30 Year Old Cardboard challenged us to come up with our top ten ballgames. Here are mine. I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you that they are all games involving the Cubs. I’ve got the games split into two groups, games I saw in person and games I saw on TV.
Let's start with the in-person games.
This is the box score from the August 8, 1970 issue of The Sporting News
July 22, 1970; My first in-person game. My Sox fan dad gave in to my pestering to see the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Of course, he picked a game that saw the Cubs taking on the Big Red Machine, the class of the NL in 1970. But the Cubs walloped the Reds that day 10-2, and I saw Billy Williams hit a homer onto Sheffield Avenue. It was a great day! I plan to write more about the game on July 22, which will be the 40th anniversary of the game.
May 17, 1979 The 23-22 game: I’ve written about this one already. It was Senior Ditch Day and I was in the right field bleachers for one of the wildest games in MLB history.
September 8, 1985 Pete Rose Ties Ty: This is another game I've covered before. Mrs. WW was 8 ½ months pregnant, but we were given free tickets to the game. He wasn’t supposed to play, but a switch in starting Cubs pitchers put Rose in the lineup, one hit shy of tying Ty Cobb.
September 21, 1997 Ryne Sandberg’s last home game. Again, free tickets got us to the Cubs last home game in 1997, and since he had announced earlier in the season that he was retiring for good, this was Ryno’s last home game. He got a standing ovation his first time at bat (a goose-bump moment). In the 5th inning, he singled and was pinch run for. We all stood and cheered as he headed to the dugout, goose-bump moment #2 of the day. As it turned out, that game was also the last time Harry Caray would sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” as he died during the off-season. I got to see to icons make their final Wrigley Field appearances.
September 28, 2007 With the Cubs magic number down to two, we headed to Cincinnati (about a four hour drive) to see the Cubs play Friday and Saturday. On Friday, the Great American Ballpark was Wrigley Field South, as it was 2/3 to ¾ full of Cubs fans. Alfonso Soriano hit a lead-off homer and the Cubs won easily, clinching a tie. By the time we got back to our hotel, the Brewers had lost and the Cubs were Central Division Champs.
September 2, 1972 Milt Pappas' Near Perfect game. I clearly remember watching this game on TV, in the basement, on our families one and only TV, a black and white set. You could sense the tension in Jack Brickhouse’s voice as the game went on. I remember Pappas going up 0-2 on pinchitter Larry Stahl, and then throwing four straight balls to lose the perfect game. But when he got the next guy to pop out to Glenn Beckert, it was a no-hitter and the team mobbed Pappas. It was the fourth Cub no-hitter that I had seen in the last four seasons and I figured there would be one every one or two seasons. Well, I was wrong; the next Cubs no-hitter came in 2008!
September 24,1984 Cubs Clinch The Division. I was glued to the TV as the Cubs played the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium, needing one win to clinch their first ever division crown. Ace Rick Sutcliffe was on the mound, and like he did almost every game he pitched for the Cubs that season, he got the win. I remember Harry’s call of “The Cubs win the Division, The Cubs win the Division!"
October 7, 1984 The Leon Durham Game, NLCS Game 5. Only a couple weeks later, heartbreak! After sweeping the Padres at Wrigley, the Cubs needed to win only one game in San Diego to head to the World Series. I bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate when that win came. Unfortunately, that bottle never got opened. In game five, Leon Durham, who became the full-time first baseman when Bill Buckner was traded in June, let a ball go through his legs that cost the Cubs game five and the pennant. Gee, I wish the Cubs never traded Billy Buck. He would never let a ball go through his legs like that, would he?
September 27, 2003 Division Clincher This was exciting because this was the only time the Cubs clinched a division title at home. A make-up doubleheader against the Pirates was scheduled and sweep would give the Cubs the division. The won game one, though I had to listen to it on the radio because my two older sons had an all-day marching band competition. I listened to half of game two on a very static-y WGN as we drove home and was able to catch the last few innings on TV. When they won the game, the crowd went absolutely bonkers. It was a very exciting time.
October 14, 2003 The Bartman Game. More heartbreak. I remember the Cubs leading, ace Mark Prior on the mound, and beginning in the seventh inning, counting down the outs needed for the Cubs to be in the World Series. I started a little too early as the count stopped at five. I don't blame Bartman for the loss, and instead place the blame on Moises Alou, whose tantrum showed how uptight the team was. Alex Gonzalez shares the blame, as his error on a double play ball opened the floodgates.