When the Bottom Falls OutWhen Ken Holtzman pitched a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves on August 19, 1969, like most people, you probably assumed the Chicago Cubs would storm into October and claim the first National League Eastern Division title. Back then fans were talking about how the North Siders hadn't been in the World Series in 24 years. They hadn't won one in 61 years. The Cubs found themselves atop the NL East standings with a solid lead over second and third place. They had an eight-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, and a 9 1/2-game lead over the New York Mets.
Yes, 40 years ago, it looked like playoff baseball was going to be played at Wrigley Field. Players like Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and Ron Santo would taste playoff baseball for the first time. Postseason baseball would return to Chicago for the first time since the White Sox lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1959 World Series. If you're a Cubs fan, you probably heard of the collapse of '69. I wasn't around then (born in 1973), but I can only imagine what it felt like.
Leads that large, and that late in the season, should hold up. Right?
The Cubs managed to lose eight consecutive games between September 3 and September 11. They lost to the Cincinnati Reds, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Mets during that stretch. To make matters worse, the Mets strung together seven consecutive wins during that period. Up to that point, the Mets were only a seven-year-old franchise. In 1962, their inaugural season, they set the record for futility. They lost 120 games during a 162-game season.
When the season came to a close, the New York Mets won 100 games. The Cubs finished in second place with a record of 92-70, a total of eight games out of first place. Between August 19 and October 2, the Cubs managed to lose an 8-game lead and finish 8-games back. The Mets eventually beat the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series, then beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. To this day, that team is referred to as the Amazin' Mets.
Tonight, the Cubs trail the Cardinals by six games. Any chance the opposite can happen 40 years later?
On second thought, don't answer that question.