If the rumble of the Chicago El near Wrigley Field seemed unusually loud and throaty last Friday morning, blame all the throbbing vocal cords inside the trains. "Garvey's a bum!" chanted whole cars of riders. "The Padres——!"
This was the start of Cubs-Padres II, a lively three-game minisequel to last fall's masterpiece of a National League Championship Series. Nearly four hours before the first pitch of Game 1, Chicago fans were already rolling in. Their cries resounded like...well, almost like the crack of Steve Garvey's ninth-inning, series-tying homer for San Diego in Game 4 last October. Their clamor traveled up the El tracks like...well, just like that crucial fifth-game ground ball that skidded off the lip of the infield grass at Jack Murphy Stadium and rolled untouched through the legs of Chicago first baseman Leon (Bull) Durham. You remember that one. Cub fans can't forget it. It helped San Diego snatch away the NL title, three games to two. "This is as big as a series can be in May," said Chicago starter Rick Sutcliffe as fans poured into the bleachers, hooting and hollering. "This place is really going to heat up."
And heat up Wrigley did, stoked by 12 home runs, several comeback rallies, the lightning-rod presence of Garvey and the adventures of Thunderpup, as his Cub teammates call shortstop Shawon Dunston. Both teams came in with division leads and white-hot pitching staffs—Chicago had a team ERA of 2.21 while San Diego's was 3.01. The fans were in rare form, too. "I read the scripture of Daniel in the lions' den before coming to the ball park," noted Padre second baseman Tim Flannery after watching a barrage of pennies, beer, batteries, fruit and salt cartons fly from-the stands in Game 1. "I'll tell you, it's rough out there."
When in the end the series had no real winner—each team won one game, with the third suspended by darkness and the Cubs leading 4-2 after six—it seemed entirely fitting. "You can't get any more closely matched than we were last year," said Cub-turned-Padre reliever Tim Stoddard. "But I think we can be just as close. I'd love it." After all, nothing suits a rivalry more than a cliffhanger.
May 12, 1985
Chicago coasted into Friday's opener with a seven-game home winning streak and a new peck-and-scratch playing style. "The sticks haven't been working," as Durham put it, and a look at the team's .228 collective batting average fully explained the need to rely on speed and pitching. Last year's league MVP, second baseman Ryne Sandberg, was mired at .195 with just three RBIs, while left-fielder and team catalyst Gary Matthews, whose achy knees kept him on the bench for the entire Padre series, was one of six Cub starters hitting .242 or lower. Luckily for the Cubs, one of his replacements, Davey Lopes, 39 on Friday, was hitting .308. "Maybe guys are trying too hard," said Chicago manager Jim Frey. "What's encouraging is that even without our hitting we still have a better record [13-6 before Friday] than anyone."
The Padres, too, had been thriving despite a paucity of runs, and had shrugged off the loss of speedy second baseman Alan Wiggins with surprising ease. Wiggins, who scored 106 runs and stole 70 bases for San Diego in 1984, secretly checked into a drug-treatment center two weeks ago and has not been seen publicly since. On Saturday night Padre president Ballard Smith announced that Wiggins would be suspended for the remainder of the '85 season. "With Alan we got a lot of runs without getting hits," said right-fielder Tony Gwynn. "Now we've got to swing the bat better."
While Cub fans chanted obscenities at Garvey and the Padres during batting practice Friday, San Diego manager Dick Williams got in some licks at his rivals for all the attention they had received in the off-season. "We're the National League champs," he snapped. "I'm sick of everybody saying Chicago this and Chicago that. That's a bunch of baloney, and we're going to dispel it." Dis spelled trouble for the Cubs. To fire up his troops, Williams stormed out after home plate umpire Gerry Davis in the first. Flannery led off the game with a line single off Sutcliffe, and Gwynn followed with a slow chopper toward first.
Durham fielded the ball and threw to second, hoping for the force. Enter Dunston, the confident 22-year-old rookie phenom. A truly impressive talent, Dunston has had a mercurial first month on the job, part dazzle and part fizzle. Here he came across the bag, far too soon for Durham's toss. "I was hollering as I was sliding," said Flannery later. "Infielders do cheat, but this wasn't even a close cheat." Dunston hurried a throw to first, but had no chance of nailing the swift Gwynn. Suddenly there were two on and no one out.
Garvey, the MVP of last year's championship series, stepped to the plate. "Garvey——!" roared the crowd, over and over. The noise was deafening. "I've been booed by sections before, but never a whole stadium," said Garvey later, with a grin. "I knew I had a rapport here." When he drilled a triple to the wall in right center, the fans quieted. A few batters later, a near hush fell as catcher Terry Kennedy singled Garvey home. Sutcliffe, last year's Cy Young winner, cursed himself afterward. "My slider stinks," he said.
A late-inning exchange of homers—Durham and catcher Jody Davis for the Cubs, and Graig Nettles and Gary Templeton for San Diego—only magnified Dunston's early misplay. Goose Gossage locked up the Padres' 6-5 victory with his seventh save as starter Andy Hawkins improved his record to 5-0. Gossage has saved four of those wins. "Not a bad guy to saddle up with," said Hawkins, who turned in some strong relief work himself in last fall's playoffs and World Series.
Sutcliffe, meanwhile, was saddled with his first Wrigley Field loss as a Cub. His 3-3 mark this season could just as easily be 5-1. "I can't control what people expect of me," he said, alluding to his 16-1 record of last year and the five-year, $9 million contract he signed to stay in Chicago. "I go out with the same intensity as last year; we're just not having the same results."
The education of Dunston continued in the Cub locker room after the game. "I thought I was around the base," he griped to a reporter. "I don't know why he called it on me. I've seen other guys with their foot off the base...."
"Would you excuse us for a minute," interrupted Lee Smith, the Cubs' 6'6", 225-pound late reliever. Such an offer cannot be turned down. Smith, who had apparently been listening in on Dunston's diatribe, whispered some stern advice in the young shortstop's ear—wisdom of the ages, dangers of the headlines, that sort of thing. Thunderpup hushed his barking. "I missed the base," he said quietly. "The umpire was right." Thus do young ballplayers learn their lessons.
The steady 24-mph wind blowing out to centerfield the next afternoon offered some equally sobering lessons to Game 2 starting pitchers Scott Sanderson and Mark Thurmond. "When the wind is blowing out in Chicago anything can happen," said Templeton, and so it did. Garvey opened the fireworks when he stepped to the plate against Sanderson in the top of the first. "Garvey——! Garvey——!" came the chorus. Crack! There went the ball, sailing high into the left-field bleachers. So much for the chanting. "You notice they tempered it after that," said Garvey later. "I guess they finally figured out it wasn't working."
Neither starter lasted more than three innings. San Diego built a 4-0 lead with more home runs, by Templeton and Graig Nettles, but the Cubs tied it up on bleacher shots by Sandberg and Ron Cey. With one out in the fourth, Dunston, who had doubled earlier, plunked his first big league homer onto the rim of the leftfield wall. "I was thinking it was a double or triple," he said. "When I heard the roar, I looked up and smiled to myself." By game's end Dunston had been on base four of five times, scored three runs, showed off his impressive throwing arm and inched his batting average up to .232. "If he improves in the next two months as much as he has in the last two months, they'll be calling him an outstanding shortstop," said Frey. Oldtimer Lopes, meanwhile, stole his sixth base of the season and 32nd in a row without being caught—only six shy of his major league record.
It was ironic that the Padres, who since last fall have scrapped their old fast-food attendants' uniforms in favor of conservative brown pinstripes, would battle back with yet another homer from the ex-Pinstriper himself, Nettles, his third of the series. "I was just looking to get the ball up into that wind," he said. But Nettles' blast alone wasn't enough. San Diego still trailed, 9-7, when the fierce and glowering Smith—a.k.a. Lee Ia-smoke-a—came in to pitch the eighth for Chicago.
Smith had had all winter to contemplate the fastball of his that Garvey had planted in the seats to end Game 4 of the playoffs. Wisely, he focused instead on the 33 regular-season saves he'd racked up and tried to improve his slider. "I lowered his grip for the slider," says Cub pitching coach Billy Connors. "His hand is so big he was just smothering the ball." When Smith faced Garvey in the eighth, he mixed in a couple of sliders and struck him out swinging. He did the same to Templeton to end the game. Smith's wrap-up of the Cubs' 12-8 victory gave him his sixth save and left his ERA at a tidy 1.42.
The rain that came on Sunday—Poncho Day, by the way—nearly made it the first game in the majors this season to be postponed by weather. It also spoiled a pitchers' duel between the Padres' LaMarr Hoyt and the Cubs' Steve Trout, both of whom had to be removed after five interrupted innings. Keith Moreland broke the 2-2 tie in the sixth with a two-run homer off Luis DeLeon. Then darkness fell. The game will resume on July 8.
For Garvey, who had endured three days of verbal abuse without losing his smile, grace or hitting stroke—he had an RBI single on Sunday—the series ended with a gesture of sportsmanship. Some Cub fans sent him flowers and homemade cookies. "It always happens here," said Garvey. "I think the people appreciate good performances." Last weekend in Chicago, there was plenty to appreciate.