Courtesy: MLB Productions/A&E Home Video
Frank Sinatra once sang of Chicago, “It’s a heck of a town.” And he couldn’t be more right. The Windy City has so much that makes it a rich town. It’s got great music, great food, and equally great sports teams. The Blackhawks, Bears, Bulls, and White Sox all have championships under their belts, as do the Cubs. But it’s been over a century since the Cubs last brought home a title to Chi-town. And this year doesn’t look too promising for the team, either. So what’s a Cubs fan to do once the playoffs start? Thanks to Major League Baseball Productions, fans have a whole new way to celebrate the legacy of this storied franchise in The Essential Games of the Chicago Cubs.
The Essential Games of the Chicago Cubs features four of the greatest games in Cubs baseball history. It starts fans at the famed 1960 Hall of Fame Showcase in which the Cubbies took down the Phillies. Second in the set is the team’s 1984 stunning eleven inning win over the Cards. The third of the collection is the Cubs’ 1998 NL Wild Card tiebreaker over the San Francisco Giants. And last in the set takes fans back to another pivotal matchup against the Cubs’ NL Central foes, the St. Louis Cardinals in the teams’ 2008 Divisional faceoff. All four games in this set make for great pieces of nostalgia not just for any Cubs fan, but for any fan of Major League Baseball.
The first game collected for The Essential Games of the Chicago Cubs is the team’s faceoff against the Phillies in what is now considered to be the team’s Hall of Fame Showcase. This game featured four future Hall of Famers in the form of: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, and Ferguson Jenkins. The Phillies struck first with a pair of runs in the first inning. But the Cubs would answer back in the next two innings with a total of six runs scored. The bottom of the third was where the Cubs’ bats would really start to warm up. Billy Williams nailed a fly ball to Left Field for a triple. Santo followed that up with a single down the third base line, putting him on first, but stranding Williams on third. Ernie Banks came up next and hit a grounder, allowing Williams to score and moving Santo to second. Willie Smith would seal the inning with a home run. His home run also brought in both Santo and Banks, making for a total of four runs.
The Cubs would only score one more run in the bottom of the sixth after a single to Left Field by Billy Williams drove in Kessinger. It would be all the Cubs needed despite the Phils pulling in one more run in the top of the seventh when Rich Barry scored on a sacrifice fly by Rojas. The game’s final two innings went scoreless for both teams, leading to a 7-4 final and a “W” for the Cubs.
The Cubs/Phillies matchup from July 12, 1969 is without a doubt one of the best games in the history of the franchise. It was a hard fought back and forth battle in which the Cubs really took control early on and never looked back. It’s just one example of what makes this new set enjoyable for audiences. Nearly two decades later, the Cubs would produce what is another landmark game for the team when it faced off against the Cardinals with the aid of Ryne Sandberg. What makes this game among the standouts of the club is its comeback. The team had given up seven runs in the first two innings alone. Luckily for the Cubs, the Cards went scoreless in the next three innings while the Cubs would score twice in the bottom of the fifth. And then in the bottom of the sixth, the Cubs’ bats finally came alive. But it wasn’t until after the Cards brought in two more runs in the top of the inning, bringing the score to 9-8. The Cubs’ sixth inning surge started after Cardinals pitcher Ralph Citarella hit Ron Cey on the arm. Citarella was replaced by Neil Allen after that botched pitch. But that switch-up would make little difference for the Redbirds. Larry Bowa would be walked by Allen, loading the bases. Rich Hebner came up to bat and hit a single, bringing in Keith Moreland for one of the team’s five runs. Bob Dernier came up to bat next and hit a double, driving in Cey and Bowa and moving Hebner to third. Next up was Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg would seal with fifth with a single, allowing in both Hebner and Denier to score.
The seventh and eighth innings would be relatively silent with both teams seeing three up and three down. But in the bottom of the ninth, everything would change as Sandberg would come up to bat once more and slam a home run with the bases empty. He would tie the game at nine each, and take the game into extra innings. It was Sandberg’s eighth home run of the year. He would tie it up one more time in the bottom of the tenth with his ninth home run of the season. In the process, he brought in Dernier, too. In simple terms, Sandberg single handedly brought in five of the Cubs total twelve runs from the game. The game winner was hit by Dave Owen in the bottom of the eleventh. The irony here is that his record up till that at bat hadn’t been that great. He was hitless in his five previous at bats with runners in scoring position. Owen only hit a single. But it was all that the Cubs needed to clinch the game. That single was enough to bring in Leon Durham for the win.
So much went on in this huge matchup between the Cubs and Cards. As amazing as the action on the field was, it wasn’t all that made this a game worth checking out. Believe it or not, movie lovers will appreciate this game. At one point, the game’s commentators use the often mistaken line, “Judy, Judy, Judy”, which so many people believe Cary Grant said in one of his movies. It was used in reference to Cubs player Jody Davis as he went up to bat. Truth be told, Grant never said that line at any point in his career. There’s also a reference to acting veteran Bill Murray’s son being partially named after Ernie Banks. Allegedly, Murray used Banks’ name for his son’s middle name according to the men behind the mic. These are just a couple of bonuses thrown throughout The Essential Games of the Chicago Cubs. Fans will also revel in the box’s packaging. It continues the style established by MLB productions in its other boxes. Each game gets its very own slim case complete with box score on the back to help fans follow the games. Even within the discs, fans can choose not just the innings or the whole game, but which half of each inning. Combine this continued successful packaging and presentation with equally impressive games and The Essential Games of the Chicago Cubs proves to be another must have not just for Cubs fans, but for baseball fans in general.
The Essential Games of the Chicago Cubs is available now. It can be ordered direct via MLB Productions’ website, http://shop.mlb.com/home/index.jsp.
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