The 1969 Chicago Cubs boasted seasoned veterans like Ernie Banks and rising stars like Ken Holtzman. To this day, it remains memorable to all Cubs fans.
I was seven years old when the most legendary Chicago Cubs team in the last 50 years took the field in what turned out to be quite a memorable season. The 1969 Cubs boasted four future Hall of Famers: Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins. Their entire infield made the All-Star Game, though unlike 2016, not all were starters. Catcher Randy Hundley also made the 1969 All-Star squad but curiously Billy Williams did not.
Like the 2016 Cubs, the ’69 squad launched into the season posting a 16-7 mark in April. In fact, they lost just one game in the first two weeks of the season, going 11-1 through April 20. The season was sparked many believe by an 11th inning walk-off HR by Cubs centerfielder Willie Smith. They started the season in first place, a spot they would not relinquish until five months later.
However, at the end of April, it wasn’t the Mets chasing the Cubs, but rather the Pirates. The Cubs’ lead stood at just two games. Like the Cubs, the Pirates team was a near perfect mix of veterans like Roberto Clemente and Jim Bunning and young talents like Richie Hebner and Manny Sanguillen. The Chicago lead was down to a half-game at one point before the Cubs took three of four from Mets in New York.
By the end of May, the Cubs lead over the Pirates had grown to 7 1/2 games. The Cubs went 16-9 that month and It was clear as I watched the games in front of my parents’ Zenith black and white television that this was a special season. The Cubs were at or near the top of most offensive and defensive categories. Pitchers Fergie Jenkins, Kenny Holtzman and Bill Hands were having solid years.
At the halfway mark, the Cubs’ division lead remained at 7 1/2 games after peaking at nine games on June 15. After being swept by the Pirates on June 16-20 in Pittsburgh, which dropped the Cubs lead to five games, the Cubs returned the favor in Chicago a week later.