Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mark "The Bird" Lemongello

Among the items I found on Youtube was a clip of an event that I will never forget.   It involves one of the greatest meltdowns in MLB history.  It's also one you've probably never even heard of...until now.

The game I found was buried in a video called 1978 Chicago Cubs Broadcast Highlights.  It took place on June 5, 1978 as the Cubs played the Astros at Wrigley Field.

It was a pitchers duel as starters Dennis Lamp of the Cubs and the Astro's Mark Lemongello had each allowed only one run.  The game went into the bottom of the ninth tied 1-1 when the fun began.

Steve Ontiveros led off the inning with a single and was sacrificed to second by Dave on second, one out.  The Astros intentionally walked Tarzan Joe Wallis to put the double play back in order.  Next up was Gene Clines, pinch hitting for Willie Hernandez (who pitched the 8th and 9th inning).

Clines worked the count to 3-2.  The runners took off on the next pitch, which came in here...

....and looks like a strike.  The catcher threw to third to try and nab the slow running Ontiveros for a strike 'em out-throw 'em out double play.

The only problem was that home plate umpire Dutch Rennert called the pitch ball four.  No double play---bases loaded for the Cubs, instead.

And then Lemongello went nuts. Take a look

Here's a shot of Lemongello saluting Rennert on his way back to the clubhouse..

....and WGN caught it all.  I would have thought they would have cut away from him after his first salute, but they stayed right on him through the next one, too.  The next batter, Ivan DeJesus, hit a game winning single and Lemongello was tagged with the loss.

Pretty crazy stuff.

The Tribune article in the next day's paper mentioned the gesture and had a couple pictures, but for obvious reasons, they didn't show Lemongello flipping the bird.  They left that to me.

Topps was using a good number of action shots in their cards by 1979.  The 1979 cards would have shown game play from 1978.  Here's what Lemongello's 1979 card looks like...

...and Topps chose to not show any action from June 5, 1978.

They left that to me.


  1. Great video. Looking at Lemongello's wiki page, looks like he had a lot of temper and legal problems.

  2. Awesome post, I had never heard of that and really enjoyed hearing about it.

  3. Thank goodness for WGN-TV. They have preserved so many great visual baseball moments from the 1970s that would have otherwise been lost.

  4. I just met Mark for the first time, he came to my home to do a site check for construction of a building. He is a very pleasant fellow now, and we talked baseball. He told me he still has a welt on his leg from a line drive he took from a Pete Rose batted ball.

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