Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Cubs 365, September 4

On this day in 1935, the Cubs began the longest winning streak in baseball history.

The Cubs were in third place in the National League 2 1/2 games behind the first place Cardinals, and a half game behind the second place New York Giants. They had been flirting with first place for most of the season, but nobody on that Cubs roster could have predicted what began on that September day.

The Cubs beat the Phillies at Wrigley Field 8-2 behind the pitching of Larry French (photo) and two homers by Augie Galan, and they wouldn't lose again until September 28th. It remains the most incredible winning streak in baseball history.

They beat all comers in every way imaginable. They swept the Phillies, the Braves, the Dodgers, and the Pirates at home, and then won another three at St. Louis. They won slugfests and they won pitchers duels.

Seven different Cubs pitchers won games, but Larry French won five, and Charlie Root and Lon Warneke each won four. The lineup was impressive, featuring four Hall of Famers (Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, Chuck Klein, and Freddie Lindstrom) and two of the all-time great Cubs (Phil Cavarretta and Stan Hack).

But the hottest hitter of all was their lead-off man Augie Galan (photo). He hit 5 of his 12 home runs that season during the streak, and batted an astounding .358 to finish the season at .314. There were only two games he didn't reach base.

The city of Chicago got more and more excited as the streak wore on. In that first win, only 5000 were in attendance. By the time the Cubs won their 18th in a row at Wrigley, 40,000+ packed the joint; despite the fact that the country was in the darkest days of the Great Depression.

There really weren't too many close calls, but two of the games did go into extra innings. The Cubs pushed across a run in the bottom of the 11th to win the first one (Charlie Root pitched all 11 innings), and in the bottom of the 10th in the next one (Lon Warneke pitched all 10 innings).

Probably the best game of the streak was the 19th win in a row. Lon Warneke and Cardinals pitcher Paul Dean both entered the game as 19-game winners, and both men pitched their hearts out. Dean threw a seven hitter, but Warneke allowed only two hits. But the streak wasn't the only thing at stake during this game. The Cubs were only three games ahead of the Cardinals with five games to play in the season, and all five games would be head-to-head in St. Louis.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the difference in the game was one single mistake pitch by Dean, which was smacked over the fence by Cubs first baseman Phil Cavarretta. That gave the Cubs a nearly insurmountable 4 game lead with 4 games left in the season.

The 20th win in a row the next day clinched the pennant, and the 21st win in a row came the same day in the second game of the double header. Whether or not the Cubs celebrated that night a little too ferociously is lost to time, but they did drop the meaningless final two games of the season.