“If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out.” — George Brett
It was quite the major-league debut for 27-year-old Roberto Peña. He ended the day with three errors and a .571 fielding average. At the plate, he banged out three hits, including a home run, and had three runs batted in. He finished with a .500 batting average. “I hope there are no more days like that. Three errors in one game — it is not fun,” Peña said.1
The St. Louis Cardinals, after their seven-game World Series victory over the New York Yankees in 1964, opened the 1965 season on April 12 against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.2 Because of light rain and threatening skies, pregame warmups were suspended. The game-time temperature was a chilly 48 degrees. In a wild season opener, the Cardinals pounded out 17 hits, scored 10 runs, and had Bob Gibson on the mound. Yet, they didn’t win the game.
Before the start of the season, Cardinals coach Red Schoendienst had been named manager after Johnny Keane announced in October 1964 that he was leaving St. Louis to take over as the Yankees skipper. Schoendienst, who played all or part of 15 seasons for the Cardinals during a 19-year career, had reason to be optimistic.
The Cubs had finished the 1964 season in eighth place, with a record of 76-86, 17 games behind the Cardinals. Baseball pundits were not optimistic about their chances. “[T]he Cubs don’t appear to have much chance for improvement in 1965 and a nineteenth straight second-division finish appears probable,” wrote one scribe. “It looks like another long season for Head Coach Bob Kennedy and Cub fans.”5
For the third consecutive year, Kennedy selected Larry Jackson as the Cubs’ Opening Day starter. Jackson’s 24 wins in 1964 were tops in the major leagues. He finished second in the Cy Young Award voting to Dean Chance of the Los Angeles Angels.6 On this day, however, as 19,751 watched, Jackson didn’t make it out of the first inning.
After fouling off the first two pitches, Curt Flood led off the game with a double to right-center. With one out, Jackson surrendered three consecutive singles and a walk. Julian Javier popped out to first base. But Jackson walked Bob Uecker, forcing in the third run of the inning. With the bases loaded, Ted Abernathy relieved Jackson. It appeared as though Abernathy would get out of the inning. Gibson popped up behind second base. Shortstop Peña, making his major-league debut, called for it but dropped it. Two unearned runs scored. It was the first of Peña’s three errors. When the inning ended, the Cardinals had scored five runs.
Jackson, the former Cardinal, blamed the poor outing on his control. “When I was trying for the corners, I either was missing or making the pitches too fat,” he said after the game.7
The Cubs touched Gibson for two runs in second inning on a walk, two doubles, and a single. Gibson escaped further damage by striking out Glenn Beckert with runners on the corners.
Roberto Peña made amends for his first-inning error by leading off the bottom of the third inning with an opposite-field home run into the right-field seats. With two outs, George Altman beat out an infield hit, took second on a wild pitch, and scored on Ernie Banks‘s single to left field.
In the Cardinals half of the fourth inning, Gibson again popped up into the 20-MPH wind, this time to the right of the mound. Peña dropped it and was charged with his second error. A double and a single resulted in two runs. Frank Baumann replaced Jack Warner (Warner had started the third inning after Abernathy was lifted for a pinch-hitter) for the Cubs. With the bases loaded, Baumann retired Mike Shannon on a comebacker to the mound.
The Cubs responded in the bottom of the fourth inning and again it was Peña who provided the big hit. With one out, Gibson walked Dick Bertell. Ron Taylor relieved Gibson. After retiring pinch-hitter Len Gabrielson (thanks to Flood’s leaping grab at the left-center-field wall), Taylor yielded a single to Beckert before Peña’s two-run double to left field.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Cardinals, ahead 7-6, added an insurance run. Lou Brock led off the inning with a double to center field. He stole third base and scored on Bertell’s throwing error. It was the Cubs’ third error of the day and the Cardinals’ fourth unearned run.
St. Louis led 8-6 going into the ninth inning. The Cardinals tacked on another run off Cubs reliever Lindy McDaniel. Javier led off with a double. Two outs later, Flood singled him home.
Tracy Stallard, who had replaced Taylor in the bottom of the fifth inning, was still on the mound for St. Louis as the bottom of the ninth inning began. It looked like a Cardinals victory after Stallard retired Peña on a popout and Billy Williams on a strikeout. With two out and the bases empty, Ron Santo walked. Altman’s soft single to center knocked Stallard out. Thirty-eight-year-old Barney Schultz came in to face Banks. With two strikes, Schultz threw a knuckleball. Banks tied the game with a dramatic three-run home run into the left-center-field bleachers, the 377th of his career.
Two Cardinals reached base in the 10th inning. Bill White singled, was sacrificed to second base, and moved to third after Peña’s third error (the Cubs’ fifth error of the day). Peña couldn’t handle Shannon’s groundball. Pinch-hitter Tito Francona grounded out to the pitcher, ending the threat.
After the Cubs were retired in order in their half of the 10th inning, Dave Ricketts began the 11th with a single off McDaniel. Schultz reached first on a fielder’s choice, went to second on Flood’s single, and scored on Brock’s base hit. McDaniel retired the next two hitters, escaping further damage.
With the Cubs trailing by a run, Peña began the bottom of the 11th with a single, his third hit of the day. He went to second on a passed ball and moved to third when Williams grounded out to first baseman White. Santo drove in the tying run with a double that bounced off the left-center-field wall. With the go-ahead run on second and one out, left-handed batter Altman was scheduled up. Schoendienst again went to his bullpen, bringing in Steve Carlton. It was Carlton’s major-league debut. He walked Altman and was immediately replaced on the mound by Bob Purkey. Banks flied out, sending Santo to third. Purkey intentionally walked Doug Clemens to load the bases before retiring Vic Roznovsky on a fly ball to deep right field. But the Cubs had tied the game, 10-10.
Larry Jackson’s first pitch occurred at 1:37 P.M. After 4 hours and 19 minutes, the game was called at 5:56 P.M. due to darkness.8 In 1965, Daylight Saving Time would begin at the end of April. Sunset in Chicago on April 12 occurred at 6:28 P.M.
The always competitive Santo was happy with the tie. “Naturally, I’d liked to have won it. But coming back the way we did, five runs down in the first inning, inspired the whole team,” he said “I think it turned out just great — especially with a pitcher like Gibson having a five-run lead.”9
The Cubs finished the 1965 season in eighth place with a record of 72-90, although they played 164 games.10 The April 12 opener was made up as part of a doubleheader on July 11. The Cubs swept that twin bill by identical 6-0 shutouts. The Cardinals finished the season with a disappointing 80-81 record, in seventh place.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-reference.com, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Al Yellon, “Oh! The Suspense! A History of Wrigley Field Suspended Games,” August 21, 2014. (bleedcubbieblue.com/2014/8/21/6052701/history-wrigley-field-suspended-games).
1 Jerome Holtzman, “Bruins Hoist Storm Signal Over Pena’s Booming Bludgeon,” The Sporting News, April 24, 1965: 29.
2 It was the 90th National League opener for the Cubs. Instead of President Lyndon Johnson, Albert Jorgenson, sitting in Box 13, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Jorgenson was a 42-year Wrigley Field employee.
3 The Sporting News, April 24, 1965: 20.
4 Allen Lewis, “Why the White Sox and Reds Will Win,” Baseball Digest, April 1965: 48.
5 Lewis: 36-37. Lewis’s description of Kennedy as the Cubs’ “head coach” was not accurate. The club had a “College of Coaches” in 1961-62, but abandoned that model and Kennedy was the Cubs’ manager from 1963 to 1965.
6 From its inception in 1956 through 1966, only one major-league pitcher received the Cy Young Award. Starting in 1967, a winner from each league was selected.
7 Edward Prell, “Cubs and Cards Battle to 11-inning Tie,” Chicago Tribune, April 13, 1965: Section 3: 3.
8 There was no suspended-game rule that applied to Wrigley Field in 1965. The rule changed after a Cubs-Montreal Expos shortened game on June 22, 1969.
9 Robert Markus, “Santo Glad to Settle for Tie,” Chicago Tribune, April 13, 1965: Section 3: 1.
10 In the second game of a doubleheader, the Cubs played the New York Mets to a 3-3 tie on May 31, 1965. The game was called due to darkness.