— Days Without Shea —

Filed under: Baseball | Mets | Shea
by Kingman on September 10 at 8:51AM
Ron Santo at Shea Stadium
We'll be in Loge13 tonight for the last Nats/Mets game at Shea Stadium.

Last night was some slugfest, with the Mets prevailing 10-8. With his two home runs, Delgado now has seven multi-homer games this season, tying none other than Dave KINGMAN for the record. I can't believe y'all wanted to get read of Carlos last spring. For shame.

Meanwhile, both Chicago papers ran stories yesterday about the Cubs 1969 swoon. Is history repeating itself? Lets hope so.

From the Sun Times:

Thirty-nine years ago today, a black cat found Ron Santo in the on-deck circle at Shea Stadium in New York, walked around him, then headed through the Cubs' dugout, past manager Leo Durocher and disappeared under the stands.

Of course, the Cubs' high hopes during an extraordinary season disappeared right behind the feline. They lost to the New York Mets that night -- the sixth of eight straight losses -- and the next day, the Mets overtook them in the National League East race for good.

''At the time, I didn't think anything of it,'' Santo told the New York Daily News earlier this summer. ''But, jeez, what an omen. It was like walking under a ladder.''

Fast forward to now, with the Cubs in a 1-7 swoon heading into the toughest part of their schedule, and there are some eerie similarities between this team and that one.

Five months of great baseball followed by their worst stretch of the season at the worst possible time. The records are almost identical, both with 57 losses on this date -- and both 1-5 in September -- entering a game against a division rival, in this case St. Louis.

The '69 team had its entire infield and catcher make the All-Star team. This one had a club-record eight players make it. Both had fiery managers famous for high-voltage ejections and considered among the best of their generations.

It's a perfect-storm nightmare for Cub cursemongers.

But what's worth believing?

The fact is, this franchise and September rarely have had a good relationship since the Cubs' last World Series appearance in 1945. They've had 42 losing Septembers since then, along with a pair of break-even ones and a canceled one in 1994.

In the only World Series played entirely in September, the Cubs lost to a team that would take 86 years to win another: the Boston Red Sox in 1918.

And even the guy who saw the ''omen'' that day in 1969 said he knows the real reason the Cubs faded to an 8-17 September that year: They were tired.

In a conversation two weeks ago, Santo recalled a writer interviewing all the players on that team after the season ended.

''I was really surprised,'' he said. ''They all talked about the fact that they were tired, meaning with all the day games.''

Many of the regulars played every game that season: Billy Williams 163 games, Santo 160, Don Kessinger 158 and 38-year-old Ernie Banks 155. Randy Hundley caught 151, a year after catching 160.

''I never thought about it until I saw what we hit,'' Santo said. ''I think the highest batting average in September was Glenn Beckert at about .260. Now I realize we were probably tired.''

These Cubs have stopped hitting, too. But they also have 30 home night games the '69 team didn't have. And nobody admits to weariness.

Shortstop Ryan Theriot, who seemed to wear down late last season, said he's starting to feel refreshed after a dip in August. First baseman Derrek Lee, whose power has been down dramatically since late July, laughed at the question.

''No, I'm not tired,'' he said, chuckling. ''I'm not tired at all.''

Center fielder Jim Edmonds, 38, who played on St. Louis teams that survived September to make deep October runs, as well as Anaheim teams that swooned out of races, said he sees plenty of energy from the Cubs.

''The one thing you can probably get into is maybe you see the light at the end of the tunnel,'' Edmonds said, ''and you kind of take a step back, start looking at the schedule and realizing there's only three weeks left and maybe get a little complacent.

''But I don't see anybody doing that. I just don't see it. We just don't have that extra kick that we need, and we need to find a way to get it back.''

Seeing red might be a start, with the intensity of the Cardinals series over the next three days.

Seeing a few more healthy pitchers wouldn't hurt the Cubs' cause, either. A good start from Rich Harden on Thursday -- his first start in 13 days after reporting shoulder ''discomfort'' -- and a good bullpen session this week from Carlos Zambrano's balky shoulder might provide every answer the Cubs need.

And, of course, they have a few more things going for them than the '69 team did as they face their final 19 games. Nobody within sight of pursuing the Cubs for a playoff spot shows any signs of pulling off the kind of 23-7 September the Mets did that year.

Those Cubs also didn't have the fallback position of a wild-card playoff spot, which they would have won had the format been in place.

The odds of the Cubs tailspinning all the way out of the postseason are extremely long. Just do the math. If they win only one game in each series the rest of the way for a 6-13 finish, the top challenger in a would-be wild-card race, Philadelphia, would need to go 13-5 to tie the Cubs.

But until they actually close it out, there always will be black cats and curses. Just depends on what you believe.

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