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When Cubs rallied from 14-0 deficit

They may not remember the exact date, but fans of a certain age fondly recall a game that the Cubs played against the Astros at Wrigley Field on Aug. 29, 1989.

Midway through the sixth inning, the Cubs trailed, 9-0.

They battled back to tie the score at 9 on Dwight Smith's ninth-inning sacrifice fly, then won, 10-9, on Smith's 10th-inning, bases-loaded single.

It was the Cubs' biggest comeback of the 20th Century.

This is the story of a comeback, nearly 60 years earlier, that was much bigger but fell just short.

.........

14-RUN DEFICIT

Since 1901, the Cubs have played 10 games in which they allowed at least 14 runs but lost by 1 or 2.

They have played 5 more in which they allowed 14 or more and won.

In only 1 of those 19 games were they ever behind by 14 runs.

It wasn't the infamous 23-22, 10-inning loss to the Phillies in 1979. In that one, the Cubs were down by 11 runs, 17-6, in the third inning and by 12, 21-9, in the fourth, then rallied to tie the score at 22 with 3 runs in the eighth.

Nor was it a 1985 game against the Astros, in which the Cubs trailed, 15-2, in the fifth inning but wound up losing by only 17-15, and had a runner on second when they made their final out.

.........

SLUGGISH START

The only time the Cubs were in a 14-run hole and nearly pulled out a victory was on May 12, 1930, when they hosted the Giants.

The Cubs, defending National League champions, had started the season 7-8, including 3-4 in their first 7 games at home.

A win over the Pirates on April 30 sparked an 8-game winning streak. The last of the wins was by 6-5 on Friday, May 9, in the opener of the series against the Giants. It left the Cubs 15-8, in first place by 1.5 games.

But they lost on Saturday, 9-4, and again on Sunday, 9-7, and slipped to second, half a game behind the Giants, at 15-10 to New York's 13-7.

Crowds of 30,000, then 25,000, then 40,000 had turned out at Wrigley Field for the games Friday through Sunday. Only 15,000 were on hand for the Monday finale.

...........

SHAKY STARTS

The Cubs' starting pitcher was Sheriff Blake, a 30-year-old right hander who had been with team since 1924. He had won 17 games in 1928, with a 2.47 earned run average, but had slumped to 14-13, 4.29, in 1929 and was 3-2, 5.30 so far in the new season.

Two starts ago, he had surrendered 10 runs on 12 hits and 6 walks in 5.1 innings. But on May 6, he had fashioned a 1-run, 9-hit complete game in which he walked only 1.

Against the Giants, Blake matched that walk total after 2 batters and exceeded it after 4: groundout, walk, groundout, walk. A third walk followed, then a third groundout, so despite his wildness, the Giants did not score.

Neither did the Cubs, who got 2 walks from New York pitcher Larry Benton. The 31-year-old righty had led the league in wins (25) and complete games (28) while posting a 2.73 ERA in 1928, but had been just 12-17, 4.14 in 1929.

He carried an 0-2 record and 12.71 ERA into the game against the Cubs. In his 2 starts, he had pitched a total of 5.2 innings, during which he had yielded 13 runs and 16 hits.

.........

FIRST BARRAGE

Blake began the second inning with a strikeout. Before he got another out, the score was 5-0.

Two singles, the second by Benton, and a home run produced the first 3 runs. Three more singles loaded the bases, then second baseman Clyde Beck dropped a popup, letting 2 more runners cross the plate. The infield fly rule was not called on the play.

A sixth run came home on a fielder's choice. A groundout an intentional walk loaded the bases again for Benton. This time, he struck out.

Beck and Blake singled off Benton with 2 out in the bottom of the inning but were stranded on a fly out.

.........

SECOND BARRAGE

Blake issued a 1-out walk in the third, then struck out Bill Terry. But Mel Ott, like Terry a future Hall of Famer, lined a home run over the wall in right, increasing the Giants' lead to 8-0 and ending the day for Blake after 2.2 innings, 7 hits and 5 walks.

Reliever Bill McAfee should have been out of the inning when the first batter he faced hit a fly to center. But Hack Wilson dropped the ball.

A wild pitch and an error by shortstop Woody English let in a run. A double scored another, as did a single. Benton then smacked a 2-run homer, making the score 13-0.

McAfee was yanked after the homer, having surrendered 5 runs (all unearned) on 3 hits without getting an out.

Bud Teachout quickly ended the 7-run inning with a strikeout.

.........

COMEBACK BEGINS

Teachout held the Giants at bay in the third and fourth. In the fifth, he gave up back-to-back singles with 1 out. Benton followed with another single, his third hit of the day, for his third RBI. The scoreboard now read: Giants 14, Cubs 0.

The 0 turned into a 1 with 2 out in the fifth when Cliff Heathcote homered.

Teachout pitched a scoreless sixth, starting and ending it with strikeouts.

Wilson led off the Cubs' half with a walk. The next 2 batters were retired, but Benton walked Hartnett and Beck slugged a 3-run homer: 14-4.

.........

6 BATTERS, 4 HOMERS

Teachout shrugged off a 2-out walk and wild pitch in the seventh.

Heathcote started the bottom of the inning with his second homer: 14-5.

After a groundout, Wilson homered: 14-6.

Charlie Grimm homered, too: 14-7.

Benton got the second out, then struck out Gabby Hartnett. But the third strike eluded the catcher and Hartnett was safe at first.

Beck slammed a homer: 14-9.

That was the Cubs' fourth home run of the inning and sixth of the game -- all against Benton.

Never, before or since, have the Cubs hit 6 homers off 1 pitcher.

They had hit 6 homers in a game only once previously, in a 12-11 win over the Pirates on April 20, 1923.

They have hit 6 in 21 later games and 7 in 3 games, against the Mets in 1967 and against the Padres in 1970 and 1977.

...

Beck's homer against the Giants in 1930, his second in as many innings, knocked out Benton. His messy line: 6.2 innings, 9 runs (7 earned), 9 hits, 5 walks and 6 strikeouts.

Joe Heving, another righty, was his successor. He struck out Teachout to end the inning.

..........

COMING CLOSER

Teachout served up a leadoff double in the top of the eighth, then notched 3 straight outs.

Heving allowed a first-batter double as well, to English. He walked Heathcote and gave up a single to Kiki Cuyler: 14-10.

Wilson hit into a 6-4-3 double play and Grimm grounded out.

...

In the top of the ninth, Teachout set down the Giants in order. They had managed only 1 run against him, on 5 hits and 2 walks, in 6.1 innings.

Heving had given up 2 hits in 1.1 innings. He gave up 2 more to the first 2 batters in the Cubs' ninth: a single by Les Bell and a double by Hartnett.

.........

CHANCE TO MAKE HISTORY I

The game against the Giants was the Cubs' 4,429th of the Modern Era. No Cub had hit 3 home runs in any of them. Beck now had a chance to become the first, as the Giants elected to pitch to him, despite having first base open.

Their decision proved wise, as Beck struck out.

Teachout was due up next. Manager Joe McCarthy sent Riggs Stephenson to the plate instead. That decision was good, too; Stephenson singled, scoring Bell: 14-11.

With runners on first and third, English represented the tying run. He came through with a single, driving in Hartnett: 14-12.

..........

CHANCE TO MAKE HISTORY II

Runners remained on first and second as Giants Manager John McGraw summoned veteran righty Joe Genewich to face Heathcote, who had homered twice.

Another homer would win the game, completing an astonishing comeback. A triple, possibly a double, would tie the score. A single would keep the rally going.

Heathcote swung but managed only to ground the ball to the second baseman. He threw to the shortstop, forcing out English, and the shortstop fired to the first baseman for a game-ending double play.

Final score: Giants 14, Cubs 12.

...

Each team finished the slugfest with 14 hits. Besides their 6 homers, the Cubs had 2 doubles. Eleven of the 12 players they used made a hit. The only exception was reliever McAfee.

Beck had 3 hits; English and Heathcote, 2. Eight others had 1, including Wilson, who drew 3 of the Cubs' 6 hits. Heathcote had 2. He also had their only steal.

...

Despite his rough treatment by the Cubs, Benton earned the victory. He actually lowered his ERA, to 11.50 from 12.71. Five days later, with 1 run in 2 innings of relief, he reduced it to 10.35. Then it dropped to 7.50 on May 20, as he allowed just 2 earned runs in a 10-inning, complete-game loss to the Braves.

The next day, the Giants traded him to the Reds.

..........

LATER CUBS VS. BENTON

He faced the Cubs 3 more times before the season ended.

On July 6, at Cincinnati, he took over in the seventh inning with the Reds in front, 7-3, 1 out and runners on first and third. The lead runner scored on a groundout, then Wilson walked and Stephenson singled in a run: 7-5.

In the eighth, Heathcote hit a 1-out single and Hartnett followed with a homer that tied the game and knocked out Benton.

The Cubs eventually lost, 8-7.

...

In a start on July 27, also at home, Benton took a 2-1 lead into the sixth. English led off with a triple and Cuyler singled him home. Wilson doubled, scoring Cuyler, putting the Cubs ahead, 3-2. A wild pitch and a walk to Danny Taylor put runners on the corners.

Ken Ash then replaced Benton and got Hartnett to ground to the second baseman. He threw home, where Wilson was tagged out. The catcher fired to first, where Grimm had rounded the bag, and he was tagged, too. The first baseman then threw to third, where Taylor was tagged -- triple play!

The Reds rallied to beat the Cubs, 6-5.

...

On Sept. 26, Benton and Blake met in Chicago, in a rematch of their May 12 duel. Both lasted longer, although neither was effective.

Blake worked 7 innings, in which he gave up 5 runs on 8 hits and 4 walks.

Benton made it through 6.1, allowing 7 runs (5 earned) on 11 hits and 2 walks.

A 3-run top of the seventh, starting with a homer by Leo Durocher, gave Benton a 5-3 lead.

Stephenson began the Cubs' half with a pinch-hit single. Teachout ran for Stephenson and raced home on a double by Footsie Blair. An error on the play enabled Blair to score, too: 5-5.

Benton got English to line out. Then Cuyler singled and Wilson homered, breaking the tie and knocking out Benton.

Neither team scored again, so the Cubs won, 7-5.

The victory was their second of 4 in a row, ending a 90-64, second-place season, under Rogers Hornsby. He had taken over as manager when McCarthy resigned after being informed that he would not return in 1931.

...

In his 4 games against the Cubs during 1930, Benton pitched 19 innings. He gave up 21 runs (17 earned) on 29 hits, including 8 home runs, and 11 walks. His ERA in those games: 8.05. His WHIP: 2.105.

The Cubs' slash line against him was .345/.417/.702, for an OPS of 1.119.

..........

REST OF CAREER

Against all teams in 1930, Benton was 7-12, 5.12. He pitched 4 more seasons for the Reds and had a losing record in each, with a total of 26-40 and an ERA of 3.91.

He started only 1 of 16 games in 1934. A year later, at age 37, he closed out his 13-season career by going 2-3 in 29 games, all in relief, with the Braves.

In the last of his 455 games, with the score tied at 3, he gave up a triple to the only batter he faced. The next batter doubled, saddling Benton with the loss, which left his career record at 128-128. His final ERA was 4.03. His WHIP was 1.415 and his WAR was 17.4.

Larry Benton died relatively young. He was 55 when he passed away on April 3, 1953.

..........

5 HOME RUNS OFF PITCHER

As noted, Benton is the only pitcher against whom the Cubs hit 6 home runs.

They have hit 5 homers 9 times, 7 of them in the past 25 years.

Here they are, in chronological order:

1. June 10, 1958, off Warren Spahn of Braves, in 7.0 innings of 9-6 win at home (2 solo, 2 with 1 on, 1 with 2 on by Ernie Banks)

2. June 4, 1989, off Scott Terry of Cardinals, in 4.1 innings of 11-3 win at St. Louis (4 solo, 1 with 1 on); Terry allowed only 1 other hit, a single

3. April 19, 1996: off Allen Watson of Giants, in 5.2 innings of 11-6 win at home (3 solo, 1 with 1 on, grand slam by Brian McRae)

4. April 27, 2000: off Jose Lima of Astros, in 5.0 innings of 12-3 win at Houston (3 solo, 1 with 1 on, grand slam by Henry Rodriguez); Lima gave up 12 runs on 13 hits and 3 walks

5. Sept. 2, 2002: off Andrew Lorraine of Brewers, in 3.2 innings of relief, in 17-4 win at home (2 solo, 3 with 1 on)

6. July 18, 2005: off Brandon Claussen of Reds, in 3.2 innings of 9-4 win at Cincinnati (4 solo, 1 with 1 on)

7. June 9, 2010: off Randy Wolf of Brewers, in 4.2 innings of 9-4 win at Milwaukee (2 solo, 3 with 1 on)

8. Aug. 17, 2017: off Scott Feldman of Reds, in 3.2 innings of 13-10 loss at home (3 solo, 2 with 1 on)

9. Sept. 13, 2019: off Steve Brault of Pirates, in 2.2 innings of 17-8 win at home (2 solo, 2 with 1 on, grand slam by Anthony Rizzo)

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