In May of 1979 the Chicago Cubs played the Philadelphia Phillies in a ten inning game that the Cubs ended up losing 23 to 22. This was one of the wildest games ever with the wind howling out at Wrigley Field, and the fact that the Cubs were able to score 22 runs and lose is an unusual accomplishment. In his book Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink, Kevin Cook recounts much of this game in detail as well as stories surrounding players, the histories of the Cubs and the Phillies and he even mentions country singer Tim McGraw. (McGraw is the child of then Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw and Betty D’Agostino, a woman the Phillies closer had a brief relationship with.)
Between the Cubs and the Phillies, there were a lot of distinct personalities and several great players on the field that day. Bob Boone, the Phillies’ catcher, was the second generation in his family to play in the majors after his father Ray, who was also a catcher. His sons Brett and Aaron would go on to play in the majors years later, making the Boones the first family to have three generations play in the majors. Bruce Sutter, the Cubs’ closer in ’79, would go on to be inducted into the baseball hall of fame. Sutter was one of the first pitchers to rely heavily on the split finger fastball. The pitch became one of the most dominant pitches in the 80s and was thought not to be hard on pitchers’ arms. It turned out that this was not the case, and many pitchers who threw it developed arm (usually elbow) problems.
The Cubs also had a young pitcher in their bullpen named Donnie Moore. Moore would eventually throw the split finger fastball as well, first with great success in 1985 and part of 1986 and then with less effectiveness, including blowing the lead in a playoff game that would have sent the California Angels to the World Series. Moore developed elbow problems along with an aching back. He also drank a lot and, after finally giving up on baseball and finding himself in debt, Moore attempted to murder his wife and then shot himself in front of his two young sons.
Cook is able to use the game’s box score as a jumping off point for dozens of other stories. Luckily, none of them, even Pete Rose’s ban from baseball and exclusion from the hall of fame for gambling, are as dark as Donnie Moore’s. Any Cubs, Phillies, any baseball fan for that matter, will enjoy this book.