|Cubs Nip Phillies 7-6 On Homer in 11th
April 8, 1969 by Jerome Holtzman, Baseball Writer - Chicago Sun-Times Newspaper Clipping... Actual wording:
What a beginning! The Cubs opened their National League season Tuesday before an overflow crowd and the first time up Ernie Banks slugged a home run. Wild, man, wild. But that wasn't all. The second time up Banks homered again.
The Wrigley Field crowd of 40,796 leaped to its feet and applauded with delight. What a way to open! Here it was only the third inning, the Cubs were beating the Phillies 5-1 and Banks already had slammed two home runs.
Certainly, this was it. Nothing more could happen. But there was more to come. The Phillies, led by rookie shortstop Don Money, scrambled back into the game. Money hit two homers off Ferguson Jenkins, the second one coming with two on in the ninth inning to put the Phillies into a 5-5 tie.
Then the Phillies went ahead 6-5 in the 11th. Johnny Callison singled, was bunted to second and scored on Money's third consecutive hit, a double down the right-field line off Phil Regan.
The Cubs, it appeared, were doomed to lose and Banks' two homers were to be for naught. But it ended happily in the bottom of the 11th when Randy Hundley singled to left and Willie Smith slammed a pinch homer.
The homer was off Barry Lersch, sailed into the right-field seats and gave the Cubs a 7-6 victory. The excitement was such that it was a World Series scene at the finish and Smith was lucky to touch the plate.
A fan in a green jacket was the first to reach Smith and got to him when Smitty was about 20 feet from the plate. By this time virtually all of Smitty's teammates were also at the plate, waiting to wrap him in congratulations.
It was, easily, one of the most exciting games in years and even Banks admitted he'd never seen anything like it in his 16 years with the Cubs. Laughing with glee, Banks told reporters, "It sure is great to be back here in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field."
Then Banks did a soft shoe, dancing about and singing in the middle of the Cub clubhouse. With him was 74-year old father, Eddie, who had flown here for the occasion.
For this day, anyway, one game was more than enough and many fans in the huge crowd were talking about possibility of a Cub pennant in 1969. Among the triumphant cries were the now familiar: "We're no. 1," with the shouter holding his finger aloft.
The Cubs might not have been No. 1 if not for manager Leo Durocher's choice of pinch hitter Smith. With right-hander Lersch working for the Phillies, Durocher could have used either Smith or Al Spangler, both left-handed pinch batters.
Telling about it later, Smith explained Durocher paused in front of them in the dugout. "I think he was saying 'eeny, meeny, miny, mo'," said Smitty.
Phil Regan, pitching in relief of Jenkins, earned the victory. Regan bailed Jenkins out in the ninth when he retired the Phillies 1-2-3. He also got them in order in the 10th but then gave up a lead run on Callison's single and Money's double in the ninth.
Starter Jenkins had trouble in the first inning when his own fielding error helped the Phillies to a 1-0 lead. But the Cubs leaped ahead 3-1 before the inning was completed. Glenn Beckert singled to right to start the rally and Billy Williams walked. Williams then slid hard into second baseman Cookie Rojas to break up a potential double play on Ron Santo's hard grounder.
Banks then came to bat for the first time in the new season. He homered into the seats in left center to give Jenkins the lead.
In the third, Williams opened with a single. After Santo grounded out, Banks connected again. His second homer, like the first was off southpaw Chris Short, and sailed into the left-field stands.
This put the Cubs ahead 5-1 but the Phillies didn't quit. Don Money homered with the bases empty in the seventh and he connected again in the ninth after Johnny Callison and Cookie Rojas had reached Jenkins for singles.
------------------------------------------- Box Score: Philadelphia Phillies: 6 Runs
Hisle CF 1-for-5... Stone LF 0-4... Allen 1B... Johnson 3B 1-2.. Taylor 3B 0-3... Callison RF 3-5... Rojas 2B 2-4... Money 3-5... Ryan C 0-5... Short P 0-1... Harmon ph 0-1 ... Wilson P 0-0... Briggs ph 0-1... Lersch P 0-2. Doubles: Money... Home Runs: Money 2... Runs: Hisle, Callison 2, Rojas, Money 2... RBIs Johnson, Money 5
Chicago Cubs: 7 Runs
Kessinger SS 1-for-4... Beckert 2B 2-5... B. Williams 1-4... Santo 3B 1-5... Banks 1B 3-5...Hundley C 1-4... Smith ph 1-1... Young CF 0-3... Jenkins P 1-2... Regan P 0-1. Home Runs Banks 2, W. Smith... Runs: Beckert, B. Williams, Santo, Banks 2, W. Smith.
Baseballhistorian.com - Opening Day 1969.