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The worst losses in Cubs history: September 16, 1975

This game set a record that has not been broken.

Rennie Stennett
Sporting News via Getty Images

This game is the gold standard of losses.

Yes, there have been seven games in MLB history lost by more than 22 runs, including this famous game in August 2007 where the Rangers beat the Orioles 30-3 and Wes Littleton completed a save with a 27-run lead.

But the game on September 16, 1975 at Wrigley Field established a new record for the worst shutout in baseball history, the Pirates blanking the Cubs 22-0. The previous mark, 21-0, had been set August 13, 1939, the Yankees defeating the Athletics.

The 1975 Cubs had gotten off to a surprising start — they were 20-10 in late May and led the N.L. East by 4½ games. But that team’s pitching was horrific — they led the league in most runs allowed, by 88 — and an 11-21 June put them under .500 and on their way to a fifth-place finish.

By September, crowds at Wrigley Field had dwindled and on this Tuesday afternoon, the Pirates, who would eventually win the division title, were the Cubs’ opponent to finish up a homestand. Just 4,932 paid to see this game.

The Bucs began hitting in the first inning. Surprisingly, it was staff ace Rick Reuschel who took the initial pounding. He faced nine batters. Eight of them reached base and all of them scored in what wound up a nine-run inning. It didn’t get any better with his relievers, and they need to be named: Tom Dettore, Oscar Zamora, Buddy Schultz and Reuschel’s brother Paul. Paul Reuschel actually stopped the bleeding in throwing two scoreless innings. Yes, the score was 22-0 after seven innings!

Every Pirates starting player had at least one hit and scored at least one run, including starting pitcher John Candelaria, who threw a three-hit shutout. The Cubs’ three hits, all singles, were by Jose Cardenal, Andre Thornton and Dave Rosello.

But the most significant thing in this game happened in the ninth inning [VIDEO].

Rennie Stennett, the Pirates’ second baseman, came up in the eighth inning having gone 6-for-6 with five runs scored. He tripled past a stunned Champ Summers in right field. There were two out at the time and he was stranded. The Pirates sent five men to bat in the ninth inning and with a couple more hits Stennett would have come up again.

The seven hits in a nine-inning game is a unique occurrence in post-1900 major-league history (it was also done by Wilbert Robinson in 1892). No one else has done it before or since. In fact, seven or more hits in any length game has only been done four other times — here’s the entire list.

I wasn’t at this game, but Mike Bojanowski was, and here’s what he told me when I wrote about this game back in 2015 about Stennett’s seventh hit:

It was a slicing line drive to right, Champ Summers charged it, then pulled up to play the first hop. The ball had so much spin that after it landed it bounced almost straight left, hit the brick wall just beyond the bullpen mounds and rolled down the drainage gutter that used to be along both foul lines. By the time Summers ran it down and threw it in, Stennett had made third base, and was then removed for a pinch-runner: Willie Randolph, playing in his 24th major-league game. I knew of Wilbert Robinson’s record, and so paid particular attention. As it happened, Stennett’s spot in the order nearly came up again. Note the time of game.

Per Stennett’s SABR biography, he wasn’t even supposed to play that day:

“I got to the ballpark and I wasn’t supposed to play that day. I had twisted my ankle and it was badly swollen,” recalled Stennett. “But I taped up the ankle and I played. The first time up I hit a ball between (Cubs) first baseman Andre Thornton and the bag, and in my mind that told me that day I was gonna do good because as a right-handed hitter, when I’m hitting the ball to the right side, I know I’m hitting good. That was a shot, and it triggered something. I felt all I had to do was make contact and I was going to get a hit.”

Stennett was a pretty good player who had several good years for the Pirates while they were winning N.L. East titles on a regular basis in the early and mid 1970s. In August 1977 he suffered a severe leg and ankle injury that ruined his career. He was done at age 30 after the 1981 season.

The 22-0 shutout has been matched once since this Cubs debacle. On their way to a 101-win season, the Yankees were shut out 22-0 by the Indians August 31, 2004 at Yankee Stadium. The Tribe had to score six runs in the ninth to match the Pirates’ feat.

This concludes the series about the Cubs’ worst losses. Tomorrow, I’ll begin a series on the Cubs’ all-time biggest (by run differential) wins. Here is Mike Bojanowski’s scorecard from that afternoon almost 45 years ago: