1969 Chicago Cubs season

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1969 Chicago Cubs
Finished 2nd in NL East
Major League affiliations
Other information
Owner(s) Philip K. Wrigley
General manager(s) John Holland
Manager(s) Leo Durocher
Local television WGN-TV
(Jack Brickhouse, Lloyd Pettit)
Local radio WGN
(Vince Lloyd, Lou Boudreau)
Stats ESPN.com
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The 1969 Chicago Cubs season was the 97th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 94th in the National League and the 54th at Wrigley Field. The season involved the Cubs gaining renown as "the most celebrated second-place team in the history of baseball.".[1] In the first season after the National League was split into two divisions, the Cubs finished with a record of 92–70, 8 games behind the New York Mets in the newly established National League East. Caustic 64-year-old Leo Durocher was the Cubs manager. The ill-fated season saw the Cubs in first place for 155 days, until mid-September when they lost 17 out of 25 games.


The new National League[edit]

Further information: 1969 New York Mets season

The 1969 season marked the first year of divisional play in Major League Baseball. The Atlanta Braves (along with the Cincinnati Reds) were placed in the NL West division, despite being located further east than the 2 westernmost teams in the NL East Division, the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. This was because the New York Mets wanted to be in the same division as the reigning power in the NL, which was the Cardinals at the time (to compensate for playing against the Dodgers and Giants fewer times each season). The Cubs consequently demanded to be in the NL East as well in order to continue playing in the same division as the Cardinals, one of the Cubs' biggest rivals. A side effect of this alignment is that it set the stage for what is considered one of the greatest pennant races – and comebacks in such a race – in MLB history.

Notable transactions[edit]

Regular season[edit]

Season summary[edit]

Hoping to improve on the previous year's 84–78 record, the Cubs began the 1969 season by winning 11 of their first 12 games, and on August 16, they were 75–44, up by a season high nine games over second place New York. By September 2, they had soared to an 84–52 record, well on pace to exceed the previous season's mark, but their lead over the Mets had fallen to five games. From there the Mets went on a tear. The Cubs ultimately lost 17 of the last 25 games of the season, while the Mets went 23–7 to overtake the Cubs and finish eight games ahead of them. It was one of the most astounding late season collapses in history, with the seventeen-game turnaround being one of the biggest ever. The Cubs finished 92–70, while the Mets won the National League East and would go on to win the World Series.

Summer of '69[edit]

Throughout the summer of 1969, led by future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and the game calling skills of Randy Hundley behind the plate, the Chicago Cubs had built a substantial lead in the newly created National League East. At the conclusion of each victory 3rd baseman Santo would jump and click his heels in celebration. After starting pitcher Ken Holtzman's no-hitter on August 19, the Cubs led the division by 8 12 games over the St. Louis Cardinals and 9 12 games over the New York Mets.

The Rise[edit]

The 1969 season was bookended by a pair of homers that were memorable in a good and bad way respectively. On opening day at Wrigley Field, April 8, the Cubs trailed the Phillies 6–5 in the bottom of the 11th inning. With a runner on base, Willie Smith hit a game-winning home run into the right field bleachers.[5] This event essentially "lit the fuse" to the Cubs' successful first five months of the season. They would win the next three games, and 11 out of their first 12, and create a cushion that would extend to 8½ games in mid-August.

The Fall[edit]

After the game of September 2, the Cubs' record was 84–52 with the Mets in second place at 77–55. But then a losing streak began just as a Mets winning streak was beginning. The Cubs lost the final game of a series at Cincinnati, then came home to play the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates (who would finish in third place). After losing the first two games by scores of 9–2 and 13–4, the Cubs led going into the ninth inning in the series finale. A win would be a positive springboard since the Cubs were to play a crucial series with the Mets the very next day. But Willie Stargell drilled a 2-out, 2-strike pitch from the Cubs' ace reliever, Phil Regan, onto Sheffield Avenue to tie the score in the top of the ninth. The Cubs would lose 7–5 in extra innings.[6] Meanwhile, the Mets had taken two of three against Philadelphia over the same weekend.

Burdened by a four-game losing streak, the Cubs traveled to Shea Stadium on September 8 for a short two-game set. The Mets won both games, and the Cubs left New York with a record of 84–58 just 12 game in front. Disaster followed in Philadelphia, as a 99-loss Phillies team nonetheless defeated the Cubs twice, to extend Chicago's losing streak to eight games. In a key play in the second game, on September 11, Cubs starter Dick Selma threw a surprise pickoff attempt to third baseman Ron Santo, who was nowhere near the bag or the ball. Selma's throwing error opened the gates to a Phillies rally.

After that second Philly loss, the Cubs were 84–60 and the Mets had pulled ahead at 85–57. The Mets would not look back. The Cubs' eight-game losing streak finally ended the next day in St. Louis, but the Mets were in the midst of a ten-game winning streak, and the Cubs, wilting from team fatigue, generally deteriorated in all phases of the game.[1] The Mets (who had lost a record 120 games 7 years earlier), would go on to win the World Series. The Cubs, despite a respectable 92–70 record, would be remembered for having lost a remarkable 17 12 games in the standings to the Mets in the last quarter of the season.

Bad luck[edit]

Some superstitious fans attribute the Cubs collapse to an incident at Shea Stadium: A black cat (an omen of bad luck) walked behind the Cubs on-deck circle where captain Ron Santo was standing.[7] Some fans blame key errors by center fielder Don Young and Santo's immediate criticism. According to Santo, "At no time did I give the impression, let alone a direct quote, that Don Young cost us the ballgame".[8] Banks stated, however, that after an error by Young Santo "went crazy. Young was so upset, he ran out ... I had never seen something so hurtful". According to Banks, "They say one apple can spoil the whole barrel, and I saw that", with the incident dividing the team into factions.[7] Still others blame the number of day games that the Cubs had to play. (Lights were not installed in Wrigley Field until 1988.) Chicago's summers are quite humid (85–90 degrees Fahrenheit on average), and playing in this heat day after day may have taken a toll (although the average temperature that summer was 71.8 degrees, which was relatively low).[9] From August 14 through the end of the season, the Mets had an amazing 38–11 record,[10] while the Cubs record was 18–27 for the same period, slumping to 8–16 in September and 9–18 for September and October.[11]

The Book Baseball Hall of Shame 2 places the blame squarely (and perhaps unfairly) at the feet of one man, stating, "In the heat of battle, Leo Durocher, field general of the Cubs, went AWOL once too often. It was because of his lack of leadership that his team lost the fight for the 1969 pennant." Durocher did not believe in using the platoon system. He believed in putting his best eight players on the field every day.[12] Five of the Cubs' regular players finished the season with over 150 games played.[13] Two more had more than 130 games played.[13] In his book, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, baseball historian Bill James cited manager Durocher's method of using his regular players everyday without any rest days as a factor in the Cubs' collapse.[14]

Overuse of the pitching staff may have played a part. During the first 118 games (74–43 record on August 13), the Cubs averaged about 4.7 runs a game and gave up only 3.5 runs per game, a 1.2 run per game advantage over the opposition. The last 45 games (18–27 record) saw a major reversal, with 3.7 runs per game for the team and 4.5 runs per game for the opposition (average Cub score would be a negative −0.8 runs per game versus opponents, almost a complete reversal from earlier play). Both the hitters and pitchers may have wilted as the season wound down.

Season standings[edit]

NL East W L Pct. GB
New York Mets 100 62 .617 --
Chicago Cubs 92 70 .568 8
Pittsburgh Pirates 88 74 .543 12
St. Louis Cardinals 87 75 .537 13
Philadelphia Phillies 63 99 .389 37
Montreal Expos 52 110 .321 48

Notable transactions[edit]

Draft picks[edit]


1969 Chicago Cubs
Pitchers Catchers



Other batters



Game log[edit]

1969 Game Log (92–70)
Legend:      ‹See Tfm›     = Win      ‹See Tfm›     = Loss      ‹See Tfm›     = Tie      ‹See Tfm›     = Postponement
Bold = Cubs team member

Player stats[13][edit]


Starters by position[edit]

Note: Pos. = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; R = Runs; H = Hits; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in; Avg. = Batting average; SB = Stolen bases

Pos. Player G AB R H Avg. HR RBI SB
C Hundley, RandyRandy Hundley 151 522 67 133 .255 18 64 2
1B Banks, ErnieErnie Banks 155 565 60 143 .253 23 106 0
2B Beckert, GlennGlenn Beckert 131 543 69 158 .273 4 53 6
3B Santo, RonRon Santo 160 575 97 166 .289 29 123 1
SS Kessinger, DonDon Kessinger 158 664 109 181 .273 4 53 11
OF Williams, BillyBilly Williams 163 642 103 188 .293 21 95 3
OF Young, DonDon Young 101 272 36 65 .239 6 27 1
OF Hickman, JimJim Hickman 134 338 38 80 .237 21 54 2

Other batters[edit]

Note: G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
Smith, WillieWillie Smith 103 195 48 .246 9 25
Spangler, AlAl Spangler 82 213 45 .211 4 23
Popovich, PaulPaul Popovich 60 154 48 .312 1 14
Oliver, NateNate Oliver 44 44 7 .159 1 4
Qualls, JimJim Qualls 43 120 30 .250 0 9
Phillips, AdolfoAdolfo Phillips 28 49 11 .224 0 1
Gamble, OscarOscar Gamble 24 71 16 .225 1 5
Heath, BillBill Heath 27 32 5 .156 0 1
Rudolph, KenKen Rudolph 27 34 7 .206 1 6
Jiménez, MannyManny Jiménez 6 6 1 .167 0 0
Smith, CharleyCharley Smith 2 2 0 .000 0 0


Starting pitchers[edit]

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Jenkins, FergusonFerguson Jenkins 43 311.1 21 15 3.21 273
Hands, BillBill Hands 41 300.0 20 14 2.49 181
Holtzman, KenKen Holtzman 39 261.1 17 13 3.58 176
Selma, DickDick Selma 36 168.2 10 8 3.63 161

Other pitchers[edit]

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO

Relief pitchers[edit]

Note: G = Games pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; SV = Saves; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G W L SV ERA SO
Regan, PhilPhil Regan 71 12 6 17 3.70 56
Abernathy, TedTed Abernathy 56 4 3 3 3.16 55
Aguirre, HankHank Aguirre 41 1 0 1 2.60 19

Awards and honors[edit]

League leaders[edit]


All-Star Game

Farm system[edit]

Level Team League Manager
AAA Tacoma Cubs Pacific Coast League Whitey Lockman
AA San Antonio Missions Texas League Jim Marshall
A Quincy Cubs Midwest League Walt Dixon
Short-Season A Huron Cubs Northern League Mel Wright
Rookie Caldwell Cubs Pioneer League George Freese



  1. ^ a b Kuenster, John. Heartbreakers. ISBN 1-56663-366-4. 
  2. ^ Dave Rosello page at Baseball Reference
  3. ^ Manny Jiménez page at Baseball-Reference
  4. ^ Charley Smith page at Baseball Reference
  5. ^ "Box Score of Game played on Tuesday, April 8, 1969 at Wrigley Field". Baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved September 6, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Box Score of Game played on Sunday, September 7, 1969 at Wrigley Field". Baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved September 6, 2008. 
  7. ^ a b Cohen, Rich (2014-07-07). "Where are They Now: Catching up with Mr. Cub Ernie BanksWhere are They Now: Catching up with Mr. Cub Ernie Banks". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Santo, Ron; Minkoff, Randy (1993). For Love of Ivy. Bonus Books. p. 95. ISBN 0-929387-92-9. 
  9. ^ "Chicago Summer Temperature Rankings", NOAA's National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office, September 7, 2006.
  10. ^ "1969 New York Mets Schedule", Baseball Almanac.
  11. ^ "1969 Chicago Cubs Schedule", Baseball Almanac.
  12. ^ Feldmann, Doug (2006). Miracle Collapse: the 1969 Chicago Cubs. Books.Google.com. Retrieved January 31, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b c "1969 Chicago Cubs Batting, Pitching, & Fielding Statistics". Baseball Reference. Retrieved January 22, 2011. 
  14. ^ James, Bill (2001). The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York: Free Press. p. 635. ISBN 0-684-80697-5. 
  15. ^ Paul Popovich page at Baseball Reference
  16. ^ Jim Todd page at Baseball Reference
  17. ^ Pat Bourque page at Baseball Reference


External links[edit]