Saturday, January 18, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 18

Today's Featured Cub: Dirty Jack Doyle

On this day in 1901, the Cubs acquired a catcher/infielder/outfielder named Dirty Jack Doyle. His colorful life story, including his stint with the Cubs, and the origin of his nickname, is told wonderfully by the Baseball Biography Project.

You can read it here.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Billy Grabarkewitz

(Topps 1975 Baseball Card)

Billy Grabarkewitz was born on this day in 1946. Doesn't that Cubs cap look realistic in the pre-Photoshop world? By the time the Cubs acquired the former all-star second baseman in 1974, he was strictly a backup. He played for the Cubs part of the 1974 season, but by the time this card came out in 1975, he had already been released.

The stats on the back of the card are from the 1974 season and read as follows: 155 at bats, 35 hits, 3 doubles, 2 triples, 2 homers, 14 RBI, and a .226 batting average.

Nickname of the Day: Babe

The Cubs have had lots of players nicknamed "Babe" over the years, but unfortunately none of their last names were Ruth. One of the "Babes" on the Cubs was born on this day in 1896. Babe Twombly played for the Cubs in 1920 and 1921 and hit over .300 in a part-time role, but he never managed to secure a full-time slot. He probably got the nickname "Babe" because his big brother "Silent George" Twombly was already a big leaguer when Babe came to the Cubs.

He passed away in California in 1974.

Other Cubs Birthdays

-Charlie Eden 1855 (White Stockings 1882)
He was a second baseman in Chicago for one season and later also played in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but is apparently no relation to "I Dream of Jeannie" star Barbara Eden.

~Dave Geisel 1955 (Cubs 1978-1981)
Geisel pitched for the Cubs for three seasons, and later also pitched for the Blue Jays and Mariners, and probably never knew that another Cub was born exactly one hundred years before he was. Although he would have understood the "I Dream of Jeannie" reference.

A/V Club
Now that the show has been mentioned twice, it's obvious we have to show a clip. But can we find a Cubs connection? Yes we can. This clip features a cameo from a famous Cubs fan who attended many games at Cubs Park when he lived in Chicago in the late teens and early twenties.

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"...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 16

Today's Featured Cub: Dizzy Dean

On this day in 1910, Dizzy Dean was born. He was colorful, exciting, cocky, and the best pitcher in baseball. Unfortunately, that last description only applied to his years before he joined the Cubs in 1938.

His best years were with the Cardinals, where he led the league in strikeouts 4 times, wins twice (including 30 wins one year), innings pitched three times, complete games three times, and even saves once. In 1934, he won the Most Valuable Player award when he led the Cardinals to the World Championship. During those years he was undoubtedly the cockiest player in the game. He once bet he could strike out Vince DiMaggio four times in one game. He struck him out his first three at bats, but when he hit a popup behind the plate at his fourth, Dean screamed at his catcher, "Drop it!, Drop it!" The catcher did and Dean fanned DiMaggio, winning the bet.

He suffered an arm injury, however, and by the time Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley ordered his scouts to acquire Dean at any cost, he was just an ordinary pitcher. They signed him for $185,000 in 1938, which was a huge contract for the time. Dean helped the Cubs win the 1938 National League pennant, and pitched pretty well in Game 2 of the World Series before losing to the New York Yankees in what became known as "Ol' Diz's Last Stand."

After that, he was done. He tried to pitch for the Cubs until 1941, but he just couldn't do it anymore. He retired after that season. That's when he started his second popular career: radio broadcaster. His malapropisms were legendary, and fans loved it. In 1950 he began doing baseball's Game of the Week on national television. He remained in sportscasting for more than 20 years.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Dizzy Dean

(1934 Goudy Baseball Card)

This baseball card was from Dizzy's time with the Cardinals. During the 1934 season, when this card was in circulation, Dizzy won 30 games.

His 1933 stats (featured on the back) are a little more reasonable: 20 wins, 18 losses, 293 innings pitched, 279 hits allowed, (league-leading) 199 strikeouts, 64 walks, and an ERA of 3.04.

From the Pages of History

Cardinal Francis George, the archbiship of Chicago, was born on this day in 1937. While he was certainly honored to be named a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II, there must have been a small twinge in the heart of Francis George when the title was bestowed upon him. After all, the Cardinal is a Cub fan, and every Cubs fan knows that being called a Cardinal must be a bittersweet experience at best.

Cardinal George grew up on the Northwest Side of Chicago, and has been rooting for the Cubs since he was a young boy. It was one of the first things he told the press when he was named the Archbishop of Chicago in May of 1997. He considered a Cubs victory on the day he was installed a sign that being named the spiritual leader of Chicago's 2.4 million Roman Catholics was meant to be.

Cardinal George was interviewed for the documentary film "We Believe". The filmmaker, John Scheinfeld, wasn't surprised to hear the Cardinal talk in general terms about the concept of believing in something with sheer faith, but he got much more than that. He got a Cardinal that has followed this team for sixty years and has given the subject matter a great deal of thought. Francis sees parallels between being a Christian, and being a Cubs fan.

Scheinfeld describes the Cardinal's take on it this way: "Being a Cubs fan is not dissimilar to eschatological faith, which is sort of 'next year in Jerusalem.' It's sort of, 'Jesus will be coming back at one point. We know it's going to happen, but we don't know when.'"

Cardinal Francis George is absolutely right about that. "Wait til next year" is something Christians have been saying for way longer than a measly century or so.

No wonder the Cardinal is Cubs fan.

Nickname of the Day: Dizzy

Dizzy Dean was given his nickname by his sergeant in the army, where he picked up the basics of pitching. Check out more about Dizzy at his Baseball Hall of Fame page.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Jim Murray 1878 (1902 Orphans)
Murray got 50 at bats with Chicago in 1902, and then was stuck in the minors for years. He re-emerged with the St. Louis Browns in 1911.

~Bob Ramazzotti 1917 (1949-1953)
The Cubs got him from the Dodgers in the 1949 season, and the oft-injured hard-luck scrapper played the next few seasons in Chicago as a backup infielder. Read his really interesting profile at the Baseball Biography Project.

~Moe Morhardt 1937 (Cubs 1961-1962)
Moe played with the Cubs briefly during College of Coaches era as a first baseman and pinch hitter. He batted .206 in 34 career at bats.

A/V Club
This is believed to be the only example of Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese announcing a baseball game together. It's a Reds-Giants game at Crosley Field from 1961...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 15

Today's Featured Cub: Rod Beck

On this day in 1998, the Cubs signed free agent closer Rod Beck. They called him "The Shooter" because he was like a gunslinger out there, and he didn't waste any of his bullets. Rod Beck was the Cubs closer during that wild card season of 1998, saving 51 games in truly scary fashion. His fastball was in the mid-80s at the very best—but he somehow still got the outs. Without him, the Cubs wouldn't have made the playoffs that year.

Chicago fans embraced him and his blue collar attitude. But after more arm problems the following year, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox. He managed to stay in the majors until 2004, and had a few more good seasons in Boston and San Diego, but he died tragically in 2007 from an apparent drug overdose.

Rod Beck was only 38 years old.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Delino DeShields

(2002 Fleer Baseball Card)

Delino DeShields had a very respectable big league career. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting with the Expos in 1990, and had two great years with Montreal after that. They were so good, in fact, the Dodgers traded Pedro Martinez to get him. Whoops. By the time Delino came to the Cubs, he was at the end of his career. He played for them in 2001 and 2002.

Despite what this card says, Delino was primarily a second baseman. His 2001 stats are on the back of this card, and are as follows for Bal/Chi: 351 at bats, 55 runs, 82 hits, 17 doubles, 5 triples, 5 homers, 37 RBI, 23 stolen bases, and a .234 batting average.

(His son Delino Jr. was drafted by the Houston Astros in 2010 as the 8th overall pick)

From the Pages of History: Martin Luther King Jr.

On this day in 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Georgia. When the great civil rights leader was killed in 1968, the Cubs were preparing to travel to Cincinnati for opening day. The game was postponed so that it didn't conflict with the national day of mourning declared by President Johnson.

Nickname of the Day: Slim

When your real name is a mouthful like Grover Cleveland Lowdermilk, you're bound to get tagged with a nickname. He was tall (6'4") and lanky (190 lbs), so his Cubs teammates dubbed him "Slim". Slim was born on this day in 1885 just a few months before President Cleveland officially took office. He played for the Cubs in 1912, but didn't fare so well. His ERA was 9.69. He was later a member of the 1919 Black Sox (but wasn't implicated in their cheating).

Cup of Coffee

William Brennan was born on this day in 1963. Obviously he's not the movie, television, and recording star from a bygone age, he's a pitcher. In 1993 he got a cup of coffe with the Cubs, and pitched respectably in his eight appearances. Trouble was, he was already 30 years old. His appearance on October 2, 1993 was his final one in the big leagues. He pitched two innings against the Padres and gave up a homer to Melvin Nieves.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Jock Menefee 1868 (Orphans/Cubs 1900-1903)
Jock was a pitcher for the Cubs, and is the last National League pitcher to ever pull off a successful steal of home.

~Dick Culler 1915 (Cubs 1948)
He was a slick fielding infielder for eight big league seasons, but just one with the Cubs. He was primarily a backup in Chicago; his second-to-last season in the bigs. (His full profile is here at the Baseball Biography Project)

~Ray King 1974 (Cubs 1999)
King got his start with the Cubs, but pitched another nine years after he left them. In 593 career appearances he never started a game.

A/V Club
Rod Beck's 50th save of 1998 was as scary as the 49 that came before them...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 14

Today's Featured Cub Fan: Ray Kroc

On this day in 1984, Ray Kroc passed away. He is one of the most famous entrepreneurs in history, the man who made McDonald's golden arches famous around the world, and he grew up in Oak Park--a die-hard Cubs fan.

When he became a multi-millionaire he tried to rescue his favorite team from Wrigley family ownership, which he felt was ruining the team. He asked his good buddy George Halas to serve as intermediary with the Wrigley Family, to convince them to sell.

At the time (this was the early 70s), Phillip K. Wrigley was a disinterested owner, barely paying attention to his team. Nevertheless, he refused to sell the Cubs to Kroc because he had made a deathbed pact with his father never to sell the team.

Frustrated by his inability to buy his favorite team, Kroc settled on buying the San Diego Padres in 1974. He spent a fortune on the team and transformed them into a winner.

When he died in January of 1984, the Padres pledged to dedicate the season to their beloved owner. If memory serves, that team did manage to make it all the way to the World Series that season.

Unfortunately, the team they discarded on the side of the road on the way to that pennant was the team of Ray Kroc's childhood: The Chicago Cubs.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Jack Taylor

(1906 Baseball Card)

Future Cubs pitcher Jack Taylor was born on this day in 1874. He had two stints with the Cubs 1898-1903, and 1906-1907. This card came out in 1906, when he was with St. Louis. The Cubs traded him to the Cardinals for one of the greatest Cubs players of all-time, Mordecai Brown, because Cubs owner James Hart was convinced that Taylor had fixed an exhibition game against the White Sox. Although Taylor came back to the Cubs in 1906 (under a new owner), and pitched for the winningest team of all-time (the 1906 Cubs), and the 1907 champs, they never really trusted him again and wouldn't let him pitch in either World Series—just in case.

Nickname of the Day: Brakeman

Jack Taylor was known as the Brakeman by his teammates. The brakeman was the person who would walk the length of a train atop the cars while the train was in motion and turn the brake wheel on each car to apply the train's brakes. That's the role Brakeman Jack Taylor had on the Cubs pitching staff early in his career—he would put the brakes on Cubs losing streaks.

Taylor is most remembered for a record that will never be broken. From June 20, 1901 until August 9, 1906, The Brakeman threw 187 consecutive complete games, along with 15 additional relief appearances without being removed from a game—giving him 202 straight appearances without being removed. This stretch included occasions where he pitched both ends of a double header, an 18 inning game, and two 14 inning games. He was 34 when he retired just before the Cubs last World Series Championship season.

Read his full story at the Baseball Biography Project.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Hank Gornicki 1911 (Cubs 1941)
Hank was acquired from the Cardinals. The Cubs pitched him in one game in 1941, didn't like what they saw, voided the deal, and sent him back to the Cardinals. The Pirates later gave him a longer shot in the big leagues, but his stint with that team was interrupted by his service in the war.

A/V Club

Humphrey Bogart passed away on this day in 1957. Bogie was a big baseball fan, as is obvious in this clip...

Monday, January 13, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 13

Today's Featured Cub: Jose Nunez

Future Cub pitcher Jose Nunez was born on this day in 1964 in the Dominican Republic. Jose started his professional career in the American League with the Blue Jays, so he wasn't accustomed to batting. He was more than just a novice. He literally had no idea what he was he doing. Sports Illustrated wrote about his first spring training at-bat in 1988...

Jose Nunez stepped in against the Phillies' Kevin Gross in an exhibition game in Clearwater, Fla. Before Gross could throw a pitch, the third base ump motioned for Nunez to take off his warmup jacket. Then Nunez returned to the lefthanded-batter's box and was told by plate ump Dave Pallone that he was wearing a righty's helmet—the earflap covered his left ear rather than his right, which faced the pitcher. So Nunez turned the helmet around on his head and wore it catcher-style. No, no, said Pallone, get a lefty's helmet. No, no, said Nunez, who moved across the plate to bat righthanded.

When Gross began his delivery he saw Nunez bent over the plate, looking back into catcher Lance Parrish's glove. "What are you doing?" asked Parrish. "I want to see the signs," said Nunez. "O.K., what pitch do you want?" "Fastball." A fastball it was, and Nunez lined it foul. He turned to Parrish and said, "Could you make that a changeup instead?" At that, Pallone doubled over in laughter, and Gross needed a few minutes to compose himself. Finally, on a 2-2 count, Nunez grounded out to short.

He got his first big league at-bat with the Cubs in 1990. It wasn't quite as embarrassing, but it certainly didn't lead to a hit. In his 15 big league at-bats, he got one hit, and one walk.

Of course, he was a pitcher, so he would forever be judged by his pitching performance. That didn't go much better. He appeared in 21 games for the Cubs, pitched 60.2 innings, and posted a whopping 6.53 ERA.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Kevin Foster

(Topps 1998 Baseball Card)

Kevin Foster was born and raised in the Chicago area, so it was a dream come true when he came to the Cubs in 1994. He had his ups (a 12 win season in '95 and a 10 win season in '97), and downs (he had trouble giving up the long ball) with his hometown team, but Foster was a popular player because of his positive attitude and his happy-go-lucky charm.

After he hurt his arm in 1997, he was essentially done in the big leagues outside of a brief stint with the Rangers in 2001.

In 2008 he was working as a truck driver when he was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, a very powerful cancer. He died only six months later at the age of 39.

This baseball card shows the stats from his last full season with the Cubs, the 1997 season: 10 wins, 7 losses, 146.1 innings pitched, 141 hits allowed, 118 strikeouts, 66 walks, and a 4.61 ERA.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Steve Mesner 1918 (Cubs 1938-1939)
The third baseman was only 20 years old when he got the September call up to play for the pennant winning Cubs, but on a team stocked with talent, he didn't play much. He later got a full-time third base job for three full seasons during the war with the Cincinnati Reds.

~Mike Tyson 1950 (Cubs 1980-1981)
The second baseman didn't have the greatest Cubs career (he hit .238 and .185), and he cost the Cubs a prized relief pitcher named Donnie Moore to acquire him, but Tyson had something that Moore could never quite pull off. He had a hell of a mustache.

A/V Club
Mike Tyson was a member of the 1980 Cubs, one of the worst teams ever fielded by the Cubs. They paired up that awful on-the-field product with one of the worst Cubs announcers of all-time, Milo Hamilton. Milo's in the Hall of Fame for his work in other markets, but he never gelled with the Chicago audience. His clothing didn't help...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 12

Today's Featured Cub: Paul Reuschel

On this day in 1947 Paul Reuschel was born in Quincy, Illinois. When he was called up to the Cubs in 1975, his little brother Rick was already the ace of the staff. Rick was a starting pitcher, but Paul was used almost exclusively out of the bullpen (he started two games for the Cubs in 1976).

The highlight of his career was undoubtedly August 21, 1975, during his rookie season. Brother Rick pitched a shutout for 6 1/3 innings before tiring, and Paul was brought in to finish off the Dodgers. He pitched the last 2 and 2/3 innings, and also didn't allow a single run. The Cubs won the game 7-0.

The Reuschel brothers remain the only siblings in Major League history to combine for a shutout.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Paul Reuschel

(Topps 1978 Baseball Card)

While this baseball card was in the stores in 1978, Reuschel was traded to the Cleveland Indians, where he pitched the final seasons of his career.

His 1977 stats are on the back of the card, his best season in Chicago: 5 wins, 5 losses, 69 games, 107 innings, 105 hits allowed, 62 strikeouts, 40 walks, and a 4.37 ERA.

From the Pages of History: The Green Mill

On this day in 1902, future Chicago entertainer Joe E. Lewis was born. He became the headliner at the famous north side of Chicago jazz club, The Green Mill. The owner of the club was Machine Gun Jack McGurn.

As you might have guessed from his name, Machine Gun Jack McGurn was a Capone henchman. When his star attraction Lewis refused to renew his contract and went to a competitor (New Rendezvous) instead, McGurn wasn't a happy man. Each day that Lewis packed the house there, McGurn got angrier.

On November 27, three of McGurn’s men stormed into Lewis’ hotel suite, beat him up, and cut his throat from ear to ear. The comedian survived the attack, and was even able to recover his singing voice, but McGurn's boss--Al Capone, was very unhappy with his lieutenant's behavior. He advanced Lewis $10,000 so that the performer could get back on his feet.

What does this have to do with the Cubs, you ask?

Well, on the very day this story was making headlines in all the Chicago newspapers, the Cubs quietly acquired KiKi Cuyler from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cuyler would lead them to two National League pennants during his Hall of Fame Cubs career. He was such an exciting player, Al Capone even came out to see him play at Wrigley Field.

No word on whether Machine Gun Jack McGurn saw Cuyler play or not, but their Chicago careers lasted almost exactly the same length of time. Cuyler left the Cubs in 1935. McGurn left the earth in a hail of bullets in 1936.

Nickname of the Day: Shag

On this day in 1915, future Cub Roy Easterwood was born. It's safe to say that Roy wouldn't have made it to the big leagues if it wasn't for World War II. He played fifteen seasons in the minors, but only for the Cubs during the war season of 1944. Even on a war-depleted roster, Roy didn't get much playing time. His teammates called him Shag.

Easterwood died in Texas in 1984.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~George Brown 1876 (Cubs 1909)
George was a solid major leaguer for 12 seasons, but only played a portion of one of those seasons with the Cubs. He was a right fielder.

A/V Club
Joe E. Lewis, the object Machine Gun McGurn's ire in 1927, appeared as a mystery guest on "What's My Line" in 1955. (Lewis died in 1971)