July 28, 1977: In a game featuring 11 home runs, a record-tying five in the first inning, the Reds blow four different leads in losing an 13-inning game to the Chicago Cubs, 16-15, at Wrigley Field.
The Reds struck first with a vengeance, slugging three first inning home runs off Cubs pitcher Ray Burris to score six runs. Pete Rose led off the game with a home run over the right center field wall, and Ken Griffey and Joe Morgan followed with singles. George Foster struck out, but Johnny Bench followed with a three run-homer. Cesar Geronimo lined out to left field, but Dave Concepcion reached on infield single. Mike Lum followed with the third home run of the top of the first inning giving the Reds a 6-0 lead.
But, remember, we’re playing in Chicago’s Wrigley Field, and hey, what’s six runs, especially if the wind is blowing out as it was on this day? The Reds started Dale Murray in his first and only start of his 12-year, 518 game major league career. Murray had been acquired from the Montreal Expos along with veteran starter Woodie Fryman in the offseason trade that sent Tony Perez to the Expos. Through Murray’s first 39 games with the Reds he had produced a 4.68 ERA and Fryman had temporarily retired (he was 5-5 with a 5.38 ERA in 12 starts with the Reds) to go home and farm in Kentucky (Fryman unretired at season’s end to be traded and pitch six more seasons).
Ivan DeJesus led off the Cubs’ first with a double and Larry Biittner drew a walk. Bill Bucker then slugged his third home run of the year to cut the Reds’ lead in half, 6-3. Bobby Murcer made it 6-4 with a solo home run before Murray retired the next three batters in order.
The Reds blew their first lead in the bottom of the second inning. George Mitterwald led off the inning with a home run, closing the gap to 6-5. Pitcher Burris followed with a line drive double to left and Reds manager Sparky Anderson made the first of his five pitching changes of the day, calling on Reds’ future Hall of Famer Pedro Borbon. DeJesus reached on an error and Biittner followed with a single to score Burris and tie the game at 6-6. Bucker flied to right with DeJesus advancing to third base where he scored when Murcer bounced into a force out at second base, giving the Cubs a 7-6 lead.
The Red reclaimed the lead in the top of the third. Foster singled to right to lead off the inning and Bench drew a walk. Donnie Moore replaced Burris and Geronimo greeted him with a double to score Foster. Concepcion followed with a single, scoring Bench and Geronimo, giving the Reds a 9-7 lead. Concepcion was forced out at second base by Lum, then Borbon was called out for interference trying to sacrifice Lum to second base. Rose singled to center, advancing Lum to third. Lum finally scored the Reds’ 10th run on a single by Griffey.
The Reds then blew their second lead of the game. The Cubs scored once in the third when pitcher Moore tripled home Manny Trillo, and the tied it with two runs in the fifth as they collected four singles off Borbon. Borbon worked five full innings of relief in this game and allowed seven hits, four runs (three earned), striking out six.
The Reds regained the lead in the sixth on a Griffey home run off Paul Reuschel and scored twice more in the seventh off reliever Willie Hernandez when Griffey doubled home Concepcion and Lum. The Reds left the bases loaded this inning, but were now leading, 13-10. The Reds made it 14-10 in the eighth on a Geronimo solo home run.
After Borbon’s five innings, Anderson called on youngster Manny Sarmiento to hold the lead in the eighth. However Buckner hit his second homer of the day and fourth of the year, a two-run shot, to make it 14-12, and Jerry Morales homered one-out later to cut the lead to one, 14-13. The Cubs reloaded the bases off Sarmiento, but Jose Cardenal flied to centerfield to end the inning with the Reds up by one.
Cubs manager Herman Franks was running into a different problem now. In the eighth inning he pinch hit for both of his middle infielders in the game, DeJesus and Mick Kelleher (who had earlier replaced Trillo for whom he had double switched out of the game). His only remaining middle infielder was reserve Dave Rosello, whom he inserted into the game at shortstop and asked Cardenal to play second base. Cardenal had played second base for two innings for the California Angels in 1965 and had played some second base his first minor league season in 1961, but had been an outfielder for the last 16 years.
Hall of Fame Bruce Sutter entered the game and leadoff batter Rose immediately grounded one to new second baseman Cardenal who misplayed the ball with Rose reaching on the error. Manager Franks began having Cardenal and Rosello switch back and forth between second base and shortstop depending on whether the batter hit righhanded or lefthanded. Griffey struck out, but Morgan reached on first baseman Buckner’s error with Rose moving to second base. Rose and Morgan pulled off a double steal, but Foster and Bench struck out to end the threat.
The Reds next called on 40-year-old southpaw reliever Joe Hoerner to take the mound to face three lefties in the Cubs lineup. Hoerner had suffered a heart attack on the mound in 1957 in the minors at age 20 and went on to pitch nearly 500 major league games. His best years had been with the Cardinals in the mid-60’s, but he was now being used as patchwork by the Reds. His ERA at Indianapolis before his recall was 10.50 in 12 minor league innings and he had only pitched five games before this game in Chicago and would only appear in two more games after this date.
Hoerner struck out Biittner to open the Cubs’ ninth and Buckner flied out. Murcer singled to right field, and Sparky replaced Hoerner with starting pitcher Fred Norman, another lefty but armed with a screwball to neurtralize righthanded batters. Norman walked Morales and then surrendered a single to Steve Ontiveros to tie the game as the Reds blew their third lead of the game. Rosello lined out and the game went into extra innings.
Meanwhile, someone must have gotten word to Franks that Murcer, the Cubs rightfielder had initially made it to the major leagues as a shortstop for the Yankees who converted him to the outfield after making their team in 1965-66. Murcer switched positions with Cardenal, but the Cubs continued to swap Rosello with Murcer depending on the handedness of the batter for the remainder of the game.
All was calm through the 10th and 11th innings, but the Reds pushed across their 15th run in the 12th. Foster led off with a double off Pete Broberg and Bench drew a walk. Geronimo flied out, but Concepcion grounded back to Broberg whose throw to second base was dropped by Rosello with all hands safe, and Foster scoring the go-ahead run. With Lum batting, Bench advanced to third base and then Concepcion stole second base, and then Lum was intentionally walked to load the bases. Champ Summers was called on to pinch hit for Norman, but both Summers and Rose struck out to end the inning.
Jack Billingham became the sixth Reds pitcher of the day, called on to get three outs and preserve the Reds 15-14 advantage. He retired Rosello on a ground out, but Cubs catcher Mitterwald hit his second home run of the game, and the teams’ 11th home run of the game, to tie the score at 14-14. The Reds had blown their fourth and final lead of the game. Gene Clines followed with a double, but Billingham retired both Cardenal and Biittner to end the inning.
The Reds threatened in the 13th when Griffey led off with a double and Foster was intentionally walked with one out. Cubs ace starter Rick Reuschel was called into the game and induced Bench to force Foster at second base with Griffey moving to third. Geronimo grounded out to end the threat.
The Cubs won it in the bottom of the 13th. Billingham retired the first two batters of the inning before pitcher Reuschel lined a single to centerfield. Ontiveros lined a single to right with Reuschel stopping at third. Rosello then grounded a single to left field, scoring Reuschel, and giving the Cubs a 16-15 victory.
Griffey had five hits in the game for the Reds and four rbi on his home run and two doubles. Foster had three hits and two intentional walks. Rose and Lum each had two hits and an intentional walk, including a home run each. The Reds used 16 players in the game, including six pitchers. The Cubs used 21 players, including seven pitchers.
The loss dropped the Reds 12 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Western Division. Playing in defense of their back-to-back World Championships, the Reds had fallen behind early in the season and were in last place as late as April 26 (6-10 record) before mounting their comeback. They initially moved into second place on April 30 and reached second place to stay on May 28, but didn’t reach .500 for good until August 14 when they were 59-58. They finished 10 games behind the eventual National League champion Dodgers with an 88-74 record.