Cubs safe on dropped fly balls, Part 1

A previous post, prompted by an untimely error by Ian Happ, examined fly balls dropped by Cubs in the outfield.

Prominent in that post was an account of the ball muffed by Brant Brown at Milwaukee on Sept. 23, 1998, with 2 outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

All 3 runners scored, saddling the Cubs with an 8-7 defeat.

Say it with me: "Oh! Noooooooo!"

It is the only time the Cubs have lost in that excruciating fashion in the 17,194 games they have played since the start of 1914, first season for which has searchable play-level data.


I could not remember seeing or hearing the Cubs win a game the same way.

Nor could I recall coming across a description of such a play in my extensive research of the Cubs' long history.

To find out if they had, I used search tools at to obtain information about all balls hit by Cubs that were dropped in the outfield since 1914, put the information into a spread sheet and spent several hours slicing and dicing it.


The Cubs have won 2 games on dropped fly balls.

They have scored 3 runs on 4 dropped flies, all by left fielders.

But they never have done both on the same fly.



Nearly a century ago, on Aug. 5, 1925, the seventh-place Cubs (43-56) hosted the sixth-place Phillies (45-50).

It was 1 of only 2 Major League games played that Wednesday afternoon.

In the other, the fifth-place Cardinals thrashed the last-place Braves, 14-2.

The contest at what then was called Cubs Park, today's Wrigley Field, started out as if it also would be a rout.

The first batter for the Phillies tripled off Tony Kaufmann and came home on a 1-out sacrifice fly.

A 2-out double in the third drove in a second run, with another runner thrown out at the plate.

Kaufmann got the first out in the fourth, then gave up a double and a walk. A single knocked in a run, then Kauffman made an error, allowing a second to score.

Another single increased the Phillies' lead to 5-0 and ended the day for Kaufmann.


The Cubs finally broke through in the sixth. Reliever Vic Keen singled, stopped at second on a hit by Sparky Adams, reached third on a 1-out wild pitch and came home when Howard Freigau grounded out.

In the seventh, a double, a walk and an RBI single brought the Cubs to within 5-2. They executed a double steal while the next batter struck out, but were stranded when Adams flied to right.

The Phillies retaliated quickly in the eighth against new reliever Herbert Brett. A leadoff single, a bunt and a double made the score 6-2.


Cliff Heathcote drew a walk to start the bottom of the inning. Freigau and Denver Grigsby followed with consecutive doubles, reducing the Cubs' deficit to 6-4.

Grigsby stayed put on a grounder to the mound, then held at third on a hit by Mandy Brooks. When player-manager Rabbit Maranville lined a fly to center, Grigsby tagged up and raced home: 6-5.


Brett shrugged off a 2-out single in the top of the ninth. He was due up first in the bottom half and was lifted for a pinch hitter, Ralph Michaels, who walked.

Never heard of Michaels? Little wonder. A 23-year-old third baseman and shortstop, Michaels' entire career consisted of 32 games, only 13 as a starter, for the Cubs in 1924-26.

He came to the plate just 68 times, pinch hitting 8 times. This was his only walk in the role, and 1 of just 6 in his brief career.


Infielder Clarke Pittenger, 26, had been called up by the Cubs in late May and appeared in 28 games, but just 6 since June 27, half of them as a pinch runner.

That was his role again after Michaels' walk.

The Phillies made a switch, too, bringing right hander Jack Knight from the bullpen to face Adams.

When Adams laid down a bunt, Pittenger advanced to second. He made it to third on an infield single by Heathcote.

But he was thrown out at home as he tried to score on a grounder to the third baseman. That left runners on first and second with 2 down


Grigsby coaxed a walk, loading the bases for first baseman Charlie Grimm, a 9-year veteran, whom the Cubs had acquired from the Pirates in the off season.

Grimm's "best effort was a high fly to left field," James Crusinberry wrote in the next day's Chicago Tribune. "Russell Wrightstone camped under it. All seemed lost.

"But Russell muffed the ball and two runs came over the plate, ending the game in victory for the Maranville men, 7 to 6."



The only time since then that the Cubs won on a dropped fly in the outfield was on Sept. 4, 1941 -- 3 months and 3 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It happened in Game 2 of a Thursday afternoon doubleheader in front of 12,803 fans, of whom 6,500 were women on Ladies' Day.

The Cardinals were 83-45 and in first place, 27 games in front of the sixth-place Cubs (58-794).

"The first game was just one of those easy-going matters in which Claude Passeau kept the enemy from displaying a trace of its rough and ready activity," the Tribune's Irving Vaughan said of the Cubs' 3-0 victory.

"The second game, however, was a sizzler in which the Cubs, rising to the spectacular a few times afield, carried Paul Erickson into the gathering darkness before rewarding him with a run" to complete the unlikely sweep.


The Cubs staked Erickson to a 1-0 lead in the first on an error, a steal, a single, a line-drive double play and a wild pitch.

Erickson got 2 outs in the second, then surrendered a walk, double and single, each of the hits tallying a run.

Babe Dahlgren homered for the Cubs with 1 out in the bottom of the inning to knot the score at 2.

They regained the lead in the third when Erickson smacked a leadoff double, took third on a grounder and sprinted home on another wild pitch.

Johnny Mize pulled the Cards even again with a 1-out homer in the sixth.


The Cubs loaded the bases on 3 singles with 2 out in the eighth, but a tap to the mound ended the threat.

They loaded them again with 1 out in the ninth. Pinch hitter Clyde McCullough tried to pull off a squeeze bunt but hit the ball too hard. First baseman Mize grabbed it and threw home in time for a forceout.

Mize then fielded a grounder and tossed to the pitcher covering first to end the inning.

The Cards got a 1-out triple in the 10th. The runner held on a grounder. After an intentional walk and a steal of second, Erickson induced a fly to center.

The Cubs went down in order in their half. The Cards did the same in the top of the 11th.


Erickson, first up in the bottom, made an out. Then Stan Hack walked and Lou Stringer singled him to third.

The Cards summoned Bill Crouch to the mound.

"Barney Olsen, who had taken Phil Cavarretta's place [in center field, in the top of the ninth], sent a fly to left, " said Vaughan, "and Don Paggett dropped the ball, Hack scoring. He probably would have beaten a throw, even if Padgett hadn't erred."

But he had, giving the Cubs their lone walk-off win on a muffed catch in the outfield in the past 98 years.



This play just added insult to injury.

The Cubs led the visiting Braves, 12-3, with 2 outs in the eighth inning on Sept. 11, 1935. Billy Herman lofted a ball that Joe Mowry clanked.



The circumstances were quite different at Cincinnati, on April 18, 1946.

The Cubs were behind, 2-0, when Hack singled leading off the fourth inning. A fly out and forceout left a runner on first with 2 down.

But back-to-back walks followed, then Marv Rickert's fly was misplayed by Eddie Lukon and the Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead.

Hack rounded out the scoring with a 2-out RBI single in the seventh.

The victory improved the Cubs' record to 3-0. They ended the year 82-71-2, for their last winning season until 1963.



The Cubs wound up 60-94-2 in 1960. They lost 9 in a row in June before holding off the Pirates, 7-6, in the opener of a Sunday doubleheader at Pittsburgh on June 26.

In Game 2, the Cubs trailed, 2-1, going to the sixth.

Ed Bouchee walked with 1 out, was singled to third by George Altman and came home when the third baseman threw away a grounder by Ron Santo.

After a strikeout, El Tappe walked, loading the bases for pitcher Don Cardwell, who had bunted into a double play and grounded into a forceout in his previous trips to the plate.

This time, he sent a fly that Bob Skinner settled under, then couldn't catch, handing the Cubs a 5-2 lead.

A walk, a home run, a strikeout and a triple knocked out Cardwell in the sixth. Reliever Seth Morehead immediately threw a game-tying wild pitch.

But the Cubs went back in front in the eighth, on a single by Altman, a bunt by Santo and a single by Jerry Kindall. With 2 down, Morehead singled home the last run in the Cubs' 7-5 triumph.



The only drop by an opposing outfielder in the past 73 seasons that let 3 runners cross the plate came on April 11, 1987 at Philadelphia, where the Cubs made life miserable in the first inning for Phillies started Joe Cowley.

Chico Walker beat out a bunt. After a fly out, he stole second and third with Andre Dawson at the plate.

After Dawson walked, Keith Moreland doubled home Walker.

A single by Leon Durham drove in Dawson and Moreland.

Durham stole second. After Dave Martinez walked, Durham was forced out at third on a grounder by Shawon Dunston.

Martinez then stole third and came home as the catcher's throw sailed into the outfield. Dunston took second.

The batter, Jim Sundberg then was walked intentionally, to bring up pitcher Rick Sutcliffe. But Sutcliffe walked, loading the bases and sending Cowley to the showers.

Walker, batting for the second time in the inning, greeted reliever Tom Hume by hitting a fly that Mike Easler couldn't handle, putting the Cubs ahead, 7-0.

They won, 9-1.


TOMORROW: Have Cubs or opponents dropped more fly balls and other data

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