Baseball looked different in 1969 from previous years. The pitching mound was lower, the number of teams was greater, and the Chicago Cubs looked like a contender. The Cubs stormed to an early lead in the new NL East Division, a creation necessitated by the expansion that brought the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres into the National League. Ferguson Jenkins’s third shutout of the young season in the Cubs’ first-ever game against the Padres, on May 12, put Chicago at 21-11, three games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates. At 15-19, San Diego was outperforming its expansion brethren in Montreal and was avoiding the last-place spot in the NL West. That would change by season’s end, but it might have been stated that the Padres were meeting expectations so far.
Dick Selma started the game for Chicago. Selma had begun the season with the Padres, having been acquired from the Mets in the NL expansion draft. In fact, he earned the first win in Padres history with a 12-strikeout complete game on Opening Day against Houston. The Cubs traded for Selma on April 25, sending Joe Niekro, Gary Ross, and Frankie Libran to San Diego to obtain the right-hander. Jerry DaVanon opened the contest with a leadoff infield single, but catcher Randy Hundley’s bullet to Don Kessinger caught the Padres leadoff man trying to steal second base. After Roberto Peña grounded out to second baseman Nate Oliver, Tony Gonzalez drew a walk from Selma. The pass came to nothing when Ollie Brown struck out to end the Padres first.
Claimed in the later rounds of the expansion draft after nine years in the Braves organization, Dick Kelley took the mound for the Padres. A winner in his previous start at Pittsburgh, Kelley sported a 2-2 record and 3.69 ERA. He walked Kessinger to start the inning, but Kelley earned outs on Oliver’s popup to second baseman DaVanon and a groundball from Billy Williams that forced Kessinger at second base. The third out would not come easily. Kelley walked Ron Santo, and Ernie Banks smacked his first home run since hitting two on Opening Day. With that three-run blast, Banks became the 17th major-leaguer to surpass 1,500 RBIs.1 Kelley’s control remained suspect when he surrendered his third walk of the inning, to Hundley, The base on balls proved more costly when DaVanon threw away the ball on Jim Hickman’s grounder, allowing Hundley to score from first. Adolfo Phillips stared at strike three to end the inning, but the Cubs led, 4-0.
The Padres could not dent the Cubs’ advantage in the top of the second. Further, their hopes of getting back into the game suffered a blow when first baseman Nate Colbert exited with a pulled back muscle.2 Colbert, who was the Padres’ best hitter, “grimaced with pain after lining his double off the centerfield wall.”3 The Cubs began to put the game out of reach in their half of the second. After Selma led off by striking out, Kessinger hit his 14th double of the season into left field. Kessinger stayed at second on Oliver’s infield single. Williams brought home both runners with a broken-bat triple into the right-field corner for a 6-0 lead. Manager Preston Gomez summoned Jack Baldschun to take over for the struggling Kelley. Santo reached base on an error by his counterpart at third base, Ed Spiezio; Williams scored on the play for a 7-0 advantage. Banks added to the lead when his double into left field plated Santo. Baldschun’s wild pitch with Hundley batting allowed Banks to take third base. Hundley walked but neither he nor Banks made it home as Hickman struck out and Phillips popped up to end the inning.
Selma led off the Cubs third and reached on an infield single off Leon Everitt. Kessinger followed with a single to right field, advancing Selma to third. Selma scored for a 9-0 lead on a double by Oliver that “almost carried to the left field catwalk.”4 With none out and runners on second and third, it seemed likely the Cubs would hit double digits in the third inning. Everitt buckled down, however. First, he got Williams to stare at a third-strike pitch. Then, he fielded Santo’s comebacker for the second out. Finally, Banks flied out to Gonzalez in center field. In the fourth, Everitt kept the Cubs from scoring at all, allowing only a two-out single to Phillips. Meanwhile, Selma continued to roll through the Padres lineup. The only San Diego baserunners in the fourth and fifth reached on walks. In fact, Selma allowed more walks (4) than hits (3) in the game, a statistic that seemed to bother the Cubs pitcher; afterward, he commented, “When a game gets out of hand like this one, there is no excuse for walking anyone. You just throw strikes.”5
The Cubs returned to the scoresheet in the bottom of the fifth. Kessinger walked to start the inning and advanced to second on Oliver’s groundout. DaVanon snared Williams’s liner for the second out, but Everitt walked Santo, bringing up Banks. (Bases on balls bedeviled Padres pitchers all game; their five pitchers gave up 12.) Before the game, the 38-year-old Banks had been concerned about his hitting and was seeking remedies for an apparent loss of power. He explained, “I’ve been changing my stance in the last couple of weeks, spreading out a little bit more and trying all kinds of things. But my big problem is that I was swinging too hard.”6 In this game, he rediscovered his stroke. Banks swatted Everitt’s pitch over the wall for his second home run of the game, extending the score to 12-0. His 7-RBI performance against San Diego gave him 26 for the season and tied him with four others (teammate Ron Santo, Mack Jones of the Montreal Expos, the Braves’ Orlando Cepeda, and the Reds’ Bobby Tolan) for the league lead.
Nate Oliver made his mark on the game in the sixth. Phillips led off the inning with a walk. Selma’s bunt moved Phillips to second and Kessinger’s long fly out sent him to third. Oliver was playing second base because, the day before, Glenn Beckert had taken a pitch to the jaw from Gary Ross that required 15 stitches. Oliver made the most of the opportunity and homered for a 14-0 lead. After his 4-RBI game, Oliver said, “I can’t ever remember driving in four runs in one game. When you’re a backup man like I am, though, you have to have games like this.”7
Cubs manager Leo Durocher pulled several starters from the game to start the seventh. Out came Hundley, Banks, and Williams, and in came Ken Rudolph, Willie Smith, and Don Young. Padres skipper Gomez swapped pitchers, bringing in Frank Reberger for Everitt. Reberger walked leadoff man Rudolph. After Hickman’s lineout, Phillips singled to left field. Reberger fanned Selma for the second out, but his walk to Kessinger loaded the bases. Rudolph scored when Reberger drilled Oliver. Another Reberger miscue, a wild pitch with Young batting, permitted Phillips to cross the plate. Young made the most of his opportunity to impress and smacked a three-run homer to make the score 19-0.
Mercifully for the Padres, the Cubs did not extend the laugher beyond the 19-0 mark. The rout tied the NL record for the most lopsided shutout, equaling the standard set by the 1906 Cubs (vs. the Giants) and the 1961 Pirates (vs. the Cardinals).8 The Cubs fell short of the major-league standard for blanking an opponent, 21-0, achieved by the 1901 Tigers and 1939 Yankees.9 Following shutouts thrown by Ken Holtzman and Ferguson Jenkins, this game’s whitewash from Hands equaled a club record of three consecutive shutouts, a feat achieved on three prior occasions, the last time occurring in 1919.10
With so many players contributing, it would have been hard to single out someone for particular praise. Banks, however, received many of the postgame plaudits. San Diego Union writer Phil Collier described him as the “liveliest thing at Wrigley Field.”11 Durocher referred to his annual inability to dislodge Banks from the lineup: “I retired Ernie three springs in a row. I’d play the kids every spring, but I’d finally have to call on Ernie and, once he was back in the lineup, he made sure he stayed there.”12 With his swing returning, Banks seemed likely to hold his spot in the lineup. Banks said, “I’ve got to swing easy and just try to meet the ball. Today I did that.”13
This article appears in “Wrigley Field: The Friendly Confines at Clark and Addison” (SABR, 2019), edited by Gregory H. Wolf. To read more stories from this book online, click here.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com, retrosheet.org, and SABR.org.
1 George Langford, “Break Up The Cubs! They Reign, 19-0,” Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1969: 3-1.
2 Langford: 3-2.
3 Phil Collier, “‘Young’ Ernie Ages Padres,” San Diego Union, May 14, 1969: c-1, c-2.
4 Langford: 3-1, 3-2.
8 Langford: 3-1.
9 Langford: 3-2.
10 Jerome Holtzman, “Cub Power Jolts Padres to Sandals,” The Sporting News, May 31, 1969: 17.
13 Langford: 3-2.