Monday, May 8, 2023

When Bad Henry Took Down the Cubs


TRIVIA WINNER: Congrats to David Rolfes of Las Vegas, NV, who correctly identified Dean Chance as the losing pitcher in the final game of the 1967 season against Boston.  The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.

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NEW TRIVIA QUESTION: In his best MLB season Deron Johnson led the NL in two batting categories. One was RBI, but what was the other?

 Looking back over seasons of major league baseball often times one game, just one game, can define a team's destiny. For the 1968 Chicago Cubs that game was in Atlanta on June 15th. It was a night 27,000-plus fans would see their hero send the Cubbies into a tail spin from which they would never recover.

Chicago was just six games out of first place at 30-30 and certainly had the horses to put them in the thick of the pennant race. Led by Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and a young cast of characters who stood out the Cubs were primed. Among them Randy Hundley, Glen Beckert, Don Kessinger and Adolpho Phillips. The pitching was decent and the bullpen was great with Phil Regan the ace closer.

This night was not the Cubbies night though. Joe Niekro started against Milt Pappas. The Braves were not to be toyed with led by Hank Aaron, Felipe Alou, Joe Torre and Deron Johnson. The Cubs scored first. In the second, Santo drew a walk and Banks reached base when Felix Milan booted the ball. Sweet Lou Johnson tripled them both home and the Cubs led 2-0.

Two innings later Tito Francona drew a two-out walk and Deron Johnson blasted one deep to centerfield to tie it up at two-all. Both opposing Johnson's were responsible for driving in all the runs to this point. The game went on into the 10th. Both starters long gone it was a battle between the Braves Cecil Upshaw and Regan. Both put in three innings but Upshaw would have the last laugh.

With one out Milan made up for his miscue and singled. Henry Aaron then sent a shot to right field which rattled around long enough to allow Milan to score the winning run and put The Hammer in the books with an RBI double, and a Braves win 3-2.

Normally, this one game might not mean much but the Cubs would go on to lose 11 of their next 12, leaving them at 31-41 and 13 games back of the NL Leaders. They would never be any closer than 12 games back and when the final game of the season was played, they were indeed 13 games out. The June Swoon had taken it's toll and Henry Aaron proved once again, he was The Hammer.

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