Chicago Cubs: Dusky dinger helps take the pennant
3. The Disappearing Ball
In September of 1938, the Chicago Cubs found themselves in second place behind a smoking hot Pittsburgh team that was up by 6 1/2 games as the month started. The Cubs did all they could throughout the month to battle back to 1 1/2 games behind the Pirates when September 28 arrived, and the Cubs met Pittsburgh on Wrigley Field.
The game was a toss-up, going back and forth through eight innings when the Cubs scored two runs to tie the game (5-5). This game was played some 50 years before the Cubs got lights at Wrigley Field, and so as the daylight began to fade away, the umpires gathered to decide how the game should proceed?
As this was the second game of the series, the Cubs won the first game (2-1), if the game were called because of darkness, the whole game would have to be replayed before the third game, the next day.
Thinking they were very much in the game and not wanting to play another game, both clubs wanted to continue to play through the fading light. Because this was the end of the season and the results of the game would affect the first and second-place teams in the division, the umpires allowed the game to continue, but the ninth inning would be the last.
The Pirates stepped up to bat in the ninth inning needing a go-ahead run. However, on the mound was the future most successful Chicago Cubs pitcher in history, Charlie Root. Root exited the top of the ninth without giving up any runs to the Pirates.
Pittsburgh reliever Mace Brown carved up the Cubs, leaving two outs with no one on base when Cubs catcher-manager Gabby Hartnett stepped up to the plate. Earlier in the season, the Cubs manager had left the club under stress, and Hartnett took over (sound like some current manager of the Cubs?) and fired up the Cubs to challenge for the division.
Brown was ahead in the count 0-2 when Hartnett crushed a ball into the centerfield bleachers. The ball launched so high into the fading darkness that everyone lost sight of the ball. It utterly disappeared as Hartnett rounded the bases. The ball could have landed in the infield unseen, but it wouldn’t have mattered as Cubs fans stormed Wrigley Field and escorted Hartnett around the bases.
Later it was concluded by the umpires to be a fair ball, home run. An Associated Press reporter described the home run as the “Homer in the Gloamin’,” which has been how the game is remembered these days.
The Cubs won the following day as well against the Pirates, completing the sweep and going ahead two games in the pennant race. Later in the week, after a visit to St. Louis, the Cubs won the pennant. The Cubs would go on to the World Series and face the New York Yankees, where they were swept in 1938.