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Cubs historical sleuthing: Bill Hands edition

And there’s quite the story about how this game ended.

Bettmann Archive

This picture didn’t come with any information other than what is already obvious (well, to me, at least): Bill Hands is pitching for the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Oh, and one more thing:

Chicago Cubs Bill Hands pitching in game against Expos.

So that’s one clue, the opponent.

Your next clue is on Ernie Banks’ right sleeve. There, you can see the “100TH ANNIVERSARY” patch that all players wore in 1969.

So this is 1969. It’s also got to be early in the season, because the trees visible in the background are bare.

The Montreal Expos appeared at Wrigley for the first time in April 1969. Bill Hands started the final game of the series, Sunday, April 13, 1969.

The Cubs won this game 7-6, and therein lies a curiosity and a pretty good story. Of the 13 runs scored, only two were earned (one for each team) because of multiple errors committed by each side. You rarely see a game today with six errors, but even with mostly-modern gloves and fields in 1969, that was still a fairly common occurrence.

The Expos took a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth, by which time Hands had departed (seven innings, five runs, all unearned). Jim Hickman reached on an error to lead off the inning, and then, per George Langford’s recap in the Tribune:

Willie Smith hit a ground ball toward second. Maury Wills flashed to his left, grabbed it, and appeared to have a double play as he stabbed at Hickman and threw to first. But both runners were safe. Bob Engel, second base umpire, ruled Wills had missed Hickman and the throw to first was a fraction late.

Jim Qualls struck out for the first out of the inning. Then:

Don Kessinger, who had been charged with two errors which led to all five of Montreal’s unearned runs, smacked a high drive to left center. Don Bosch raced for it, dived, and for a pulsating moment appeared to have made a game-saving catch. An instant later, however, Mack Jones, the left fielder who had hit a three-run homer earlier, was seen scrambling for the loose ball.

Hickman scored and Adolfo Phillips, who ran for Smith, held at third. It’s now 6-5. Glenn Beckert then grounded out for the inning’s second out and Phillips held at third. Expos manager Gene Mauch then made two pitching changes — lefty Don Shaw to face Billy Williams and righty Carroll Sembera to face Ron Santo. (You couldn’t do that now, with the three-batter minimum rule.)

It didn’t matter, as both hitters walked. The walk to Santo forced in the tying run, but it almost didn’t, as Phillips...

... veered at the last minute and headed for the dugout without coming within 15 feet of the plate. Banks [who was on deck]... pointed him in the direction of home, and the run, after a horrifying moment, was duly recorded.

Banks then came to bat with the bases still loaded:

Sembera then got two quick strikes on Banks before throwing an inside fast ball which Mr. Cub looped over the infield for the hit that scored Kessinger and triggered an outburst which the Andy Frain ushers were unable to control.

Oh?

The Cubs, the frustrating, exciting, dumbfounding, opportunistic Cubs had by some miraculous quirk won another game and caused a good portion of the 27,664 paying customers to go berserk.

Most Wrigley field veterans said they had not seen such a wild post-game melee by fans on the field. Others said it was close but not equal to the demonstration that erupted when Walt Moryn’s running catch clinched Don Cardwell’s no-hit game against St. Louis in 1960.

Just imagine what might have happened at Wrigley Field in 1969 if the Cubs actually had won the pennant or World Series. It was a different time.

Quite the game. Sorry there’s no surviving video. As for the photo of Hands, it’s impossible to tell exactly when during this game it was taken, though I’d lean toward early in the game, as Hands appears to be in a windup and the uniforms aren’t dirty.

Just another little slice of Cubs history.