Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thirty Years Ago Today I Went to My First Major League Baseball Game.

Bill Buckner before the 1986 World Series made him infamous.

The Cubs were hosting the Phillies at Wrigley Field and it was my ninth birthday. Like so many misguided fools, I was at the time a big Cubs fan (I've since switched allegiance to the White Sox, a major betrayal in my family and something that I think bothers my mother even more than my becoming a Republican).

I can still tick off the starting lineup from those days: The outfield was Vail, Murcer and Kingman. Buckner and Ontiveros were at the corners, DeJesus and Sizemore in the middle. The catcher was...Barry Foote? Ok not sure about that one...and if you were lucky Rick Reuschel was pitching.

The Phillies were fearsome. They had won the Eastern Division in '76, '77, and '78 and would go on to win the World Series the following year. With names like Greg Luzinski, Lonnie Smith, Del Unser, Garry Maddox ("Two thirds of the Earth are covered by water. The other one third by Garry Maddox." - Hall of Famer / Broadcaster Ralph Kiner), Bake McBride and Jose Cardenal made up one of the finest outfields in the game.

The infield was even better: Larry Bowa was having the best fielding season of any shortstop in Major League history. Manny Trillo was solid and at the corners...THEY HAD PETE FREAKIN ROSE AND MIKE SCHMIDT! Bob Boone did most of the catching but the also had an ageing Tim McCarver and a youthful Keith Moreland (that's right kids, before he proved he was a lousy outfielder with the Cubs he first had to prove he was a lousy catcher for the Phils).

Then came the pitchers: Steve Carlton(329 career wins and all-time strike out leader when he retired), Jim Kaat (283 wins), and Tug McGraw, Ron Reed and Dick Ruthven were no slouches either.

The teams had split the first two games of the series and this was the rubber game. Here's Blogging Baseball's description of the game:

In a game started by Randy Lerch and Dennis Lamp, where neither of them lasted beyond a 1/3 of an inning, 11 home runs; 5 for the Phils, 6 for the Cubs went sailing out of wind-blown Wrigley Field. The box score lists Dave Kingman’s 3 home runs, Mike Schmidt’s 2, including the 10th inning game winner shows that even starter Randy Lerch got into the act amidst the 7 run outburst by the Phils in the 1st inning off over Lamp and Donnie Moore.

But, in the Cubs half of the 1st, they struck back for 6 including ‘King Kong’ Kingman’s first of his 3 homers, a 3 shot, as Lerch and Doug Bird were touched up.

Things quieted down temporarily as both teams registered goose-eggs in the 2nd inning. But in the 3rd, there was a second huge Phillies uprising as they scored 8 runs while the Cubs were retired in their 3rd without scoring; 15-6 Phils.

The 4th inning had the Phils scoring twice, the Cubs 3 times; 17-9 Phillies. The Phils scored 4 in the 5th and the Cubs followed with 7 in their half of the 5th, including Bill Buckner’s Grand Slam off of Tug Mcgraw as ‘the Tugger’ was tagged for all 7 Cubs runs and lasted but 2/3 of the 5th inning; 21-16 Phils.


The Cubs followed with 3 spots in the 6th and the 8th while the Phils managed another run in the 7th; game tied at 22.


Both sides rgistered goose-eggs in the 9th and the game went to the 10th with Cubs closer Bruce Sutter having shut Phils down in the 9th and Rawly Eastwick doing likewise to the Cubs in their half of the 9th.

With 2 out in the 10th, Mike Schmidt ended the scoring with his 2nd home run of the game, a solo shot off of Sutter. Eastwick retired the Cubs in order in his 2nd shut out inning and was credited with the win. Bruce Sutter pitched almost as well, 1 run, 1 hit in 2 relief innings, but that 1 run was the game winner to Schmidt. Sutter was tagged with the loss.


The two teams combined for 45 runs on 50 hits in a game where 21 different players scored runs and the 2-team total of 47 extra bases on long hits (24-Phi) set a ML mark for an extra inning game.


The game was the largest scoring game in the majors since August 25, 1922, when these same two teams met and duked out a 26-23 run-fest.

Anyway, it was a heck of a game and I've been in love with baseball ever since.

A nice look back on the game is here.