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Today in Cubs history: An Opening Day tie

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This was a wild game that’s been almost forgotten.

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The Cubs hosted the Cardinals on April 12, 1965, which was Opening Day for that season. The Cardinals were the defending World Series champions. The Cubs, though coming off a 76-86 season, had gone 19-17 to finish up 1964 and so there was some optimism that the ‘65 version might be somewhat better.

Before the game, fans at Wrigley Field were asked to stand in a moment of silence for Jack Quinlan, the team’s radio play-by-play voice, who had died in a car accident during spring training in Arizona in March.

And then the fun began — fun for the Cardinals, at least. They had four hits and two walks off Larry Jackson, who had been the Cubs’ best pitcher in 1964. Jackson didn’t finish the first inning, and then shortstop Roberto Pena — who was making his major-league debut — dropped a popup, allowing a run to score. In all, the Cardinals plated five runs before the Cubs came to bat.

The Cubs, however, mounted a comeback. They scored two in the second, and in the third, Pena atoned for his error by smashing a home run, in his second MLB at-bat. An RBI single by Ernie Banks made it 5-4, but another Pena error helped lead to two more St. Louis runs in the fourth. Pena again made up for his error, after a fashion, with a two-run double in the bottom of the inning.

So the game headed to the fifth with the Cubs trailing 7-6.

Former Cub Lou Brock doubled leading off the sixth, stole third and scored on a throwing error by catcher Dick Bertell, making it 8-6. Then the scoring stopped — for a while. It remained 8-6 until the ninth, when Curt Flood’s RBI single made it 9-6 St. Louis. Things looked bleak for our baseball heroes, but in the bottom of the ninth with two out, Ron Santo walked and George Altman singled. Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst called on his most reliable reliever from 1964, former Cub Barney Schultz, who featured a knuckleball.

Ernie Banks clouted a three-run homer off Schultz on an 0-2 pitch and the game was tied. Tribune writer Robert Markus quoted Banks:

“I thought the wind was too strong,” he said. “Nobody was more surprised than me when it went out. It sure felt good. But that’s one of the prizes for playing this game.”

Nor was Ernie particularly looking for a knuckleball from Schultz.

“The first two pitches, Barney will generally throw it,” he said. “But with two strikes he might throw the fast ball. It was a good knuckleball.”

Ernie said he hit the knuckler after it broke.

Incidentally, regarding the wind? It was in the upper 40s and cloudy that afternoon with west/northwest winds around 15 miles per hour.

So the game went to extra innings. No one scored in the 10th, but Brock drove in a run with a single off Lindy McDaniel in the top of the 11th. In the bottom of the inning, Pena singled, went to second on a groundout and scored on a double by Ron Santo. The game was tied 10-10.

Future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton then made his major-league debut, summoned to face the lefty-hitting Altman. He walked Altman and then was removed for Bob Purkey, normally a starter. Banks hit a fly ball and Santo took third. Doug Clemens was given an intentional walk, loading the bases. That brought up backup catcher Vic Roznovsky, with two out and a chance to win the game. “Any old kind of a run wins it for the Cubs,” Jack Brickhouse surely said, but Roznovsky flied to right — deep into the well, per the Tribune recap — and the inning was over.

And the game was over, too, ending in a 10-10 tie. In 1965, Daylight Saving time didn’t begin until the last Sunday in April. Sunset on April 12 in Chicago was 6:28 p.m., and this game, which ran four hours and 19 minutes (an eternity back then!), was approaching 6 p.m. Weekday games then began at 1:35, so it was just a few minutes before 6 p.m. when the game was called for darkness and declared a tie. All the stats counted, but the game had to be made up as part of a doubleheader on July 11. The Cubs didn’t have the ability to suspend games like this until 1969.

It’s also a commentary on the state of the Cubs franchise that just 19,751 attended this Opening Day game. The Cubs hadn’t drawn more 30,000 to a home opener since 1946 and wouldn’t again until 1969, when 40,796 saw Willie Smith hit his famous Opening Day home run.

In addition to Pena and Carlton, Cubs second baseman Glenn Beckert, who passed away today, also made his MLB debut in the 1965 Opening Day game. It all happened 55 years ago today.