Of all the dates in the history of the Chicago Cubs, May 2 is one of them.
I know. Try to hold on to your hats after that explosive opening sentence.
Look, the Cubs have been around since Methuselah. Any date on the calendar is rich with history about their exploits, many of them not so wonderful.
But there’s something about May 2 . . .
Where to start? On this date in 1917, Cubs lefty Hippo Vaughn threw a nine-inning no-hitter against the Reds at Weeghman Park, which eventually would become Wrigley Field. One slight problem: Reds righty Fred Toney also threw a no-hitter, and his lasted for 10 innings. Indeed, the Cubs lost, in the only double-no-no of its kind ever.
On this date in 1956, Cubs third baseman Don Hoak struck out six times against the New York Giants at Wrigley. It remains tied in the big-league record book for the most strikeouts in a single game — only Hoak made his achievement extra special by fanning against six different Giants pitchers. Sure, it took him 17 innings to make all that magic happen, but the man was determined.
But this isn’t all about bad outcomes, in case you were beginning to wonder. May 2 has seen, for one thing, a bunch of walk-off winners by the Cubs at Wrigley.
In 1958, they beat the Milwaukee Braves 8-7 on Walt Moryn’s ninth-inning homer. Official attendance that day: 5,751.
Two years later, the Cubs gave up three runs to the Phillies in the top of the ninth, falling behind 7-5. But they responded with three of their own, winning the game when Don Zimmer knocked home Ernie Banks with a single to center. Attendance: 2,807.
In 1978, the Wrigley ramps were darn near overrun by an official crowd of — wait for it — 6,990. When Manny Trillo doubled off the Dodgers’ Mike Garman to score Rudy Meoli with the game-winner in the ninth . . . bedlam, we’re sure.
Maybe, just maybe, there was even more excitement on the second of May in 1998, when 38,430 cheered as Sammy Sosa doubled to deep left off Kent Bottenfield with two outs in the ninth to score Mark Grace from first and defeat the rival Cardinals.
Could we look back on most any day from April into September and find moments like these? Perhaps. But try telling that to the great Billy Williams, who on May 2, 1961, went 4-for-4 with a grand slam against the Giants. You can bet he still remembers a day that fine, and probably many more folks than were actually in the puny crowd of 3,334 claimed to be there to witness it.
In 1976, the Cubs won each game of a doubleheader at San Francisco in extra innings — the teams played 14 and 11, respectively. And not only that, but the games ended with identical scores of 6-5. What a crazy turn of events that was.
But the man who drove home the winning run in the second game of that doubleheader — terrific Cub Randy Hundley — couldn’t recall that at-bat when reached this week at his home in Palatine. For the record, it was a pinch-hit sacrifice fly off Greg Minton that scored Dave Rosello.
“I sure don’t,” Hundley said. “But I wasn’t playing much by then anyway. My legs were giving out on me.”
It’s true. That was the very last RBI of Hundley’s career.
Hundley, now 78, sure wishes he could be watching baseball now. He rarely misses a Cubs game in person or, more often, on TV. In non-pandemic times, mind you.
“This virus is something incredible, isn’t it?” he said. “Who would’ve ever thought of such a thing?”
Who could’ve imagined it, say, one year ago today? Last May 2, the Cubs were off after winning four straight on the road against the Diamondbacks and Mariners. A day later, they’d begin a three-game sweep of the first-place Cardinals at Wrigley, by the end of which the Cubs would have a half-game lead in the division. The Cubs would remain atop for the remainder of the month.
On that pleasant note, hey, enjoy the rest of your May 2. And be ready — you never know what might happen.