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On This Date in Sports May 28, 1969: Randy is Dandy Daddy

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Buoyed by becoming a father for the first, Chicago Cubs catcher Randy Hundley has a big day in Candlestick Park, collecting three hits in five at-bats, with a double and a grand slam. Hundley’s five RBI help the Cubs defeat the San Francisco Giants 9-8, maintaining their strong start. The Cubs, who had not won a pennant in 20 years, were comfortably in first place at 30-16.

The first two months of the 1969 season had been magical for the Chicago Cubs. A team that had not won a World Series in 60 years and not sniffed a pennant since 1945. After two decades of being stuck in the second division, the Cubs, who experimented with using a committee of coaches instead of a manager, hired Leo Durocher to lead the team for the 1966 season. A year before, they had finished in eighth place with a record of 72-90. Durocher proclaimed, “This is not an eighth-place ballclub,” when he took the job. He was right; in 1966, they finished tenth with a record of 59-103. The Cubs, however, quickly improved from their last-place finish, as they finished third in 1967 and 1968, posting a winning record. It was the first time the Cubs had back-to-back winning seasons since 1946.

As the 1969 season began, the Cubs had the looks of a magical team, as they won their first four games on the way to an 11-1 start as they quickly established themselves in first place in the National League Eastern Division. It was the first season of divisional play, and the Cubs had the look of a team that was going to run away and hide as they spent all of April in first place. In May, the Cubs began to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division as they held a 29-15 record with a six-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Memorial Day.

After suffering a 5-4 loss the day after Memorial Day, Randy Hundley was beaming despite going 0-for-4 as his wife had given birth to an eight-pound-four-ounce baby boy named Todd back in Virginia. The day after becoming a father, Catcher Randy Hundley was batting seventh in the Cubs lineup. In Hundley’s first at-bat in the second inning, he hit a ground ball to short that was booted by Hal Lanier, leading to the Cubs' first run of the game. In the third inning, Chicago exploded for seven runs, batting around; a Grand Slam capped the Cubs rally off the bat of Randy Hundley as Ray Sadecki came on in relief for Rich Robertson for the Giants.

Stakes with an 8-0 lead Ken Holtzman faltered as the Giants scored twice in the bottom of the third and got a home run by Sadecki in the fourth to begin a comeback. In the fifth inning, Randy Hundley reached base on a single and scored on a double by Holtzman to make the score 9-3 in favor of the Cubs. San Francisco answered in the bottom of the inning and scored three runs in the sixth to knock the Cubs starter out of the game. Randy Hundley led off with a double in the seventh but would not score as Frank Linzy set down the next three batters.

The Cubs went into the ninth inning, holding a 9-7 lead with Phil Regan on the mound. Willie McCovey led off the inning with a single; after the next two batters were retired, Jack Hiatt reached on a single to set up a dramatic conclusion. Jim Davenport came out with two outs and laced a double to left. Jim Ray Hart, who reached on a fielder’s choice, scored. Hiatt attempted to score the tying run when Randy Hundley tagged him to end the game after a perfect relay from Billy Williams and Don Kessinger.

The Cubs, who improved to 30-16 with the win, spent most of the summer in first before the New York Mets passed them in September. The Miracle Mets would win the World Series as the Cubs finished second at 92-70. The 1969 All-Star Game would feature Randy Hundley’s only All-Star appearance.

Two decades later, Randy Hundley’s baby boy would follow in his footsteps, becoming a catcher for the New York Mets. In 1996, Todd Hundley set the Mets' single-season home run record with 41 long balls.