Tag Archives: Chicago Cubs

Celebrating Ernie Banks’ Hall of Fame walk-offs

It’s a beautiful day for a ball game. Let’s play two.

If we’re going to talk Ernie Banks and walk-offs, we have to talk about two of them. And the best pair I’ve got is that he hit two walk-off home runs against Hall-of-Fame pitchers.

The first came on August 18 1960 against the Dodgers. The Dodgers finished fourth in the NL. The Cubs finished seventh, so this game wasn’t particularly consequential. However, it was a pretty good game.

It was a pitcher’s duel between Don Drysdale of the Dodgers and Glen Hobbie of the Cubs. Give Hobbie, who led the NL with 20 losses that season, credit for going toe-to-toe with Drysdale for just under two hours. The Dodgers had a few scoring chances, but three of them were killed by double plays.

The score was even until the bottom of the ninth. Right fielder Bob Will led off for the Cubs with a wicked line drive. Edward Prell of the Chicago Tribune described it as hitting Drysdale’s hand and head before caroming right to first baseman Norm Larker, who caught it on the fly for the out.

Banks was up next. Drysdale was not injured, but perhaps dazed. And Banks ended his day with a walk-off home run on Drysdale’s first pitch.

The other came on September 4, 1967 and we’re glad to report it was on a day in which Banks played two. This was part of a crazy stretch in which the Cubs (and Banks) played four doubleheaders in four days at Wrigley Field. This one was another pitcher’s duel – Rich Nye of the Cubs against Claude Osteen of the Dodgers. The teams were even at one run apiece through nine innings because Lou Johnson hit a game-tying home run off Nye with two outs in the ninth (the end was Nye jokes go here).

By the 11th inning Nye was out and Osteen and Ron Perranoski had been relieved by Don Sutton. The Cubs were in need of an ending and Banks provided it, hitting a home run on a 2-2 pitch to win the game.

Minutiae

– Banks only hit four walk-off home runs in his career. Those two are half of them.

– Banks twice played in doubleheaders in which the Cubs won both games by walk-off. One was in 1958. The other was in 1968. The 1958 one is cool because the game was won by Walt Moryn’s two-run home run off Sandy Koufax. Banks was on base when the home run was hit. It was Moryn’s third home run of the game.

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Remember when Alex Gonzalez was Mr. Walk-Off?

The <em>Effectively Wild</em> podcast did a Secret Santa this winter and having never participated in one, I signed up. The person who got me did their homework, for which I’m greatly appreciative. They got me something that I, a self-declared walk-off aficionado greatly appreciated — a signed photo from former Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

Those familiar with Gonzalez know him as a) a guy who played at a time when there were two Alex Gonzalez’s playing shortstop and b) the guy who made the oft-overlooked but still very important error during the Marlins comeback against the Cubs in the Bartman game – Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS.

What is forgotten as a result of both the former and latter is this: Within the span of one calendar year and four days, the Cubs’ Alex Gonzalez hit five walk-off home runs.

Five walk-off home runs in one year is a LOT. Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, hit 512 home runs, but hit only four walk-off home runs  in his entire <em>career.</em>. Also odd – Gonzalez played 331 games for the Cubs. He played 1,065 for other teams (Blue Jays, Expos, Padres, Rays, and Phillies). He didn’t hit a walk-off home run for anybody else.  All five came before Gonzalez’s big error <em>and</em> before the other Alex Gonzalez hit a walk-off home run in the 2003 World Series for the Marlins against the Yankees.

The impact of the home runs was a bit different depending on when they were hit. Gonzalez the Cub hit three in 2002 for the 67-95 team that finished last in the NL Central. The other two came in 2003 for the Cubs team that won the division title.

Cubs fans can appreciate that the bookend walk-offs were home runs to beat the Cardinals, the first on May 6, 2003 against Mike Timlin and the second on May 10, 2003 against Cal Eldred.

Give Gonzalez credit for consistency. After the first one, he said “I wasn’t thinking about a home run at all.”

And after the last one, he said “I’m not going up there trying to hit home runs.”

Perhaps those are the keys to hitting one. If anyone should know, it’s him.