CHICAGO – He wasn’t even there at the beginning of the season, but it’s hard to believe the Cubs would have finished how they did in that campaign 39 years ago if the pitcher didn’t show up.
Certainly September 24, 1984, one of the most celebrated moments in team history, would have looked different if Rick Sutcliffe hadn’t arrived in a mid-season trade from Cleveland.
But the starting pitcher was on the mound at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh that evening to pitch a complete game in a 4-1 victory over the Pirates. His strikeout of Joe Orsulak gave the Cubs their 93rd victory of the season to clinch the Eastern Division championship.
It put the team in the playoffs for the first time since 1945, setting off a celebration for fans across the world, many of whom fell in love with the Cubs thanks to WGN-TV.
Sutcliffe had a lot to do with it since he went 16-1 with a 2.69 ERA after arriving with the team in mid-June, winning the National League’s Cy Young Award. He even started the first postseason game at Wrigley Field in 39 years on October 2, 1984, getting the win on the mound along with a booming home run in a 13-0 victory over the Padres in Game 1 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field.
Yes, things went south in San Diego, especially with Sutcliffe on the mound late in Game 5, denying the team the chance to end what was then a 76-year World Series title drought. But the memory of the pitcher’s performance on that playoff drought-breaking team makes it one of the most memorable in franchise history.
As part of the 75th anniversary of WGN-TV, Josh Frydman sat down with Sutcliffe to discuss the 1984 season along with his tenure as a Cubs, which last until the end of the 1991 season.
You can watch that interview from GN Sports in the video above.