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A look back at the 1994 Cubs’ 12-game home losing streak

... since the 2021 Cubs have now tied it.

The Chicago firehouse across from Wrigley Field (as seen in 2004), the location of the infamous Tom Trebelhorn “firehouse chat” during the 12-game home losing streak in 1994
Getty Images

This year’s Chicago Cubs, two different teams before and after the selloff, have now tied one of the most ignominious records in franchise history — losing 12 consecutive games at Wrigley Field.

Here’s a look back at the club that set that mark, the 1994 squad, who did it in the first 12 home games of that year.

Prologue: The 1993 Cubs weren’t a great team, but they went 20-10 after September 1 and finished over .500 at 84-78. Despite that, GM Larry Himes fired manager Jim Lefebvre after the season and replaced him with Tom Trebelhorn. Trebelhorn had managed the Brewers for five seasons (and a bit of a sixth) and had a winning record.

It did not go well in ‘94. The team made no significant offseason acquisitions and so went into the season with essentially the same club they had in ‘93.

Here’s a brief summary of each of the 12 consecutive home losses that began the 1994 season.

April 4: Mets 12, Cubs 8

This is actually one of the most famous Opening Days in Cubs history. Outfielder Tuffy Rhodes homered three times, all off Mets ace Dwight Gooden, but Cubs pitching (Mike Morgan, Blaise Ilsley, Jim Bullinger and Dan Plesac) simply could not stop giving up runs. The Cubs’ only lead, 1-0, lasted just two innings. The Mets also homered three times on a day when the wind was howling out to left field at 22 miles per hour.

Here are the three Rhodes homers:

Rhodes hit only five more home runs the rest of the season.

April 5: Mets 6, Cubs 2

The Mets put together a five-run third off Jose Guzman and won easily. Guzman issued five walks and threw 59 pitches to record five outs.

April 6: Mets 4, Cubs 1

Another one-sided game had the Cubs score their only run when down 4-0 in the seventh on an RBI double by Eddie Zambrano, a guy I used to like to call “the second-best Zambrano in Cubs history.” The losing Cubs pitcher was Willie Banks, the second-best Banks in Cubs history.

The 0-3 Cubs then went on the road for five games in Montreal and New York and won three of them, so they returned to Wrigley Field with a 3-5 season record.

April 15: Braves 19, Cubs 5

Hoo boy. It was 11-0 after three innings, and Cubs pitchers (Anthony Young, Jim Bullinger, Blaise Ilsley, Chuck Crim, Jose Bautista and Randy Myers) allowed 24 hits and five home runs.

This was before the time when position players regularly mopped up in blowouts, or we certainly would have seen that happen.

April 16: Braves 4, Cubs 1

Another game that wasn’t close, as the Cubs trailed 4-0 in the sixth before scoring their only run on a sacrifice fly by Mark Grace.

April 17: Braves 4, Cubs 2

Second verse, same as the first: The Cubs trailed 4-0 in the sixth. This time they scored two runs, courtesy of a two-run homer by Ryne Sandberg.

April 19: Astros 3, Cubs 0

Greg Swindell, Shane Reynolds and former Cub Mitch Williams combined on a six-hit shutout of the North Siders.

April 20: Astros 7, Cubs 5

This was only the second time to date in 1994 that the Cubs had a lead at home. They allowed a run in the top of the first, then scored two in the bottom of the inning. That lead lasted until a two-run Houston fourth. The Cubs took the lead again 4-3 in the fifth, but Houston came back with two in the sixth before the Cubs tied the game 5-5 in the bottom of that inning. Two Houston runs off Jose Bautista in the eighth sealed the Cubs’ eighth straight Wrigley defeat.

The Cubs then went on a seven-game trip to Colorado, Cincinnati and Houston where they went 3-4, so their home record was 0-8, their road record 6-6, and overall they were 6-14 and eight games out of first place when they returned to Wrigley April 29 to face the Rockies.

It was at that time that Tom Trebelhorn promised Cubs fans he’d talk to them if the Cubs lost another home game, and then they did...

April 29: Rockies 6, Cubs 5

The game was tied 4-4 after five, but the Rox scored two in the sixth on a two-run homer by Roberto Mejia off Steve Trachsel.

The Cubs scored one in the bottom of the ninth and had the bases loaded with one out, but Glenallen Hill hit into a double play to end the game.

After the game Trebelhorn (dressed in “jeans, a Cubs turtleneck and a beer-company baseball cap,” according to the Tribune) met with fans outside the firehouse on Waveland across from the ballpark. Tribune writer Joseph A. Reaves described what happened:

Several fans already had burned copies of the Chicago Tribune to show their disgust at Tribune Co., which owns the Cubs. And there were chants of “Kill Larry Himes” — the Cubs’ general manager — when Trebelhorn emerged from the left-field entrance at Wrigley Field and waded into the crowd.

Four Cubs security guards surrounded Trebelhorn and got brushed aside as soon as he made it through the mob and climbed atop a green park bench outside Fire Engine Company 78.

”OK. Now what do you want to know?” shouted Trebelhorn, above a stream of obscenities. “What can I do for you?”

For the first 10 minutes, the crowd threatened to get out of hand. Most of the fans were men in their 20s and 30s, some of whom had clearly been drinking. They were in no mood to listen.

As it turned out, that was probably the best thing Trebelhorn ever did as manager of the Cubs. Calmly and slowly, he answered fans’ questions and slowly got them on his side:

Three dozen questions covered everything from the now-fabled weak pitching to whether the Tribune Co. was hampering his ability to get better players. Trebelhorn answered what he could, as best he could.

Obviously, many things can’t be explained. The failings of athletes have baffled and frustrated fans and managers forever.

But after 30 minutes, one thing was clear: Trebelhorn had won over almost everyone who bothered to show. One fan drew a loud ovation and whoops of support when, before asking a question, he said: “First, I appreciate you coming here because I think it takes a lot of guts.”

All town meetings should end so happily. By the time one of the firefighters from Engine Co. 78 stepped up to invite Trebelhorn inside for a broiled chicken dinner, it was pretty clear the skipper had done one of the best jobs of managing in Cubs history.

Clearly, it was a different time.

April 30: Rockies 6, Cubs 2

The game was tied 2-2 after six, but the Rockies put up a four-spot in the seventh off Anthony Young and Chuck Crim for consecutive home loss number 10.

May 2: Reds 9, Cubs 0

A five-run Reds third and three-run Cincinnati fifth put this game away relatively early. The Cubs had just two hits (a third-inning single by Shawon Dunston and ninth-inning single by Mark Grace) off John Smiley, who threw a Maddux (a 97-pitch complete-game shutout) before those games were even known by that term.

May 3: Reds 5, Cubs 2

Another game in which the Cubs never led. Steve Buechele and Kevin Roberson had RBI singles in the fourth for the Cubs’ only runs.

The Cubs were now 0-12 at home and 6-6 on the road for a 6-18 record that had them in last place, 10½ games behind the first-place Reds. And then... they ended the streak by defeating Cincinnati.

May 4: Cubs 4, Reds 2

The Cubs led all the way. Sammy Sosa and Eddie Zambrano homered. Steve Trachsel threw seven solid innings (four hits, two runs) and Randy Myers posted his fourth save.

The 1994 Cubs were a strange bunch. After the 6-18 start they went 5-6 to notch an 11-24 record May 15 — and then went on a 37-32 run, a good record for 2½ months through August 1. After that they lost eight of nine, and then the season was ended by a players’ strike. Trebelhorn and Himes were both fired at the end of the season, and former Cubs pitcher Ed Lynch was hired as GM and Jim Riggleman as manager.

That awful 1994 streak had not been matched for 27 years — until now. Let’s hope the 2021 Cubs can defeat the Royals this afternoon and the two streaks can remain tied in the record books.