Monday, August 18, 2008

1908 vs. 2008: Rightfield

Between now and the end of the season we're going to compare the last Cubs championship team to this year's future championship team. Next stop: rightfield.


Wildfire didn't get his nickname for his style of play (although he stole home 22 times), or his tendency to hit the town (although Frank Chance used to chide him for that in the press). He got it because he named his favorite pony after his favorite Broadway show "Wildfire" (starring Lillian Russell), and soon it became his nickname too.

He was a memorable character--known for his flakiness and his quirks. For instance, he had a thing for hairpins. He thought they were good luck, so he would search the streets looking for hairpins. The bigger the hairpin, the better the luck.

Wildfire was also the most important batter in the Cubs lineup for years (he always hit third). Despite suffering through an injury plagued 1908, he was their most reliable hitter at clutch time. In his four World Series appearances, he hit .321, including .389 in 1908.

Schulte didn't really hit his stride until after the 1908 season. In 1911, Schulte became the first player in baseball history to have a 20-20-20-20 season (20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases). Only three other players ever accomplished that feat: Willie Mays in 1957, Curtis Granderson in 2007, and Jimmy Rollins, also in 2007.

He would be the last key member of the Cubs dynasty to leave the team. He starred for them until the middle of the 1916 season, when he was traded to Pittsburgh. He only played two more years, and retired after the 1918 season.


Fukodome arrived in Chicago amidst much fanfare. In his first game he hit a three run home run, and the love affair with the fans began almost immediately. They voted him in as a starting outfielder for the National League in the 2008 all-star game.

Known as a power hitter in Japan, Fukudome hasn't quite lived up to his power numbers here in America, but his gold-glove caliber outfield play has improved the team immeasurably.

Fukudome has many of the same skills of his 1908 counterpart. He'll likely end the season with double digit home runs and stolen bases. If he learns to adjust to the adjustments big league pitchers have already made to him, he has all the tools to become another Wildfire Schulte.

Only time will tell.