Our manager, Leo Durocher, had a theory when it came to his regular players: “You’d better have your act together. Go out and perform. I don’t care if it’s 35 degrees out there — just go out and do your job.”
I called it a theory. I guess it was more of a demand.
We had the nucleus of a good-hitting ballclub, right and left. We had a good pitching staff. Why not play guys all the time? I never saw a problem with guys playing every day. Even in the spring, Leo played the regulars more than other teams to make sure they were ready for the season. Hey, that got guys in shape. People want to say he exhausted his guys? Bull. That’s what people say, but our guys were used to all those day games. The reality is the Cubs in ’69 got plenty of hits — we just didn’t score enough runs.
We were really good. At times, we were a great team. But we didn’t lose to the Mets because we were tired, which is something I’ve heard a lot of people say. We were out there playing, and we just got caught by the Mets. They were just a little bit better. That’s all it was.
I was on the mound for the “black cat” game at Shea Stadium. I was on the mound earlier in the season against the Mets and lost because our center fielder, Don Young, forgot to put his sunglasses on and made some errors. Those things were tough, but the more common situations were when we’d get a lot of hits — seven, eight, even 10 — and score only one or two runs.
We stayed in first place for five months, but we lost the lead in September. I believe maybe with some luck here, not a double play hit into there, we win a few extra ballgames, and the whole thing doesn’t happen.