Hartnett’s Homer in the Gloamin’ powered Cubs to 1938 NL pennant
The Pittsburgh Pirates arrived in Chicago on Sept. 27, 1938, one-and-a-half games ahead of the Cubs in the National League pennant race. With just about a week left in the season, the two teams were set for a mid-week three-game series at Wrigley Field.
Chicago won the first game 2-1, and now the teams were separated by just half a game. Nearing the end of his career, and dealing with a sore arm, Dizzy Dean pitched 8.2 innings, allowing just one run, to earn his seventh win of the season.
On Wednesday, Sept. 28, the two teams took the field again. The Cubs took an early lead with a run in the second inning. The Pirates scored three runs in the sixth to lead 3-1 before the Cubs tied it 3-3 in the bottom of the inning. The Pirates added two more runs, including an RBI from Heinie Manush in the top of the eighth. The Cubs responded with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the game again.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, the score was still tied 5-5 and daylight was fading. Wrigley Field wouldn’t get lights for another 50 years, so the impending darkness was becoming a concern. The umpires conferred and decided that the ninth inning would be the last before the game would have to be halted and replayed the next day.
Pirates manager Pie Traynor turned to right-handed reliever Mace Brown. He got two outs before Cubs catcher and manager Gabby Hartnett came to the plate. The first two pitches were strikes. Down 0-2, Hartnett swung at the next pitch and sent it into the left field bleachers.
“I just made a lousy pitch,” Brown recalled. “He hit it to left center up into the seats. I didn’t follow it into the darkness. I knew it was gone.”
The crowd of more than 30,000 began celebrating immediately, with some fans even making it onto the field before Hartnett finished rounding the bases.
“The mob started to gather around Gabby before he reached first base,” Edward Burns wrote in the Chicago Tribune. “By the time he had rounded second, he couldn’t have been recognized in the mass of Cub players, frenzied fans and excited ushers but for that red face, which shone out even in the gray shadows.”
Chicago won 6-5 and was now in first place in the National League.
“The greatest thrill of my life,” Gabby Hartnett told the Chicago Tribune.
In the lead of his article, Associated Press writer Earl Hilligan riffed on the title of a popular 1911 Scottish love song “Roamin’ in the Gloamin’” and called Hartnett’s shot “Homer in the Gloamin’” – immortalizing the moment forever. Gloaming is an old Scottish word meaning twilight.
Chicago took the final game of the series 10-1 and secured the pennant days later.
Arielle Gordon is the Digital Content Specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum