When last we journeyed back to 1989, the Cubs were dropping five straight games. Injuries had set in and gone were Andre Dawson, Jerome Walton and Mitch Webster from the lineup. This meant increased playing time for people like Darrin Jackson, Doug Dascenzo and today’s featured player Lloyd McClendon.
Those losses dropped the team down to fourth place, 3½ games out of first and to one game under .500. I’ve already spoiled the good news out of all of that. Each of those numbers represents a season low. So the Cubs were able to stop the bleeding. At least to some extent. Let’s jump into the action that occurred during the seventh week of the season. That was a week that saw them cap an eight-game homestand with three games against the Braves, then head out to start a six-game road trip against the Reds.
Game 36, May 15: Cubs 4, Braves 0 (18-18)
One of the best ways to stop a long losing streak is to get a great start out of your starting pitcher. Mike Bielecki was the one who stepped up and gave that great start. Mike went seven strong innings, allowing only four hits and three walks while striking out eight. That enabled him to move his record to 3-1 on the season.
Another great ingredient to snapping a losing streak is putting some early runs on the board. The Cubs also did that. And they did it with this week’s featured player. Mark Grace and Damon Berryhill opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Lloyd McClendon then stepped to the plate and launched a three-run homer. Domingo Ramos added an RBI-single in the fifth inning.
- Superhero: Mike Bielecki (.295). 7IP, 4H, 3BB, 0R, 8K (W 3-1)
- Hero: Lloyd McClendon (.176). 2-3, HR, R, 3RBI
- Sidekick: Damon Berryhill (.043). 1-3, R, K
- Billy Goat: Doug Dascenzo (-.056). 0-4
- Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.026). 0-4
- Kid: Curtis Wilkerson (-.021). 0-3
Game 37, May 16: Cubs 4, Braves 3 (19-18)
This game would have been a scary one on paper as future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine squared off with an aging Scott Sanderson. But, the offense really gave Scott a nice cushion in this one with four runs in the first. It was a wild inning. Doug Dascenzo led off the inning with a bunt single. Domingo Ramos followed with a single and then Ryne Sandberg put the Cubs on the board with a two-run triple. Mark Grace then had an infield hit with Sandberg staying at third. A pop out and a fielder’s choice threatened to snuff the rally. But a passed ball (by ex-Cub Jody Davis) followed, scoring one run. A wild pitch, walk and stolen base followed. A wild throw on the stolen base yielded a fourth run.
Sanderson allowed a solo homer by Andres Thomas in the fifth for the Braves first run. Dale Murphy drove in a run in the sixth with a sacrifice fly. Darrell Evans had a sac fly of his own in the eighth off of Mitch Williams to cut it to one, but that was as close as the Braves could get it and the Cubs won their second straight.
- Superhero: Mitch Williams (.230). 2IP, 2H, 1BB, 0R, 4K (SV 11)
- Hero: Ryne Sandberg (.146). 2-4, 3B, 2RBI
- Sidekick: Scott Sanderson (.120). 6IP, 4H, 1BB, 2R, 3K (W 4-2)
- Billy Goat: Damon Berryhill (-.071). 1-4, 2B
- Goat/Kid: Vance Law/Darrin Jackson (-.021). Law: 1-3, BB, SB; Jackson 1-3, K, CS
Game 38, May 17: Cubs 4, Braves 0 (20-18)
The Rick Sutcliffe turn in the rotation came up and it wouldn’t be any surprise that the Red Baron held the Braves at bay. But it wasn’t Sutcliffe that made the start. Jeff Pico made the start. Jeff had such an interesting career. For those of you who don’t remember, he pitched a complete game shutout May 31, 1988 in his major league debut. He went eight innings in his third start, picking up his second career win. He added another complete game in his sixth start. Despite all of that, his nine start run in the rotation in 1988 ended with a 3-5 record and a 4.70 ERA. Not all together bad for a 22-year-old rookie. All together, he made 13 starts and finished the season with a 4.15 ERA. That’s a pretty good debut.
In 1989, this was his first start of the year. He made it on two days rest, having thrown two innings of relief on May 14. Then he started and went seven innings. He’d make four more spot starts, pitch in 53 games, save two and notch a 3.77 ERA in 1989. In 1990, he pitched in 31 games with a 4.79 ERA at age 24 and then he never pitched in the majors again. He hung around in the minors and the independent leagues all of the way through the 1996 season, but never made it back.
In May 1989 he made that fantastic start to help the Cubs complete a three-game sweep of a Braves team that was just starting to put the pieces together of a team that would be dominant in the NL during the 1990s. The offense in this game was once again ignited by a Doug Dascenzo single leading off the game. Shawon Dunston returned to the lineup after a couple of days off and drew a walk. Dascenzo and Dunston completed a double steal and that ended up being key as Mark Grace’s grounder to second became an RBI single rather than an inning ending double play.
The rest of the damage was done in a three run second. That one started with a Damon Berryhill single. Lloyd McClendon followed with a single. Vance Law doubled in the first run of the inning. Darrin Jackson followed with an infield hit for the second run. Pico sacrificed Jackson to second and a Dascenzo ground out made it 4-0.
- Superhero: Jeff Pico (.262). 7IP, 4H, 3BB, 0R, 3K (W 2-0)
- Hero: Doug Dascenzo (.100). 2-3, BB, R, RBI, SB
- Sidekick: Lloyd McClendon (.068). 1-3, R
- Billy Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.078). 0-4, 2K
- Goat: Domingo Ramos (-.009). 0-2
- Kid: Phil Stephenson (.003). 0-0, BB, SB
Game 39, May 19: Cubs 8 at Reds 2 (21-18)
The offense exploded in this one behind Greg Maddux as the Cubs pounded future Cub Danny Jackson. It didn’t start that way though. The Reds got an RBI groundout from Eric Davis in the first inning. Future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin added an RBI single in the second. From there, it was all Cubs though.
The Cubs busted this one open in the fourth inning. Ryne Sandberg started the inning with a single and Lloyd McClendon followed with a walk. A Damon Berryhill single loaded the bases. That set the table for the big blow of the inning, a two-run double by Vance Law. Curtis Wilkerson added an RBI ground out and then Greg Maddux capped the rally with a two-out, RBI-double.
In the fifth, the Cubs continued to add on. Damon Berryhill batted with two on and one out and came up with an RBI single. He was then the back half of a double steal with Lloyd McClendon stealing home. Law added another RBI and it was 7-2. Berryhill added yet another RBI with a single in the seventh and the Cubs cruised.
- Superhero: Damon Berryhill (.268). 4-4, 2B, 2R, 2RBI, SB
- Hero: Vance Law (.208). 2-4, 2B, R, 3RBI
- Honorable Mention: Greg Maddux (.080). 1-4, 2B, RBI
- Sidekick: Lloyd McClendon (.079). 0-1, 2BB, 2R, SB
- Billy Goat: Shawon Dunston (-.105). 0-4
- Goat: Doug Dascenzo (-.068). 0-5
- Kid: Curtis Wilkerson (-.065). 0-4, RBI, DP
Game 40, May 20: Cubs 7 at Reds 3 (22-18)
The Cubs bats stayed hot behind Paul Kilgus who picked up his fourth win. The win was the fifth straight for the Cubs, following five straight losses. I can’t say it enough, 1989 was a wild ride. Lloyd McClendon continued to boost the Cubs and gave them their first run with a solo homer in the second off of Tom Browning. But the Reds bounced right back with a two-run Paul O’Neill homer off of Kilgus in the second.
In the third, the Cubs scored a run on an error on a two-out Damon Berryhill grounder to the usually sure handed Barry Larkin. Lloyd McClendon made the error doubly painful when he followed with a two-run single. Darrin Jackson added a solo homer in the fourth and it was 5-2 Cubs. Later in the inning, Mark Grace added an RBI single. O’Neill had an RBI single of his own in the fourth, but his three RBI day was wasted. Vance Law drove in the seventh and final Cubs run in the sixth inning with a sac fly after a rare Doug Dascenzo double and steal of third.
- Superhero: Lloyd McClendon (.281). 2-5, HR, R, 3RBI, K
- Hero: Pat Perry (.138). 3⅓IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 0K (SV 1)
- Sidekick: Damon Berryhill (.075). 1-4, HR, R, RBI
- Billy Goat: Paul Kilgus (-.083). 5⅔IP, 7H, 1BB, 3R, 1K (W 4-4)
- Goat: Shawon Duston (-.042). 1-4, K
- Kid: Doug Dascenzo (-.001). 2-5, 2B, 2R, K
Game 41, May 21: Reds 7, Cubs 2 (22-19)
Mike Bielecki started this one and stuggled for the Cubs. He worked out of a bases loaded jam in the first and also stranded a Red at second in the second. But the Cubs left the bases loaded themselves in the fourth and then the flood gates opened. After walking two of the first three batters in the fourth, Reds starter Rick Mahler bunted back to Bielecki, but a throwing error led to a run and runners and second and third with only one out. Chris Sabo and Ken Griffey Sr. each followed with RBI singles. One out later, Eric Davis added one of his own.
The Cubs got two back in the sixth inning. Dwight Smith was the catalyst. He had a one-out RBI triple and then scored on a squeeze bunt from Shawon Dunston. But Eric Davis added a two-run double in the bottom of the inning to restore the four run lead. They would tack on a Jeff Reed sac fly in the eighth to win 7-2 and snap the Cubs winning streak.
- Superhero: Vance Law (.142). 3-4, 2B, R
- Hero: Steve Wilson (.023). 1⅓IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 1K
- Sidekick: Ryne Sandberg (.002). 2-3, BB
- Billy Goat: Mike Bielecki (-.209). 3⅔IP, 8H, 3BB, 4R, 2K (L 3-2)
- Goat: Jeff Pico (-.094). 1IP, 3H, 0BB, 2R, 0K
- Kid: Doug Dascenzo (-.090). 1-5, CS
Certainly can’t win ’em all. But five straight wins to start the week eased the damage of the week before. Surprisingly, the calling card of the 1989 Cubs was roster depth. They didn’t use a great number of players, but almost all those that they did use did contribute in meaningful ways. That was definitely on display in this week, with six different players landing a Superhero during the week (Bielecki, Williams, Pico, Berryhill, McClendon, and Law). The first two of those were key contributors for the 1989 Cubs. The last four of them either due to productivity or lack of playing time issues were not significant contributors as measured by Heroes and Goats.
We haven’t made note of game times and attendance in a few weeks. Week seven saw a couple of notable entries in those ares. The Mike Bielecki shutout to start the week took just 2:04 to complete. It was one of four games that week that the Cubs completed in under 2:30. The Saturday game in Cincinnati was attended by 49,175. That would be the third-largest crowd that the Cubs would play in front of in 1989.
The division standings remained relatively close through the end of the week. After starting the week in fourth, the Cubs climbed to second by Wednesday and stayed there the remainder of the week. After being 3½ games out of first, they trimmed the lead down to one by Wednesday and had it down to just half a game by the end of the week. The Mets led the division at week’s end, but both the Cubs and Cardinals were right behind them.
Looking ahead, the Cubs will play six games in our next part of this series. They’ll start with three games in Houston. The Astros always played the Cubs extremely tough in Houston and trips there were not filled with pleasant memories. After that, they’d come home and play three more games against the Reds.
1989 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats Player of the Week: Lloyd McClendon
Many younger readers of Bleed Cubbie Blue will remember Lloyd as a long time MLB manager and coach. Most recently, he served as interim manager for the Tigers this past season. Lloyd has managed over 1,100 games at the big league level, winning 501 of them (.450 winning percentage) but never reaching the postseason. Before that, Lloyd played eight big-league seasons primarily as a first baseman and corner outfielder. He was actually a catcher when he reached the majors and he also spent a little bit of time at third.
McClendon, a Chicago-area native (Gary, Indiana) who played in the Little League World Series in 1971, was originally drafted by the Mets in the eighth round in 1980. He was sent from the Mets to the Reds as a minor leaguer in 1982 in a trade that sent Tom Seaver back to the Mets. He reached the majors with the Reds in 1987 and played parts of two seasons in the majors with them, appearing in 117 games, amassing 234 plate appearances with a .613 OPS. After the 1988 season, he was traded to the Cubs for Rolando Roomes. He was traded by the Cubs in September 1990 to the Pirates for Mike Pomeranz, who never reached the majors.
1989 was the bright spot in Lloyd’s playing career. He saw his most steady playing time, appearing in 92 games (career high) and having 305 plate appearances (career high). He had an .847 OPS on the strength of 12 doubles and 12 homers. He drove in 40 runs. He would have been a great stopgap player on your fantasy team, particularly if it allowed five games or fewer to qualify at a position. He plated all of first, third, left and catcher for the Cubs that year. He didn’t play any of them well, but he was a bit of a Swiss Army knife for those 1989 Cubs.
For his career, McClendon played in 570 games, had 1,375 plate appearances and a .706 OPS. He plated a total of eight seasons, finishing his career with four plus years in a Pirates uniform. He played in the post season in three different seasons, 1989 with the Cubs and then 1991 and 1992 with the Pirates. Unfortunately, his teams were a first round exit each time. Though that was through no fault of his. He had a lifetime 1.633 OPS in 23 post-season plate appearances.
Did you remember Lloyd McClendon’s significant 1989 contributions?
This poll is closed
I remembered he was decent but wouldn’t have realized he had almost 1 bWAR
No way man