Tuesday, December 22, 2009

1969 One Cub At A Time - #602 Cubs Rookies

I also went ahead and made individual cards of each of these three. One contributed very little to the '69 Cubs, but two were involved in a couple of the more pivotal games of the entire season

Alec Distaso pitched in two games for the Cubs in April, and then went back to the minors, never to resurface in the majors again.

Don Young became the Cubs regular center fielder, not because he was very good, but because they didn't have anyone any better. Durocher had grown tired of the incumbent starter, Adolfo Phillips, and he got hurt and was eventually traded. Young had a decent spring, made the team, and ended up in the starting lineup. He played in 101 games and hit .239, which is underwhelming. But with a team of five all stars (plus Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins, who didn't make the all star team that year), all Young had to do was catch the ball in center field. But....

On July 8th, in a game in New York against the upstart Mets, Young misplaced two balls in the ninth inning that turned a 3-1 Cubs lead into a 4-3 loss. After the game, captain Ron Santo lit into the rookie. It was not received well and was an early sign of pennant pressure affecting the team.

Enter Jim Qualls. The next day Qualls was inserted into the lineup in place of Young. The rookie was hitting eighth and hoping to not repeat Young's defensive troubles of the night before. Starting for the Mets was Tom Seaver. He was very good that night. In fact, through eight innings, he had a perfect game. 24 Cubs up, 24 down. Randy Hundley led off the ninth and tried to bunt his way on, but was thrown out. Shea Stadium was in a frenzy and the rookie Jim Qualls was up next. Its surprising to me that Durocher didn't send up a pinch hitter for Qualls. You would think a veteran pinch hitter would have been the way to go. I guess Leo knew what he was doing because Qualls stroked a clean single to left and broke up the perfect game.

That single was one of only 31 in his entire big league career, but it was one that still haunts the Mets, who have still not yet had a no hitter in the franchise's history.

These two mid-July games were huge as they showed that the mighty Cubs were not invincible and gave the young Mets some confidence. Prior to July 9, the Cubs were playing at a .616 pace. They were .513 the rest of the season, only two games over .500. The Mets, on the other hand, playing .543 before the 9th, played .654 ball the rest of the way.

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