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The 19 greatest starts in Cubs history, No. 17: Hank Borowy, August 31, 1948

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A 1945 star had one last great game for the North Siders.

Hank Borowy in 1945
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Hank Borowy, who pitched just three and a half seasons for the Cubs and just one that was any good, is nevertheless a significant figure in franchise history.

Why? After he was acquired from the Yankees July 27, 1945, he went 11-2 in 15 appearances (14 starts) with a 2.13 ERA and 1.243 WHIP. The Cubs were in first place at the time of this acquisition, but it’s widely thought that they wouldn’t have hung on and won the N.L. pennant without him.

Which is all well and good, but Borowy was not quite as good in 1946 and then markedly worse in 1947 and 1948. After the 1948 season he’d be traded, along with Eddie Waitkus, to the Phillies for Monk Dubiel and Dutch Leonard. That one actually worked out all right for the Cubs. Though Leonard was 39 at the time of the trade, he put together four pretty good years on the North Side, posting 9.1 bWAR for the Cubs.

Oh, yes, Borowy. His performance had been bad enough through most of early 1948 that he was demoted to the bullpen in July. He was returned to the rotation in August largely because the 1948 Cubs were a bad team and they didn’t have anyone else.

And then he threw a game that, one last time, reminded Cubs fans why he’d been so important to the 1945 pennant run.

The Dodgers were at Wrigley Field August 31 for a doubleheader, one of the games a makeup for a May rainout. The Cubs had long since become firmly ensconced in last place and they entered this doubleheader 22 games under .500.

Borowy was slated to start Game 1.

Dodgers right fielder Gene Hermanski led off the second inning with a single. One out later, he was thrown out trying to steal second by Cubs catcher Bob Scheffing.

And that was it. Borowy retired the next 22 hitters in order to complete a one-hit, 3-0 shutout win. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out seven. Like Bob Wicker, the first entrant on this list, Borowy faced the minimum 27 hitters.

45,531 paid to see this gem. In part, large crowds in that Cubs era were due to Jackie Robinson’s presence on the Brooklyn roster. Three of the top five Cubs crowds in 1948 were with the Dodgers as visitors, only one of those on a weekend. This one, on August 31, was on a Tuesday. Those gates helped the ‘48 Cubs draw 1,237,792. They wouldn’t sell that many tickets again until 1969. The 1948 Cubs lost 90 games, the first 90-loss season in Cubs franchise history and the first time they’d finished in last place.

But Borowy gave fans something to cheer about, for one game, at least.