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Reliving "the craziest game ever" between Phillies-Cubs at Wrigley Field with Larry Bowa 45 years later

How the Phillies and Cubs played "the craziest game ever" 45 years ago
How the Phillies and Cubs played "the craziest game ever" 45 years ago 21:40

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Larry Bowa remembers three things about May 17, 1979: the hurricane-like wind at Wrigley Field, his five hits and his ribbing of his Philadelphia Phillies teammate Randy Lerch.

"He had three outings before, and we didn't get him any runs," Bowa said last week. "The third game, we didn't score any runs and the quote in the paper was, 'It would be nice if I could get some runs.' If you're an everyday player, you put that in the back of your mind."

The Phillies didn't waste time giving Lerch run support on that May 1979 Thursday. Philadelphia scored six runs in the first inning, including a home run by Lerch. When the top of the first finally ended, Bowa got his payback.

"We're running out, and I say, 'Is that enough for you?'" Bowa said. "He just gave me that look. And he didn't get out of the first inning."

Inside the box score

The Phillies and Cubs combined for 45 runs at Wrigley Field 45 years ago, with Philadelphia beating Chicago 23-22 in 10 innings. But it wasn't even the highest-scoring game at the ballpark between the two clubs. That came on Aug. 25, 1922, when Chicago nearly blew a 25-6 lead and beat Philadelphia 26-23 in the highest-scoring game in MLB history.

Philadelphia and Chicago combined for 45 runs and 97 total bases, both MLB records for extra-inning games. At the time, the 23 runs tied a franchise record, which the Phillies broke on June 11, 1985, in a 26-7 win over the New York Mets.

The clubs combined for 50 hits, 11 home runs, 15 walks, 4 intentional walks, 127 plate appearances and 109 at-bats.


Winds were blowing 18 mph out to left field, according to the Associated Press game recap, via The New York Times.

"The flag looked like a hurricane at Wrigley," Bowa, who went 5-for-8 with two doubles and four runs scored, said. "When it gets hot and humid and that wind's blowing out, you never have enough runs. I don't care how good your offense is or how bad your offense is, you're putting runs on the board."

Mike Schmidt had two homers, including the game-winning dinger in the 10th inning. Lerch, the Phils' starting pitcher, and catcher Bob Boone each homered in the first inning. For the Cubs, Dave Kingman slugged three homers.

"Ballplayers often will say that you never can get enough runs to win in this park, but they always say it sarcastically," Schmidt told the Chicago Tribune, via the Society for American Baseball Research. "After today, they can forget the sarcasm."

Through the lens of today's game, one notable stat sticks out in the box score: 11 combined strikeouts. Teams strike out nearly twice the amount in 2024 (8.43) than they did in 1979 (4.77) per game, according to Baseball-Reference.

The game took 4 hours and 3 minutes — less than an hour more than the average MLB game pre-pitch clock in 2022.

"The craziest game ever"

Kevin Cook, a former senior editor for Sports Illustrated, literally wrote the book on what Bowa once described as "the craziest game ever, and then the second inning started."

In his book "Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink," Cook chronicled the game, released 10 days before the 40th anniversary on May 7, 2019.

 "It was one of those remarkable things that could have only happened at Wrigley Field," Cook said.

Chicago Cubs third baseman Steve Ontiveros reaches with late tag as Philadelphia Phillies Bob Boone dives for third during the third inning of game in Chicago, May 17, 1979. Boone advanced safely from second on Rudy Meoli's fly to center field. AP Photo/Larry Stoddard

On the Chicago side, the Cubs had Kingman, Bill Buckner and Bruce Sutter, the master of the split-finger fastball. Kingman led the NL in homers in 1979 and finished his career with 442. Buckner won the NL batting title in 1980 and is a Cubs Hall of Famer.

But the Phillies featured a laundry list of notable players in the game.

Here's a quick rundown.

  • Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader; also banned from MLB in 1989 for gambling
  • Mike Schmidt, Hall of Famer, 12-time All-Star, 1980 World Series champion, 548 career home runs, 10-time Gold Glove winner
  • Larry Bowa, 5-time All-Star, 2-time Gold Glove winner, 1980 World Series champion, 2001 NL Manager of the Year with Phillies
  • Bob Boone, 4-time All-Star, 7-time Gold Glove winner, Phillies Wall of Fame member
  • Tug McGraw, 2-time All-Star, won the World Series with the New York Mets (1969) and Phillies (1980)
  • Garry Maddox, nicknamed "Secretary of Defense," 8-time Gold Glover, Roberto Clemente Award winner, Phillies Wall of Famer
  • Tim McCarver, 2-time World Series champion with St. Louis Cardinals, had a long career as a baseball broadcaster
  • Greg Luzinski, 4-time All-Star, 1978 NL RBI leader, Roberto Clemente Award winner, Phillies Wall of Famer

"Looking back at it, realizing that it was a remarkable game and a remarkable time in the modern history of the game," Cook said, "it hit me that this was one of the best cast of characters that you've ever had."  

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