The Cubs had several poor years following their National League pennant in 1945 and lost 90 or more games in three of the four years from 1948-51. The 1951 season had also been noted for an extremely poor trade that sent Andy Pafko to the Dodgers. Not only was Pafko productive, he was also popular, and the players acquired were neither.
So not much was expected from the 1952 Cubs.
But they got off to a very good start. Entering a Memorial Day doubleheader at Wrigley Field against the Reds they were 21-16. They trailed the high-flying first-place Dodgers by 6½ games, but there was hope in the hearts of Cubs fans.
The Cubs won the first game of the doubleheader 7-6 on a walkoff single by Hank Sauer, who would go on to be named N.L. MVP that year.
Bob Rush, in his fifth year with the team, would take the mound for Game 2.
The offense did their part, pounding out 15 hits in an 11-0 win, but Rush’s performance was probably the bigger story of the game.
Rush retired the first 20 Reds before Grady Hatton doubled with two out in the seventh. A bunt single by Eddie Pellagrini was the only other hit and baserunner for Cincinnati, and he was erased on a double play, so Rush faced just 28 hitters, one over the minimum. It was his third consecutive complete-game shutout and he had a scoreless streak of 29 innings after, which he extended to 32 in his next outing.
The Tribune’s Irving Vaughan led the next-day recap this way:
Bob Rush, the Hoosier strong boy, put in a powerful bid yesterday for one of those rarities known as a perfect game, or a step below that, a no-hitter. He didn’t make either, but nevertheless he and his Cubs associates felt no pains after checking over the afternoon’s double header toil before 35,999 in Wrigley field.
They didn’t even write ‘em like that in the 1950s, but Vaughan had been writing baseball stories for the Tribune since he joined them at age 30 in 1919, so you can see the reason for the throwback prose. He retired in 1957; here’s a SABR bio of him, if you’re interested.
Bob Rush pitched for the Cubs from 1948-57; the Cubs gave up on him after he had a down year in ‘57 and traded him to the Braves for two miscellaneous players, Taylor Phillips and Sammy Taylor, neither of whom had much of an impact on the North Side. Meanwhile, Rush posted a solid 1.4 bWAR season for the Braves in 1958 (only two Cubs starters that year, Glen Hobbie and Dave Hillman, did better) and pitched for them in the World Series.
The 1952 Cubs, meanwhile, peaked at 34-19 in mid-June, but then went 34-54 to be a season-low five games under .500 on September 10. They then went 9-4 to finish the season at exactly .500, their only non-losing season from 1947-62.
Such was life for the Cubs through most of the 1950s. But Bob Rush posted 33.5 bWAR in his decade as a Cub, and on one holiday afternoon at Wrigley, pitched himself a gem with a 93 Game Score.