60th anniversary: All-time great ninth inning comeback

Sixty years ago today, the Cubs staged one of the most incredible comebacks in baseball history. It was a game they by all rights should’ve lost, but damned if they didn’t come away with a win.

On June 29, 1952, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Reds in Crosley Field, the Reds pulled out to a lead and kept pulling away. At the end of the eighth inning, Cincinnati led 8-2. Yeah, 99 times in 100, the team with the lead notches an easy win. Today would not be one of those 99 days.

At first it looked like it would be a routine ending. The first Cubs out in the top of the ninth made outs. Now the Cubs were down to their last out with no one on and trailing by six runs. The odds of winning that game are pretty damn slim, to put it mildly.

Oh, and the bottom of the order was coming up. As if things didn’t look bleak enough, right?

Third baseman Bill Serena came up representing the last Cub hope, and he doubled. Then came shortstop Roy Smalley, who walked.

The pitcher was due up next, so manager Phil Cavarretta went to his bench and had Gene Hermanski pinch-hit. His single scored Serena, making it, 8-3. Well, at least the Cubs weren’t giving up too easily.

Then came the moment the Reds really would like to have back. Leadoff hitter Eddie Miksis tried to bunt his way on, but instead laid down what should’ve been the game-ending out. Should’ve been. Instead, Reds third baseman Eddie Kazak—who had entered the game as a defensive replacement an inning earlier—muffed it. Kazak was safe, Hermanski made it to second, and Smalley scored to make the score 8-4.

Time for a new pitcher. Starter Bubba Smith took a seat and relief specialist Frank Smith was called on to finish it. Instead, he hit the first batter he faced and then allowed a bases-loaded single. The score was now 8-6 and the tying run on base. It soon got even worse as Cubs slugger Hank Sauer smashed a double. Another run was in to make it 8-7. The tying run was 90 feet from the plate, and the winning run in scoring position.

So long, Mr. Smith. Cincinnati now turned to veteran Ken Raffensberger to hold the fort. He intentionally walked the first batter he faced to set up the force at every base.

So now it was as clutch as it gets. A one-run lead with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth. The Cubs went with another pinch hitter, Johnny Pramesa. He came through, singling in a pair of runs for a shocking 9-8 Cubs win. Down to their last out, nine consecutive Cubs had reached base.

Finally, the Reds got the last out when Serena came up again and popped up.

The Reds weren’t done yet. They were coming up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. Though the first guy got on with a walk, the next three made outs, ending the game. If it was any consolation, the Reds won the second game of the day handily, 9-1, but the most memorable part of the day was still Cincinnati’s inning from hell against the Cubs.

Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you would prefer to skim over everything.


1,000 days since a slew of players appear in their last game. As the 2009 seasons comes to an end, the following enjoy their last regular season game: Darin Erstad, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jermaine Dye, Mark Loretta, Nomar Garciaparra, and Randy Johnson.

3,000 days since Greg Maddux, for the fifth and final time in his career, walks in a run. He last did it 11 years and 2,471 inning previously.

4,000 days since Bobby Bonilla gets his 2,000th hit.

A comparative study on an unwritten rule of baseball.

4,000 days since Jeff Bagwell hits for the cycle.

4,000 days since Randy Johnson sets a record with 16 strikeouts in relief. It’s a weird situation because the Padres-Diamondbacks game began two days earlier only to be suspended due to power outage. Johnson throws seven innings of scoreless one-hit ball.

4,000 days since MLB announces that pitch counts won’t be used as evaluation techniques for umpires.

4,000 days since an Orioles-Rangers game is postponed due to the derailing of a train containing toxic substances.

5,000 days since the Yankees clinch the world championship to end their 1998 season by shutting out the Padres 3-0 in Game Four of the World Series.

7,000 days since Graeme Lloyd becomes the first Australian-born player to win a game.

At some point today, it will be a billion seconds since the Phillies win their first world title.


1863 Wilbert Robinson, Hall of Fame manager, born.

1876 St. Louis performs the first triple play in NL history. (Not the St. Louis Cardinals. The 1876 St. Louis team folded before the 1880s began.)

1881 Harry Frazee, Red Sox owner famous for selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees to finance his play “No, No Nanette,” born.

1886 The 100th game Harry Wright and Cap Anson manage against each other.

1887 Bob Caruthers, star pitcher, hits two home runs in one game. He’s one of the best hitting pitchers of all-time and in fact was playing right field in this game.

1888 Bobby Veach, great Tigers outfielder, born.

1897 Chicago Cubs 36, Louisville Colonels 7.

1904 Major league debut: Sherry Magee, one of the best sluggers of the Deadball Era.

1905 Moonlight Graham, made famous in “Field of Dreams,” plays his only game, as a defensive replacement in right field in that game for McGraw’s Giants. As it happens, McGraw hadn’t yet finished his playing career yet, and appeared in a handful of games himself that season. From memory, the movie moved Graham to the 1920s, which allowed Burt Lancaster to remember McGraw as an old legendary figure at the end of the dugout, not as a 32-year-old who wasn’t even the oldest man in the dugout. Graham continued to play minor league ball until 1908.

1907 Major league debut: Ed Konetchy, a fine fielding first baseman.

1909 Walter Johnson allows his first home run since 1907.

1911 John McGraw notches his 1,000th in. He is the seventh member of the club, joining Cap Anson, Harry Wright, Ned Hanlon, Frank Selee, Fred Clarke, and Connie Mack. McGraw’s record is 1,000-674.

1912 Hick Cady gets two hits in one at-bat. He hits a single, only to have an umpire nullify it by claiming the pitcher balked in his wind up. Cady goes back to the plate and doubles.

1912 Rube Marquard, Giants pitcher, wins again, putting his record to 18-0 on the season.

1913 Big league debut: Wally Pipp, famous as the guy Lou Gehrig replaced at first base. That said, Pipp once led the AL in homers himself.

1915 Dizzy Trout, pitcher, born.

1923 Jack Fournier of the Dodgers gets six hits in one game.

1925 Tris Speaker laces his 658th career double, passing Nap Lajoie for the No. 1 slot all-time in doubles. Exactly 86 years later, Speaker is still No. 1 in doubles.

1926 George Sisler gets his 2,000th hit in only his 1,415th game played.

1931 Jimmie Foxx hits his 100th home run. He’s only the 36th person to do it. Six days earlier his teammate Bing Miller became No. 35.

1931 Big league debut: Yankees third baseman Red Rolfe.

1933 Jimmie Foxx collects his 1,000th hit.

1934 Lou Gehrig hit in head with a pitch in an exhibition game and is out cold for five minutes. He’s expected to miss a few games with a concussion, but manages to keep his streak going anyway.

1935 Yankees center fielder Earle Combs hits his 23rd and final inside-the-park home run.

1936 Harmon Killebrew born.

1937 Hall of Fame second baseman Billy Herman hits his only career grand slam.

1941 Joe DiMaggio breaks George Sisler’s AL record of 41 consecutive games with a hit. That said, in the same doubleheader the Browns end New York’s team streak of 25 consecutive home victories.

1946 Red Ruffing suffers a broken knee cap when a line drive nails him. Despite that, and despite being in his 40s and considerably overweight, Ruffing will come back to pitch in 1947.

1948 Johnny Antonelli, amateur free agent, signed by the Boston Braves.

1950 Red Sox 22, A’s 14. It’s Boston’s third 20-run performance of the month, The two teams combine for 18 different players scoring, an AL record tied on May 5, 2000 by the A’s and Rangers.

1950 Bizarre moment in American Association game between Milwaukee and Minnesota: when Minnesota outfielder Bama Rowell hits a lazy fly ball, its trajectory is altered by two birds who peck at it in the air. It falls for a double and Rowell will score the winning run.

1950 The Yankees call up Whitey Ford from the minor leagues.

1954 Rick Honeycutt, reliever, born.

1955 The Cubs lose a game, dropping their franchise overall record to 6,064-5,064. It’s the last time they’re 1,000 games over .500.

1956 Pedro Guerrero born.

1957 AL beats NL in the All-Star Game, as five Reds start for the NL.

1958 Cardinals left fielder Del Ennis throws out two runners in one inning in game against the Phillies.

1958 Hank Aaron hits his first of 17 homers off Don Drysdale, the most he hits off any single pitcher.

1961 Willie Mays homers three times in a game for the second time. The first time was two months earlier when he hit four homers in all.

1966 Mickey Mantle homers twice for the second straight game. He’ll do it again three days later.

1967 Cardinals legend Bob Gibson has the worst start of his career: 0.2 IP, 7 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, 1 K. Game Score: 1.

1968 Frank Howard becomes the first player to hit 100 homers for the Senators (now Rangers) franchise. He’s the first person to do it for any expansion franchise.

1968 Gary Nolan has a great day with the Reds. Not only does the 20-year-old throw a complete game shutout against the Giants, but he hits a home run in the 3-0 win.

1968 Jim Northrup, Detroit, hits his third grand slam of the week, tying a record set by Rudy York in May 1938.

1969 Billy Williams breaks Stan Musial’s NL record of 896 consecutive games played.

1969 Lou Brock has possibly his worst day at the plate, going 0-for-4 with 4 Ks.

1969 Tom Seaver wins his 44th game as a Met, passing Al Jackson as all-time franchise win leader. 43 years later, he’s still their win leader.

1969 Tony Oliva gets eight consecutive hits in a doubleheader versus the Royals.

1970 Ernie Banks has his 42nd and final multi-home run game.

1970 Big league debut: Bobby Grich, the ultimate sabermetric darling.

1971 The Braves release Hoyt Wilhelm.

1971 Tom Seaver records his 1,000th strikeout—Willie Montanez.

1972 The Braves trade Orlando Cepeda to the A’s for Denny McLain.

1973 Pete Rose hits an inside the park home run. It’s the second of three in his career.

1974 Lou Brock steals base No. 700.

1976 Rick Wise of Boston pitches his second one-hitter of the month.

1977 Willie Stargell hammers his 400th home run, four years and one day since No. 300.

1979 Big league debut: Dave Stieb.

1983 Mark Fidrych retires..

1984 Pete Rose plays in his 3,309th game, breaking Carl Yastrzemski’s record.

1984 Steve Sax triples in the first inning and then steals home.

1986 The White Sox trade Tom Seaver to the Red Sox for Steve Lyons. No wonder Seaver retired after the year: he’s being traded straight up for Steve Lyons.

1986 Sparky Anderson becomes the third manager to win over 600 in each league, behind Dick Williams and Gene Mauch. Williams did it two years before and Mauch did it earlier in 1986. Since then, only Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa have joined the club.

1987 Dennis Eckersley picks off a runner, something he won’t do again for four more years. The runner? It’s Kenny Williams, GM of the 2005 world champion White Sox.

1987 Wade Boggs gets a career-best seven RBIs by going 3-for-5 with a triple and home run.

1988 Big league debut: Rob Dibble.

1989 Padres GM Jack McKeon trades his son-in-law, Greg Booker.

1989 Boise Hawks manager Mal Fichman is ejected, but sneaks back on the field disguised as team mascot Humphrey the Hawk, earning him a one-game suspension.

1990 Dave Stewart throws a no-hitter: A’s 5, Blue Jays 0.

1990 Fernando Valenzuela pitches a no-hitter. I guess it was the thing to do on June 29, 1990.

1992 Pittsfield Mets pitcher James Popoff gets his first professional win in style, fanning 19 in a New York-Pennsylvania League game.

1993 Kenny Lofton gets his first grand slam on only his sixth career home run. In the next 14 seasons, Lofton gets only one more slam.

1994 Edgar Martinez has two odd achievements in one game. First, he steals two bases, the only time he ever does that. (He steals four bases in all 1994 and 49 in his full career). Second, he homers against David Wells on the 11th pitch of the at-bat, his longest battle to result in a home run.

1996 Mike Piazza hits three home runs in one game.

1998 Aside from All-Star breaks, this day marks the first time since April 30, 1973, there are zero scheduled major league games.

1999 Big league debut: Vicente Padilla, one of the only pitchers to have a career win against all 30 teams.

1999 WPA’s favorite Vladimir Guerrero game: 0.906 WPA. He went 2-for-3 with a home run, walk and sac fly, scored one run and drove in four as the Expos beat the Braves, 6-5. The big blast was a walk-off, three-run home run off John Rocker in the bottom of the ninth.

2000 The Indians trade David Justice to the Yankees for Zach Day, Jake Westbrook, and Rickey Ledee.

2000 John Rocker pitches at Shea Stadium for the first time since his infamous Sports Illustrated interview in which he bashed New York City.

2001 Dmitri Young has his second straight four-hit game, giving him hits in nine straight at bats.

2003 Arizona releases Matt Williams

2004 Randy Johnson has strikeout No. 4,000.

2007 The A’s trade Milton Bradley to the Padres. Bradley is infuriated upon hearing the news.

2007 Mike Mussina gives up a leadoff walk for the first time in 136 games (Since Sept. 13, 2002) and only the second time in 242 games (Sept. 23, 1996).

2010 Denard Span, Minnesota, hits three triples in one game.

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Simon Oliver Lockwood
Simon Oliver Lockwood

Quibble regarding the 1950 entry—it was Minneapolis, not Minnesota. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul had teams in the American Association.


You state: 1881 Harry Frazee, Red Sox owner famous for selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees to finance his play “No, No Nanette,” born.
Not true about No No Nanette, which was not produced until years later. It was My Lady Friends that was financed by the Ruth sale.

Jim G.
Jim G.

Phil, You’re technically correct, but My Lady Friends was the non-musical stage play that No, No Nanette was based on, so they are related.

RE: Seaver for Lyons – Seaver must have refused to drop his pants.

Also, it’s been so nice not having to think about John Rocker all this time until you have to go bring him up again Chris…