For those of you who celebrated Christmas this past week, Merry Christmas. For all of us, 2021 is ending and we are prepared to open a new chapter. Here’s wishing that 2022 brings health, happiness and prosperity to you and yours.
For most, this time of the year is a time to look back on the year that was and look forward at the year to come. Here, instead, take a journey with me back to 1989. When last we left our Cubs, they had just split a four-game road series with the Giants. Any time you can split a road series that’s usually going to be a decent result and certainly in what was a playoff year for the Giants, that was definitely a good result. That’s even more true for this one because the Cubs had lost six games in a row prior to the trip. A loss in the opener in San Francisco pushed that skid to seven games.
During that seven-game skid, the Cubs saw their season high 10 games over .500 cushion nearly vanish. They’d also dropped from a first-place tie to two and a half games out of first. So they returned home with work to do. They were looking at two more west coast foes on this homestand. On Tuesday, July 4 they would begin a three-game set with the Padres, marking the 81st game of the season. They would then face the Dodgers for three to conclude the week and the homestand. Let’s get right to the action.
Game 81, July 4: Cubs 5, Padres 1 (43-38)
Mike Bielecki worked around some trouble in the top of the first, striking out two batters with a runner on third and only one out to preserve a scoreless game. Then the Cubs hitters got right to work. Ryne Sandberg had a one out single and Dwight Smith followed with a walk. Andre Dawson delivered an RBI single to start the scoring. Mark Grace had a sacrifice fly for the game’s second run and then Damon Berryhill came through with the two-out, RBI single to cap a three run rally.
It would stay 3-0 until the third inning when Mark Grace would draw a two-out walk and Damon Berryhill followed with a single. Then the Padres would gift the Cubs two more runs. A dropped fly ball in right field by Tony Gwynn led to the fourth run. Shawon Dunston drew an intentional walk and then Padres starter Ed Whitson balked with the bases loaded.
Mike Bielecki was strong in this one throwing six scoreless. Steve Wilson followed, throwing the final three innings and allowing the only run. That occurred in the eighth inning when Marvell Wynne followed a Gwynn leadoff single with an RBI-double. But that was all she wrote and the Cubs reached the half way mark on a high note.
At 43-38, the Cubs had to be a little disappointed given where they had been. But still they were in a good position heading into the second half, very much in contention.
- Superhero: Mike Bielecki (.201). 6IP (25 batters faced), 5H, 4BB, 6K, WP, BK (W 7-4)
- Hero: Andre Dawson (.117). 3-3, BB, RBI, CS
- Sidekick: Damon Berryhill (.114). 2-4, RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Jerome Walton (-.042). 1-4
- Goat: Shawon Dunston (-.009). 1-3, BB
- Kid: Gary Varsho (-.001). 0-1
Game 82, July 5: Cubs 5, Padres 3 (44-38)
This one did not get off to a good start. Scott Sanderson started for the Cubs and got into trouble right out of the gate. He did retire the first two hitters he faced and a two-out Tony Gwynn single didn’t seem particularly devastating. But Jack Clark followed with a single and Marvell Wynne hit a two-out three run homer to put the Cubs in a hole early.
Jerome Walton started things off for the Cubs with a bunt single. Then one out later Mark Grace slugged a two-run homer to cut the lead to one. The Cubs tied it up in the second when Vance Law led off with a double, advanced to third on a Benito Santiago throwing error and then scored on a sac fly by Shawon Dunston.
Jerome Walton and Mark Grace would again put together offense in the third inning. Walton led off the inning with a double and then one out later scored on a Grace double. That gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead.
After that, the game settled down and neither team scored during the middle innings. But then in the seventh, the Padres defense contributed to the Cubs offense once again. A dropped fly ball in center put Dunston on third. One out later Paul Kilgus who had entered the game in relief in the sixth laid down a successful squeeze bunt for an insurance run.
Kilgus finished out the four inning save and the Cubs had back-to-back wins to start the homestand. Mark Grace had four hits in this one, all extra base hits, three of them doubles. He had 19 career four hit games and one five hit game. That five hit game was against the Padres. Almost half of those four plus hit games were against NL West teams. Nine of the 20 came against those teams, including five against the Rockies. He had six three double games in his career and five of the six were against NL west foes.
- Superhero: Paul Kilgus (.322). 4IP (14 batters faced), 2H, 2K (Sv 2)
- Hero: Mark Grace (.313). 4-4, HR, 3-2B, 3RBI, R
- Sidekick: Shawon Dunston/Jerome Walton (.094). Dunston: 1-2, SF, RBI, R; Walton: 3-4, 2B, 2R
- Billy Goat: Andre Dawson (-.109). 0-4
- Goat: Joe Girardi (-.102). 0-3, DP
- Kid: Ryne Sandberg (-.068). 0-4
Game 83, July 6: Cubs 7, Padres 3 (45-38)
The Cubs completed a three-game sweep of the Padres with an offensive outburst. The Padres scored first. Future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar led off the second with a double against fellow future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. He then stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly by ex-Cub Carmelo Martinez.
In the bottom of the second, Padres starter Walt Terrell walked Damon Berryhill and Vance Law back-to-back with one out. Shawon Dunston then singled to tie the game. After Greg Maddux struck out, Jerome Walton grounded to short but Bip Roberts committed an error to load the bases rather than getting out of the inning. If that wasn’t tough enough for Roberts, Ryne Sandberg also grounded to short. Roberts made another error, this one leading to two runs. Andre Dawson led of the third inning with a single and then scored on a Dwight Smith double to make it 4-1 Cubs.
The Padres made it interesting in the seventh inning when Chris James led off the inning with a single and then Maddux walked Roberts. Don Zimmer went to the pen and brought in the typically reliable Steve Wilson. A fly out to right and a Tony Gwynn ground out to second led to a Padres run, cutting the lead to two. Marvelle Wynne continued a strong series with a two-out RBI single to cut it to one.
In the bottom of the inning, Sandberg led it off with a homer and one out later Dawson added one of his own to stretch the lead back to three. In the eighth, Dunston would add the third homer the Cubs hit off of reliever Freddie Toliver. Mitch Williams recorded the final six outs for his 21st save.
- Superhero: Ryne Sandberg (.299). 1-4, HR, BB, RBI, R
- Hero: Shawon Dunston (.097). 2-4, HR, 2RBI, 2R, 2K
- Sidekick: Calvin Schiraldi (.084). ⅓ IP (1 batter faced)
- Billy Goat: Steve Wilson (-.075). ⅔ IP (4 batters faced), H, BB
- Goat: Mark Grace (-.065). 1-4
- Kid: Jerome Walton/Damon Berryhill (-.007). Walton: 0-5, DP; Berryhill: 1-3, BB, R, K
Game 84, July 7: Cubs 6, Dodgers 4 (46-38)
You always hate to see the first batter not only reach base but eventually score. That’s how this one started. Alfredo Griffin singled off Rick Sutcliffe to start this one. Two outs later, he was standing on second after advancing on a ground out. Sutcliffe balked him over to third, then walked future Hall of Famer Eddie Murray before finally allowing an RBI single by Mike Marshall.
John Tudor held the Cubs scoreless in the first, but not so much the second. Lloyd McClendon led off the second with a homer to tie the score. Damon Berryhill followed with a single and Vance Law a double. Shawon Dunston grounded out to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. One out later Jerome Walton doubled to increase the lead to two.
The game stayed that way until the fourth when the Dodgers scored a pair of runs on a single by Chris Gwynn. But the Cubs got the lead back in the bottom of the inning. The inning started with Berryhill reaching on a dropped third strike. Law singled and then Dunston sacrificed the runners up a base. Sutcliffe drew a walk to load the bases and then Walton picked up another RBI with a sacrifice fly.
This game was interesting from a pitching standpoint for the Dodgers. Tudor only recorded three outs, facing seven batters. Tim Belcher, who made just 21 relief appearances over 394 career appearances, then threw two innings in relief. He was then relieved by John Wetteland, who anyone who remembers the 90’s will recall as a fantastic closer. John saved 330 games among his 618 career appearances. But on this day John threw three innings of relief.
John was on the mound for that run in the fourth and was still throwing into the sixth. Law led off the sixth with his second double and third hit. Wetteland recorded a pair of strikeouts, but couldn’t escape when Walton picked up an RBI-single. With the Cubs, Walton almost exclusively was used as a leadoff hitter. Accordingly, this was one of only two, three-RBI game as a Cub. He did go on to have two more as a Red and amazingly a two homer, four-RBI game as an Oriole in 1997 (he only had 25 lifetime homers).
In the seventh inning, Andre Dawson had a one out double. McClendon was then intentionally walked. But Berryhill made them pay with an RBI-single to increase the Cubs lead to 6-3. Murray led off the eighth with a solo homer off of Steve Wilson, but the Cubs were able to hold it right there and win a fourth straight.
- Superhero: Vance Law (.197). 3-4, 2-2B, 2R
- Hero: Jerome Walton (.184). 2-4, SF, 2B, 3RBI, K
- Sidekick: Les Lancaster (.160). ⅔ IP (2 batters faced)
- Billy Goat: Calvin Schiraldi (-.154). 0IP (2 batters faced), 2BB
- Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.058). 1-4
- Kid: Shawon Dunston (-.041). 0-3, S, RBI, K
Game 85, July 8: Dodgers 8 at Cubs 2 (46-39)
Jeff Pico is perhaps most memorable for starting his major league career with a four-hit shutout in May 1988. Over his first six career starts he threw three complete games. You might have expected him to go onto a long and successful career after a start like that. But Pico was one of those classic guys who arrived, made a splash and then quickly faded to obscurity. He last appeared in the majors in 1990. He ended up throwing fewer than 300 innings at the major league level.
On this day, he was making just his second start of the season. In the first, he threw seven scoreless innings, allowing only four hits. This one went much less well. He walked Mike Marshall to start the second inning of a scoreless game. He retired Mike Sciossia but then Jeff Hamilton doubled and Jose Gonzalez received the famed unintentional/intentional walk to load the bases for Dodgers starter and future Cub Mike Morgan. Morgan grounded back to Pico who threw home for the force and it looked like he might escape unscathed.
But it was not to be. Alfredo Griffin had a two-run double and then Willie Randolph followed with a two-run single. Pico did hang around and complete five innings allowing only four hits and four earned runs. But that was enough to doom the Cubs in this one. He allowed a fifth run in the fourth inning on a two-out error by Shawon Dunston allowing Randolph to score a run.
Eddie Murray added a three-run homer off of Calvin Schiraldi in the sixth and the Cubs winning streak was long gone, looking up at an eight run deficit. On this day, the 1989 Cubs weren’t a team that would come back from that type of hole.
They did plate a couple of runs though. The first of those came in the eighth inning with Morgan still dealing for the Dodgers. He allowed a one out walk to Vance Law and Dunston followed with a double. Gary Varsho delivered a pinch-hit single scoring a run and putting runners at the corners with only one out. That chased Morgan, but the Cubs couldn’t add on. Lloyd McClendon notched the game one closer with a one out homer in the ninth. But that was it.
- Superhero: Mark Grace (.049). 2-5, 2B
- Hero/Sidekick: Curtis Wilkerson/Gary Varsho (.007). Wilkerson 1-1; Varsho 1-1 RBI
- Billy Goat: Jeff Pico (-.276). 5IP (26 batters faced), 5H, 5BB, 5R (4ER) (L 2-1)
- Goat: Damon Berryhill (-.090). 1-4, DP
- Kid: Jerome Walton (-.058). 0-5, K
Game 86, July 9: Cubs 11, Dodgers 4 (47-39)
On this day, another pitcher started who was best remembered for work he did in his rookie season. This time, that pitcher started for the Dodgers. By 1989, Fernando Valenzuela wasn’t anywhere near the pitcher he was in 1981 when he was Rookie of the Year and Cy Young for the Dodgers. Still, in the summer of ‘89 he did log a 3.43 ERA over 31 starts and just shy of 200 innings pitched. His numbers didn’t really collapse until the following season, his final year with the Dodgers.
But this one wasn’t a good one for the Dodgers hurler. He did set down the first five Cubs he faced but then Vance Law singled and Damon Berryhill followed with a two-run homer. Then in the third inning, Jerome Walton singled with one out and Ryne Sandberg followed with a walk. Andre Dawson followed one out later with a two-run double, aided by a miscue in the Dodgers outfield.
That wasn’t all of the subpar Dodgers play though. Lloyd McClendon then reached on an error on a grounder to third. Law drew a walk and Berryhill delivered a two-out, two run single. For Berryhill, the four RBI were one shy of a career high achieved the year before. He only three times in his career he had four or more RBI in a game and two of them had been in 1988.
The Dodgers got one back off of Cubs starter Mike Bielecki in the fourth when Eddie Murray had a one-out double and came around to score on a two out single by Jeff Hamilton. Then the Dodgers made it interesting in the sixth. Kirk Gibson led off with a single. Two outs later Mike Scioscia singled. Hamilton and Dave Anderson would each follow with RBI singles and that was it for Bielecki. The Cubs summoned Paul Kilgus who allowed a third straight RBI single before getting out of the inning.
The Cubs were leading 6-4 and the Dodgers turned to Orel Hersheiser to hold the game close in the sixth inning. But the Cubs would add to their lead in a strange way. Shawon Dunston had a one out double. Hersheiser then struck out the next two hitters. Normally that would end the inning, but Jerome Walton reached on the second one when the third strike ended up as a wild pitch, Dunston moved up to third on the play. He would then score on a balk.
The Cubs had a big eighth inning off of Ray Searage to blow this one out. Dunston singled, advanced to second on another Dodgers balk and scored one out later on a Walton RBI-single. Another out later, Mark Grace drew a walk to keep the inning alive. Dawson added an RBI-single. Dwight Smith followed with a walk and then Mitch Webster delivered a two-run single.
- Superhero: Damon Berryhill (.231). 2-5, HR, 4RBI, R, K
- Hero: Andre Dawson (.109). 3-5, 2B, 2RBI, R
- Sidekick: Shawon Dunston (.084). 2-4 2B, 2R
- Billy Goat: Mark Grace (-.035). 1-4, BB, R
- Goat: Curtis Wilkerson (-.020). 0-2, K
- Kid: Lloyd McClendon (-.015). 0-3, R, K
The Cubs capped off the week with a blowout win and won five of six to move back to eight games over .500. The Expos were hanging tight though. Even with the strong week, the Cubs only chipped a single game off of their 2½-game deficit. Still, this sent the Cubs to the All-Star break on a high note and very much in contention.
Of course, as was often the case in those days, a six game homestand against two NL West foes was followed by a two-city trip out West to play those same teams. Next week, we’ll have the first of those two series as the Cubs come out of the break with four games against the Padres. A four game series on the road, two time zones away against a team that you just swept. What could go wrong? Next week we’ll find out as we look at that series as well as the All-Star game that preceded it. We’ll detail the Cubs who were selected to the game, any that played and the outcome of that game.
1989 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats Player of the Week: Vance Law
Vance was drafted in the 38th round of the draft in 1978 by the Pittsburgh Pirates. At 23 years old, he reached the majors with the Pirates in 1980. He appeared in 55 games over the ‘80 and ‘81 seasons, playing second, short and third, largely as a reserve. The White Sox saw enough in Law to trade for him and for three years, he averaged a bit shy of 500 plate appearances per year. The Sox deployed him not only at those three positions but even in left and center as his playing time increased for three straight seasons. In ‘14, his final season on the south side, Law slugged a career high 17 homers.
The Expos then traded Bob James for Law. Playing for his third team, Law finally broke out. In ‘85, Law topped 600 plate appearances for the first time and recorded an OPS+ of 122 with a line of .266/.369/.405 with 30 doubles. He also added first base and right field to his repertoire that year. The following year he would pitch meaning the only position he hadn’t appeared at was catcher. Law had two pretty unspectacular years at the plate in ‘86 and ‘87 for the Expos before signing with the Cubs as a free agent before the ‘88 season.
That first season with the Cubs, Law made his lone All-Star appearance. He logged over 600 plate appearances with an OPS+ of 117. He had a line of .293/.358/.412. He had career highs in batting average, hits (163), RBI (78) and total bases (229). In 1989, he slumped quite a bit, posting an OPS+ of only 80 (.235/.296/.355). He tailed off badly enough that he only got into two games and recorded three plate appearances in the post season (all strikeouts).
Law spent a year in Japan in ‘90 with the Chunichi Dragons (slugging 29 homers!) before coming back and finishing his career with the A’s. In all, Law played in 1,212 games over 11 seasons at the MLB level. He had 4,298 plate appearances with a career OPS of .703. He had 71 homers and drove in 442 runs. Law was the son of Vern Law, who was once a Cy Young winner. He was the first-ever son of a Cy winner to reach the majors.
After he retired, he spent 12 seasons as the head coach of the Brigham Young baseball program, where he played his college ball. He’s also coached in both the White Sox and Cleveland organizations over the years.