All or nothing in overtime: Part 1, winless in Montreal

Ah, 1969. Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, tens of thousands gather in upstate New York for Woodstock, and the Montreal Expos lose all 12 of their extra-inning games.

Wait, what was that last one? Yep, the expansion Expos went 0-for-overtime. This I learned from Chris Jaffe while I was researching the ’69 Padres for the Ducksnorts 2009 Baseball Annual.

If this seems like an unusual feat, that’s because it is. Since 1901, the ’69 Expos are the only big-league team to go winless in extra frames.

This team was a fairly forgettable bunch. Expansion clubs weren’t given much of chance to stock their rosters with talent back then, so this is no surprise.

The offensive stars for Montreal were Rusty Staub (.302/.426/.526) and Mack Jones (.270/.379/.488), with Ron Fairly (.289/.358/.514) putting up numbers off the bench. The pitching? Gary Waslewski (3-7, 3.29 ERA) was probably the best of the lot, which tells you all you need to know.

The Expos went 52-110 in their inaugural campaign. Their Pythagorean record was 59-103. Maybe if they’d won a few extra-inning games, that gap would have been a little smaller.

The games

April 11, at Cubs: 0-1 in 12 innings

This was the fourth game the Expos ever played. The starters, Carl Morton and Chicago’s Joe Niekro, both worked nine scoreless innings. Both teams had their chances to score in regulation. Montreal had multiple runners on in the first, second, and sixth innings. The home team had the game’s best opportunity: In the bottom of the sixth, the Cubs had runners at the corners with nobody out, but Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, Randy Hundley, and Al Spangler couldn’t convert.

The Cubs finally broke through in the 12th. After reliever Carroll Sembera retired the first two batters he faced, Don Kessinger (career .254/.314/.312 hitter) drew a walk. Kessinger then stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by Expos catcher John Bateman. After Glenn Beckert walked and took second on defensive indifference, Dan McGinn replaced Sembera and allowed a base hit up the middle to Billy Williams. Game over.

April 19, vs Cubs: 5-6 in 11 innings

Same opponent, different venue. The Expos took a 2-0 lead into the fifth, when the visitors sent 10 men to the plate and scored five against Mudcat Grant. Cubs starter Ken Holtzman cruised through six innings before allowing back-to-back singles to start the seventh. Bateman then slammed a three-run homer to tie the game.

The bullpens took over from there: Sembera and Don Shaw for the Expos, Ted Abernathy and Phil Regan for the Cubs. In the 11th, Shaw faced the heart of the Chicago order. Williams singled to center, Santo struck out, and Banks walked. Hundley flied to left for the second out, bringing up Spangler. Cubs skipper Leo Durocher lifted Spangler for Jim Hickman, who singled home Williams with what proved to be the game winner.

May 16, vs Atlanta: 5-7 in 12 innings

The Expos jumped out to a 2-0 lead courtesy of a two-run homer off the bat of Coco Laboy. The Braves scored a run in the fifth and then four more the next inning, when Rico Carty blasted a three-run homer off of starter Bill Stoneman (who later gained fame as general manager of the World Champion 2002 Angels).

Montreal battled back to tie the score in the eighth, forcing extra frames. After uneventful 10th and 11th innings, Roy Face came on to work the 12th for the home team. He retired Felix Millan and Hank Aaron, and then walked Mike Lum. Ah, the walks will kill you. Tito Francona (Terry‘s dad) came to the plate next and knocked a two-run home run to push the Braves ahead again. Claude Raymond, who would join the Expos later in the season, gave up a one-out single to Maury Wills in the bottom half but escaped unscathed to preserve the victory for Atlanta.

May 30, vs San Diego: 2-3 in 10 innings

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. This game went into extra innings because the Expos couldn’t play defense. Mike Wegener pitched a beautiful game for the home team, allowing just four hits and two unearned runs over nine.

The Padres scored their first run in the third on two errors wrapped around a sacrifice bunt. They added another in the eighth on a three-base error and a wild pitch to take a 2-1 lead. The Expos tied the score in the bottom half.

In the top of the 10th, with Dan McGinn on the mound, John Sipin hit a leadoff homer. This was the first of Sipin’s two career home runs (the second came a month later off Don Sutton). Sipin would finish with a .223/.251/.319 line—not the sort of fellow who should be beating you with the long ball. The Expos, for their part, managed to put two men on in the home half, but Jack Baldschun retired Mack Jones on a fly ball to center to end the contest.

June 11, at San Diego: 5-6 in 10 innings

Montreal led this one, 5-2, after five. The Padres came back with two in the sixth courtesy of an Ed Spiezio homer off of Stoneman. They added another the next inning on a two-out double off the bat of Al Ferrara.

The game remained tied until the bottom of the 10th. Howie Reed, who worked a scoreless ninth, didn’t fare as well in his second inning. After retiring the first batter he faced, Reed gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases with one out. Tommy Dean (career .180/.240/.242 hitter) flied to right, driving home Jose Arcia and handing the Expos yet another extra-inning loss. At least nobody saw this one. Only 3111 people attended at San Diego Stadium.

July 9, at Pittsburgh: 3-4 in 10 innings

This was the first game of a doubleheader. The two teams exchanged a single run in the first. The Expos pulled ahead in the fourth on Staub’s 10th home run of the season. The Bucs scored two in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead, which they held until the eighth when Montreal retied the game.

Both clubs mounted modest threats in the ninth, but neither scored. After Joe Gibbon shut down the Expos in the top of the 10th, Dick Radatz started his third inning of work by allowing a triple off the bat of Richie Hebner. One out later, second baseman Jose Martinez (career .245/.286/.293 hitter) singled to left, plating the game winner. Yet again, the Expos had been beaten by a very light stick.

July 10, at Pittsburgh: 1-2 in 11 innings

The next day, it was more of the same. This time the Expos held a 1-0 lead going to the bottom of the ninth. As in the May 30 game, Montreal’s defense led to its demise. Waslewski should have had a six-hit shutout victory, but thanks to an error by shortstop Bobby Wine, Jose Pagan got to bat with two out. He laced a single to left that scored Carl Taylor to tie the game.

Waslewski worked a scoreless 10th before yielding to his relievers, who once again couldn’t hold serve. McGinn came in and struck out Matty Alou to start the 11th, then walked Taylor. After Hebner reached on an error, Pagan drew a walk, loading the bases for Manny Sanguillen. Face entered the contest and gave up a single that brought home Taylor for the victory. Bullpen wildness and shoddy defense had undermined another fine Expos pitching performance.

July 20, vs Mets: 3-4 in 10 innings

New York jumped out to an early lead, scoring twice in the first off Wegener. The Expos battled back with single runs in the third and in the eighth. They had a chance to blow the game open in the eighth, but with runners at first and second and one one out, Tug McGraw fanned Mack Jones. Cal Koonce then came on to retire Bob Bailey to quell the threat.

In the ninth, the Mets pulled ahead against Shaw courtesy of a most irritating sequence: walk, hit by pitch, sacrifice bunt, intentional walk, walk. Face replaced Shaw and put out the fire, but the visitors held a 3-2 lead headed to the bottom half. That lead would be short-lived, as the first batter up, Laboy, homered to retie the game.

In the 10th, Face retired the first two batters before serving up a double to Ron Swoboda, who advanced to third on the play thanks to an error by center fielder Adolfo Phillips. The next batter, pinch-hitter Bobby Pfeil, bunted for a base hit, plating Swoboda (who had scored the tying run an inning earlier).

In the bottom half, the Mets’ Jack Dilauro navigated around a one-out single by Staub to seal the deal. In an all-too-familiar refrain, walks and defense had killed the Expos in extra innings.

August 9, at Houston: 3-5 in 11 innings

The Expos never led in this game. In the fourth, Houston parlayed four straight singles into a 2-0 lead. Two innings later, Montreal broke through against Larry Dierker. Reliever McGinn led off with a single. One out later, Fairly doubled, Staub singled, and Mack Jones singled to tie the game. The Expos failed to take the lead, though, as Bailey then rapped into a 5-4-3 double play.

The Astros crept back ahead in the sixth with another of those sequences that will drive a manager crazy: walks, ground out, ground out, wild pitch. Montreal returned fire in the eighth, with Fairly, Staub, and Jones again doing the damage.

The score remained deadlocked, 3-3, until the 11th. Then, as in the July 9 contest, Radatz entered his third inning of work and things went awry. This time, he retired the first two batters he faced. Then Jesus Alou singled, bringing up Joe Morgan, who put one into the seats to win the game for Houston.

August 13, vs Cincinnati: 3-8 in 11 innings

This may have been their worst extra-inning loss of the season, and that is saying something. Although they had given away games before, the Expos took futility to new depths on a Wednesday evening at Parc Jarry.

Howie Reed held a 3-1 lead headed to the ninth. After Ted Savage struck out to start the frame, Pete Rose singled to center. That brought up Jimmy Stewart (.237/.306/.305 career line), who slammed a two-run homer to tie the game. The Expos managed to put two runners on base in the bottom half but couldn’t convert.

Both teams went quietly in the 10th. In the 11th, with Radatz on the mound, things got…interesting. With two on and two out, Tony Perez walked. Radatz then threw a wild pitch, plating Rose and giving the visitors a one-run lead. After walking Lee May to reload the bases, Radatz yielded to Face, who served up a grand slam to Johnny Bench.

In the home half, Montreal managed not to score despite getting a single and a triple. Not that one run would have made a difference, but there is something to be said for putting up a fight.

August 21, vs San Diego: 0-1 in 10 innings

The third of three losses to the Padres, this one featured just two pitchers. Montreal’s Jerry Robertson and San Diego’s Joe Niekro both worked all 10 innings. The Expos lost two extra-inning games by a score of 1-0 in 1969. Oddly, in both instances the opposing starter was Niekro, albeit for two different teams.

As you might expect, there wasn’t much offense. Montreal got a man to third base with one out in second but couldn’t score. The Padres did the same in the fifth. (Both of those guys reached via error, so even this wasn’t exactly a function of fine hitting.)

The Expos launched minor threats in the sixth and the eighth. The Padres responded in the seventh and the ninth. Still, nobody pushed across a run.

Then in the 10th, San Diego’s Cito Gaston led off with an infield single. Chris Cannizzaro sacrificed him to second and Tommy Dean walked. That brought up the pitcher’s spot, and an unusual thing happened: Niekro batted for himself. After a wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third, Niekro hit a fly ball to left that chased home Gaston for what would be the game’s only run. Niekro retired the side in order in the bottom half to earn the win.

September 10, at Mets: 2-3 in 12 innings

This time both starting pitchers worked 11 innings—Wegener for the Expos and Jim McAndrew for the Mets. You know what brought down the Expos by now: too many walks, sloppy defense.

The Expos drew first blood. Ty Cline led off the game with a triple to left-center and scored on a ground ball. The Mets answered right away. Tommie Agee walked and advanced on a passed ball. Two outs later, he scored on an Art Shamsky single.

Montreal scored again in the second. Again, their leadoff batter—this time Mack Jones—tripled to start the frame and came home on a throwing error by Mets first baseman Donn Clendenon.

New York tied the contest, 2-2, in the fifth on yet another aggravating sequence: popout, strikeout, error, single, walk, balk. The Expos loaded the bases in the seventh and put two more on the following inning but couldn’t convert.

Neither team scored until the 12th, when the Mets got to Stoneman. After the first two batters were retired, Cleon Jones singled and Rod Gaspar (career .208/.301/.250 hitter) walked. Ken Boswell followed with a single to center, plating Jones for the win and sealing the Expos’ fate as the worst overtime team in big-league history.

Concluding thoughts

Not only did the Expos not win any of their 12 extra-inning contests in 1969, they didn’t score a single run. They hit .178/.241/.219 as a team, while opponents hit .312/.409/.519. The Expos were outscored, 18-0.

With that kind of performance, it’s hard to pin the blame on any single person. That said, Mack Jones went 0-for-9 with two strikeouts and 1 GIDP in extra innings. On the pitching side, only three men appeared in more than one of these games, and they all got hit hard: McGinn (.273/.385/.545 in 13 PA), Radatz (.333/.444/.733 in 18 PA), and Face (.400/.438/.867 in 16 PA).

Thus concludes the tale of the most hapless overtime performance ever. Next time, we’ll examine the only team in history to win all of its extra-inning games.

References & Resources
Chris Jaffe for the inspiration, Baseball-Reference for the numbers.

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