1R, 0K
- Goat: Ken Rudolph (-.118). 0-3, 2K
- Kid: Don Kessinger (-.101). 1-5
Game 74, June 28: Cubs 3, Cards 1 (48-26)
Bill Hands did it again. He threw his second complete game of the week. The Cubs scored runs for him in the third, sixth and seventh innings. Hands held the Cardinals to just three hits and allowed two walks. Two Cubs not noted for their power slugged homers in this one to supply most of the offense. Don Young hit his fourth and Willie Smith his sixth.
- Superhero: Bill Hands (.452). 9IP, 3H, 2BB, 1R, 8K, W(8-6)
- Hero: Ron Santo (.136). 2-3, BB, RBI
- Sidekick: Don Young (.100). 1-3, BB, HR, RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Randy Hundley (-.065). 0-3, BB, K
- Goat: Paul Popovich (-.047). 1-2, 2SH
- Kid: Ernie Banks (-.038). 1-4, 2B
Game 75, June 29: Cubs 3, Cards 1 (49-26)
The two teams played to the exact same score three straight games. This one was a duel of legendary pitchers as two future Hall of Famers locked up, Fergie Jenkins started for the Cubs and Bob Gibson for the Cardinals. This game was scoreless until the bottom of the eighth inning. Billy Williams doubled to start the eighth. Ron Santo struck out, but Ernie Banks had an RBI single to give the Cubs the lead. Then Willie Smith hit his second homer in as many days to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead. The Cards would get one back in the ninth, but that was it.
- Superhero: Fergie Jenkins (.590). 9IP, 8H, 2BB, 1R, 3K, W(10-5)
- Hero: Ernie Banks (.175). 1-3, BB, RBI, R
- Sidekick: Willie Smith (.166). 3-4, HR, 2RBI, R, K
- Billy Goat: Ron Santo (-.178). 0-4, 2K
- Goat: Paul Popovich (-.088). 1-4, 2K
- Kid: Don Young (-.078). 1-4, 2K
Game 76, June 29: Cubs 12, Cards 1 (50-26)
The Cubs crushed the Cardinals in the finale. They held the Cards to just six runs over four games, winning three of four. That pushed the team to seven wins in eight games on the week and nine wins in 12 games on the homestand. Billy Williams and Ron Santo combined for seven hits, two doubles, two triples, a homer, eight runs batted in and five runs scored. Ernie Banks and Randy Hundley also homered. The Cubs scored four in the first, three in the fifth, three in the sixth and then added single runs in the seventh and eighth.
- Superhero: Dick Selma (.166). 9IP, 4H, 3BB, 1R, 10K, W(8-3)
- Hero: Ernie Banks (.147). 1-4, BB, HR, 3RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Billy Williams (.138). 4-5, 2 3B, 2B, 3R, 3RBI
- Billy Goat: Don Kessinger (-.035). 0-4, BB, R, 2K
- Goat: Randy Hundley (-.023). 1-4, HR, RBI, R, DP
- Kid: Don Young 1-4 (-.004). 1-4
Looking Back: As noted above, the Cubs had an enormously successful week, winning seven of eight games. That was just what the doctor ordered after a week in which they had lost six of eight. That moved the Cubs back to a season-high 24 games over .500. That also pushed the division lead back up to 8½ games.
Week 12 Feature: Rick Bladt
Rick who? You might not even remember Rick if you are a long time die hard Cub fan. Rick played in just 10 games in 1969 and had 13 plate appearances. The 22-year-old outfielder had been signed by the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1966. He reached the majors briefly in 1969. After the season, he went to the Yankees to complete an in-season trade along with a minor leaguer for Jimmie Hall. Bladt would get back to the majors in 1975. That time, he played in 52 games as a centerfielder for the Yankees. He had 133 plate appearances and a lifetime .557 OPS (much better than the .308 he had for the Cubs in those few ‘69 PA).
Bladt played 12 seasons in the minor leagues. He had 1,371 games and 5,415 PA with a .743 OPS. He slugged 83 homers and stole 151 bases (64 CS). He last appeared in the minors in 1977 at the age of 30. His 846 games for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs are noted as second-most in franchise history. Ironically, one of the tidbits on Bladt’s bio includes a ball lost in the ivy. But that game didn’t occur in Wrigley Field, it happened in Syracuse. An opposing player circled the bases while Bladt looked for the ball. Fortunately, the umpires ruled the play exactly as it is today, a ground-rule double.
Looking Ahead: As June comes to a close, the season crosses the half way point. That’ll bring a quick look at the Heroes and Goats top and bottom five. That will come during a week in which the Cubs play, stop me if you’ve heard this before, eight games in seven days. This time, those games will occur on the road. The Cubs will play four in Montreal to start the week, then they’ll visit St. Louis for a rematch with the Cardinals. Included in the games next week is a game that was played under protest. All that and more as we continue our journey back to 1969.