Wednesday, January 1, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 1

Today's Featured Cub: Hack Miller

On this day in 1894, future Cub Lawrence "Hack" Miller was born. He was the son of a circus performer named "Sebastian the Strong Man", and he was one of the more interesting figures in Cubs history. Here's a short excerpt from the Baseball Biography Project...

"Hack Miller entertained teammates by using his bare hand to pound tenpenny nails through two-inch planks of wood and taking the same-size nails and bending them with his fingers. It has been written that he pulled up “fair-sized trees by the roots” during spring training. He once was photographed holding a baseball bat above his head like a barbell, with a teammate hanging from each end. He bragged that one winter he lifted a car to free a woman who had been trapped beneath its wheels. And though he normally swung a 47-ounce bat, on occasion in the minor leagues he wielded a 65-ounce club that was two pounds heavier than those used by modern major leaguers of the 21st century."

Read the full Hack Miller profile here.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Ethan Allen

(Photo: 1933 Goudy Baseball Card)

Future Cub Ethan Allen was born on this day.

The Cubs were a strong team throughout the 1930s, including the 1936 season. They were the defending National League champions that May when they traded future Hall of Famer Chuck Klein (a relative disappointment with the Cubs) back to the Phillies for pitcher Curt Davis and a speedy left fielder near the end of his career; Ethan Allen.

Allen anchored left field for the rest of the season--his last year in the majors as a regular. The lifetime .300 hitter did manage to hit .295 for the Cubs, and he stole 12 bases, but it was obvious that he wasn't in the long-term plans for the team. They sold him to the Browns after the season.

But the Ethan Allen story doesn't end there, and it doesn't end with the end of his playing days in 1938. Allen may have had a bigger impact in the world than any other member of the 1936 Cubs. (No, he wasn't the founder of Ethan Allen furniture.)

Three years after he retired from baseball, former Cub Ethan Allen invented the Cadaco-Ellis board game All Star Baseball, which remains the best-selling baseball board game of all time.
Boys who grew up in the 40s, 50s, and 60s surely have fond memories of playing All-Star Baseball. The annual versions of the game were released every year between 1941 and 1993, the year Allen passed away. It wasn't discontinued until shortly thereafter because of competition from new computer games and greatly increased player licensing costs.

Allen wasn't just an entrepreneur after his playing days. He also became a college baseball coach; coaching the mens varsity team at Yale University. Among his players was a skinny first baseman who would go on to become the President of the United States: George Herbert Walker Bush.

He might not have had a big impact on the 1936 Cubs, but Ethan Allen made his mark on America.

Wrigley at 100

(Photo: Wrigley Field postcard, 1940s)

On this day in 2009, Wrigley Field was turned into an ice arena. The Detroit Red Wings came to town and played the Chicago Blackhawks in an actual NHL regular season game. They called it the 2009 NHL Winter Classic. It was the first sporting event at Wrigley that wasn't a baseball game since the Chicago Sting played their final home game at Wrigley in 1984.

Sadly, the Blackhawks lost the game 6-4.

Cup of Coffee

Also born on this day in 1948 was future Cubs catcher Randy Bobb. Randy got exactly one hit in the big leagues on August 21, 1968, a single against pitcher Ron Reed. He got into three more games in September the following season (during the epic 1969 collapse), and was traded to the Mets before the 1970 season for veteran catcher J.C. Martin. He never made it back to the big leagues. He was 21 years old at the time. Randy Bobb died in a car accident in 1982.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Hugh Nichol 1858 (Infielder/Outfielder 1881-1882 White Stockings)
Hugh was born in the UK.

~Ned Garvin 1874 (Pitcher, 1899-1900 Orphans)
Ned was kicked out of the National League for attacking the team's traveling secretary.

~Tom Downey 1884 (Infielder, 1912 Cubs)
Tom had a good career with other clubs, most notably the Cincinnati Reds)

~Teddy Kearns 1900 (First Baseman, 1924-1925 Cubs)
Teddy only played in seven games for the Cubs over two seasons.

~Roberto Rivera 1969 (Pitcher, 1995 Cubs)
He was a September call up for the Cubs, but also later pitched out of the bullpen for the Padres.