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1969 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: part 22

Oof! The decline begins

Photo by Louis Requena/MLB via Getty Images

In week 21 of the 1969 season, the Cubs won four of seven against two tough opponents. That was a good enough week to have them 4½ games ahead as August came to a close. As I said last time, that lead with 27 games to play is quite large. Unfortunately, as we’ll soon see, it wasn’t nearly large enough.

This week, the Cubs played just five games. They had a two-game set in Cincinnati to cap off their short road trip. That series was sandwiched between two off days. They then finished the week at home against the Pirates.

Game 136, September 2: Cubs 8, Reds 2 (84-52)

Fergie Jenkins continued to be every bit the go to guy on the pitching staff. He went the distance here for his 19th win. The Cubs drew six walks to go with 10 hits. The Cubs rolled to a fifth straight win. In this one, they lead 8-0 before the Reds finally got two runs in the seventh inning.

  • Superhero: Fergie Jenkins (.255). 9IP, 9H, 1BB, 2R, 7K, W(19-11)
  • Hero: Don Kessinger (.111) 2-4, BB, HR, 2B, 2RBI, 2R, K
  • Sidekick: Glenn Beckert (.105). 2-5, 3RBI
  • Billy Goat: Billy Williams (-.047). 0-5
  • Goat: Jim Hickman (-.038). 0-3, BB, K
  • Kid: Ron Santo (-.005). 0-3, 2BB

Game 137, September 3: Cubs 0, Reds 2 (84-53)

Bill Hands pitched well, allowing just two runs in the fourth inning. But the Cubs bats managed only two hits against Jim Maloney. Maloney had a very fine season for the Reds that year, compiling a 2.77 ERA in 27 starts and 178⅔ innings. Still, even against a good pitcher throwing well, it’s disappointing to go scoreless after back to back eight run efforts.

  • Superhero: Randy Hundley (.046). 0-3
  • Hero: Bill Hands (.027). 7IP, 8H, 0BB, 2R, 4K, L (16-12)
  • Sidekick: Phil Regan (.013). 1IP, 1H, 0BB, 0R, 1K
  • Billy Goat: Don Kessinger (-.145). 1-4, DP
  • Goat: Glenn Beckert (-.112). 0-4
  • Kid: Billy Williams (-.092). 0-4

Game 138, September 5: Cubs 2, Pirates 9 (84-54)

Ken Holtzman was tagged for four runs in the second, settled down and then allowed two more in the fifth. The Cubs finally scored a run in the sixth and later added one in the ninth after the bullpen had allowed three more runs. But the Cubs lost for a second straight game. This time, the offense managed just four hits. In a true oddity, Billy Williams had all four hits (and all for extra bases!).

  • Superhero: Billy Williams (.089). 4-4, 2HR, 2 2B, 2R, 2RBI
  • Hero: Don Nottebart (.000). 1IP, 1H, 1BB, 0R, 1K
  • Sidekick: Willie Smith/Ted Abernathy (-.001). Smith: 0-1, K; Abernathy: 2⅔IP, 3H, 4BB, 3R (1ER), 0K
  • Billy Goat: Ken Holtzman (-.287). 5IP, 7H, 3BB, 6R, 2K, L (16-9)
  • Goat: Ernie Banks (-.074). 0-4, K
  • Kid: Jim Hickman (-.060). 0-4, 2K

Game 139, September 6: Cubs 4, Pirates 13 (84-55)

The Pirates flat out wrecked Jenkins in his second start of the week. After starting the Monday game and going the distance, Leo Durocher had him right back in the mix and it did not pay off this time. The Cubs did score the first runs with two in the first. But the Pirates got three in the second. The Cubs scored a run and it was tied heading to the third, but a six run third chased Jenkins and doomed the Cubs.

  • Superhero: Glenn Beckert (.109). 1-3, 2BB, R, SB
  • Hero: Don Young (.105). 2-4
  • Sidekick: Randy Hundley (.024). 0-1, 3BB, R
  • Billy Goat: Fergie Jenkins (-.422). 2⅓IP, 8H, 1BB, 6R, 2K, L (19-12)
  • Goat: Don Nottebart (-.190). ⅓IP, 4H, 0BB, 3R, 1K
  • Kid: Don Kessinger (-.086). 1-5, R, 2K

Game 140, September 7: Cubs 5, Pirates 7; 11 innings (84-56)

This one was a back-and-forth affair. The Pirates scored in the top of the first, but the Cubs matched them in the bottom of the inning. The Pirates added another run in the second, but the Cubs got it back in the third. The Pirates scored two in the sixth, but the Cubs got one back in the seventh. They then took the lead with two more in the eighth. The Pirates tied the game off of Phil Regan in the ninth on a two-out, two-strike homer by Willie Stargell:

And then they defeated the Cubs with two runs in the 11th off Ken Johnson who was in his second inning of work. One of those runs scored on this uncharacteristic error by Don Kessinger:

  • Superhero: Jim Hickman (.458). 1-4, BB, HR, 2RBI, R, K
  • Hero: Billy Williams (.177). 3-5, 2B, RBI
  • Sidekick: Al Spangler (.108). 0-1
  • Billy Goat: Ken Johnson (-.267). 2IP, 3H, 2BB, 2R (0ER), L (2-5)
  • Goat: Willie Smith (-.208). 0-1
  • Kid: Glenn Beckert (-145). 1-5, BB, RBI, K

Looking Back: The Cubs played five games, three of them at home and won just once. There were a couple of games at the start of the week where the offense let the team down, but by and large the culprit was a pitching staff that allowed 29 runs to the Pirates in a three game set. The four-game losing streak, right on the heals of a five-game winning streak saw the division lead (which swelled to five games with the one win) dwindle to just 2½ games.

WPA Hero of the Week: Randy Hundley (+4)

WPA Goat of the Week: Ken Johnson, Ken Holtzman (-3)

Looking Ahead: Weeks 23 and 24 are at least a little bit of an oddity in baseball history. The normal rhythm of baseball has a team play two different teams over the course of a week, usually in three- or four-game sets. But in these two weeks, the Cubs had three opponents each week. In Week 23 that will be seven road games in three cities. The week starts in New York where the division lead was on the line. Then they’d head to Philadelphia for two more and finish the week with three in St. Louis. After those seven road games, there would be only five more road games the rest of the way. The Cubs needed to right the ship quickly and survive the week and they would have a realistic shot at a division title.