MLB Memory Lane: August 23, 1987

I went to a lot of baseball games before I started working in baseball.  MLB Memory Lane is a look back at some of those games.

This week, Nolan Ryan at Wrigley Field!

Date: August 23, 1987
Teams: Houston Astros & Chicago Cubs
Stadium: Wrigley Field
Seat Location: Home plate, Upper Deck
With: High School Friends

I may as well let the cat out of the bag. The Brewers were my American League team when I was young.  But, I grew up a Cubs fan.  It’s not my fault.  I loved baseball.  I lived close enough to Chicago to be able to pick up WGN on the TV Antenna.  The Cubs were on all summer.  It just kind of happened.  I did not fully shake the fandom until the results of the 2003 NLCS.  But, it is still a part of what makes me love baseball.  It also prepares me for sporting disaster at any moment so that I am no longer shocked when it happens.  But, that is another topic for another day.

Late August of 1987.  I about two weeks away from going off to campus at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.  Some high school friends (For the record it was Bob Rowe & Ron Gorsche) called me up that Sunday around 10:30 and asked if I wanted to go to the Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

You bet!

We didn’t have tickets in advance.  But, these were the 1987 Cubs.  Andre Dawson was having an MVP season, but they were languishing in fifth place at 62-61 and 10-1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League East.  We just walked up and got some cheap tickets.  I am positive I have the ticket stub in a shoebox somewhere in the trailer.

I had failed to check the paper before leaving for Chicago, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw that the pitching matchup was Nolan Ryan for the Astros against Rick Sutcliffe for the Cubs.

Nolan Ryan at Wrigley Field. (Credit: World of Wallpapers)

Houston was only 1/2 game behind the first place San Francisco Giants in the NL West and looking for a series win from the Cubs.  In game one of the series, Chicago had snapped the Astros’ 7-game winning streak.  But, Houston had won game two in eleven innings.

We were a little disappointed when Manny Trillo broke up Ryan’s no-hit bid with a two-out single in the second inning.  But, Sutcliffe set down the Astros in order in the first three innings.

Then, Sutcliffe tripled with one out in the bottom of the third inning. Ryan struck out Dave Martinez and Ryne Sandberg to end the threat.

Of course Gerald Young would single to leadoff the top of the fourth and there would be no no-no at Wrigley Field that day.

Later in the inning, Kevin Bass was walked intentionally to load the bases with two outs and bring Ken Caminiti to the plate.  Camaniti was a rookie in 1987.  Sutcliffe walked him to force in a run.

In the sixth, Bill Doran was at second with two outs and the Cubs intentionally walked Bass again.  Caminiti delivered a single.  Doran scored. Astros up 2-0.

Ryan had been cruising.  He gave up two hits and struck out seven through the first five innings.  The Express retired Sutcliffe to start the sixth inning.  But, he walked Martinez and was replaced by Rocky Childress.  Childress got the second out.  All he had to do to get out of the inning was retire Leon Durham.

Then, Leon Durham hit one of the longest home runs I have ever seen in person.

A building across the street from the right field bleachers at Wrigley Field had a sign on top of it.  It was for Torco and said “Hit it here, Cubbies!”  It looked like Durham was going to take the advice of Torco High Performance Racing Oils and Advanced Lubricants.

Leon Durham on the cover of SI.

The photo below is not that Torco sign, but it does show a Torco sign.  It is from this post at Cubby Blue, a blog by Tim Sauers.  As always, click to enlarge the photo.

Look past the bleachers in right field for the Torco sign.

Heading into the top of the seventh, we were getting ready to sing along with Harry Cary for the Seventh Inning Stretch.  Especially with two outs and nobody on base.  Then, Terry Puhl hit a pinch-hit double and Young walked.  Billy Hatcher followed with a triple that scored two runs for a 4-2 Astros lead.

That would be it for the game.  Jeff Heathcock pitched a perfect seventh and a perfect eighth for the Astros.  Dave Smith closed out the game with a scoreless ninth and the Astros won the game.

After the game, we made a stop at Sears Tower and headed up to the observation deck to take in the sights.  Then, we headed home – with The Loop, 98 FM blasting on the radio.

Three future hall of famers participated in this game: Andre Dawson, Nolan Ryan, and Ryne Sandberg.

There is a very remote chance for a fourth player from this game to make it to Cooperstown.  Rafael Palmeiro pinch hit for Sutcliffe in the bottom of the eighth.

If the bullpen had held on to win this game, Nolan Ryan’s 300th career victory would have been at home against Detroit on July 20, 1990 instead of against the Brewers in Milwaukee on July 31, 1990.

About that Sports Illustrated cover from 1984.  The best photo that SI could find to represent the Cubs at that point in the season was Leon Durham tossing away his bat after taking ball four for a walk?  Really?

Hal Lanier was the manager of the Astros in 1987.  I would cross paths with him a few years later.  I was an announcer for the Duluth-Superior Dukes from 1996 through 1998.  Lanier was the manager of the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern League at the same time.  He was an intense dude.

8/23/87 LINEUPS:
Gerald Young, cf
Billy Hatcher, lf
Bill Doran, 2b
Glenn Davis, 1b
Kevin Bass, rf
Ken Caminiti, 3b
Craig Reynolds, ss
Robbie Wine, c
Nolan Ryan, p

Dave Martinez, cf
Ryne Sandberg, 2b
Leon Durham, 1b
Andre Dawson, rf
Jerry Mumphrey, lf
Manny Trillo, 3b
Shawon Dunston, ss
Jim Sundberg, c
Rick Sutcliffe, p

Ryne Sandberg: 0-for-4, 2Ks
Andre Dawson: 1-for-4

LINKS: boxscore & play-by-play
Baseball Reference WPA Chart

Past MLB Memory Lane entries:
Rally against The Eck & Walkoff the A’s (1989)

Dennis Lamp near no-hitter (1981)

Teddy & Team Streak (1987)

Chester Marcol steals the show (1980)


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