Aug. 9, 1988 – The First Wrigley Field Night Game
Up until the 1930s, Major League Baseball did not have night games.
You want to know something even crazier? Up until 1988, Wrigley Field had never hosted a night game.
That seems impossible. Wrigley Field had been the Cubs’ home since 1916, and it had seen the team win six NL Pennants. For Cubs stars like Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Ron Santo, they never played under the lights at home.
By 1948, every other team played night games. But Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley, whose original plan in 1942 to install lights fell apart so he could donate those raw materials to the ongoing war effort, decided that day games were better entertainment for families in a post-WW2 society. Furthermore, the city of Chicago had certain laws that banned the use of lights at Wrigley Field because of its location in a residential neighborhood.
And so, until 1988, Cubs baseball always began in daylight. But over the years, the arguments in support of night games (i.e. they would drum up attendance/increase revenue) gradually gained traction. The Cubs felt additional pressure because MLB said that the team could not host postseason games due to the lack of lights.
Eventually, the Cubs and Chicago gave in, and set 8/8/88 as the date for the first night game.
The atmosphere felt electric even though the Cubs were 53-56 and 13.5 GB from first place. The announcers wore tuxedos and even Bill Murray showed up to share a beer with Harry Caray.
Here is the big moment: the first time they turned on the lights. To do the honors, the Cubs welcomed the 91-year-old Harry Grossman, the team’s oldest season-ticket holder who first saw the Cubs play in 1906 — back when the team’s ace was Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown.
Now technically this game was supposed to happen on 8/8/88, but sometimes Mother Nature does things her way. The first three innings went by swimmingly, but in the fourth, with the Cubs leading 3-1, rain began to fall. Cubs players then did some swimming of their own.
Vintage Photo of the Day: @MLB
August 8th, 1988: Greg Maddux slides across the rain tarp at Wrigley Field, on what was suppose to be the first night game, ever held there. @Cubs #Cubs #MLB pic.twitter.com/c46EKnSBnV
— Chris Larson (@SportsTechie17) February 1, 2019
Unfortunately, the Cubs was postponed until Aug. 9. Since they hadn’t played five innings, 8/8/88 did not go down in the history books as a game despite the elaborate pre-game festivities. But on 8/9/88, a much less aesthetically pleasing date, Cubs fans were treated to an intense back-and-forth contest.
The first four innings were scoreless until the Mets’ Lenny Dykstra blasted a two-run homer off Mike Bielecki. The Cubs responded in the bottom of the inning with a Rafael Palmeiro RBI triple. In the fifth, the Cubs tied the score on a fielder’s choice. But in the sixth, the Cubs exploded for four runs on four straight hits to get a 6-2 lead they never relinquished. Although the Mets scored a couple of runs in the last two innings, the Cubs won 6-4.
Aug. 10, 1971 – Harmon Killebrew’s 500th HR
It took five seasons for Harmon Killebrew to get going, but once he was hot, “The Killer” never stopped.
Killebrew debuted in 1954 at the age of 18, but he played in just 113 games across his first five years, hitting .224/.289/.378 with 11 homers. But in 1959, Hammerin’ Harmon broke out in a huge way, clobbering 42 homers to lead the American League alongside Rocky Colavito.
From that point on, Killebrew was as consistent as they come. From ’59 to ’70, Killebrew led the AL in home runs six times while averaging 40 HR, 103 RBIs, 99 BB, 102 Ks with a slash line of .265/.386/.543 and a 152 wRC+. During this 12-season span, no hitter had more home runs and walks than Killebrew.
His tape-measure bombs are legendary. One such 520-foot blast is honored in the Mall of America, the former site of the Twins’ Metropolitan Stadium.
“First time I walked into the old Met, they had this seat painted way out in left field,” former catcher and broadcaster Joe Garagiola Sr. told The Arizona Republic. “They told me that’s where Killebrew hit one. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. What movie did they show on that flight?'”
Now, that lonely chair, the victim of Killebrew’s otherworldly power, sits proudly perched on a wall.
The Mall of America and its amusement park were built on the site of Metropolitan Stadium. This is the chair in the spot atop a log flume ride that Harmon Killebrew's historic 520-foot HR off Lew Burdette in 1967 landed. pic.twitter.com/a0WlhcDsYm
— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) January 31, 2018
Killebrew’s excellency culminated with his 1969 AL MVP Award-winning season: 106 R, 49 HR, 140 RBIs, 145 BB, 84 Ks while hitting .276/.427/.584.
Entering the 1971 season, Killebrew needed just 13 dingers to reach 500. But for large stretches of the season, Killebrew’s power vanished. In his first 66 games through June 22, he had 11 home runs. During his next 36 games, he hit just one.
Perhaps Killebrew faltered due to the pressure of the chase.
“When people keep asking you when you’re going to hit it, you try a bit harder,” Killebrew said in retrospect. “The only time I thought about it was when people were asking me about it.”
In fact, the Twins sold mugs commemorating Killebrew’s 500th HR weeks before he actually hit it.
Thankfully, Killebrew ended his slump on Aug. 10. 15,881 fans filled the Metropolitan Stadium to witness the Twins host the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles and their ace, Mike Cuellar.
Twins fans didn’t have to wait long to witness Killebrew make history. In the first inning, he crushed a ball to left field. 385 feet later, and it was gone.
This blast made Killebrew the 10th member of baseball’s 500 HR Club.
But he wasn’t yet finished for the day. Five innings later, Killebrew blasted No. 501 to deep left-center, embarking on his journey to 600. Unfortunately, Killebrew fell short of that next landmark, retiring in 1975 with 573 career homers, the fifth most of all time.
Aug. 12, 2018 – David Bote’s Walk-Off Super Slam
Three years ago, we witnessed one of the most electrifying walk-offs of the 21st century.
The situation seemed too perfect: a rookie who had barely played a month in the majors comes up to bat with the bases loaded and his team trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth. Oh yeah, and if that wasn’t enough, there were also two strikes and two outs.
In the Cubs farm system, David Bote did not stand out. Entering 2018, some prospect lists didn’t even rank him in the team’s top 30 prospects, even though Bote was named an AA All-Star in 2017 and subsequently performed pretty well in the Arizona Fall League (.333/.395/.536 in 76 PAs). But perhaps his biggest asset was his positional flexibility: Bote played every position besides catcher.
As a result, when super-utility legend Ben Zobrist got injured in April 2018, Bote was an obvious replacement. He struggled at first up through the beginning of July, hitting just .241/.333/.310 in his first 36 career PAs. But on July 4, Bote blasted his first home run and became a whole new player. From July 4 through Aug. 11, Bote hit .370/.463/.609 in 54 PAs with a 191 wRC+ (the eighth highest wRC+ during this span).
On Aug. 12, this rookie became a legend.
Chicago hosted the Nationals and Max Scherzer, who had just come off back-to-back Cy Young awards and looked primed to win another one (2.28 ERA/0.897 WHIP in 161.2 IP going into the start). In seven sparkling innings, Scherzer neutralized the Cubs bats, holding them to just three hits and one walk while recording 11 strikeouts. Meanwhile, the Cubs also had three hits and a couple more walks, but Mark Reynolds and Ryan Zimmerman converted those baserunners into three runs.
As the game entered the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs trailed 3-0 and the Nats had a 96% win probability with Ryan Madson on the mound. The leadoff batter, Zobrist, grounded to first base for out No. 1. But then Madson began to lose his control, allowing a single to Jason Heyward and then hitting Albert Almora to bring the tying run to the plate. Out No. 2 came on a Kyle Schwarber foul popfly. But then Madson hit another batter to load the bases with two outs.
Joe Maddon called upon Bote to pinch hit. Here is how the at-bat played out:
It was the stuff dreams were made of. Just how rare was this feat? There are just 30 instances of a player hitting a walk-off grand slam with his team trailing by three runs. In 16 of those times, it happened with two outs on the board. It had never been done before by someone in his first major-league season.
Aug. 15, 2012 – Félix Hernández’s Perfect Game
On Aug. 15, 2012, King Felix reigned supreme.
That day represented the culmination of one of the 21st century’s most electrifying pitchers. In his very first season, a 19-year-old Félix Hernández showcased his enormous ceiling with a 2.67 ERA/158 ERA+ and 0.996 WHIP in 84.1 IP. Five years later, he won the Cy Young and established himself as a perennial contender for the award.
Few pitchers in the modern era have started their career as great as Hernández did. Through his age-29 season, Hernández accumulated 52.4 fWAR — the sixth most of any pitcher that young since 1920.
Throughout the late-2000s, early-2010s, Hernández was as dominant as they come. And in 2012, he had arguably the best stretch of his career as he flirted with perfection while he led the league in CGSOs. On June 28, he pitched his first shutout alongside five hits, one walk and 13 strikeouts. Three starts later, he dealt another, this time allowing just three hits, no walks and 12 strikeouts. Four starts later, he threw another dazzler: two hits, two walks and six strikeouts.
All of these performances led up to Aug. 15, when the Mariners took on the Rays, who finished the year with the ninth-highest wRC+ (100).
Despite their strong offense, that Rays team had been on the losing side of two recent perfect games — Mark Buehrle‘s in 2009 and Dallas Braden‘s in 2010. And even though Tampa had won seven of their previous eight games, they stood no match for King Felix that day.
Hernández needed just 24 pitches to get through the first three innings. The second time through the order, he pitched even better, striking out five Rays as just one hitter managed to hit the ball past the infield dirt. The third time the Rays faced Hernández, their bats went completely dead.
In the seventh, each batter hit a weak ground out. In the eighth, each batter struck out swinging. And finally, in the ninth, with all 21,889 fans on their feet, Hernández struck out Desmond Jennings for out one. Then, Jeff Keppinger hit a weak grounder to short for out two. The last man standing was Sean Rodríguez. King Felix froze him.
As he turned, King Felix threw up his biggest “K” yet to celebrate the first perfect game in Mariners history.
On this date in 2012, Felix Hernandez threw the 23rd perfect game in MLB history.
It was the third perfect game thrown during the 2012 season, following Philip Humber and Matt Cain.
There has not been a perfect game in MLB since. pic.twitter.com/cXjhrIragw
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 15, 2020
No one has thrown a perfect game since.
In total, during this phenomenal 12-game stretch from June 28 to Aug. 27, Hernández pitched five complete-game shutouts in 12 starts, recording a 1.42 ERA and 0.768 WHIP in 95 IP.
If you want to watch all 27 outs of this masterpiece, you can do so here.
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