That time Uncle Buck cost the 1990 Chicago Cubs a division title

Harry Caray along side Uncle Buck (Kevin Meaney)

By: Alex Patt

The 1990 Chicago Cubs were looking to repeat as NL East champions…or at least they were in a television universe.

The television series “Uncle Buck”, a spin-off of the famed John Hughes film which stars John Candy, ran on TV in 1990. The show itself was an epic failure as it featured none of the original cast and did not catch on with the public. After just lasting 18 episodes it was cancelled and forgotten about.

What many people may not remember, especially the younger generation, is that there was an episode of the show all about the Cubs. It even guest starred Harry Caray himself! It featured the 1990 Chicago Cubs being very close to a division title near the end of the season. Harry explains that if the Cubs win the last two games at Wrigley Field, they win the division.

Uncle Buck (Kevin Meaney) wins a contest that allows him to call the 9th inning of a Cubs game along side Harry. Buck feels confident in himself as he knows baseball up and down. All of his friends and family watch him on the air with Harry in the 9th as the Cubs trail the Mets 4–3 in a must-win game. (Harry humorously mispronounces Buck’s last name “Russell” as “Reushel” in reference to Rick Reushel)

With two outs, Dwight Smith comes up and hits the ball into the left field bleachers to tie it up. Harry yells “Holy Cow!” and the crowd goes nuts. Buck on the other hand realizes the Cubs pulled a triple-switch in the previous inning when they made a pitching change, so Smith batted out of order. Buck exclaims on the air that he should have been called out. However if the next batter sees a pitch, then he cannot be called out. His call is heard by the Mets manager in the dugout and he immediately goes to the umpire, who points up the press box. Seeing what happened, Smith was called out and the Cubs lost the game, thus eliminated from the postseason.

Harry and everyone watching realizes that Buck was the one who called attention to the play, thus why the Cubs lost. “What have you done!?” Caray yelled at Buck. Just like that he was an outcast by all his Cub fan friends as people rioted around his house. Even his family was mad at him initially. He was constantly being called by people to speak on the matter, but he in the end stood by what he said, saying he had nothing to apologize for. Of course everyone came around to him.

That is how Uncle Buck cost the Cubs the playoffs.

Not sure how many people know or remember this episode. It is pretty cool how they actually got Harry Caray to play himself and used real WGN broadcast footage. However since this show was so short-lived, it has probably been forgotten for the most part. The funny thing is, the 1990 Cubs were not even close to the playoffs and there was even a disclaimer on the screen at the beginning of the episode that said that!

Now, there is something a little creepy about this episode. The fact that the topic is the Cubs failure to win a pennant is foolishly blamed on a fan by the public is…familiar. Seeing people try to surround his house and riot because of what he did has spooky reminders of what happened in real life 13 years later.

Even though it was a fictional TV show, it is a fun little forgotten part of Cubs “history”. Interesting to note that just three years later, the original Uncle Buck (John Candy) played the Cubs announcer in “Rookie of the Year”.