Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Stretch Drive

     On the morning of September 4, 1935, the Cubs had a record of 79-52 and were in third place in the National League, two and a half games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and half a game behind the New York Giants. That afternoon, the Cubs began the most sensational stretch drive in baseball history. “We suddenly got hot,” said second baseman Billy Herman. “I don’t mean just hot—we sizzled! All of a sudden we got the notion that we couldn’t lose.”
     The Cubs won every game of an 18-game homestand.
     “You ever go 75 miles an hour on the highway when everybody else is doing 50?” first baseman Phil Cavarretta said. “That’s how we felt. We passed the Giants and caught up to the Cardinals right at the end of the season. With everything up for grabs, we went into St. Louis for a five-game series.”
     The Cubs needed to win just two of the five games to sew up the pennant. On September 26, an eighth-inning home run by the 19-year-old Cavarretta was all that Lon Warneke needed as he blanked the defending world champions 1-0 for his 20th victory of the year. In the first game of the next day’s doubleheader, Bill Lee bested St. Louis ace Dizzy Dean 6-2 for his 20th victory of the year. Although the pennant was already clinched, the Cubs also took the second game for good measure.
     On the morning of September 28, the Cubs had a record of 100-52. They had won 21 games in a row and were National League champions.
     The Cubs led the league in runs scored, batting average, and earned-run average. Five regulars hit better than .300: catcher Gabby Hartnett (.344 with 91 RBIs), Herman (.341 with a league-leading 227 hits and 57 doubles), right fielder Frank Demaree (.325), left fielder Augie Galan (.314 with a league-leading 133 runs scored and 22 stolen bases), and third baseman Stan Hack (.311). But it was pitching that really made the difference down the stretch. Lee won five games, Larry French five, Warneke four, Charlie Root four, Roy Henshaw two, and Tex Carleton one during the streak. The Cubs allowed three or fewer runs in all but one of the 21 games, and in all but three of those games the starting pitcher also finished.

Reprinted from Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports
(c) 2009, 2010 by Christopher Tabbert

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