Cubs' wins on last-out caught stealing or pickoff

A previous post reported that the Cubs have lost 19 games that ended with a runner being thrown out on a straight steal attempts, and 6 that concluded with a tag on a pickoff.

That's a total of 25 games.

They have won just as many games in those ways: 17 when they gunned down a would-be thief and 8 when they trapped a runner off a base.

All of those numbers are since 1903, first season for which has data that can be searched in its Pivotal Play Finder.



On Saturday, July 31, 1915, the Cubs hosted the Giants in a doubleheader at the West Side Grounds.

The game was expected to be a pitching duel between Hippo Vaughn and Christy Mathewson. But Cy Williams slammed a 3-run homer off Mathewson in the fourth inning and the Cubs chased the Giants ace with 4 more runs in the fifth.

The Cubs led, 7-3, in the ninth, when New York put runners on first and second with 1 out. George Burns hit into a forceout, then for some reason decided to steal.

Catcher Jimmy Archer fired to shortstop Bob Fisher, who tagged Burns for the final out.

The win came just 5 days after the Cubs' first final-play, caught-stealing loss, by 0-1 at Boston.



Between 1917 and 1939, the Cubs wrapped up 13 more victories by gunning down a runner, including twice each in 1921, 1928 and 1937.

Their only such wins in the past 83 years came in 1963, 1988 and 2018.

Both of the 1921 wins were against the Reds, and in both the runner represented the tying run, as the Cubs led each game by 3-2, at Cincinnati on April 25 and at home on July 5.

Of all 17 wins that ended with a failed steal attempt, 8 were decided by 1 run, 1 by 2 runs, 3 by 4 runs, 2 by 5 runs, 2 by 6 runs, and 1 by 11 runs -- a 12-1 romp over the Braves in 1927.

11 came at home and 6 on the road, including the last by 1 run, a 5-4 victory at Atlanta on Aug. 20, 1988.

All came in the ninth inning.


11 of the 17 thwarted steals took place with a runner only on first base.

Three of them happened with runners on first and third, 1 each with runners on first and second, second only and third only.

All but 4 of the runners tagged tagged out were trying to reach second.



On May 14, 1920, the Cubs were clinging to a 2-1 lead when the visiting Robins (today's Dodgers) opened the ninth with singles off Grover Cleveland Alexander, putting runners on the corner.

The next batter hit a popup. So did the batter that followed, while trying to pull off a squeeze play.

With 2 out, the Robins tried a double steal. Catcher Bill Killefer threw to shortstop Charlie Hollocher, then took a return throw from Hollocher and tagged Hi Myers before he could touch the plate.



On May Sept. 19, 1937, the same teams battled at Wrigley Field. The only scoring in the first 8 innings came on a 2-run homer in the fourth by Gabby Hartnett.

The Dodgers began the ninth with a bunt single. Curt Davis struck out the next batter, then surrendered a double to Babe Phelps, making him 4 for 4.

"Babe doesn't travel fast," Irving Vaughn explained in the next day's Chicago Tribune, "so he was excused for a fellow with 2 good legs. The substitute runner was George Cisar, just in from the Three-Eye League, where he stole 63 bases.

"The burglaring George went to third on an out which scored the Dodgers' run. Probably because he figured the bases in the big show are no farther apart than in the minors, George immediately sailed for the plate, but not successfully."

Davis immediately saw that Cisar was headed for home and threw a strike to Hartnett, who slapped the tag on the runner to secure the victory.


The last out in 12-1 win in 1927 came at third. Why the runner tried to steal with 2 out, 2 on and his team down by 11 runs is anybody's guess.

The other out at third also happened at home against the Braves, on Aug. 8, 1930. The Cubs won that game, 6-1.



The Cubs' most recent win capped by a stymied stab at stealing took place on Sept. 17, 2018, at Arizona.

Two singles and a forceout broke a scoreless tie in the sixth. Javier Baez followed with a 2-run homer.

Kris Bryant homered with a man on in the eighth and the score remained 5-0 going to the bottom of the ninth.

Kyle Hendricks had allowed only 1 hit until then, but the leadoff batter homered. Hendricks got the next 2 outs, then yielded a single to Paul Goldschmidt and was replaced by Justin Wilson.

On Wilson's first pitch, Goldschmidt took off for second, but was beaten by Willson Contreras' throw to Addison Russell.

It was the Cubs' first such win on the road in 1 day short of 90 years, since an 8-3 victory at Boston on Sept. 18, 1928!



(Date, score, inning, opponent, runner, batter. All were out at 2nd except where noted.)

7/31/1915: 7-3, top 9th, Giants, George Burns (runners 1st and 3rd), Dave Robertson

5/24/1917: 4-3, bottom 9th, Giants, Pete Kilduff, Hans Lobert

5/13/1920: 2-1, top 9th, Robins, Hi Myers (out at home, runners 1st and 3rd), Clarence Mitchell

4/25/1921: 3-2, bottom 9th, Reds, Denny Williams, Bubbles Hargrave

7/05/1921: 3-2, top 9th, Reds, Pat Duncan, Rube Bressler

5/22/1923: 8-2, bottom 9th, Braves, Larry Kopf, Johnny Cooney

9/05/1923: 6-0, top 9th, Reds, Hughie Critz, Sam Bohne

8/03/1927: 12-1, top 9th, Braves, Jack Fournier (out at 3rd, runners 1st and 2nd), Sid Graves

6/09/1928: 13-11, bottom 9th, Phillies, Freddie Leach (runners 1st and 3rd), Pinky Whitney

9/18/1928: 8-3, bottom 9th, Braves, Al Spohrer, Heinie Mueller

8/08/1930: 6-1, top 9th, Braves, Freddie Maguire(out at 3rd, runner on 2nd), Randy Moore

9/08/1937: 4-0, top 9th, Cardinals, Bruce Ogrodowski, Dizzy Dean

9/19/1937: 2-1, top 9th, Dodgers, George Cisar (runner on 3rd), Gibby Brack

6/25/1939: 4-3, top 9th, Phillies, Hersh Martin, Gibby Brack

5/14/1963: 2-1, top 9th, Reds, Frank Robinson, Jerry Lynch

8/20/1988: 5-4, top 9th, Braves, Terry Blocker, Ken Oberkfell

9/17/2018: 5-1, bottom 9th, Diamondbacks, Paul Goldschmidt, Daniel Descalso


The tag to end the 1937 game vs. the Cardinals completed a 5-hit, 10-strikeout complete game by Larry French. He walked 4.

Note that the same batter, Gibby Brack, was at the plate when the final out was made vs. the Dodgers in 1937 and the Phillies in 1939. He played 315 games over 3 seasons, batting .279/.341/.436.

And note that the runner caught stealing in 1963 vs. the Reds was future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.



The Cubs led the Giants, 3-1, in the top of the ninth inning on July 17, 1932.

Pat Malone got the first 2 outs, then Johnny Vergez was safe on an error by shortstop Woody English.

As Vergez took his lead off first, Malone whipped the ball to Charlie Grimm, who tagged Vergez to end the game.



There wasn't another such win by the Cubs for nearly 30 years, until June 3, 1962, when they beat the Reds at home, 6-3.

Then they did it again less than a year later, in a 5-1 win over the visiting Astros on May 26, 1963.


On Aug. 7, 1976, the Cubs took a 4-2 lead in the top of the 11th at Montreal on a 2-out, 2-run homer by Rick Monday.

Two errors, two fly outs and a walk made the score 4-3, with runners on first and second. Before throwing his first pitch to the next batter, Darold Knowles snapped a throw to first, where Pete LaCock tagged Ellis Valentine to end the game.


Mitch Williams turned the trick twice in 1989, both in the top of the ninth, both with men on first and second and both while facing his first batter of the day.

On April 28, Williams did not throw a pitch before he caught Carmelo Martinez of the Padres wandering off second to finish a 3-1 win.

On Sept. 11, with the Cubs ahead of the Expos, 4-3, Williams threw a ball, then victimized Jeff Huson, who had just pinch run at first.


In nearly a third of a century since then, the Cubs have secured just 2 more wins with a pickoff.



The first 3 Cubs reached base at Washington on June 4, 2015. The fourth walked, forcing in a run, then a second run came home on a double play.

Jake Arrieta blanked the Nationals until the sixth, when they scored on a bases-loaded forceout.

Jason Grimm, James Russell and Jason Motte combined to strand 2 runners in the seventh. Pedro Strop worked around a 1-out walk in the eighth.

In the ninth, Hector Rondon retired the leadoff man, then yielded a single and walked pinch hitter Clint Robinson.

After getting a lineout to center, Rondon fell behind Anthony Rendon, 2 balls and 1 strike. His next pitch was a ball, too, but after catching it, Willson Contreras threw to first, where Anthony Rizzo tagged out Robinson.



(Date, score, inning, opponent, bases occupied, runner, pitcher. All were picked off 1st except where noted.)

7/17/1932: 3-1, top 9th, Giants, 1st only, Johnny Vergez, Pat Malone

6/03/1962: 6-3, top 9th, Reds, 1st and 3rd, Vada Pinson, Don Elston (pickoff throw by catcher Dick Bertell)

5/26/1963: 5-1, top 9th, Astros, 1st only, Al Spangler, Bob Buhl (pickoff throw by catcher Dick Bertell)

8/07/1976: 4-3, bottom 11th, Expos, 1st and 2nd, Ellis Valentine, Darold Knowles

4/28/1989: 3-1, top 9th, Padres, 1st and 2nd, Carmelo Martinez (on 2nd), Mitch Williams

9/11/1989: 4-3, top 9th, Expos, 1st and 2nd, Jeff Huson, Mitch Williams

6/08/2003: 8-7, top 9th, Yankees, 1st only, Charles Gipson, Joe Borowski

6/04/2015: 2-1, bottom 9th, Nationals, 1st and 2nd, Clint Robinson, Hector Rondon (pickoff throw by catcher Willson Contreras)



The Cubs lost 1 game on a final-play pickoff attempt.

On the day before the nation's bicentennial, July 3, 1976, they faced the Mets at New York.

Jerry Morales tied the score at 2 when he homered off Tom Seaver as the first batter in the ninth.

Pete LaCock then doubled, but Seaver struck out 3 in a row to end the inning.

Pitcher Rick Reuschel led off the Cubs' 10th with a single. Seaver walked Rick Monday, then was lifted for a reliever, who retired Jose Cardenal, Bill Madlock and Jerry Morales in order.

Bud Harrelson began the Mets' half with a triple off Reuschel. He walked the next 2 batters intentionally, then gave way to Darold Knowles.

Knowles struck out a batter, then tried a trick that had worked 7 times earlier in the season.

LaCock positioned himself behind the runner at first, then charged toward the bag as Knowles threw to it.

As runner Mike Phillips tried to return to the base, he and LaCock got their feet tangled and both fell to the ground. The ball skidded away and Harrelson trotted home from third to score the winning run.

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