The year of 2021 was a tumultuous one for me. Not all together a bad year, just a crazy one. I last wrote in this series way back in January. I was selected for a work project that took me away from finishing this series last offseason. Mid-project, the company was the victim of a cyber attack. The company operated in crisis mode for close to a month.
After that, my wife, oldest son and I sold our suburban Chicago home and moved to Florida. Three months looking for and closing on a home and then finally reaching Tampa followed. I have loved the move and am even happier now with the decision than when we initially made it. My employer and I have a better relationship than at any point in my 17 years with this company.
Things are really, really good. An unintended benefit/consequence of my move has been full time work from home. A lot of things haven’t gone the way we drew them up, but when Al asked me to resume this series, the time was finally right to get back to writing.
When last we checked in on the 1989 Cubs back in January, they had split six games in June. Oddly, they won the first three games in Pittsburgh, then came home and lost three to the Expos. The three wins moved them to a season-high 10 games over .500. The three losses brought the Expos into a first-place tie with the Cubs.
And now we continue on with the series, and the 1989 season.
Game 74, June 26: Pirates 2, Cubs 1 (40-34)
Greg Maddux started and was a tough luck loser despite allowing only four hits, two walks and two runs over seven innings. That kind of line will win a lot of games, but not on this day as he was out dueled by Doug Drabek.
The scoring happened quickly in this one. Barry Bonds led off the game with a triple. Rafael Belliard followed with an RBI-single for the first run. Andy Van Slyke followed with a double and a Bobby Bonilla groundout provided what turned out to be the game’s decisive run.
The Cubs managed only a single run, that on a leadoff infield hit in the fifth. He would score on a two-out double by Jerome Walton to cut the lead to one. But Drabek allowed only two hits and a walk the remainder of the way and the Cubs had lost a fourth straight.
- Superhero: Greg Maddux (.111). 7 IP (27 batters faced), 4H, 2BB, 2R, 3K (L 6-7)
- Hero: Mitch Williams (.090). 1⅔ IP (5 batters faced)
- Sidekick: Jerome Walton (.021). 2-4, 2B, RBI
- Billy Goat: Dwight Smith (-.155). 0-4
- Goat: Damon Berryhill (-.128). 1-4, K
- Kid: Ryne Sandberg (-.124). 0-4, K
Game 75, June 27: Pirates 5, Cubs 4 (40-35)
This time it was Rick Sutcliffe who was victimized by some early Pirates offense. Bonds once again started the game with a hit, this time a single. Jose Lind followed with a double for the game’s first run. Andy Van Slyke tripled for a second run. Bobby Bonilla then tripled to make it a three run lead. When the game’s fifth batter, Glenn Wilson, grounded out, the Cubs finally had recorded an out but they already trailed by four. The Cubs would muster a counter offensive, but it was too little too late.
If your memory is like mine, you remember Bobby Bonilla as a very large fellow and probably find it pretty unusual that he tripled in a Wrigley Field that isn’t noted for allowing triples. But, in 1989, Bonilla actually had 10 triples and he had 61 of them in his career. So his triple by itself isn’t an oddity, but back-to-back triples in Wrigley is still a pretty rare occurrence.
In the bottom of the inning, Jerome Walton singled and Dwight Smith walked. After a Ryne Sandberg ground out moved the runners up 90 feet, Andre Dawson had a sacrifice fly. Mark Grace drew a two-out walk and Damon Berryhill came up with an RBI-double. Walton had a two-out double in the second but was out trying to score on a Dwight Smith single.
In the eighth inning, Van Slyke bunted for a hit and advanced to second on an error by Mark Grace. A ground out moved the runner to third and then Glenn Wilson singled against Steve Wilson to make it 5-2.
After that near miss in the second, the Cubs didn’t score again until their half of the eighth. With one out, Grace walked and Damon Berryhill singled. After Vance Law popped out for the second out, Shawon Dunston had a two-run double. Bill Landrum faced the final six hitters for the Pirates and notched his seventh save despite allowing that two-run double to Dunston.
- Superhero: Shawon Dunston (.197). 2-4, 2RBI, 2B
- Hero: Damon Berryhill (.181). 2-3, BB, RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Mitch Williams (.038). ⅔ IP (2 batters faced), BB
- Billy Goat: Vance Law (-.180). 0-4
- Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.179). 0-5
- Kid: Jerome Walton (-.138). 2-5, R, K
Game 76, June 28: Pirates 3, Cubs 1 (40-36)
The good news? This one had a different script. The bad? It didn’t matter. The Cubs dropped their sixth straight. Again, if you are around my age then it wouldn’t have even shocked you that the rug had been pulled out from under this Cubs team. It was a cliché that the Cubs would get off to a good start and then fade, often in June. Everyone has heard June Swoon before, but it was just an anticipated outcome for the Cubs. So somewhere on this homestand as a team that had been in sole possession of first place and had reached a season high 10 games over .500, you just waited for the inevitable collapse. Particularly for a team that had no good expectations leading into the season. You never wanted to give up hope, but you were at least thinking that another wait ‘til next year was closing in quickly.
Not for a lack of effort from Mike Bielecki in this one. He threw seven scoreless innings to start this one. Pirates starter Jeff Robinson matched him for six innings. But in the bottom of the seventh, the Cubs finally broke through. Mark Grace led off the inning with a single. Damon Berryhill then sacrificed him to second. Vance Law’s fly out moved him to third and then Grace raced home with the game’s first run on a passed ball by Junior Ortiz.
Bielecki actually retired the first two batters in the eighth, But then he faced Barry Bonds who he’d struck out and gotten to ground out twice. He walked Bonds and when Jose Lind followed with a single, Bielecki’s day was over. Mitch Williams came in to face Andy Van Slyke, but he was greeted by an RBI-single to tie the game. Bobby Bonilla then struck his second triple of the series, giving the Pirates a 3-1 lead.
The Cubs did get the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning when Damon Berryhill tripled with two outs in the ninth but that was all she wrote. Bill Landrum recorded his second save in as many days by recording the final out.
- Superhero: Mike Bielecki (.456). 7⅔ IP (29 batters faced), 3H, 4BB, 2R, 5K (L 6-4)
- Hero: Mark Grace (.194). 2-4, R
- Sidekick: Domingo Ramos (.078). 1-1
- Billy Goat: Mitch Williams (-.626). 0 IP (2 batters faced), 2H, R
*This was the second lowest WPA game score of the year by a Cub
- Goat: Andre Dawson (-.156). 0-4
- Kid: Dwight Smith (-.148). 0-4
Game 77, June 29: Giants 12, Cubs 2 (40-37)
After losing three close games to start the week, this one featured none of that. The Cubs went back on the road, this time to San Francisco. They did manage to put a run on the board right out of the gate. Curtis Wilkerson and Dwight Smith had back-to-back one-out singles. Mark Grace would follow with a single and advance to second on an error. The Cubs would load the bases with a two out walk, but they didn’t add on.
The Giants plated seven runs in the second inning off of starter Paul Kilgus and reliever Jeff Pico and then this game was never really competitive again. That inning featured RBI triples by Greg Litton and pitcher Scott Garrelts. Robby Thompson also had a two-run homer in the inning.
The Cubs finally added a run in the seventh inning on a Joe Girardi solo homer. But then in the bottom of the inning, the Giants plated five more runs off of Calvin Schiraldi. Litton got into the act again with a two-run double. Schiraldi didn’t help matters by walking two batters, including one with the bases loaded, and hitting another. An aging Ken Oberkfell capped the rally with a two-out, two-run single.
In quick fashion, the Cubs had dropped seven straight games. They dropped from a three game lead to a two and a half game deficit in just seven days.
- Superhero: Mark Grace (.110). 1-4, RBI
- Hero: Dwight Smith (.059). 1-4, R, 2K
- Sidekick: Les Lancaster (.020). 4⅔ IP (17 batters faced), 2H, 2BB
- Billy Goat: Jeff Pico (-.261). 0 IP (4 batters faced), 4H, 3R
- Goat: Paul Kilgus (-.226). 1⅓ IP (8 batters faced). 4H, 4R
- Kid: Domingo Ramos (-.076). 0-4, K
Game 78, June 30: Cubs 6, Giants 4 (41-37)
This game started out with five scoreless innings as Scott Sanderson and Trevor Wilson each had strong starts. After all of the not scoring, the two teams then combined for eight runs in the sixth inning as both starters started the sixth, but between them they only recorded a single out while being charged with three runs each.
The sixth inning started with a Jerome Walton walk. You know things haven’t been going well when arguably the team’s best hitter follows with a sacrifice (though bunting was much less taboo in those days). Still, Mark Grace managed just 17 sacrifice hits in a career that spanned 16 seasons and almost 9,300 plate appearances.
With a runner on second and one out, Ryne Sandberg gave the Cubs a lead with an RBI-single. Andre Dawson followed with a single of his own and that was it for Wilson. But that wasn’t it for the Cubs. Damon Berryhill greeted Giants reliever Craig Lefferts with an RBI-single and Lloyd McClendon followed with yet another RBI single. Vance Law drew a walk and Shawon Dunston capped a five run inning with a two-run single.
Staked to a five-run lead, Sanderson surrendered a single, then a walk, then two more singles before departing. Steve Wilson was summoned with runners on first and second. He allowed another single. But then got a fielder’s choice for the first out. The Cubs tried to turn a double play on the next play, but Kirt Manwarring beat the relay throw and the Giants had answered with three runs of their own.
Grace led off the seventh with a double and then scored on a pair of fly outs by Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson. Greg Litton continued a torrid series with a two-out triple off of Wilson who was still in the game in the bottom of the eighth. Candy Maldonado followed with an RBI-single to chase Wilson but that capped the scoring for the game. Mitch Williams recorded the final four outs without allowing a hit for his 19th save.
- Superhero: Ryne Sandberg (.119). 2-5, RBI, R, DP
- Hero: Mitch Williams (.113). 1⅓ IP (6 batters faced), BB, K (SV 19)
- Sidekick: Steve Wilson (.110). 2⅔ IP (11 batters faced), 3H, R, K
- Billy Goat: Mark Grace (-.045). 1-3, BB, 2B, R, S, DP
- Goat: Jerome Walton (-.019). 0-4, BB, R
- Kid: Vance Law (-.013). 2-3, BB, 2B
Game 79, July 1: Cubs 3, Giants 2 (42-37)
Ex-Cub Rick Reuschel locked up with Greg Maddux in this one. The two stars each started with a pair of scoreless innings, but once again the Cubs jumped on top first. This time it was Maddux himself helping his cause. He led off the third with a single. One out later Dwight Smith doubled. An out later, Andre Dawson was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Mark Grace. Grace would come through with a two-out, two-run single.
Terry Kennedy led off the bottom of the inning with a single. A fielder’s choice and a sacrifice later, the Giants had a runner on second with two outs. Brett Butler delivered an RBI single. He then stole second and scored on a single by Robby Thompson.
Vance Law led off the fourth with a double. One out later Maddux again took things into his own hands, delivering an RBI single. 41 times in his career Maddux would have two or more hits in a game.
Both pitchers settled in after that and there was no more scoring. The Giants threatened in the eighth as Maddux perhaps tired a bit. Mitch Williams got the final out of the inning and retired four of the five batters he faced for his second save in as many days.
- Superhero: Mitch Williams (.312). 1⅓ IP (5 batters faced), BB, K (SV 20)
- Hero: Mark Grace (.211). 2-4, 2RBI, K
- Sidekick: Greg Maddux (.202). 7⅔ IP (29 batters faced), 7H, BB, 2R, 5K (W 7-7)
- Billy Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.259). 0-4, 2K
- Goat: Shawon Dunston (-.115). 0-4, 3K
- Kid: Damon Berryhill (-.077). 0-4
Game 80, July 2: Giants 4, Cubs 3 (42-38)
Rick Sutcliffe looked to bounce back from a tough start earlier in the week and he matched up against Mike LaCoss. The Cubs did break through first for the third straight game. Rick Sutcliffe started the scoring with a one-out RBI double scoring Shawon Dunston who had just singled. Jerome Walton followed with an RBI single to put the Cubs up two.
Mark Grace started the fourth with a single. One out later Vance Law singled to put runners at the corners. Dunston followed with a double to put the Cubs up by three. After Sutcliffe drew a walk to load the bases, the Cubs failed to add on as star rookies Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith hit a pair of ground balls that failed to find holes.
In the sixth inning, Robby Thompson had a one-out double. Will Clark grounded out sending Thompson to third where he would score on a passed ball by Damon Berryhill. Still, the Cubs held onto a two run lead. That’s where things stood heading to the eighth inning.
In the eighth, Greg Litton continued his hot series with a leadoff single. Brett Butler hit into a fielder’s choice, but that worked out when Butler stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. After Sutcliffe struck out Thompson for the second out, Will Clark stepped in. He delivered a single cutting the Cubs lead to one. That brought Kevin Mitchell to the plate. Mitchell tagged Sutcliffe for a homer and that proved to be decisive.
Steve Bedrosian threw a perfect ninth inning for his 12th save. The Cubs managed a series split and at least stopped the bleeding a bit after the seven game skid. The Giants would reach the playoffs and eventually the World Series, so this was a good split.
- Honorable Mention: Rick Sutcliffe (.133). 1-2, BB, 2B, RBI, R
- Superhero: Shawon Dunston (.102). 2-3, 2B, RBI, R
- Hero: Jerome Walton (.062). 2-4, 2B, RBI, SB, K
- Sidekick: Vance Law (.020). 1-3
- Billy Goat: Rick Sutcliffe (-.435). 8IP (32 batters faced), 7H, BB, 4R (3ER), 6K (L 9-6)
- Goat: Damon Berryhill (-.109). 0-4
- Kid: Ryne Sandberg (-.088). 1-4, K, CS
After dropping the first three games to complete a winless six game homestand, the Cubs bounced back with a key split in San Francisco. The Cubs opened the series tied for first place, but dropped to two and a half back over the course of the week.
Another thing we don’t see nearly as often these days, the Cubs trip to San Francisco was a one off trip. They returned home with an off day on Monday and then were back at Wrigley on Tuesday. In our next edition of Historical Heroes and Goats, we’ll look at a six-game week that saw the Padres and Dodgers come to town.
1989 Historical Heroes and Goats Player of the Week: Shawon Dunston
Mitch Williams was actually the top performer of the week, but we featured him already, so today we’ll look at Shawon Dunston. Shawon was famously the first overall pick by the Cubs in the 1982 draft. Shawon reached the majors for the first time in 1985 and by 1986 he was the full time starter at short for the Cubs.
As someone who watched the entire Cubs career of Dunston, I think I’ll be most saddened that so many remember him for what he wasn’t. He never lived up to the expectations that come with being the number one overall pick. But what he did do is play 18 seasons in the majors. He appeared in over 1,800 games, over 1,250 of those for the Cubs. He made two All-Star appearances. He reached the playoffs four times with four different teams, playing in the NLCS all four times (his teams had to win series in three of those four seasons). That includes reaching the World Series with the Giants at the age of 39 and even slugging a home run.
Dunston had a career batting average of .269, a career OPS of .712, he scored 736 runs and drove in 668. He had an even 150 homers and 62 triples. He stole 212 bases in 294 career attempts. Interestingly, 1989 was one of the best years Dunston had as a Cub. But he appeared in the All-Star game the year before and the year after. Most would argue that 1995 was the best year of Dunston’s career. He had a .788 OPS that year and hit 14 homers.
That would be Dunston’s season as a Cub. He signed as a free agent with the Giants the following year. He signed back with the Cubs for the ‘97 season but was traded in-season to the Pirates. He signed with the Indians for the following year but was then traded to the Giants along with Jose Mesa and Alvin Morman in a July trade. In ‘99 he signed with the Cardinals who traded him to the Mets for Craig Paquette in a deadline deal. In 2000, Dunston signed once again with the Cardinals. He finished his career with a couple of more seasons with the Giants, capped with that World Series appearance.
It is a testament to the likeability of Dunston that he had two tours with the Cubs, three with the Giants and two with the Cardinals. You don’t do that for a guy who brings clubhouse problems. It’s also a testament to his talent that he was twice a July trade acquisition. A shortstop by trade, he played six seasons as an outfielder later in his career. He also played for a short time at first, second third at various points in his career.
Dunston might not have been a Hall of Famer, but he was one of my all-time favorite Cubs. He was one of those guys who you could just dream on his speed and his cannon of a throwing arm. He certainly reached the majors with an approach at the plate that led to an even 1,000 strikeouts in less than 6,000 at bats. He was also charged with 205 errors in his career including 32 of them to lead the league in 1986. He also led the league in range factor at short that year and double plays turned at the position. His range led him to reach balls many couldn’t and his arm led him to think he could make more plays than he actually could. Surely, those defensive totals would have been worse were it not for the steady hands of Mark Grace at first for the Cubs.