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The biggest wins in Cubs history: May 20, 1967

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This one made a certain Cub a folk hero.

One of the happiest — and also saddest — stories in Cubs history is the tale of Adolfo Phillips.

Phillips was acquired along with Fergie Jenkins from the Phillies April 21, 1966 for Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl. You know all about Fergie; he had six straight 20-win seasons for the Cubs, was elected to the Hall of Fame and still is a great ambassador for the franchise.

Phillips, on the other hand, had a great season in 1967 and became a popular fan favorite. Then he fell out of favor with Leo Durocher and was benched and eventually traded to the Expos in mid-1969 — even though his skillset was exactly what that star-crossed team could have used.

In 1967, though, Phillips was on the cusp of stardom and the game at Wrigley Field May 20 against the Dodgers was his first big one. He came up in a scoreless game in the third inning and smashed a three-run homer. In the sixth inning, after the Cubs had piled more runs on Dodgers pitching, Phillips came up with the bases loaded and smacked a three-run double. The Cubs eventually piled up 14 hits and six walks and defeated the Dodgers 20-3. It was the first time a Cubs team had scored 20 runs in a game in eight years. (Yes, they won that 1959 game.) Among the 20 runs was a steal of home by Ted Savage.

Tribune writer Edward Prell recapped this blowout:

The Dodgers, whose pitching staff last year was the best in baseball, were conked in five big scoring innings which produced five runs once, and four runs and three runs twice. As an added filip, the 20th run, in the Cubs’ final turn at bat, was an inside-the-park home run by Glenn Beckert.

No team in baseball, including the powerful Baltimore Orioles, has come close to equaling that awesome total this year. Until the Cubs cut loose yesterday, with generous aid from the enemy, 14 runs had been high in each league.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of “filip” (an alternate spelling of “fillip”):

a: a blow or gesture made by the sudden forcible straightening of a finger curled up against the thumb

b: a short sharp blow : BUFFET

They don’t write ‘em like that anymore, that’s for sure.

Leo Durocher completely mishandled Phillips; he was apparently a sensitive soul who didn’t take well to Leo’s gruff style. Phillips’ numbers declined in 1968, but pretty much everyone’s did, and he sat anchored to the bench in early 1969 despite posting a .424 (!) OBP in 66 plate appearances before being shipped to Montreal. You can read more about Durocher’s treatment of Phillips in this SABR biography written by Rob Neyer. I have always felt that had Phillips been handled better, he could have been the center fielder the 1969 Cubs lacked.

Oh, well.