Credit where credit’s due, I swiped this idea from Eric Stephen of our Dodgers site True Blue LA. His article noted several box score lines (AB-R-H-RBI) from Dodgers games that were unique in MLB history — no other hitter had put up the precise numbers noted in the article.
Well, I thought, I could certainly do this for Cubs games, and with Mike Bojanowski’s help in putting together a list of games to look through, I went about my research.
It’s pretty clear what you have to have before you can find a box score line that’s unique: Either a high-scoring game or a very long extra-inning game. Let’s start with the latter.
The longest game by innings in Cubs history went 22 innings against the Braves in Boston, May 17, 1927. The Cubs blew a 3-0 lead and the game was tied 3-3 after eight, and no one scored again until the 22nd inning, when Charlie Grimm’s RBI single won the game for the Cubs. Braves pitcher Bob Smith threw all 22 innings.
Future Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett posted this line:
Hartnett is the only player in MLB history to go 1-for-10 in a game with no runs or RBI.
The club RBI record
Long-ago Cub Heinie Zimmerman set the Cubs team RBI record in a game I covered here in the “biggest wins in Cubs history” series last month. The Cubs won 20-2 and Zimmerman drove in nine runs:
That’s the only 4-4-4-9 boxscore line in MLB history. Zimmerman might have had a chance for more, but manager Frank Chance took him out of the game after his fourth trip to the plate. In an era when few players homered, two of Heinie’s four hits were big flies.
91 years after this RBI record was set, Sammy Sosa tied it in a game against the Rockies in Denver, August 10, 2002. Sammy hit three three-run homers to account for his nine RBI, and this line has also never been matched:
As was the case for Zimmerman, Sosa might have had a chance to up those numbers, but interim manager Bruce Kimm took him (and Moises Alou and Fred McGriff) out of the game in the sixth inning with the Cubs leading 15-1. That wound up being the final score.
You know all about the Sandberg Game, June 23, 1984, in which Ryno hit game-tying homers in the ninth and 10th innings of a game the Cubs eventually won 12-11. Sandberg’s batting line is unique:
Here’s another Cubs batting line from that game:
Now that looks pretty unusual, right? I looked it up. Not only is it not unique, it has been done 73 (!) other times in MLB history.
And now, a few done against the Cubs
You might think there would be some from the famous 23-22 game in 1979, and indeed you’re right. Not from the Cubs, though, even though Bill Buckner was 7-2-4-7 (one other occurrence) and Dave Kingman was 6-3-4-6 (three other occurrences, including Rick Monday of the Cubs in 1976).
Two of the Phillies in that game had unique batting lines:
Back-to-back in the lineup (second and third), Larry Bowa and Pete Rose’s lines from that game have not been produced by anyone else in baseball history.
We’ve discussed this game before; it’s the worst run-differential defeat in Cubs history, a 22-0 shutout by the Pirates September 16, 1975. Pirates second baseman Rennie Stennett became the first post-1900 player to have seven hits in a nine-inning game:
Stennett was removed from the game for a pinch-runner after his seventh hit, and his batting-order spot came within three hitters of coming up an eighth time.
A former Cub remembered
Starlin Castro was a well-liked member of the Cubs from 2010-15. He returned as a member of the Yankees in 2017 and got a video tribute and warm ovation.
The Yankees won the first two games of the series and Castro went 5-for-8 with a double, a homer and three RBI in those two games. Looked like he’d have a great series...
Whoops. The 0-for-8 made Castro 5-for-16 for the series. The first of his two RBI came on a ground out in the first inning. The second happened on a fielder’s choice... in the 18th inning, which won the game for the Yankees.