It was late September at Wrigley Field and the National League pennant had been decided a week earlier, the Cardinals clinching and the Cubs eliminated three days before that. All of this happened in a year when the Cubs awakened from their 20-year slumber and were in first place briefly in July.
But on this September afternoon, just 4,512 paid to see the Cubs face the Cardinals. Those few thousand saw the Cubs mount several stirring comebacks and eventually win in a walkoff, though no one called them “walkoff wins” decades ago.
The Cardinals put three on the board off Joe Niekro in the first inning. Ted Savage’s home run off Steve Carlton made it 3-1 in the fourth, but St. Louis scored in the top of the fifth to make it 4-1. The Cubs came back to within two runs when a run scored on a double play in the bottom of that inning, and then took the lead in the sixth. Adolfo Phillips’ RBI single made it 4-3, and John Boccabella drove in a pair to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead.
But then former Cub Lou Brock once again tormented his old team, homering in the top of the seventh off Bill Stoneman to tie the game 5-5. In the bottom of the inning, Glenn Beckert singled and Billy Williams doubled him to third. After Ron Santo was intentionally walked to load the bases, Ernie Banks’ groundout scored Beckert to give the Cubs a 6-5 lead.
Brock continued his Cubs torture by smacking a two-run homer in the top of the ninth off Stoneman and St. Louis led 7-6. In 17 games against the Cubs in 1967, Brock hit .440/.442/.760 (33-for-75) with six home runs and eight stolen bases. Lifetime, Brock batted .334/.378/.479 with 20 home runs and 98 stolen bases in 256 games against the Cubs. The .857 OPS was his best against any team.
Just imagine if he’d still been a Cub on those late 1960s contending teams. Sigh.
Anyway, here’s Robert Markus’ Tribune description of the Cubs’ winning rally in the bottom of the ninth:
With one away, Ron Santo planted a home run on the Astroturf in center field to tie it against Al Jackson, the fourth Cardinals pitcher.
After Ernie Banks fanned, Al Spangler hit what appeared to be a single to right, but took off for second and beat Roger Maris’ throw for a double. Randy Hundley followed with a single between third and short to drive in the run.
The Cubs went just 6-11 against the Cardinals in 1967, one of the reasons they finished 14 games out of first place. Back then teams played 18 games against each other, and the reason there are only 17 games listed there is that the next day’s scheduled game was rained out, postponed at 12:30 p.m. (per the Tribune) after “a morning-long rain.” It was rescheduled for September 28, but another soaking prompted that game to be called at 12:50 p.m. Given that it had no impact on the pennant race, it was cancelled and not made up.
The Cubs drew 977,226 in 1967, their biggest attendance figure since 1958, Ernie Banks’ first MVP season. Even if that cancelled game had been played, they likely wouldn’t have made it to one million, as they hadn’t drawn more than 15,000 to a game since Labor Day. It was a different time.
Sadly, no video survives of this late September comeback victory in front of a very small crowd on a warm (79 degrees) but cloudy afternoon. It all happened 55 years ago today, Tuesday, September 26, 1967, an 8-7 walkoff win over the Cardinals.