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1989 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: Part 21

The ups and downs continue

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In our last look at the 1989 Cubs we looked at a roller coaster week. The Cubs started the week with a three game sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati. While that was happening, the Cubs were increasing their division lead to 4½ games. That was the largest lead of the season to date. But, they then were swept in Houston by the Astros. There were two winnable games in that series, but they just couldn’t close the deal and by week’s end, they were back to just 2½ games ahead in the division.

We move forward to the next week on the schedule and the Cubs return home. This homestand will be covered in part in this edition of Historical Heroes and Goats and then be finished in part 22. As with everything in 1989, there were no gimmes. The road to the top was littered with potholes. The hallmark of the 1989 Cubs was the ability to get off of the mat when they got knocked down. This week will continue one of the many slides that the team had. Indeed, it had to look for a while in late August like this would be one more Cubs team that would get close and then collapse as the pressure mounted.

But then, they got off the mat. This homestand is memorable for come-from-behind and walk-off wins. Included will be a game next week that is one of my all time favorite regular season Cubs games. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That one is for next time. But there was plenty of intrigue in week 21. And the seeds planted on this homestand may very well have won a division for the team .

Let’s get to the action and see what I’m hyping up.

Game 125, August 21: Reds 6, Cubs 5 (71-54)

After a scoreless top of the first, Jerome Walton drew a walk in the bottom half of the inning. After a fielder’s choice, it was Ryne Sandberg on first. After a second one, it was Dwight Smith at first. He then went to third on a Mark Grace single. Both of them scored on an Andre Dawson double and it was a quick two run lead for the Cubs. But they weren’t done. Vance Law drew a walk. Shawon Dunston followed with an RBI-single and the Cubs were up three.

Rick Sutcliffe was perfect over the next three innings and the Reds kept the Cubs from doing further damage and so the Cubs still led by three when Todd Benzinger led off the fifth inning with a solo homer.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Cubs offense got it in gear again. Sandberg led off the inning with a solo homer. One out later, Mark Grace tripled. Dawson was then intentionally walked. Law followed with a sacrifice fly and the Cubs led by four with one of their best starters on the hill.

Sutcliffe allowed a pair of singles to Ken Griffey Sr. and Benzinger to start the seventh. He got a pop out for the first out but then Ron Oester then delivered an RBI-single and that was it for the Red Baron. The Cubs then summoned Dean Wilkins from the bullpen to make his major league debut. I don’t imagine Dean sits around ruminating on his glorious major league debut. He allowed an RBI-single to the first batter he faced, Jeff Richardson. That gave the Reds their third run of the game and second of the night. Wilkins then walked Dave Collins to load the bases.

That was it for Wilkins. Steve Wilson followed. He got a sacrifice fly off the bat of Rolando Roomes for the second out, but the Reds had their fourth run and a deficit of only one. Wilson was still on the hill with one out in the eighth when he yielded a game-tying solo homer to Joel Youngblood.

The game remained tied until the 10th inning. Calvin Schiraldi was on the hill. He allowed a leadoff single to Eric Davis but Davis was then caught stealing. Youngblood then grounded out and it was two outs and nobody on. But Benzinger doubled and then scored on an error by Law.

John Franco threw a scoreless tenth despite allowing a walk and a double. Unfortunately, Sandberg, who had drawn the walk, was out trying to score on the double.

After reaching a season high 21 games over .500, the team lost four straight. As with the series in Houston, the game was close, but they just couldn’t quite seal the deal. Adding insult to injury, Walton was hitless, snapping his 30 game hitting streak.

  • Superhero: Scott Sanderson (.187). 1⅓ IP (5 batters), H
  • Hero: Andre Dawson (.121). 1-3, BB, 2B, 2RBI, R, K
  • Sidekick: Rick Sutcliffe (.106). 6⅓ IP (25 batters), 7H, 4R, 6K
  • Billy Goat: Calvin Schiraldi (-.301). IP (6 batters), 2H, R (0ER), BB, (L 3-6)
  • Goat: Dean Wilkins (-.175). 0IP (2 batters), H, BB
  • Kid: Jerome Walton (-.102). 0-4, BB, K, DP

Game 126, August 22: Reds 7 at Cubs 2 (71-55)

Neither team had a baserunner until two outs in the top of the second in this one. But then things turned on a dime. Luis Quinones singled off of Cubs starter Joe Kraemer. Joe Oliver followed with a single and after an unsuccessful throw to third, there were runners on second and third for Scott Madison who was intentionally walked to load the bases for Reds starter Tom Browning.

Browning hit a grounder to third that should have ended the inning, but Vance Law misplayed it allowing a run to score. Dave Collins followed with a two run single and it was 3-0 early.

The third inning was a lot of the same for Kraemer. He retired the first two batters but then got into trouble. Todd Benzinger had a single. Quinones followed with a second single and when Joe Oliver followed with a double, the Reds led by five.

Meanwhile Browning was perfect through three innings in this one. In the fourth, Collins drew a one out walk. One batter later, Eric Davis singled and Collins was able to come all of the way around to score after an error in the outfield. That was it for Kraemer, but it was more than enough.

In the bottom of the inning, the Cubs finally scratched the scoreboard. Jerome Walton led off with a single. One out later, Mark Grace doubled and the Cubs had their first run. Then in the fifth, Law hit a solo homer.

In the sixth, a Madison single and Collins double accounted for the seventh and final run.

This game was the major league debut of Kraemer and the only game he appeared in that season. He did return and appear in 18 games as a reliever the following season. All together he had an ERA of 6.91 over 19 major league appearances covering 2823 innings. I suspect that I’m not the only one with no memory whatsoever of Joe Kraemer.

  • Superhero: Vance Law (.046). 2-4, HR, RBI, R

*In season, I’d have to remind that WPA ignores defense and that Law’s error opened the flood gates in this one.

  • Hero: Shawon Dunston (.039). 2-4
  • Sidekick: Mark Grace (.020). 2-4, 2B, RBI
  • Billy Goat: Joe Kraemer (-328). 3⅔ IP (21 batters), 7H, 2BB, 6R (2ER), 5K (L 0-1)
  • Goat: Lloyd McClendon (-.098). 0-4, K, DP
  • Kid: Joe Girardi (-.081). 0-3, DP

Game 127, August 23: Reds 8 at Cubs 5 (71-56)

With Greg Maddux on the mound, the Cubs had to feel confident that they could snap their losing streak. He worked through some trouble in the first and then the Cubs bats got right to it. Jerome Walton drew a walk and Ryne Sandberg followed with a single. After a strikeout, Mark Grace grounded out resulting in the first run for the Cubs. Andre Dawson then drew a walk and Vance Law singled giving the Cubs their second run.

Each team threatened, but was still 2-0 heading to the fourth. With one out, Jeff Richardson drew a walk and then went to second on a sacrifice. A Herm Winningham single followed and the Reds had their first run. With one out in the fifth, Ronaldo Roomes bunted for a hit and Joe Oliver followed with a two-run homer to give the Reds the lead.

In the sixth, Winningham drew a one out walk. He then came around to score on a triple by Eric Davis one out later. That extended the Reds lead to 4-2. In the seventh, Les Lancaster relieved Maddux. He surrendered a Roomes triple to start the inning and then an Oliver singled to increase the lead to three.

Mitch Williams threw the ninth inning, obviously in a non save situation. He allowed a one out double to Oliver. Ron Oester followed with a single. a wild pitch gave the Reds their first run of the inning. Richardson singled to drive in the second run of the inning. Williams then hit Joel Youngblood with a pitch to put a second runner on. Williams got a second out but then walked Luis Quinones. A second wild pitch scored another run.

The Cubs did get some empty runs in the bottom of the inning off of John Franco, similarly pitching in a non-save situation. Curtis Wilkerson started the inning with a single and Walton followed with a walk. After a fielder’s choice put runners on first and third, Darrin Jackson struck out. That brought Mark Grace to the pate. Mark hit a grounder to short that was misplayed allowing a run to score. Andre Dawson followed with an RBI-single and then Vance Law had an RBI double. Three runs was as close as they could get.

The Reds completed a three game sweep and the Cubs’ skid reached six games. Just one off of a season high. Their lead in the division, which had been as big as 4½ games, was down to just 1½.

  • Superhero: Vance Law (.176). 2-4, BB, 2B, RBI, K
  • Hero: Jerome Walton (.118). 1-2, 3BB, R, SB
  • Sidekick: Andre Dawson (.071). 2-3, 2BB, RBI, SB
  • Billy Goat: Greg Maddux (-.211). 6IP (31 batters), 10H, 3H, 4R, 8K, HBP (L 14-10)
  • Goat: Shawon Dunston (-.171). 1-3, BB, DP
  • Kid: Dwight Smith (-.137). 0-4, 2K

Game 128, August 25: Cubs 4, Braves 3 (72-56)

Lonnie Smith gave the Braves an early lead with a solo homer in the first off of Cubs starter Mike Bielecki. But the Cubs offense bounced back quickly. Jerome Walton led off the first with a single, stole second and moved to third on a groundout. Lloyd McClendon doubled and Mark Grace singled, each driving in a run and the Cubs led 2-1. Andre Dawson added a third straight hit with a single, but the Cubs couldn’t add on.

The game was right there heading to the sixth inning. Bielecki was still on the hill. He allowed a leadoff single to Jeff Treadway and then Smith followed with a walk. Bielecki got a lineout off the bat of former back-to-back MVP Dale Murphy but then a passed ball and an intentional walk ended his day.

Les Lancaster was summoned to try to escape the jam. He did get a fielder’s choice grounder that resulted in the tying run being cut down at the plate. But then he walked Jeff Blauser to force in the tying run. Lancaster was still pitching in the eighth and that’s when he allowed a solo homer to Murphy to give the Braves a 3-2 lead.

In the bottom of the eighth, Ryne Sandberg drew a leadoff walk from Braves starter John Smoltz who was still in the game. He got an out and then Mike Stanton got a second one and Sandberg was still sitting at first. A wild pitch and a double off the bat of Dawson tied the game.

The game remained tied until the 12th inning, thanks in no small part to Paul Assenmacher in his debut for the Cubs, against his old team. Assenmacher faced eight batters, allowed a single and retired the other seven.

In the bottom of the 12th, Cubs rookie catcher Rick Wrona led off the inning with a single against Mark Eichhorn, who was in his third inning of work. Domingo Ramos laid down the sacrifice to put Wrona at second with only one out. And then the Braves made one of those wacky decisions that can only happen in an extra inning game. The Braves intentionally walked Walton to get to Sandberg. Walton had a fine season. Sandberg was still in the prime of a Hall of Fame career. But, of course, a leadoff runner in the bottom of an elimination inning digs a large hole. Sandberg singled, Wrona scored and the Cubs snapped their six game losing streak in walk-off fashion.

Mitch Williams had thrown a scoreless 12th and picked up the win.

  • Superhero: Paul Assenmacher (.338). 2⅓ IP (8 batters), 1H, 2K
  • Hero: Ryne Sandberg (.300). 2-5, BB, RBI, R, K
  • Sidekick: Mark Grace (.146). 2-4, BB, RBI
  • Billy Goat: Shawon Dunston (-.234). 0-5
  • Goat: Vance Law (-.203). 0-4, 2K
  • Kid: Domingo Ramos (-.147). 0-1

Game 129, August 26: Braves 5 at Cubs 3 (72-57)

Oddibe McDowell led off this game with a solo homer off of Rick Sutcliffe. In the third, McDowell had a one-out single. Jeff Treadway followed with a single of his own and then Lonnie Smith singled to load the bases. Dale Murphy then hit a sacrifice fly to put the Braves up two.

Future Cub Jeff Blauser led off the fourth with a solo homer to extend the lead to three. Andre Thomas followed with a single and that was it for Sutcliffe. In came Scott Sanderson, One out later, he stole second and then scored on a single by Braves starter Derek Lilliquist and the Braves had all of the runs they’d need in this one.

There was a lot of baseball to be played though and one thing I’ll say for that ‘89 club, they didn’t give up easily. In the bottom of the inning, Ryne Sandberg led off with a double. Sandberg moved to third on a flyout and then scored on an Andre Dawson double. Dawson scored on a Lloyd McClendon double. Then one out later, a Shawon Dunston single cut the lead to just one. Rick Wrona followed with a single chasing Lilliquist, but the Cubs left two.

Blauser would add a second homer in the seventh off of Dean Wilkins of the Cubs. That was it for the scoring in this one and the Cubs lost for the seventh time in eight games.

  • Superhero: Scott Sanderson (.084). 3IP (12 batters), 3H, BB, 2K
  • Hero: Lloyd McClendon (.070). 2-4, 2B, RBI, R
  • Sidekick: Rick Wrona (.064). 2-2
  • Billy Goat: Rick Sutcliffe (-.177). 3IP (16 batters), 8H, BB, 4R, 3K (L 13-10)
  • Goat: Jerome Walton (-.157). 1-5, K, CS
  • Kid: Curtis Wilkerson (-.131.). 0-1

Game 130, August 27: Cubs 3, Braves 2 (73-57)

This game was scoreless until the fourth inning. That’s when Mark Grace doubled against Braves starter Marty Clary. Andre Dawson followed with a single to drive in the first run of the game.

Meanwhile Cubs starter Steve Wilson held the Braves scoreless into the seventh inning. Jeff Treadway led off the seventh with a single. The Braves let Clary bat while trailing in the seventh inning and he successfully sacrificed. Oddibe McDowell followed with an RBI triple. Jeff Blauser followed with a single and just like that, the Braves had the lead.

The Cubs had runners in the seventh and eighth, including first and second with no outs in the eighth but failed to cash in. Then in the ninth, Lloyd McClendon drew a leadoff walk. Domingo Ramos sacrificed him to second. Then with two outs, Darrin Jackson delivered an RBI single. The Cubs couldn’t add and the game went to extras for the second time in three days.

Again it was Mark Eichhorn on the mound for the Braves. He issued a leadoff walk to Shawon Dunston. A pair of groundouts, the second by a pinch-hitting Rick Sutcliffe, had Dunston on third. Mark Grace was intentionally walked and Andre Dawson followed with the game winning single.

The Cubs had a series win after losing six in a row prior to the series. Both games were won in walkoff fashion.

  • Superhero/Hero: Andre Dawson/Darrin Jackson (.283). Dawson: 2-5, 2RBI, K; Jackson 1-2, RBI, K, CS
  • Sidekick: Mitch Williams (.174). 2IP (9 batters), H, 2BB, 4K (W
  • Billy Goat: Domingo Ramos (-.147). 0-3, S
  • Goat: Vance Law (-.137). 0-1
  • Kid: Mitch Webster (-.069). 0-3

The Cubs pulled out a much need series victory snapping a six game losing streak in the process. Extra inning games produce odd strategies at times. In this series, hindsight gives us the awkwardness that is two different situations where the Braves intentionally walked a hitter in front of a future Hall of Fame player. In both situations that future HOF player delivered a game winning hit for the division leading Cubs.

After coming into the week 2½ games in front of the NL East, with four losses in six games, one would have expected the lead might have vanished. But, the Cubs actually escaped with a two-game lead in the division. Still in control of the division and now with just 32 games left to play.

I told you this homestand ended up being an exciting one. There is still a third walkoff win to occur. But that one will be part of Part 22. That article will feature three games against the Astros to start the week and finish the nine game home stand. Then they’ll go on the road after an off day for a rematch with the Braves.

1989 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats Player of the Week: Scott Sanderson

Scott attended high school at Glenbrook North, a school near where I grew up and where I had a friend go to school (some 20 years after Scott). Scott pitched at Vanderbilt. He had been drafted by the Royals in the 11th round out of high school but didn’t sign. Three years later, it was the Expos that drafted him in the third round.

He reached the majors in 1978, the year after he was drafted, at the tender age of 21. Scott reached the majors with just 28 games experience, all starts, across three levels. He added nine more starts and a relief appearance at the major league level. He didn’t appear in more than 10 games at any level in either ‘77 or ‘78. He did manage to post a 2.95 ERA in that late season stint with the Expos.

Starting the following season, he was a mainstay in the Expos rotation for the next five seasons. Only failing to reach 20 starts once, that was in 1983. After that season, he was traded to the Cubs in a three-team deal. That deal included a lot of names that I don’t recognize, but did include Craig Lefferts and Carmelo Martinez going to the Padres. I certainly remember both of them contributing to the Padres beating the Cubs in the playoffs in 1984. Still, the Cubs almost certainly don’t reach the postseason without a good season from Sanderson.

Aside from the 1988 season when he was limited to only 11 appearances, all out of the bullpen, Scott was an effective pitcher for the Cubs. I remember him largely as the quintessential mid-rotation starter. He never threw 200 innings as a Cub. But he did make 116 starts with a 3.81 ERA and 160 appearances in all. He had eight complete games, a shutout and three saves as a Cub.

After his time with the Cubs, he was with the A’s in 1990 after signing as a free agent. That team reached the World Series before being swept by the Nasty Boy Reds. Then in 1991, he signed as a free agent with the Yankees. There, he had pretty much the best year of his career, winning 16 games and making his lone All Star appearance. The next year was as bad as that one was good and Sanderson resumed bouncing between teams.

Over the final four years of his career, Scott pitched for the Angels, Giants, White Sox and back to the Angels. In all, Scott pitched in 472 games (407 starts) and had an ERA of 3.84 (2,561⅔ IP). He won 163 and lost 143.

It’s often fun to see the Baseball-Reference comps for a player. By age, Sanderson lines up with such pitchers as Matt Morris, Julio Teheran, Kevin Appier, Bob Welch, Johnny Cueto, Chris Bosio, Mike Boddicker, Bob Forsch and Mike Flanagan. Those comps suggest to me that Scott was even a little better than I remember him. For his career, the most similar is former teammate Bill Gullickson, followed by Doug Drabek and former teammate’s father Vern Law. Once again, I’ll say those comps suggest better than I remember him. Drabek particularly I remember as a very good pitcher, as well as Appier and Cueto in the comps by age. The vast majority of all of those pitchers are nothing to sneeze at.

Sanderson spent some time in the broadcast booth, but largely worked as a player agent following his playing career. Among his clients along the way were Frank Thomas, Lance Berkman and Josh Beckett. Sadly, Scott passed away in 2019 at the age of 64 after a bout with cancer and a stroke. We lost Scott much, much too soon.

My earliest memory of Scott Sanderson was a grand slam he hit at Wrigley Field in 1982 off of Randy Martz in a game the Expos won 10-6. In a statistical quirk, Sanderson had nine of his 26 career RBI (571 PA) against the Cubs (who he played the most games for). Both of his two career four-RBI games were against the Cubs.