Tuesday, January 7, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 7

Today's Featured Cub: Alvin Dark

On this day in 1922, future Cub Alvin Dark was born. Dark had his best years with the Giants in New York, but as a member of the Cubs he was involved in one of the strangest plays in baseball history. It happened on June 30, 1959.

It all started when a missed strike three got away from Cubs catcher Sammy Taylor. Taylor, thinking it was a foul ball, didn't go after the ball. The bat boy, also thinking it was a foul ball, picked it up and tossed it to field announcer Pat Pieper.

Pieper saw that the batter was running to first base, so he realized it was a live ball, and let it drop at his feet. Third baseman Alvin Dark ran over to grab it. Meanwhile, the umpire gave Sammy Taylor a new ball out of habit.

In the confusion, the runner on first base, Stan Musial, made a run for second base. Cubs pitcher Bob Anderson took the ball out of Sammy Taylor's catcher's mitt and fired it to second base at the same time that third baseman Alvin Dark threw his ball to second base. Ernie Banks was covering second and caught one of the balls heading his way, while the other ball escaped into centerfield.

Ernie tagged out Musial with one ball, while center fielder Bobby Thomson lobbed the other ball into the dugout. Thinking that "real" ball has been tossed into the dugout, Musial kept on running and scored.

The umpires had a very long discussion about this play on the field before finally ruling that Musial was out because Ernie tagged him. The Cardinals were enraged by the call on the field and lodged an official protest.

The protest wasn't necessary.

The Cardinals won the game anyway, 4-1.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Alfonso Soriano

(2012 Topps Heritage Baseball Card)

Alfonso Soriano was born on this day in 1976. When he signed an eight year contract with the Cubs, he was heralded as a huge signing. After all, he had a rare combination of power and speed (40 homers and 40 steals). Unfortunately, that speed left him pretty quickly after he joined the team, and it wasn't long before he heard the boo birds. In fairness he did have several good seasons with the team, and by the end of his time here, the fans were almost sad to see him go.

The stats on the back of this baseball card are from 2011: 475 at bats, 116 hits, 27 doubles, 1 triple, 26 homers, 2 stolen bases and a .244 batting average.

Nickname of the Day: Kitty

Kitty Bransfield played for the Cubs in his last season in the big leagues, 1911. He was a great first baseman for the Pirates before coming to the Cubs, and they called him Kitty there. The reason for the nickname, according to the Baseball Biography Project: "His original nickname was "Kid," but a reporter with bad hearing heard it as "Kitty" and the name stuck."

You can read Kitty's entire profile at the Baseball Biography Project here.

Cup of Coffee

Dick Calmus got into 21 games with the 1963 Dodgers but didn't get back up to the big leagues until September 2, 1967. He was the starting pitcher for the Cubs that day in the second game of a double header against the Mets at Wrigley Field. The Cubs spotted him a 4-1 lead, but Calmus couldn't hold it. He gave up two home runs to the Mets second baseman Jerry Bucheck, and was pulled in the fifth inning. It was his last big league appearance. He was 23 years old.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Dad Clarke 1865 (1888 White Stockings)
He was a pitcher who eventually pitched seven years in the big leagues, but his stay in Chicago lasted only two games at the age of 23.

~Al Todd 1902 (1940-1943 Cubs)
He was 38 when he joined the Cubs, but he was the starting catcher for them in 1940.

~Doug Capilla 1952 (1979-1981 Cubs)
He was a big part of the Cubs bullpen in his seasons with the Cubs, but he had control issues.

A/V Club
When Soriano connected, it was a thing of beauty. Why anyone in the league ever threw him a fastball is one of life's greatest mysteries. Watch his swing in slow motion...