Friday, January 17, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 17

Today's Featured Cub: Don Zimmer

On this day in 1931, future Cubs player and manager Don Zimmer was born. Most modern day Cub fans know the tale of his managing days in Chicago, but not many know about his interesting stint as a Cubs player. In April of 1960, the Cubs made a trade with the reigning World Champion Dodgers to acquire one of their backup infielders. That backup infielder's name was Don Zimmer.

It was one of those moves that caused everyone in the league to scratch their heads. Although Zimmer was a competent enough player (he managed to stay in the majors for twelve seasons), he was coming off a season in which he hit only .165 in nearly 250 at bats. He had very little power, very little range in the infield, and his best days were behind him. Plus, the Dodgers didn't really have a place to play the 29-year-old Zimmer. He clearly wasn't going to crack the lineup in 1960. They had all-star infielders like Charlie Neal (2B), Maury Wills (SS), and Junior Gilliam (3B).

Nevertheless, the Cubs traded promising young minor league pitcher Ron Perranoski (and two other players) to get him.

Plus, the Cubs said they acquired Zimmer to play him at 3B--and they already had a rookie phenom poised to take over the position...a youngster by the name of Ron Santo. Santo was furious when the trade was announced, and threatened to quit. Rather than upset the youngster, the Cubs put Zimmer at Second Base, and traded their fine young second baseman Tony Taylor to the Phillies.

How did this trade work out for the Cubs? Perranoski ended up becoming one of the premier relief pitchers in baseball for the next decade. He pitched in two league championship series, and three World Series, winning two rings with the 1963 and 1965 Dodgers. He also led the league in saves twice, and saved a total 179 games between 1961 and 1971.

Tony Taylor, who was only 24 years old at the time of the trade, played another sixteen years in the majors with the Phillies and the Tigers. When he retired after the 1976 season he was the oldest player in baseball (40 years old). Don Zimmer was the manager of the Boston Red Sox at the time.

Zimmer's Cubs career is probably best remembered for his very public criticism of the ridiculous "College of Coaches" system, which he claimed was stunting the growth of budding superstars Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and Lou Brock. His candor was rewarded with being left unprotected in the expansion draft of 1962.

He was drafted by the New York Mets, and played on the worst team in baseball history.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Pete LaCock

(Topps 1975 Baseball Card)

Two bits of trivia about Pete LaCock, who was born on this day in 1952. His father was the host of Hollywood Squares--Peter Marshall. He also once walked into P.K. Wrigley's office at the Wrigley building because he wanted to see if he really existed or not. The Cubs traded him to the Royals after the 1976 season, and he got to play in three ALCS with Kansas City.

The stats on the back of this card are from the 1974 season, and read as follows: 110 at bats, 20 hits, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 homer, 8 RBI, and a .182 average.

Nickname of the Day: Popeye

Don Zimmer was known to his teammates as Popeye. They still refer to him as Popeye to this day. In his younger days, he was a dead ringer for the comic strip character.

Cup of Coffee

Milt Scott was a 21-year-old kid when he was signed to play one game for the Cubs (then known as the White Stockings) on September 30, 1882. The team had already clinched the championship and Cap Anson didn't feel like playing the last game of the season against Buffalo, so Mikado Milt (as he was known) got a shot. He went 2 for 5 and scored a run. He never played another game with the Cubs.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Bob Glenalvin 1867 (White Stockings 1890-1893)
He was the backup second baseman for the Cubs (then known as the White Stockings) in two different seasons, 1890 and 1893. In between those two years he played minor league ball in Los Angeles.

~Hank Leiber 1911 (Cubs 1939-1941)
The outfielder hit over .300 and made the All-Star team for the Cubs, but suffered a few horrible beanings and retired in 1942.

~Tyler Houston 1971 (Cubs 1996-1999)
He was a catcher and first baseman with a little pop in his bat, but could never claim a starting position. He was part of the 1997 Cubs team that started the season 0-14.

~Jeff Beliveau 1987 (Cubs 2012)
He pitched out of the bullpen for the Cubs in the 2012 season but couldn't overcome his command issues. Jeff was released after the season.

A/V Club
Actor James Earl Jones was born on this day in 1931 (same day as Don Zimmer). He was obviously never a baseball player, but he did play one in the movie "The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings". He also gave the greatest speech about baseball in movie history in "Field of Dreams"...