Friday, August 22, 2008

1908 vs. 2008: First Base

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: First Base.


Frank Chance was more than just the first baseman and clean up hitter for the 1908 Cubs--he was the manager and the brains behind the organization. His nickname was "The Peerless Leader" and there was never a question about who was in charge of this team. He was fierce and competitive.

One time after a loss he was brooding at home after a loss—and wouldn't eat or talk. His wife said: "Don't worry, dear, you still have me," and he replied "Many a time this afternoon, I'd have traded you for a base hit." He was known to be a brawler. James J. Corbett, heavyweight champ, called him: "one of the best amateur fighters I've ever seen." One time he provoked a riot by punching out Giants pitcher Joe McGinnity at the Polo Grounds. Another time he threw a bottle into the stands at fans in Brooklyn.

He was just as fierce as a manager and general manager. He once acquired a pitcher (Jack Harper) who beaned him one too many times, just so he could cut his salary (by 2/3), and refused to pitch him, thereby effectively ending his career.

As a hitter, Chance would do whatever it took to get on base. He was always among the best on the team in on-base percentage and runs, and led the league in stolen bases twice. In the field, he was impeccable at first--something that would eventually be immortalized in the poem.

He was only 31 years old in 1908, but after many beanings (he was hit 137 times in his career), it was starting to affect his hitting and his health. He hit only .272 in 1908 after hitting over .300 for many years, and he suffered from horrible headaches. But he toughed it out for the season, and despite opponents attempts to psych him out with frequent brush back pitches and/or provoke him into a fight (Giants manager McGraw actually assigned players to taunt Chance), he led the team back to the pennant. In Game 5 of the World Series, he knocked in the game winning run, giving the Cubs their last championship.


Before joining the Cubs, Lee had the game winning hit in the infamous Bartman game in the 2003 playoffs for the Florida Marlins. Acquired for rookie slugger Hee Sop Choi (one of the all-time steals), Lee immediately made an impact in Chicago. He hit over 30 homers in his first season, and won a batting title in second year (2005), when he hit .335.

Like his 1908 counterpart, Lee hasn't quite been the same hitter the last few seasons (since he broke his wrist), but his teammates all look up to him as one of the team leaders, and his consistently gold-glove caliber defense at 1B (he has won three gold gloves) makes the rest of the infield and the pitching staff better.

Just don't ask him to come up with a man at first and one out. He leads the league in hitting into double plays.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ex-Cubs (Reds) with Rings

Yes, it's true the Cubs haven't won a ring since 1908.

On the other hand, individual (ex)Cubs have won a ring. As this future Cubs championship season progresses, we're going to highlight Ex-Cubs who have won rings with other teams. Because the Cubs are playing the Reds this week, we're highlighting the ex-Cubs who won rings with Cincinnati.

(Note: In order to qualify for recognition, they must have already been ex-Cubs when they won the ring.)


He was the backup catcher during the Cubs dynasty (1906-1910), but he was also a great manager--leading the Cincinnati Reds to a World Series title in 1919. Hmmm. Let's see...who did they beat that year? Oh that's right, the White Sox.*

*who cheated


He was the ace of the Cincinnati staff during the 1919 season, but he started his career with the Cubs. The Cubs obviously misjudged ol' Dutch (they released him after only a half-season in 1917), because he went on to win Game 1 of the 1919 World Series for the Cincinnati Reds against the White Sox.*

*who cheated


In 1937 Lonnie Frey backed up three all-stars in the Cubs infield; second baseman Billy Herman, shortstop Billy Jurges, and third baseman Stan Hack. The Cubs sold him to the Reds before the 1938 season, and by 1940 he was the starting second baseman on the World Series champs. He led the team in walks, stolen bases and triples, but he didn't do so well in the series; going 0-20 in three World Series appearances. When his career was pretty much over, he rejoined the Cubs (1947).


He was a hard throwing youngster on the Cubs in the mid-60s, pitching for a manager who hated youngsters--Leo Durocher. That doomed his stay in Chicago, but it certainly didn't hurt him in Cincinnati where he was one of the starting pitchers for the Big Red Machine in '75 and '76. He started game 4 of the 1975 World Series and game 2 of the 1976 World Series, and the Reds won the series both times (although Norman didn't get a win in either game).


He debuted in the major leagues as a Cub in 1984, and got some real playing time for the team in 1985 when the Cubs suffered through a lot of outfield injuries (especially to Gary Matthews and Bobby Denier), but the Cubs traded him for Jerry Mumphrey before the 1986 season. Hatcher turned out to be a gem--a stolen base threat with pop in his bat. In the 1990 World Series for the Reds (managed by Lou Piniella), Hatcher hit an unbelievable .750, and was named the Babe Ruth award winner as the MVP of the series.

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.