After the Cubs blew a five-run lead in Houston last Wednesday, I wrote this article about similar — and even bigger — blown Cubs leads over the last half-century or so.
Never let it be said that I don’t respond to suggestions. Several of you thought I should do a companion piece on great Cubs comebacks from big deficits. And so... here is that article.
The games are listed in order of how many runs the Cubs were down, fewest to most.
April 29, 1979: Cubs 6, Braves 5 (five-run deficit)
In this early-season game in Atlanta, Larry McWilliams had shut out the Cubs through eight innings, allowing just two hits, though four walks. No Cubs runner had gotten past second base.
The Braves fashioned a 5-0 lead off Dennis Lamp and Lynn McGlothen.
Dave Kingman singled and Steve Ontiveros walked leading off the ninth. McWilliams got the next two hitters on infield popups.
Ted Sizemore walked to load the bases. That’s when Braves manager Bobby Cox called on his closer, Gene Garber, a usually reliable hurler.
Not that afternoon! The next three Cubs batters off Garber...
Tim Blackwell, two-run single
Larry Biittner, RBI single
Bobby Murcer, three-run homer
Sadly, no video survives of this, and this was before the pitch-count era, but the Tribune recap said Murcer hit a 1-1 pitch and it is my recollection from watching this game that those six runs scored in a matter of maybe 3-4 minutes.
Bruce Sutter allowed a couple of runners in the ninth but nailed down the save with two ground outs.
June 29, 2007: Cubs 6, Brewers 5 (five-run deficit)
The Brewers scored five in the first inning off Rich Hill — yes, that Rich Hill! — but did not score after that and had just five more hits the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, the Cubs had chipped away at the lead with a two-run fourth and another run in the seventh on a Mike Fontenot RBI single.
So they trailed 5-3 going to the bottom of the ninth. With one out, Alfonso Soriano singled and Fontenot singled him to third. Derrek Lee hit a sacrifice fly to score Soriano and make it 5-4.
Aramis Ramirez hit the very next pitch into the bleachers and Wrigley Field exploded [VIDEO].
That’s one of the loudest ovations I can ever remember at the ol’ ballyard. It was the last game of a seven-game winning streak that had brought the Cubs to .500 at 39-39 — and the last of a 17-8 run. They lost the next day, but then went 17-9 in July on their way to the N.L. Central title.
July 20, 2021: Cubs 7, Cardinals 6 (five-run deficit)
After their long losing streak that had dumped them out of first place, the ‘21 Cubs tried to make a run back at it. In this game they were not only five runs down, they were five runs down with one out and nobody on base in the ninth inning.
Here’s the BCB recap of the game, with all the details. It also produced this fun fact:
Tonight the @Cubs rallied from 5 down to beat the rival Cardinals. The @Dodgers also rallied from 5 down to beat the rival Giants.— OptaSTATS (@OptaSTATS) July 21, 2021
This is the first time there have ever been 5+ run comeback wins in both of those rivalries on the same day.
That win brought them to within one game of .500, though they still were 8½ games out of first place. They lost six of their next nine and the selloff commenced.
May 16, 1971: Cubs 9, Padres 8 (six-run deficit)
This was the first game of a doubleheader. The Cubs came in with a mediocre 17-17 record, but the Padres — managed by future Cubs manager Preston Gomez! — were 10-23.
Nevertheless, San Diego ran out to a 7-1 lead in the top of the fourth and the Cubs had managed to cut that to just 7-2 heading to the bottom of the sixth.
Glenn Beckert hit a two-run single in that inning and Billy Williams followed up with another RBI hit to cut the deficit to 7-5. Johnny Callison’s RBI double in the seventh made it 7-6 and Hector Torres — a spare-part infielder who played in just 31 games that year — hit an infield single with J.C. Martin on second and two out in the ninth. Martin, a slow runner, only went to third on the hit, but scored on a throwing error to tie the game.
In the 10th, the Padres took an 8-7 lead on an RBI single by Cito Gaston. But in the last of the 10th, Williams walked, went to second on a passed ball and scored on a walkoff homer by Jim Hickman.
Hickman hit seven walkoff homers in his career, two with the Mets, five with the Cubs, all those with the Cubs coming between June 22, 1969 and August 30, 1970.
July 28, 1977: Cubs 16, Reds 15 (13 innings) (six-run deficit)
The Cubs trailed by six before they even came to the plate. They took a 7-6 lead after two, but coughed it up by allowing four Reds runs in the third. Cincinnati led 14-10 going into the bottom of the eighth, but a two-run homer by Bill Buckner and solo shot from Jerry Morales made it 14-13.
With two out in the bottom of the ninth, Steve Ontiveros singled in Bobby Murcer to tie the game 14-14.
No one scored for the first two extra innings, then both scored a run in the 12th, the Cubs’ run coming on a homer by George Mitterwald.
So it was 15-15 heading to the 13th. The Reds didn’t score, then after the first two men were out in the bottom of the 13th, Rick Reuschel (who had come into pitch the top of the 13th) singled and Ontiveros singled him to second.
Dave Rosello, who was hitting .170 at the time, singled in Reuschel with the winning run.
We don’t have a lot of highlight packages this comprehensive from that era, but here are TEN MINUTES of highlights from this game!
The Cubs had somehow been in first place for two months at that stage and that win put them 2½ games ahead. It felt like this season might be something special, but the 1977 Cubs went 21-42 after this game, the worst record in the National League over that span. They finished exactly at .500 — and had to lose their last five games to do that.
June 23, 1984: Cubs 12, Cardinals 11 (11 innings) (six-run deficit)
This is better known as the Sandberg Game, and of course you know all about Ryno’s heroics with two game-tying home runs.
What’s less known about this game is that the Cardinals had two different six-run leads: 7-1 after two innings and 9-3 going to the bottom of the sixth.
It’s in the Cubs’ five-run sixth that all the fun started.
September 12, 1998: Cubs 15, Brewers 12 (eight-run deficit)
Milwaukee led 10-2 going into the bottom of the fifth and 12-5 heading to the bottom of the seventh, so the Cubs scored 13 runs in the last five innings and 10 in the last three.
The Cubs trailed by two going to the bottom of the ninth. With one out and the bases loaded, Tyler Houston tied the game with a single.
Then Orlando Merced, who played only 12 of his 1,391 career games as a Cub and went just 3-for-10, hit his only home run in blue pinstripes, a three-run walkoff:
May 30, 2008: Cubs 10, Rockies 9 (eight-run deficit)
The Cubs trailed 8-0 and 9-1 in this game, the latter score holding until the bottom of the sixth. The Cubs scored three runs in that inning and then had a six-run seventh, highlighted by two-run homers from Henry Blanco and Mark DeRosa. The Rockies went down meekly after that.
Here’s the entire game for your viewing pleasure:
April 14, 2018: Cubs 14, Braves 10 (eight-run deficit)
I’ve written about this famous game many times. It was played in horrendous weather conditions and the Cubs trailed 10-2 going into the bottom of the sixth and 10-5 going to the bottom of the eighth. Here’s my game recap and this tweet sums up the entire wacky nine-run eighth:
Nothing better than weird baseball at Wrigley Field.— Cubs No-Hit Streak (@CubsNoHitStreak) April 14, 2018
Cubs trailed by 8. Now it's not even a save situation.
And the wind chill is below freezing.
August 29, 1989: Cubs 10, Astros 9 (10 innings) (nine-run deficit)
This is another one I’ve written about before, most recently on its 30th anniversary in 2019.
You can read all about it at the link. Here’s the game-winning hit:
That tied a franchise record:
The Cubs had completed a 10-9 victory after being down nine runs, tying the biggest such comeback in franchise history, also accomplished September 28, 1930, when they spotted the Reds a 9-0 lead and won 13-11.
Which of these wins was the best?
This poll is closed
April 29, 1979: Cubs 6, Braves 5 after five-run deficit
June 29, 2007: Cubs 6, Brewers 5 after five-run deficit
July 20, 2021: Cubs 7, Cardinals 6 after five-run deficit
May 16, 1971: Cubs 9, Padres 8 after six-run deficit
July 28, 1977: Cubs 16, Reds 15 after six-run deficit
June 23, 1984: Cubs 12, Cardinals 11 after six-run deficit
September 12, 1998: Cubs 15, Brewers 12 after eight-run deficit
May 30, 2008: Cubs 10, Rockies 9 after eight-run deficit
April 14, 2018: Cubs 14, Braves 10 after eight-run deficit
August 29, 1989: Cubs 10, Astros 9 after nine-run deficit