Cubs Classics: David Bote’s ultimate grand slam
It’s the scenario children dream about when playing in their backyard: bottom of the 9th, two outs, two strikes, your team down 3 runs…and you hit a game-winning grand slam.
But this wasn’t a daydream or a video game or somebody playing in a sandlot somewhere. This was David Bote, playing at Wrigley Field against the Washington Nationals on Aug. 12, 2018.
It was Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN and the Cubs came into the evening with a 67-49 record as they tried to hold onto the division lead in the NL Central.
Max Scherzer and Cole Hamels were locked in a pitcher’s duel, with the Nationals ace shutting down the Cubs offense all night. Hamels gave up a run and Brandon Kintzler surrendered 2 runs, putting the Cubs in a 3-0 deficit entering the bottom of the 9th.
A groundout, a single, a popout and a couple of hit-by-pitches later, Bote stepped to the plate and quickly fell behind in the count. Nationals reliever Ryan Madson delivered his fifth offering — a fastball at the knees that Bote was able to get underneath and send the ball into the bushes just over the “400” sign in center field.
Wrigley was euphoric, his teammates couldn’t contain their excitement and Bote had a bat flip for the ages:
Some people think baseball is boring. 😂 😂 😂 pic.twitter.com/InmaykQ5ZO— MLB (@MLB) August 13, 2018
To cap it off, the legendary Bill Murray was there to congratulate the Cubs rookie on the field:
Legends. pic.twitter.com/DMqTKN99J5— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 13, 2018
“When you round those bases and we got the W and I’m seeing my teammates at home plate jumping around because we got the win, it’s magical,” Bote said at the time. “It’s incredible. It’s an unbelievable feeling. It couldn’t happen to a better team, a better group of people in that clubhouse. And I’m so blessed and honored to be a part of that.”
It was the first “ultimate” grand slam (a walk-off grand slam down 3 runs) baseball had seen since Ellis Burton in 1963.
“This is the ultimate excitement,” Hamels said on that night. “It’s the thing that when you’re a kid in the backyard, and you’re visualizing trying to win games, it’s always bases loaded, you’re down by 3 and you’re trying to hit the grand slam. For Bote to be able to do it, what a way to be able to experience that.”
What made it even more incredible was Bote’s story and career arc up until that point. He had made his MLB debut just a few months earlier as a 25-year-old who was drafted in the 18th round out of Neosho County Community College and had never been a top prospect in the Cubs minor-league system.
During that 2018 season, Bote bounced back and forth between Triple-A Iowa and the big leagues, often filling in for third baseman Kris Bryant, who missed a lot of time with a shoulder injury throughout the year.
More unbelievable, Bote didn’t even start the game, entering only as a pinch-hitter for the pitcher’s spot.
It will go down as one of the most iconic moments in Cubs — and Wrigley Field — lore, and it was all courtesy of a guy who began the season as a career minor-leaguer who wasn’t even expected to be in Chicago at all in 2018, let alone connecting on the biggest hit of the season.