Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt in action during the 1980s. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
32 years ago Tuesday, the Cubs and Phillies played a game for the ages at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
May 17, 1979 -- 32 years ago today -- dawned warm and windy in Chicago, the sort of day that happened quite a bit in the Midwest in those days (and that's difficult to remember in the wet and cool spring of 2011).
The Cubs and Phillies were to meet at Wrigley Field in the last of a three-game set; the Phillies had won the previous day, 13-0. They started out on that 80-degree day by knocking out Cubs starter Dennis Lamp with six runs in the first inning, as Lamp retired only one batter before being replaced by Donnie Moore, who gave up a run himself. The Phillies hit three home runs in that inning alone: Mike Schmidt, Bob Boone, and Phillies starting pitcher Randy Lerch.
But the Cubs came back with six of their own in the bottom of the first inning; Dave Kingman homered and Moore tripled. Now think about that -- the game hasn't even gone past one inning and two pitchers have extra-base hits.
The hit parade continued, and the Phillies led at various points by NFL-like scores of 15-6 and 21-9. Home runs flew out of the windy North Side Chicago yard, eleven in all; when Kingman smacked his third of the game in the sixth inning, the Cubs cut the deficit to 21-19.
But it was a five-single, three-run rally by the Cubs in the last of the eighth that tied the game at 22, and after a scoreless ninth they headed into extra innings. The Cubs at various points used four pitchers who either were or would become successful closers in the major leagues; in addition to Moore, Willie Hernandez, Bill Caudill and Bruce Sutter pitched in this game.
And so it was future Hall of Famer Sutter facing future Hall of Famer Schmidt with two outs in the tenth. Any Cubs fan could tell you what was going to happen, what did happen, regardless of Sutter's greatness. Schmidt launched one into the bleachers (he's the second-leading all-time visiting player in homers at Wrigley with 50; only Willie Mays, with 54, had more) and the Phillies would take a 23-22 win; it is one of only two games in major league history where a team scored 20 or more runs and lost.
The other, naturally, was also at Wrigley: on August 25, 1922, the Cubs beat the Braves 26-23.
There's one last unusual thing about this famous game. Take a look at the umpires listed in the baseball-reference.com boxscore:
HP - Dick Cavenaugh, 1B - Bill Lawson, 2B - Dennis Riccio, 3B - Dave Slickenmeyer
And you're saying, "Who?" MLB umpires were on strike from the beginning of the 1979 season until May 18 -- one day after this game. Teams found local umpires and other fill-ins; Slickenmeyer, for one, umpired regular-season games during strikes in 1979, 1991 and 1995 and also worked the first two games of the National League Championship Series in 1984 at Wrigley Field. He managed to parlay that fame into a role as an umpire in the 1992 film "Rookie of the Year".
Yet another reason the game at Wrigley Field on May 17, 1979 is one of the most memorable in major league history.