To understand just how bizarre the Mets’ 19-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 26, 1964 was, you have to look at the history of the Mets up to that time.
The Mets lost 120 games in their inaugural season, 1962. They lost 111 in 1963. There seemed no end to the losing. Coming into the May 26, 1964 game at Wrigley Field, the 13th game of a 15-game road trip (bet players are glad they don’t have those anymore!), the Mets had lost nine of their last 11 games. They were 11-28, in last place, 5½ games out of ninth place, and their overall franchise record was 102-259.
In those 361 games they had scored 10 or more runs 12 times, never more than 14. The franchise record for hits in a game was 16.
Granted, the Cubs weren’t much better, even coming off an unexpected 82-win season in 1963. They were 14-20 coming into this game and they were the ninth-place team noted above.
Even so, to see the Mets, still mostly a collection of has-beens and never-weres, put up 19 runs and 23 hits against the Cubs was shocking. It demolished both the run and hit records for the Mets franchise. Two guys named Smith — generic enough for you? — did most of the damage. Dick Smith, who played only 76 MLB games, went 5-for-6 with three runs scored. It was one of only two games in his career where he had three or more hits. Charley Smith, a journeyman who would eventually have two at-bats for the 1969 Cubs, had five RBI, including a three-run homer off Don Elston in the ninth inning. (Elston was actually a very good reliever for the Cubs for several years, but he was 35 in 1964 and just about done.)
Future Cubs Chris Cannizzaro (2-for-5) and Jim Hickman (3-for-5) also played in this game, as did “the other” Frank Thomas (2-for-5), who had played for the Cubs in 1960 and 1961. The photo at the top is of Jack Fisher, who started and threw a complete game for the Mets, allowing just the one run, which came on an RBI single by Billy Cowan in the fifth inning.
Richard Dozer of the Tribune wrote:
The massacre, which mercifully was exposed to only 2,503 paying customers and a handful of carefree youngsters, was the 103rd victory [Casey] Stengel’s Mets have achieved. It was the largest margin by which they had beaten anybody.
But the best story about this game revolves around Jimmy Breslin. Perhaps you’ve heard of him; he was a longtime newspaper columnist in New York, mostly for the New York Daily News and Newsday. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 and also wrote several novels.
In 1964, he was writing for the old New York Herald Tribune. Someone burst into the newsroom and yelled, “The Mets scored 19 runs!”
Breslin, not missing a beat, replied, “Did they win?”