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Cubs' biggest consecutive comeback wins

Last Sunday afternoon, the Cubs trailed the Cardinals at St. Louis, 5-0, and wound up winning, 6-5.

Tuesday night, they fell behind by 5-0 again, at home against the Reds. They closed to within 5-3 but could not complete the comeback.

It has been nearly a century since the Cubs last erased 5-run deficits in consecutive games: April 20 and 21, 1923.

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SETTING THE STAGE

The Cubs began the 1923 season with 4 games in as many days at home against the Pirates.

They lost the opener on Tuesday, April 17, 3-2. All of Pittsburgh's runs coming on a 2-out, bases-loaded double by Charlie Grimm, the future Cubs star and manager.

The next day, a seventh-inning homer by Grimm tied the score at 2, then the Cubs tallied 5 runs on 6 hits in the eighth to win, 7-2.

On Thursday, Hack Miller slugged a 3-run homer in the fourth to make the score 6-1 and the Cubs rolled to a 10-5 victory.

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EARLY WOES

In Friday's series finale, the Pirates grabbed a quick lead in the first, on a 1-out walk, a single and a ground out.

Pie Traynor smacked a solo home run in the second, then Grimm homered with a man on and 2 out in the fourth.

With 2 out and nobody on in the fifth, a hit batsman, an error on a pickoff and a single made the score 5-0.

The Cubs finally got on the scoreboard when Bernie Friberg opened the fifth with a homer. But the Pirates responded with 2 runs in the sixth, again with 2 out, leaving the Cubs in a 7-1 hole.

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RARE DOUBLE PLAY

After a leadoff home run by Cliff Heathcote in the bottom of the sixth, an RBI single in the top of the seventh and a 2-run homer by Jigger Statz in the bottom, the Pirates' lead was 8-4.

It grew to 9-4 in the top of the eighth, on a run-scoring triple by Grimm. The inning ended when Pirates pitcher Whitey Glazner struck out and Grimm was tagged as he tried to steal home.

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TIMELY FIRST HOMER

Ray Grimes, first up in the Cubs' eighth, was safe on an error by the shortstop. Bernie Friberg followed with a home run: 9-6.

A single by Miller ended the day for Glazner. John Kelleher singled off reliever Earl Hamilton, then 22-year-old Gabby Hartnett lined a pitch over the wall down the left field line for his first career home run, in his 33rd big league.

Hartnett's drive tied the game and sent Hamilton to the showers.

His replacement, Babe Adams, got Cubs pitcher Tony Kaufmann to hit a popup a few feet in front of the plate that landed safely. Statz bunted Kaufmann to second and Heathcote singled him to third.

That brought up George Grantham, who drove home Kaufmann with a single. Heathcote advanced to third and scored moments later on a single by Grimes, the Cubs' eighth hit of the inning.

A forceout and a popup followed, leaving the score at 11-9.

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SQUANDERED LEAD

Kaufmann walked the first 2 Pirates in the ninth, then gave way to Tiny Osborne, who had pitched the first 7 innings on Opening Day.

Osborne got Carson Bigbee to ground to second baseman Grantham. He tossed to shortstop Kelleher for a forceout, but Kelleher's throw trying for a double play sailed past Grimes at first, enabling the runner who had been on second to score and Bigbee to reach second.

When the next batter lined a hit to right, Bigbee raced home, tying the game.

The batter was thrown out at second, though, and a lineout to right-center then ended the inning.

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'A REAL BEAUT'

Keller started the Cubs' ninth with a fly to shot right.

Hartnett ended it with a home run: Cubs 12, Pirates 11.

"Hartnett's homer in the ninth was a real beaut," the Chicago Tribune reported. "The ball sailed over the bleachers in left field. One fan tried to stop it, but decided it was coming too fast and just touched the ball with his fingers as it topped the wall."

...

Hartnett would hit another walk-off homer less than 4 months later, the only 1 more the rest of his 20-season career: his famous "Homer in the Gloamin'" that beat the Pirates on Sept. 28, 1938.

His game-ending homer in 1923 was the Cubs' sixth of the game, most they had hit since the Modern Era began in 1901.

They would hit 6 in 5 more games, between 1930 and 1962, before breaking the record with 7 in an 18-10 win over the Mets on June 11, 1967.

They have hit 7 twice more since then, in 1970 and 1977, both against the Padres.

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6 BATTERS, 5 RUNS

The Cardinals were the Cubs' opponent the next day, Saturday, April 21. St. Louis had begun the year by winning 2 of 3 games at Cincinnati, but had been routed, 10-2, by the Reds on Friday.

In only 1 of the 4 games had the Cardinals scored more than 4 runs. They topped that total after just 6 batters against Virgil Cheeves, who failed to get an out.

Two singles and a walk set the stage for a grand slam by Jim Bottomley. Back-to-back doubles made the score 5-0.

...

The Cubs failed to score in the first, but quickly tallied 3 times in the second. Bernie Friberg singled, then Hack Miller and John Kelleher slammed back-to-back home runs.

The Cardinals added a run in the fifth and the score remained 6-3 until the Cubs came to bat in the seventh.

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HARTNETT THE HERO AGAIN

Jigger Statz walked, went to second on a single by Cliff Heathcote and came home on a single by George Grantham: 4-6.

A forceout put runners on the corners. Both scored when Friberg tripled: 6-6.

Lou North took over on the mound. He fielded a grounder by Hack Miller and threw home, where Friberg was tagged out.

Kelleher singled, sending Miller to third.

Hartnett then slugged his third homer in 2 days: 9-6.

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3 HITS, NO RUNS

The Cardinals made 2 singles and a double in the eighth but did not score, as a double play separated the singles and preceded the double.

Grimes singled home a run for the Cubs in their half of the eighth: 10-6.

A 2-run single in the ninth brought the Cards to within 8-10 before a forceout and a groundout, both on balls to third baseman Friberg, completed the Cubs' triumph.

"Charlie Hartnett is the object of hero worship by the small boys and has gained a host of new friends," the Tribune declared.

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REST OF SEASON

The Cubs won the next 3 games against the Cardinals as well, making their record 7-1.

Then they began a 23-game road trip by losing 3 straight at Pittsburgh and 2 at Cincinnati.

By the time the trip ended, on May 23, the Cubs were just 15-16 and in fourth place, 8.5 games out of first.

They never came closer than 6 games the rest of the way and finished 12.5 behind, in fourth, at 83-71.

They trailed at some point in 38 of their wins. Their rally from down 7-1 against the Pirates on April 20 was their biggest comeback of the year.

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