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Cubs who hit for 'walk-off cycle', Part 1

On Sept. 4, Frank Schwindel became the 400th different Cub since 1876 to deliver a walk-off play, smacking a 2-out single in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Pirates, 7-6.

The Cubs have had 925 walk-offs during those 146 seasons, most recently a tie-breaking 3-run homer by Jason Heyward against the Reds on Sept. 8.

Of the 400 players, 11 have had at least 10 walk-offs. Ron Santo leads, with 17, followed by Mark Grace and Sammy Sosa, both with 13; Ernie Banks, 12; and Gabby Hartnett and Billy Williams, 11.

The 5 with 10 are Cap Anson, Billy Herman, Bill Nicholson, Frank Schulte and Riggs Stephenson.

A total of 53 players have at least 5, with Heyward the latest addition to that list, and 14 more have 4.

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Any of those 67 with at least 4 could, in theory, have hit for a walk-off cycle, ending games for the Cubs with a single, double, triple and home run.

In fact, only 1 of them did it.

He was not among those with double-digit walk-offs. In fact, he had only 6, a number surpassed by 19 others.

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The problem in trying to achieve a walk-off cycle is hitting a final-play triple.

The Cubs have had only 11 walk-off triples and none since 1947, nearly three quarters of a century ago. Players on other teams have had 150 since the last by a Cub, most recently by Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays against the Blue Jays on July 26, 2020.

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Since their last walk-off triple, the Cubs have won 18 games on a hit other than a home run that enabled a runner to score from first. Each was ruled a double.

The most recent was by Starlin Castro, in the bottom of the ninth of a 3-3 game against the Giants on April 12, 2013.

Nearly 2 years earlier, on April 18, 2011, Tyler Colvin did it in the bottom of the 10th of a scoreless battle against the Padres.

Those are the only such walk-off doubles by a Cub in this century. Mark Grace was the previous player to do it, beating the Cardinals, 4-3, on May 29, 1999.

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AND THE CYCLIST WAS . . .

So, who was the only Cub to complete a cycle of walk-off hits?

Phil Cavarretta, one of the longest-tenured players in team history.

He joined the Cubs right out of high school, at age 17, in 19384and played 1,953 games for them, sixth most in franchise history.

Those who played more: Ernie Banks (2,528), Cap Anson (2,277), Billy Williams (2,213), Ryne Sandberg (2,151) and Ron Santo (2,126).

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Cavarretta did not enjoy his first walk-off until 1938, in his 465th game. Before that day, he had made 436 hits, including 84 doubles, 23 triples and 24 home runs.

The walk-off was single No. 316 and it capped an impressive comeback in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader on Aug. 28, 1938.

The Phillies knocked out Cubs starter Big Lee in the second inning by chalking up 5 runs on 4 hits. Among them were a 1-out solo homer, a single, an RBI triple and 2-out, 2-run homer by the last batter Lee faced.

The Cubs made the score 5-1 on a triple and double in the third,

5-2 on a leadoff homer by Ken O'Dea in the fifth, and 5-3 on 3 straight singles in the sixth. The tying runs were on first and second, but Cavarretta flied out and O'Dea grounded out.

Frank Demaree tripled with 1 down in the seventh and came home on a bloop double by pinch hitter Tony Lazzeri. Billy Herman doubled in Herman and Stan Hack followed with a game-tying single.

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The Cubs left 2 on in the eighth, 1 in the ninth, then 2 again in the 10th. Cavarretta was the lead runner in the last of those innings, rapping a 1-out single for his first hit in 4 at bats.

With 1 out in the 11th, Herman doubled and raced to third when the second baseman fumbled the throw from the outfield. Hack was walked intentionally and promptly stole second. Augie Galan then was walked, too, loading the bases.

Carl Reynolds, up next, had singled home the Cubs' third run, but this time he grounded to the shortstop, who fired home to force out Herman.

And that set the stage for Cavarretta, who lined a single to left, driving in Hack to end the game.

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HISTORIC HOMER

Exactly 1 month later, on Sept. 28, Hartnett hit perhaps the most famous of the Cubs' 191 walk-off home runs to date, the "Homer in the Gloamin' " against the Pirates that lifted the Cubs into first place, half a game ahead of Pittsburgh. They went on to win the pennant by 2 games.

Hartnett's dramatic homer also made him the Cubs' all-time leader in walk-offs, with 11, 1 more than Anson. Banks surpassed Hartnett with his 12th and final walk-off on April 13, 1969. Santo topped Banks with his 13th on May 12, 1970.

The homer by Hartnett was the last of 7 walk-offs by the Cubs in 1938. They had 5 and 8 during the next 2 seasons, but none by Cavarretta.

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Then they had just 1 through the first 5 months and 131 games of 1941: a ninth-inning single that beat the Reds, 3-2, by Charles Peter "Greek" George, who had all of 10 hits in 67 plate appearances that season, his only year as a Cub. Two of them came in that May 25 game.

On Sept. 1, the Cubs hosted the Reds again, in a Labor Day doubleheader. In the eighth inning of Game 2, George struck out as a pinch hitter. Three days later, he ended the eighth by grounding out with the bases loaded. That was his final at bat for the Cubs, who traded him to the Dodgers on Sept. 10.

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VALLIE WHO?

The Cubs had lost the opener on Labor Day, 2-1. In the rematch, they fell behind, 2-0, on a bases-loaded single in the top of the first off Vallie Eaves, a right hander who was 5 days short of his 30th birthday. The Cubs had purchased him from Minneapolis of the American Association 3 weeks earlier.

Bob Scheffing, Dom Dallessandro and Lou Stringer all singled against Johnny Vander Meer to start the second, cutting the deficit to 1 run, with nobody out and runners on the corners. But Stringer was thrown out when he tried to steal second and the next 2 batters struck out.

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The score remained 2-1 until the sixth. Scheffing doubled and Dallessandro beat out a bunt. After Scheffing was tagged out at home on a grounder to short by Stringer, a walk loaded the bases.

The next batter was pitcher Eaves, who struck out.

But Stan Hack came through with an infield single, scoring Dallessandro. Cavarretta, with 2 walks and a ground out so far, had a chance to put the Cubs in front, but he became Vander Meer's eighth strikeout victim.

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The Reds needed only 4 batters to take another 2-run lead. A single and steal, strikeout and walk preceded a double that scored both runners.

It was still 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth. Hack grounded out, but Cavaretta walked again and advanced to second on a single by Barney Olsen.

Vander Meer, who had struck out 11, then was replaced by Joe Beggs. Babe Dahlgren greeted him with a booming, 2-run double that tied the game.

A fly ball and 2 intentional walks loaded the bases with 2 out, but Beggs coaxed a grounder to first, sending the game into extra innings.

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TRIPLE THREAT

New Cubs reliever Tot Pressnell retired the Reds in order in the top of the 10th, then grounded out against Beggs as the first batter in the bottom.

Hack singled for his third hit, then Cavarretta delivered his first: a long drive to left field that scored Hack -- and was scored as a triple.

After 653 games and 2,436 plate appearances over nearly 7 calendar years, Cavarretta was halfway to a walk-off cycle.

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SINGULAR SENSATION

He needed only a little more than 9 months to produce the third of the 4 required hits.

On June 5, 1942, the Cubs lost the first of 2 games against the Dodgers.

In Game 2, they gave up a first-inning but quickly took the lead in the bottom half. Hack led off with a walk; after a strikeout, Cavarretta doubled him home. The next batter struck out, too, but Bill Nicholson singled, scoring Cavarretta.

The Dodgers moved back in front in the fifth. A walk, a single and 2 fly balls produced the tying run. Another single broke the tie.

Neither team scored again until the bottom of the eighth. Hack doubled, went to third on a bunt and dashed home on Cavarretta's fly out.

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There were no more hits until 1 out in the 10th. Hi Bithorn, who had relieved starer Bill Fleming in the eighth, smacked a double. Ed Head then intentionally walked Hack before departing in favor of Hugh Casey.

Here's how the Chicago Tribune what transpired after that:

"When Casey showed up, Dom Dallessandro was hurriedly subbed for Len Merullo and the little man scooted safely to first on a ball that bounced off the plate and soared into space.

"It filled the bags, but the managers hadn't exhausted their strategy. Larry French was brought forth to southpaw to Phil Cavarretta and Bob Sturgeon went to third to take over Bithorn's running.

"An instant later Sturgeon was nailed between third and home, having been lured to the spot by an expected squeeze bunt from Cavarretta.

"Then Cavarretta hoisted a fly ball into short left. [Ducky] Medwick, who was playing deep, raced in, but the ball dropped for a two bagger and Hack scored."

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Why Cavarretta was credited with a double, not a single, on his game-winning bloop, only the official scorer knows.

But a double it was, so now, after 718 games and 2,713 plate appearances, all Cavarretta needed was a home run to complete a walk-off cycle.

He would wait more than a decade before getting that home run!

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GLORY YEARS

Cavarretta reached his peak as a batter in 1943-47. Over those 5 years, he hit .315/.402/.442, for an OPS of .844 and an OPS+ of 138.

He averaged 164 hits and led the league with 197 in 1944. The next year, he won the batting (.355) and on-base (.449) titles, slugged .500 and was voted the NL's Most Valuable Player after leading the Cubs to the pennant.

None of his hits ended a game. He didn't perform that feat again until June 2, 1948, nearly 6 years since doing it last, when he singled with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 12th inning to beat the Reds, 2-1.

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Then 4 more years passed before his next walk-off, on July 16, 1952. This one came in the 13th, with 1 out, runners on first and second, and the Cubs and Braves knotted at 2.

That hit came in his 7,451st plate appearance, in his 1,906th game over 19 seasons. But it was only 39th PA in 21 games of 1952.

Cavarretta would turn 36 on July 19 and had been slowing down for several years. He had not played in more than 111 games since 1947, the last of his 3 All-Star seasons, and had appeared in only 82 and 89 in 1950 and 1951, respectively.

In the latter year, he had become the Cubs' manager as well, succeeding Frankie Frisch after the Cubs started the year 35-45-1. Under Cavarretta, they went 27-47.

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FAREWELL TO FIRST BASE

He manned first base through both games of a doubleheader at Philadelphia on July 27, then did the same in a pair at New York 3 days later later.

Beginning Aug. 3, Cavarretta appeared in only 13 more games, each as a pinch hitter. And in 1953, his last year with the Cubs, he pinch hit exclusively, in 27 games.

The fifth of those 40 consecutive pinch-hitting appearances came on Monday, Aug. 18, when the Cubs and Pirates extended their series by a day to make up a game rained out in early May. Pittsburgh had won the first game, on Saturday, then the had split a Sunday doubleheader, leaving the Cubs 1 game below .500, at 57-58, in fifth place, 18.5 games behind the league-leading Dodgers (73-37). The Pirates were last, at 35-84.

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There were only 4,911 fans in the stands and they did not have much to cheer about for most of the afternoon.

The Pirates opened the scoring on a walk and 2 singles after 2 were out in the second.

They added unearned runs in the fourth and sixth, while their starter, Murry Dickson, blanked the Cubs through the seventh, allowing only 3 hits and 3 walks. Ten days earlier, at Pittsburgh, Dickson had pitched a 10-inning shutout against the Cubs in which he singled home the only run.

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This time, he got the first out in the eighth, then walked Frank Baumholtz. Gene Hermanski singled him to third and he came home on a fly ball that earned Hank Sauer his 100th RBI of the season.

Bill Serena, the Cubs' first batter in the ninth, drew a walk from Dickson, too. Bruce Edwards, a right-handed hitter, then pinch hit and surprised everyone by slugging a ball into the right field corner. Serena dashed home, making the score 3-2.

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PHIL FINISHES FEAT

Cavarretta decided that he would bat next, in place of pitcher Barney Schultz.

He also sent Hal Jeffcoat to run for Edwards, hoping the speedier Jeffcoat would be more likely to score if Cavarretta hit a fly ball.

Cavarretta worked the count to 3-2, then produced a swing that "banged the ball against the screen beyond the right field catwalk to follow Jeffcoat across the plate with the winning run."

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With that, he completed the walk-off cycle.

All it had taken was 7,476 trips to the plate, in 1,918 games, over 17 years, 11 months and 2 days as a Cub!

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AFTER THE WALK-OFF CYCLE

Cavarretta was 0 for 7 plus a walk in his final 8 games of 1952, then 6 for 21 (3 singles, 3 doubles) plus 6 walks in 1953.

None of his hits were walk-offs, nor were any of his 50 in 1954, with the White Sox. Three of those hits were homers.

He retired after going 0 for 4 for the Sox in 1954, at age 38.

As a Cub, Cavarretta's slash line was .292/.371/.416, for an OPS of .787 and an OPS+ of 118.

His 1,927 hits are the 10th most in team history, 58 behind Sammy Sosa and 60 ahead of Gabby Hartnett. Cap Anson leads, with 3,012. Ernie Banks (2,583) and Billy Williams (2,510) are the only others with at least 2,500.

Among Cavarretta's hits as a Cub were 341 doubles, 99 triples and 92 homers -- 1 of each helped him to become the one and only Cub with a walk-off cycle.

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TOMORROW: Some Cubs who came closing to matching Cavarretta's feat.

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