Cubs' 'play-on' home runs

From Fred Pfeffer's 3-run blast against Detroit in 1884, through Gabby Hartnett's solo "Homer in the Gloamin' " against the Pirates in 1938, to Jason Heyward's drive with 2 aboard against the Reds on Sept. 8 of last year, Cubs batters have hit 191 walk-off home runs.

That is more than twice as many as the 94 they have hit that tied the score in the bottom half of the ninth or a later inning.

I call those "play-on homers."



The Cubs smacked 10 walk-off homers in the 25 seasons, 1876-1900, before the Modern Era began.

They hit only 1 play-on homers in that span.

The batter who did it was Ed Williamson, against the Phillies, on July 3, 1884, just 5 weeks after Pfeffer's inaugural walk-off on May 30.

The White Stockings, as the Cubs were known at the time, trailed, 5-11, midway through the sixth inning, then scored twice in the sixth and 5 times in the seventh to go in front, 12-11.

Three errors, 1 by Williamson, helped the Phillies to tally a run in the eighth, then another in the ninth to regain the lead, 13-12.

But Williamson homered with nobody on base in the bottom of the inning to stave off defeat until the 11th, when a 2-run homer earned the Phillies a 15-13 victory.



No Cub duplicated Williamson's feat for nearly 27 years, until June 13, 1911.

The Rustlers, today's Braves, took a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th.

Wilbur Good then "opened the Cubs' half with a home run which turned despair into instant joy," according to I. E. Sanborn in the Chicago Tribune. "The ball sailed on a line past Flaherty to the center field stand and before it could be returned Good's great speed carried him around the circuit with something to spare."

Good also was the final batter when the Cubs prevailed in the 12th. With 1 out and a runner on third, Good hit a sharp grounder to the shortstop, who fired the ball toward home. The catcher grabbed it, tagged the runner -- and dropped the ball, making the final score 5-4.



Good's was the Cubs' first play-on homer at the West Side Grounds. The next was by Vic Saier, a 2-out solo blast that tied the Giants on Sept. 15, 1913.

On June 17, 1915, Saier became the first to turn the trick twice, homering with 1 out and the bases empty in the 13th to pull the Cubs even with the Robins, today's Dodgers.

Three months later, Alex McCarthy and Good did it 4 days apart, on Sept. 25 and 29, both in the ninth inning. McCarthy's came with a man on second and erased a 2-4 deficit against the Phillies. Good's solo drive tied the Reds at 4.

That made a total of 6 play-on homers before the Cubs moved to Weeghman Park, now Wrigley Field, for the start of 1916.

They did not get their first such homer at their new home until late in their 14th season there, on Sept. 9, 1929. Riggs Stephenson did it, with nobody on in the ninth and the Cubs 2 outs away from a 2-3 loss to the Braves.

The Cubs' most recent play-on homer came a little more than 4 years ago, on July 26, 2018.

They trailed the Diamondbacks, 4-6, when Ben Zobrist walked to start the ninth. After Javier Baez lined out, David Bote sent an 0-2 pitch deep into the seats in left-center field.

Anthony Rizzo then walloped an 0-1 delivery for a walk-off homer to right.



The Cubs have hit at least 1 play-on homer in 52 seasons, including 51 of the 122 in the Modern Era.

The 3 that they hit in their final season at the West Side Grounds in 1915 remained unmatched until 1960. Frank Thomas blasted a game-tying solo homer against the Dodgers on May 28, and Ron Santo did the same on Aug. 18. Don Zimmer then followed suit against the Braves on Aug. 31.

All came in the ninth inning.

Santo singlehandedly matched the team record in 1973.

On April 24, his homer leading off the ninth tied the Giants.

On June 27, he homered with nobody on in the ninth to tie the Expos, then repeated the feat in the 13th.

Just 2 days later, Gene Hiser smacked a record-breaking fourth play-on with 2 out and the bases empty in the ninth against the Mets.


The Cubs have hit 4 late-inning, tying homers in 3 subsequent seasons.

In 1986, Keith Moreland hit 2 of the homers, a 2-run and a 3-run. Jody Davis and Shawon Dunston homered with nobody on.

In 1992, Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg homered with 1 on; Mark Grace and Dwight Smith, with none aboard.

In 1999, Glenallen did it twice, the second with a runner on. Jeff Blauser and Henry Rodriguez tied games with solo shots.


In 5 seasons, the Cubs hit 3 play-on homers. The last was 2008.

2013 was the most recent of 18 seasons in which they 2.

They have hit 1 in 24 seasons.



The 94 play-on homers were hit by 63 different batters.

Exactly half, 47, were hit by 16 who did it multiple times.

Ron Santo leads the way, with 7.

The 3 described in 1973 were the last that he hit.

The earlier 4 were in 1960, against the Dodgers; 1964, against the Colt .45s, today's Astros; in 1966, against the Giants; and in 1967; against the Cardinals.

All 4 came in the ninth, with the Cubs down by a run. The one against Houston came with 2 outs.


Ernie Banks delivered 5 play-ons, all in the ninth: twice in 1954, against the Braves (2-run, 2 out) and Phillies (solo, 1 out); then a pair of 3-run, 2-out wallops, in 1962, against the Mets, and 1965, against the Cardinals; and finally a leadoff drive in 1969 against the Padres.

Ryne Sandberg hit late-inning, score-tying homers at home 5 times, too -- 2 of them, memorably, in the same game, against the Cardinals on June 23, 1984. Both came off ex-Cub and future Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter, with the bases empty in the ninth and 1 on in the 10th. The first was was 1 out; the second, with 2.

His others all were in the ninth inning: in 1983, against the Mets (solo); 1985; against the Astros (solo); and 1992, against the Cardinals (2-run). The last was off another former Cub destined for a plaque in Cooperstown, Lee Smith.


Cubs who hit 3 play-on homers: Jody Davis, Andre Dawson, Bill Nicholson and Aramis Ramirez.

Cubs who hit 2: Wilburn Good, Glenallen Hill, Brian LaHair,

Keith Moreland, Walt Moryn, Henry Rodriguez, Vic Saier, Sammy Sosa and Billy Williams.

Sosa hit 545 total homers as a Cub, most in team history. Williams ranks third, with 392. Yet they hit the same number of play-ons as LaHair, who hit 18 homers in his 150 games as a Cub.


The 47 with 1 play-on literally run from A (Shane Andrews) to Z (Don Zimmer).

Among them are such familiar names as Lou Brock, Phil Cavarretta, Shawon Dunston, Mark Grace, Bill Madlock, Andy Pafko, Hank Sauer, Geovany Soto and Manny Trillo.

Lesser lights include Freddie Bynum, Pete LaCock, Candy Maldonado, Donnie Murphy, Wayne Terwilliger and Ozzie Timmons.

A complete list of all Cubs who had 1 play-on is at the end of the post.


Surprisingly, 10 of the 25 batters who hit at least 100 home runs as a Cub never hit a play-on homer.

Those 10, with the number of homers they hit for the team in parentheses: Anthony Rizzo (242), Gabby Hartnett (231), Hack Wilson (190), Alfonso Soriano (181), Kris Bryant (160), Javier Baez (104), Leon Durham (138), Kyle Schwarber (121), Willson Contreras (109) and Rick Monday (106).



84 of the Cubs' play-on homers came in the ninth inning and 10 in extra innings: 5 in the 10th, 1 in the 12th, 3 in the 13th and 1 in the 17th.

The 17th-inning homer was hit by Keith Moreland, against the Astros, on Sept. 3, 1986, in the completion of a game that had been halted by darkness in the 15th the previous day.

The Astros grabbed a 7-4 lead in the top of the 17th on a walk and 3 singles. But in the bottom, Ryne Sandberg walked, Bob Dernier doubled him to third and Moreland homered.

The Cubs put runners on first and second with 2 out, but could not break the tie. Greg Maddux relieved in the 18th and gave up a 1-out homer. The Cubs went down in order and lost, 7-8.


Each of the 9 other extra-inning play-ons was hit by a different batter. Here they are, in chronological order:

Wilbur Good, solo, 0 out in 10th, vs. Rustlers in 1911

Vic Saier, solo, 1 out in 13th, vs. Robins in 1915

Phil Cavarretta, solo, 0 out in 10th, vs. Dodgers in 1935

Al Dark, solo, 1 out in 10th, vs. Dodgers in 1959

Ron Santo, solo, 0 out in 13th, vs. Expos in 1973

George Mitterwald, solo, 1 out in 12th, vs. Reds in 1977

Ryne Sandberg, 2-run, 2 out in 10th, vs. Cardinals in 1984

Luis Salazar, solo, 0 out in 13th, vs. Reds in 1990

Aramis Ramirez, solo, 2 out in 10th, vs. Rockies in 2004



As the list above shows, just 2 of the play-on homers in extra innings came with runners on base: Sandberg's (2-run) and Moreland's (3-run).

In the ninth inning, Cubs have hit 54 play-ons with the bases empty, 21 with 1 on and 9 with 2 on.

They have hit 13 walk-off grand slams, most recently David Bote's ninth inning "Ultimate Slam" in 2018 that beat the Nationals, 4-3. But they never have hit a slam that tied the score in the ninth inning or later.


Here is the breakdown by kind of play-on homer, with the number of times in the ninth, then extra innings, shown in parentheses:

Solo: 62 (54, 8)

2-run: 22 (21, 1)

3-run: 10 (9, 1)

Slam: 0


Here are all 10 of the 3-run homers, in chronological order:

Hank Sauer, 2 out in 9th, vs. Dodgers in 1950

Ernie Banks, 2 out in 9th, vs. Mets in 1962

Ernie Banks, 2 out in 9th, vs. Cardinals in 1965

Pete LaCock, 1 out in 9th, vs. Phillies in 1975

Keith Moreland, 0 out in 17th, vs. Astros in 1986

Candy Maldonado, 2 out in 9th, vs. Phillies in 1993

Sammy Sosa, 2 out in 9th, vs. Rockies in 1993

Shane Andrews, 0 out in 9th, vs. Braves in 2000

Kosuke Fukudome, 0 out in 9th, vs. Braves in 2000

Geovany Soto, 2 out in 9th, vs. Brewers in 2008



Fukudome's 3-run homer memorably came in his Major League debut. The Cubs lost the game, 3-4, in 10 innings.

The homers by LaCock and Andrews also came with the Cubs behind, 0-3.

Ten more of the homers produced the Cubs' first runs of the game. Only 1 came in extra innings, by Luis Salazar, leading off the 13th against the Reds in 1990.

Here they are, in chronological order:

Ernie Banks, 2-run, 2 out, vs. Braves in 1954

Ron Santo, solo, 2 out, vs. Astros in 1965

Ryne Sandberg, solo, 1 out, vs. Mets in 1983

Jody Davis, solo, 1 out, vs. Pirates in 1987

Luis Salazar, solo, 0 out in 13th, vs. Reds in 1990

Andre Dawson, 2-run, 0 out, vs. Padres in 1992

Jeff Blauser, solo, 0 out, vs. Pirates in 1999

Aramis Ramirez, 2-run, 2 out, vs. Nationals in 2005

Bryan LaHair, 2-run, 2 out, vs. Reds in 2011

Aramis Ramirez, solo, 1 out, vs. Giants in 2011



I could not find a contemporary newspaper account of the Cubs' first play-on homer, by Ed Williamson in 1884, that specified the number of outs when he tied the game with his solo shot.

Here is the breakdown of the 93 other play-ons by number of outs, then in parentheses number of each with 0, 1 and 2 runners on base:

0 out: 34 (27, 4, 3)

1 out: 31 (22, 8, 1)

2 out: 28 (12, 10, 6)

Total: 93 (61, 22, 10)



Shane Andrews, Darwin Barney, George Bell, Jeff Blauser, Zeke Bonura, David Bote, Lou Brock, Brant Brown, Freddie Bynum, Dolph Camilli, Phil Cavarretta, Al Dark, Shawon Dunston, Jim Edmonds, Woody English

Kosuke Fukudome, Augie Galan, Mark Grace, Steve Henderson, Gene Hiser, Hal Jeffcoat, Pete LaCock, Derrek Lee, Bill Madlock, Candy Maldonado, Alex McCarthy, Brian McRae, George Mitterwald, Jerry Morales, Donnie Murphy, Dioner Navarro

Andy Pafko, Carlos Pena, Rip Russell, Luis Salazar, Hank Sauer, Dwight Smith, Jorge Soler, Geovany Soto, Riggs Stephenson, Wayne Terwilliger, Frank Thomas, Ozzie Timmons, Manny Trillo, Jerome Walton, Ed Williamson, Don Zimmer

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