1969 Chicago Cubs
1969 Chicago Cubs / Franchise: Chicago Cubs / BR Team Page
Managed by Leo Durocher
History, Comments, Contributions
The 1969 Chicago Cubs appeared to be headed for the postseason for the first time in over 20 years. Their lineup was led by three future Hall of Famers, first baseman Ernie Banks, third baseman Ron Santo and outfielder Billy Williams. Santo clubbed 29 homers and drove in 123 runs, and All-Star catcher Randy Hundley provided experience behind the plate. The pitching staff was led by a pair of 20-game winners, Bill Hands and another future Hall of Famer, Ferguson Jenkins.
In the first year of divisional play, the Cubs jumped to an early advantage in the NL East, leading by two games going into May. By June 15th, the lead had extended to 9 games, before dipping to 3.5 on July 9th. But the Cubbies would go on a tear, winning 22 of their next 33 games which gave the Cubs a nine-game lead on the New York Mets on August 16th. But by September 8th, the lead was down to just 2 1/2 games, going into a two-game series against New York in Shea Stadium. The Mets won both games and took over the division lead on September 10th, never surrendering it, as the Cubs dropped 12 out of their last 20 games to finish eight games behind the Mets.
One of the turning points of the season was manager Leo Durocher's handling of his centerfielders. The incumbent, Adolfo Phillips, who, like many others, had slumped during the "Year of the Pitcher" in 1968, was hurt in spring training. It took him a month to return to action, and Durocher questioned his willingness to play. In the meantime he anointed rookie Don Young, promoted straight from Class A, as his centerfielder, and in mid-June ensured that Phillips was traded away. The Cubs were 37-17 at the time of the trade, on June 11th; they would go 55-53 the rest of the way. On July 8th, when Young made a couple of errors in a loss to the Mets, Durocher berated him publicly. Durocher was also criticized for running his regulars into the ground, never giving them any rest during the dog days of summer. Five regulars - including catcher Randy Hundley - played over 150 games that season. Everyone was panting by the time the September crunch began. He did the same with his pitching staff, relying heavily on his top two starters, Jenkins and Hands, who both pitched over 300 innings; three other pitchers, starters Dick Selma and Ken Holtzman and closer Phil Regan, who pitched 112 innings, were heavily used, but the rest of the staff were mere spectators. Some players saw almost no action: Don Nottebart spent the entire year on the roster and pitched only 18 innings, and Gene Oliver had all of 29 at-bats; infielders Paul Popovich and Nate Oliver also spent the year riding the pines.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Ernie Banks, Glenn Beckert, Randy Hundley, Don Kessinger and Ron Santo
- NL Gold Glove: Don Kessinger (SS)
- Doug Feldmann: Miracle Collapse: The 1969 Chicago Cubs, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2006.
- John Kuenster: Heartbreakers: Baseball's Most Agonizing Defeats, Ivan R. Dee Publishers, Chicago, IL, 2001. ISBN 978-1566634120
- Rick Talley: The Cubs of '69: Recollections of the Team That Should Have Been, Contemporary Books, 1990.
- Mort Zachter: "If Gil Hodges Managed the Cubs and Leo Durocher the Mets in 1969, Whose “Miracle” Would it Have Been?", in Stuart Shea, ed.: North Side, South Side, All Around Town, The National Pastime, SABR, 2015. ISBN 978-1-93359987-8