Today’s Game From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is May 17, 1979, the Philadelphia Phillies versus the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.
The Phillies were the three time defending NL East champions, coming off of three straight NLCS defeats and hoping to finally get over the hump. The Cubs were a so-so team that had recently pulled off zero postseason appearances despite having Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and an aging but still effective Ernie Banks on the same roster (that’s four Hall of Famers). The Phillies had gotten off to a terrific start (23-10) and had a three and a half game lead on the up and coming Montreal Expos, while the Cubs were already six games back at 16-15*.
*-Again, no one in professional sports until the 1990’s owned a map or knew a thing about North American geography. Here were the division alignments in the National League in 1979:
|Chicago Cubs||Atlanta Braves|
|Montreal Expos||Cincinnati Reds|
|New York Mets||Houston Astros|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||San Diego Padres|
|St. Louis Cardinals||San Francisco Giants|
Chicago and St. Louis, both further west than Cincinnati and Atlanta, were placed in the East. MLB owners will never be confused with Lewis and Clark, that’s for sure.
There are always stories about the wind blowing out in Wrigley and how crazy things happen. This was one of those games. We’ll note all of the wackiness later, but let’s get started.
Not that it is really worth noting, but the starters for each team were Randy Lerch (Phillies) and Dennis Lamp (Cubs). Bake McBride led off the game with a single and Larry Bowa followed that up with a double as the ball skipped past Dave Kingman (should not be a surprise to anyone). Pete Rose hit one back up the box that was snagged by Lamp, and after a brief rundown McBride was out at home. Mike Schmidt then hit a towering homerun to left for a 3-0 lead. Del Unser and Garry Maddox hit back-to-back singles after that Bob Boone launched on onto the street in left and it was 6-0. Lamp’s day was done after just one third of an inning. Donnie Moore came in to relieve Lamp and after a strikeout of Rudy Meoli, starting pitcher Randy Lerch stepped up and homered to the left center net. Lerch was thrilled to be coming out to a 7-0 lead. So thrilled in fact that he seemed to want to just be done with it right away. Ivan de Jesus, Mike Vail, and Bill Buckner started the bottom half of the inning with singles to make the score 7-1. Kingman then crushed a towering homerun of his own and the game was 7-4. Steve Ontiveros then grounded out, but Jerry Martin doubled and Lerch’s day was done. He also lasted just one third of an inning. Doug Bird replaced Lerch and promptly got Barry Foote to line out to right, but a single by Ted Sizemore and a triple by Donnie Moore scored two more runs to make the score 7-6 after just one inning.
Shockingly, nothing happened in the second inning, but the third returned to the conga line on the base paths. Maddox doubled to lead off and Boone scored him with a single. After Meoli flew out Bird drew a walk (keep track of these) and McBride singled in Boone. Bowa singled to load the bases and Rose hit a two-run double to chase Moore from the game. Willie Hernandez came in to relieve Moore and intentionally walked Schmidt*. After giving up a ground out to first to allow another run, Garry Maddox hit a three run shot to make the score 15-6. Hernandez then hit Boone and surrendered a single to Meoli before striking out Bird to end the inning.
*-I never understand this. Why not just have Moore walk the guy and then bring in your reliever?
After keeping the Cubs off the board in the bottom of the third the Phillies went right back at it. Bowa had a one out single and scored from first on Rose’s double. Schmidt was intentionally walked for the second straight appearance and a ground out put men on the corners with two out. Maddox doubled to drive in Rose and the score was 17-6 after three and a half. In the bottom half Mike Vail had a one out single and with two out Kingman again put one out on the street. Ontiveros followed that up with a blast of his own and the score was 17-9 after four.
Not to be phased, Philly came right back in the fifth. Greg Luzinski pinch hit for Bird, drew a walk, and was pinch ran for with Nino Espinosa (more on this later). McBride singled and Bowa blooped in a double to score Espinosa. Rose reached on an error to score another run, then Schmidt was walked for the third time in a row (this time unintentionally) and a couple of sac flies were added to make the score 21-9.
The Cubs weren’t going to go away, though. Foote led off the bottom half with a single off of Phillies’ fireman Tug McGraw and Sizemore reached on an error. Tim’s dad then walked pinch hitter Steve Dillard and de Jesus to force in a run, and after Vail flew out to center, Buckner lined one into the bleachers in right center for a grand slam. McGraw then walked Kingman and struck out Ontiveros, but Jerry Martin homered to make sure that he couldn’t prevent any further damage and chased him before he could close out the inning. After five the score was 21-16.
Despite a Bowa single and another Schmidt walk (four straight) the Phillies didn’t score, and the Cubs continued to chip away. After the first two reached and a pair of ground outs scored them, Kingman hit his third homerun of the day, again reaching the street. The score was now 21-19. Greg Gross had pinch run for Maddox earlier in the game and led off the seventh with a triple and scored on Boone’s double to make the score 22-19.
It remained that way until the eighth. De Jesus and pinch hitter Scot Thompson started the bottom of the frame with singles, then Buckner added one of his own and the score was 22-20. Then after Kingman flew out and Ontiveros hit into a fielder’s choice, Martin and Foote added clutch two-out singles and suddenly the game was tied.
Bruce Sutter came in to shut down the Phillies in the ninth and then Rawley Eastwick did the same to the Cubs. In the top of the tenth Sutter got Bowa and Rose to start the inning, but on a full count Mike Schmidt blasted the next pitch over the seats and onto the street in center to give the Phillies the lead again. Eastwick came on in the bottom frame to retire the side in order and the Phillies took the wild one, 23-22.
As for the rest of the season, the Cubs basically remained so-so, finishing the year 80-82. The Phillies went into the tank, though, going 41-57 until manager Dan Ozark was fired and replaced by scouting director Dallas Green. The Phillies would finish 19-11, but it was far too late as they finished in fourth place, 14 games behind the eventual World Series champion Pirates.
Now for the crazy stats in this game:
- Both starters lasted one third of an inning.
- Despite lasting only one third of an inning, Philly’s starting pitcher was still 1-1 with a homerun.
- The 1984 AL MVP (Hernandez) went 2.2 innings, surrendering 8 runs (6 earned) on 7 hits and 7 walks (4 intentional), and the man he replaced (Moore) gave up one of the most famous postseason homeruns in baseball history (1986 Dave Henderson).
- The pitchers combined for a homerun, a triple – in the first inning.
- Dave Kingman in a losing effort was 3-6 with 3 homers, 4 runs scored and 6 RBI.
- Mike Schmidt was 2-4 with 4 walks and 2 homeruns.
- Both teams hit five homeruns.
- Not a single sacrifice bunt attempt (had to note that).
How much did Schmidt like hitting in Wrigley? In 138 games (611 plate appearances) Schmidt hit .307/.396/.653 with 50 homeruns, 124 RBI, and 118 runs. In every other road park he his .257/.365/.497 and averaged 21 homeruns, 59 RBI and 55 runs. Clearly he hit well just about everywhere, but in Wrigley he was Babe Ruth. Seven times he homered twice in Wrigley and once homered four times. Seven of his 50 Wrigleyville homers were off of the Reuschel brothers (4 off or Rick, 3 off of Paul). His 50 homers were 21 more than in any other road park. His 78 career homeruns against the Cubs overall was 16 more than he had hit against any other team. His career OPS of .985 against the Cubs is his third highest (1.010 against the Reds, 1.002 against the Padres).
Wrigley has been host to some wild games, but this one might just take them all.