The Cubs had gotten off to a good start in 1998, after a horrid 1997, and so by the time early May came, some fans were thinking that maybe, just maybe, this could be another playoff year.
If the date of this game sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because there was a much more famous game played just two days earlier — the Kerry Wood 20-K game. In fact, this one was the next Cubs game played, as a night game that was supposed to open a four-game series against the Giants May 7 was rained out.
That postponement nearly caused a controversy, as the Cubs rescheduled it as part of a doubleheader August 20. But after the Giants complained to the league that this would force them to play two games in Chicago after a night game in Atlanta August 19, the Cubs agreed to play a doubleheader Saturday, May 9.
Little did they know they’d play a game and a half worth of innings on May 8. Mark Gardner and Steve Trachsel were the starters, though both would be long gone by the time this one was decided.
Cubs shortstop Jeff Blauser hit into a triple play in the fourth inning. Bob Logan of the Daily Herald describes it:
Hayes started the fourth-inning triple play, snaring Jeff Blauser’s liner with two runners on base. He then stepped on first to retire Henry Rodriguez, then threw to shortstop Rich Aurilia, covering second, to nail Grace. It helped extend the frustrated Blauser’s slump to 10-for-56 in the last 16 games.
That’s the Cubs version of Blauser you probably remember.
The Cubs took a 3-2 lead into the ninth inning, with Rod Beck on the mound. Beck was very good closing that year, but not that afternoon. Darryl Hamilton led off the inning with a double and was sacrificed to third. Yes, that was a thing in those days — you’d never see a 2020 manager do that. (No, not even with the placed runner rule.) Barry Bonds was intentionally walked — that happened a lot. The game was tied on this weird play:
With Darryl Hamilton on third, Barry Bonds on first and one out, Cubs closer Rod Beck enticed a checked-swing grounder from Jeff Kent. Hamilton broke for the plate, and shortstop Manny Alexander had him dead to rights, except that Servals had headed to back up first base, a costly mental error.
And there the score stayed, through the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th innings. And when I say “stayed,” I mean these teams just stopped hitting. No one got a runner in scoring position until the 12th. The Giants loaded the bases with two out in the 13th but could not score.
Finally, San Francisco broke through with a run in the 14th on an RBI single by Hayes off Amaury Telemaco.
In the bottom of the inning, Alexander led off with a single and Brant Brown also singled. Both runners moved up on an infield out. Sammy Sosa was intentionally walked to load the bases. The Giants brought in lefthander Jim Poole to face Mark Grace, but Grace came through with a single to right, scoring Alexander and Brown and winning the game 5-4. From Logan’s recap:
“Every hitter wants to be in that position, especially me,” said Grace of his game-winning drive into the right-field corner, after Sammy Sosa had been intentionally walked to fill the bases with one out. “His (reliever Jim Poole’s) 2-0 pitch was right down the middle, and I wasn’t going to take it.”
At the time, Cubs Friday games started at 2:20 p.m. The four-hour, 52-minute marathon ended just around 7:15, and Grace had other things he was thinking about:
“We missed the first quarter of the Bulls game,” Grace said. “But if you have to stay out there that long, you might as well win.”
I’m just sorry there’s no video that survives from this game, as several of those plays would have been fun to watch. The Bulls, meanwhile, were on their way to their sixth NBA title that year. Their game played that night was Game 3 of their second-round series against the Charlotte Hornets. They won 103-89.
This is the first one of these in this series from a Cubs team that finished over .500.