Cubs

CSN looks back at the game that ended a 14-year playoff appearance drought on the next installment of "Bears Classics"

CSN looks back at the game that ended a 14-year playoff appearance drought on the next installment of "Bears Classics"

‘Bears Classics’ presented by Knauz Automotive Group to debut Christmas Night (Friday, December 25) at 8:00 PM CT -- Exclusively on Comcast SportsNet 

Narrated by Chicago Bears/Pro Football Hall of Fame legend DICK BUTKUS

Chicago, IL (December 17, 2015) – Comcast SportsNet and the Chicago Bears will debut a brand new installment of its partnered Bears Classics presented by Knauz Automotive Group Emmy-winning documentary series when the network will once again go back in time to highlight a critical game between two legendary NFL franchises, one which would ultimately send the “Monsters” back to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.   

Debuting Christmas Night (Friday, December 25) at 8:00 PM CT exclusively on Comcast SportsNet, Bears Classics will turn back the clock to December 18, 1977.  In final game of the regular season, the Bears traveled east to face their long-standing rival – the New York Giants – in a battle that would determine if the Bears playoff drought (since 1963 no less) would finally come to an end.  This game in the Meadowlands featured horrendous weather conditions, including rain and near freezing temperatures.  However, a determined Bears squad led by eventual 1977 NFL MVP Walter Payton, along with a group of young, hungry players, not only won this game in OT (their six-straight win to close out the season), but also set the table for a winning mindset in the years to come. 

This hour-long installment of Bears Classics, subtitled One Giant Leap, takes an in-depth look at this turning point moment in Bears history featuring candid interviews with players and coaches from both teams, along with those who covered this historic game 38 years ago. 

This edition of CSN’s Emmy-winning Bears Classics documentary series will once again be narrated by Chicago Bears legend/Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus.  Butkus played for the Bears from 1965-1973 and is credited for redefining the middle linebacker position.  He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.  Comcast SportsNet’s Sarah Lauch is the Executive Producer of Bears Classics, Willie Parker is the Producer, and Kevin Cross is the network’s Senior Director of News & Original Content.

In addition to the documentary narration by Butkus, among the numerous players/media/execs interviewed in this edition of Bears Classics include exclusive interviews with the following individuals:

GARY FENCIK

Bears Safety (1976-87)

ROLAND HARPER

Bears Running Back (1975-82)

ROBIN EARL

Bears Running Back/Tight End (1977-83)

DAN JIGGETTS

Bears Offensive Tackle (1976-82); current CSN Bears analyst

EMERY MOOREHEAD

Giants Tight End/Wide Receiver (1977-79); Bears Tight End (1982-88)

BOB THOMAS

Bears Kicker (1975-82; 1983-84); current Illinois State Supreme Court Justice

HARRY CARSON

Giants Linebacker (1976-88)

JOE PISARCIK

Giants Quarterback (1977-79)

Please note the following quotes from Comcast SportsNet’s premiere airing of Bears Classics: One Giant Leap, debuting Christmas Night (Friday, December 25) at 8:00 PM CT:

GARY FENCIK (on weather conditions): "I’ve never been so cold, ‘because you were wet and cold.  And they’d just go ‘why don’t you just give up, we’ll get off the field too.”

ROLAND HARPER (on the 1977 Bears): "We were new, we were young, we were hungry…we wanted to try to do whatever we had to do (to win).”

HARRY CARSON (on the rarity of 1970’s overtime games): "Going into overtime…that was something that was the first time that I probably had experienced that situation being in the National Football League.”

DAN JIGGETTS (on Bears head coach/former NFL linebacker Jack Pardee): "That was a whole new world for him and we wanted to play for him, we really did because we respected the fact that this guy was a serious player.”

BOB THOMAS (on encouraging words from Bears teammate Bob Parsons): "I’m probably 5’10, 180 pounds and he’s like 6’2 or 6’3, like 240 right?  And he picks me up by my shoulder pads and he said ‘Hey Bob, if you don’t make this kick, I’m going to break your neck.”

Comcast SportsNet will also re-air this episode of Bears Classics on Tue, Jan. 5 at 9pm and on Mon, Jan. 18 at 8pm.  Details regarding the next installment of Bears Classics will be announced in the coming weeks.

In addition, fans can also get interactive prior and during every airing of Bears Classics with their thoughts, memories and comments by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #BearsClassics.  Plus, CSNChicago.com will provide additional, online exclusive interviews and commentary write-ups from a variety of Comcast SportsNet on-air talent members and from CSNChicago.com’s Bears “Insider” John ‘Moon’ Mullin.  

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

6-19mikemontgomery.jpg
USA Today

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Joe Maddon needed Mike Montgomery to get through at least six innings given the circumstances presenting the Cubs' manager before Game 2 of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Not only were the Cubs short a man in the bullpen (thanks to Brandon Morrow’s pants-related back injury), but Maddon had to use four relievers — including Pedro Strop for two innings — after Tyler Chatwood managed only five innings in Game 1 earlier in the afternoon. 

So when Montgomery — who had only thrown over 100 pitches once in the last two and a half seasons before Tuesday — saw his pitch count sit at 40 after two innings, and then 63 after three, he knew he needed to regroup to avoid creating a mess for the Cubs’ bullpen. 

What followed was a start that, statistically, wasn’t the most impressive of the five Montgomery’s made since re-joining the Cubs’ rotation earlier this year. But it was an important start in that the 28-year-old left-hander didn’t have his best stuff, yet didn’t give in to a good Dodgers lineup. And holding that bunch to one run over six innings was exactly what the Cubs needed in what turned out to be a 2-1 extra-inning win. 

“Especially when you don’t have have your best stuff, you always gotta — that’s when you really learn how to pitch,” Montgomery said. 

It’s also the kind of start that could be a major point in Montgomery’s favor when Maddon is presented with a decision to make on his starting rotation whenever Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list. Knowing that Montgomery can grind his way through six innings when his team needs it the most without his best stuff only can add to the confidence the Cubs have in him. 

Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday, issuing more walks (four) than he had in his previous four starts (three). He threw 48 pitches between the second and third innings, and only 25 of those pitches were strikes. Of the nine times the Dodgers reached base against Montgomery, six were the result of fastballs either leading to a walk or a hit. 

Even though the Dodgers were able to bother Montgomery a bit on his fastball, Maddon said that’s the pitch of his that’s impressed him the most over the last few weeks. 

“He never got rushed,” Maddon said. “In the past he would seem to get rushed when things weren’t going well, when he spot-started. Overall, fastball command is better — even though he was off a little bit tonight, the fastball command still exceeds what I’ve seen in the past couple of years on a more consistent basis. The changeup, really, good pitch. He got out of some jams but I think the fact that he knows where his fastball is going now is the difference-maker for him.”

Darvish will throw a simulated game on Wednesday after throwing two bullpen sessions last week. Maddon still doesn’t have a timetable for the $126 million right-hander’s return, and said he’s not entertaining what to do with his rotation until Darvish comes off the disabled list. But Maddon did mention Montgomery’s relative lack of an innings load — the most he’s thrown in a season in 130 2/3, which he did in 2017 — as a reason to perhaps not rush him into a permanent starting role the rest of the season. Going to a six-man rotation is a possibility, too, Maddon said. 

But the over-arching point is this: Montgomery will remain in the Cubs’ rotation as long as he keeps earning it. That can be the product of strong outings in which he has good stuff, or games like Tuesday in which he shows the Cubs the kind of resiliency most starters need to get through a full season. 

“I pitch well, good things happen,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always thought that. Opportunities, you just gotta make the most of them.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

For the second time in 1998, Sosa went back-to-back games with multiple home runs. After going yard twice on June 19 of that season, Slammin' Sammy again sent two balls into the bleachers on June 20.

He singlehandedly beat the Phillies that night, driving in 5 runs in a 9-4 Cubs victory.

But that wasn't the most impressive feat of the day from Sosa. His second homer was actually measured at a whopping 500 feet! It was the longest of the season, but not the longest of his career. On June 24, 2003, Sosa hit a homer at Wrigley measured at 511 feet.

The back-to-back big games raised Sosa's season OPS to 1.083 with a ridiculous .685 slugging percentage. He began June 1998 with a .608 slugging percentage.

Fun fact: Kerry Wood struck out 11 batters in 7.1 innings on June 20, 1998 to pick up his 7th big-league victory. As Wood marched to the National League Rookie of the Year that season, he finished with a 13-6 record and 233 strikeouts in only 166.2 innings for a career-high 12.6 K/9 rate.