Mike Schmidt

Throwback Thursday: Remembering the greatest offensive game ever played

Throwback Thursday: Remembering the greatest offensive game ever played

Every time we attend a sporting event, we enter the stadium or arena not knowing if we may witness history that day.

I have been privileged to attend many events that made history and are easily remembered. I was in Cleveland in 2016 when the Cubs won their first World Series title in 108 years and did it in dramatic fashion. I was there when the Blackhawks won Stanley Cup titles in 2013 and 2015, the second of which came at the United Center and was the first championship won in Chicago in 20 years. But, those were championship contests that needed no build-up and they were games that had the fans in attendance knowing they might see history that night. 

But what about those regular season games featuring a Chicago team that was lousy? The teams that the Chicago Cubs trotted out in the late 1970's were at best mediocre and in some seasons, downright awful.

However, I attended hundreds of those because I love sports — especially baseball — and the Cubs were my team of choice. My brother picked the White Sox as a child, so the rivalry for us was awesome. We went to games on both the North and South side of our city regularly.

So when I decided to go see the Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies on May 17, 1979, I was excited to watch the game and to see the great Mike Schmidt play. Little did I know I was walking into one of the wildest games in baseball history.

When the Phillies jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the top of the first inning I was beyond disappointed. So I decided to enjoy the rest of what looked to be a blowout by having a hot dog eating contest with a few friends that had accompanied me to Wrigley Field on that Thursday afternoon.

As I wolfed down two hot dogs while the Cubs came to bat in the first inning, I laughed at how bad the game looked like it would turn out. When the Cubs scored six runs in their half of the inning, I realized something bizarre was taking place.

But the Phillies with their loaded lineup quickly responded and while we kept eating hot dogs, they kept scoring, eventually expanding their lead to 17-6 after 4 innings of play. After 4 1/2 innings it was 21-9. 

We discussed whether to leave over and over as the Phillies kept piling on the runs. But, what were we running home for? To do homework? No shot.

So we stayed and we ate more hot dogs and we watched a scene unfold before our eyes that baseball may never see again. The Cubs suddenly found their stride and they scored 13 runs to tie the game up at 22 after 8 innings of play. Of course, the Phillies won the game 23-22 on a Mike Schmidt home run off of Cubs Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter in the 10th inning, sending us home stuffed with hot dogs and saddled with another Cubs loss.

But, that day cemented my love for attending sporting events in my mind because you never know what could happen whenever you walk into a game. It still remains one of the best sporting events I have ever attended.

Looking back at one of the wackiest days in Cubs history

Looking back at one of the wackiest days in Cubs history

May 17 is an odd day in Cubs history.

For starters, the longest game in franchise history occurred on May 17, 1927 when the Cubs beat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 in 22 innings.

Exactly 50 years later (1977), the Cubs hit seven homers en route to a 23-6 victory over the San Diego Padres as Larry Biitner (2), Dave Rosello, Gene Clines, Jerry Morales, Steve Ontiveros and Bobby Murcer all went deep (h/t Chris Kamka for the info).

But May 17 is also home to what may have been the craziest game the Cubs franchise has ever taken part in (yes, including Game 7 of the 2016 World Series; that was the greatest game every played).

Thirty-eight years ago (May 17, 1979), the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Cubs 23-22 at Wrigley Field in a game that lasted four hours, 23 minutes and featured 50 hits and 15 walks.

Mike Schmidt led the charge for the Phillies with two homers and four walks while Pete Rose collected three hits, drove in four runs and scored four. Dave Kingman clubbed three homers for the Cubs as he and Bill Buckner combined to drive in 13 of the Cubs' 22 runs. Every starter in the game collected at least one hit and 11 balls left the yard on the afternoon.

It was actually a 7-6 Philadelphia lead after the first inning and remained that way until the Phillies put up an eight-spot in the top of the third. Neither starting pitcher could get more than one out apiece.

Check out the highlights here:

CSN stats guru Chris Kamka contributed to this article.