The 1987 Cubs were an enigma.
With the addition of Andre Dawson, they had a strong offense and spent most of May and early June in either first or second place. And after two injury-plagued seasons, Rick Sutcliffe rebounded and had a year in which he really should have won the Cy Young Award (the selection of Steve Bedrosian that year is one of the worst-ever Cy picks).
But after defeating the Mets June 9, the Cubs went 7-13 the rest of that month and a 12-13 July had them floundering in fourth or fifth place in the then six-team NL East as August began.
The Mets came to Wrigley August 13 and the Cubs took the first three of a four-game series. A Sunday afternoon pitching matchup between Ron Darling and a not-quite-star Greg Maddux brought 32,731 to Wrigley Field (remember, that’s turnstile count, not tickets sold) for a possible sweep.
This was not Maddux’ finest hour. He made 740 big-league starts. In just 32 of them did he allow seven or more runs, and this was one of those 32. He allowed six hits and walked five in 3⅔ innings, and when Darryl Strawberry smashed a three-run homer off Greg in the fourth inning, making the score 7-0 Mets, manager Gene Michael had mercy and replaced him with future Cub GM Ed Lynch.
Maybe that was the game that convinced Michael that he wasn’t a good fit in Chicago. He resigned three weeks later.
Anyway, Lynch got out of the inning but then was replaced by Drew Hall.
Oh, yes, Drew Hall. Hall was the Cubs’ No. 1 draft pick in 1984 (third overall) and that’s one of the worst No. 1 picks the Cubs ever made. Among players the Cubs passed on in that first round: Jay Bell, Mark McGwire, Shane Mack and Terry Mulholland.
The Cubs made it close in the bottom of the fourth, scoring five runs, four of them on a grand slam by Jody Davis. So now it’s 7-5 and maybe...
Nope. The Mets absolutely teed off on Hall. By the time he was mercifully taken out of the game with two out in the sixth, the Mets had scored nine runs off him — a 10th was charged to him when Jay Baller wild-pitched in the Mets’ seventh run of the sixth inning, and if you’ve lost count, the score is now 17-5. It got to 20-5 in the seventh on a single by Mookie Wilson and two-run homer by Lenny Dykstra. That made this game the first time a visiting team had scored 20 runs in Wrigley Field since the famous 23-22 game in 1979 (you’ll read more about that later in this series).
The Cubs made it “close” — well, not really — by plating four runs in the bottom of the seventh off Jesse Orosco, including RBI doubles by Dawson and Keith Moreland. But an RBI single by Mets catcher Barry Lyons and another two-run homer, this one from Howard Johnson, made it 23-9 heading to the bottom of the eighth.
This was long before the time when putting position players in to pitch was a “thing” in blowouts like this, so Cubs closer Lee Smith, who was having a terrible season, threw the ninth. He retired the Mets 1-2-3, two by strikeout.
In the bottom of the ninth, Manny Trillo doubled and was singled in by Moreland, but that was that, and the 23-10 loss was by far the worst of the season for the Cubs. I well remember going to this game and by the end, just laughing at the absurdity of scoring in double figures and still losing by 13 runs.
In researching this game, I came across the full game broadcast online, so I present it here for you to watch, if you dare. It’s the Mets broadcast team calling the game.
And here is Mike Bojanowski’s scorecard and ticket from the game (bleachers, still $4!). You’ll note Maddux wasn’t on the printed roster list; he’d spent some time at Iowa in August 1987 and had just been recalled for this start.