Saturday, January 25, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 25

Today's Featured Cub: Steve Trout

On this day in 1983, the Cubs made a rare blockbuster trade with the crosstown White Sox. The Cubs gave up Scott Fletcher, Randy Martz, Pat Tabler and Dick Tidrow and received Steve Trout and Warren Brusstar in return.

This was one of those rare good trades for the Cubs. Fletcher became the starting second baseman for the White Sox, but the Cubs had another youngster at that position named Sandberg. Tidrow was a serviceable reliever for the Sox, but he was near the end of his career.

Meanwhile, Steve Trout, the son of a man who had beaten the Cubs in the 1945 World Series, somehow became a fan favorite at Wrigley Field. In 1984 he was part of a great rotation that led the team to the brink of the World Series. In his only postseason start, Trout even won Game 2 of that series in Wrigley Field.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Steve Trout

(1986 Topps Baseball Card)

The season after the Cubs went to the playoffs their entire starting rotation went down with injuries, including Trout.

The stats on the back of this card come from that 1985 season: 9 wins, 7 losses, 140.2 innings pitched, 142 hits allowed, 44 strikeouts, 63 walks, and a 3.39 ERA.

From the Pages of History

On this day in 1898, future gangster Hymie Weiss was born. Hymie was gunned down in a hail of bullets outside of Holy Name Cathedral in 1925. The bullet holes were still there in February of 1998 when Harry Caray was eulogized inside that very cathedral. The bullet holes remain in the base of the church today.

Nickname of the Day: Lucky

Fred Glade was born on this day in 1876. He had one start for the Cubs (then known as the Orphans) in 1902, and gave up eight runs in eight innings and took the loss. But he got his nickname "Lucky" when he was with the St. Louis Browns in 1905. That year he made 32 starts and won only six of them. His final record that season was 6-25, despite having an ERA of only 2.81.

Cup of Coffee

Jimmy Adiar was born on this day in 1907. He got his cup of coffee with the Cubs during the last six weeks of the 1931 season. The 24-year-old shortstop they called "Choppy" hit .276 in 76 at bats for the Cubs. He played another 13 seasons in the minors and never got another sniff of the big leagues.

Jimmy Adair passed away in Texas in 1982.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Mel Roach 1933 (Cubs 1961)
Roach played eight years in the big leagues, including part of the 1961 season with the Cubs. He missed two full seasons of his prime baseball years because he was serving in the military.

~Jose Macias 1972 (Cubs 2004-05)
He was a utility man (infielder/outfielder/pinch hitter) who was a favorite of manager Dusty Baker. He played for the Tigers and Expos before coming to Chicago.

~Dan Serafini 1974 (Cubs 1999)
Dan had a rough go of it pitching in the big leagues (6.04 lifetime ERA, 1.71 lifetime WHIP), but managed to hang on for parts of seven seasons. In 2006, a Cubs fan with a blog called "Serafini Says" was interviewed by the Twins radio station thinking it was the pitcher himself. They broadcast the interview without realizing their mistake.

A/V Club
Steve Trout's brother Rich writes Cubs poetry. Here he is reciting his poem about Theo Epstein (I kid you not)...

Friday, January 24, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 24

Today's Featured Cub: Tim Stoddard

Tim Stoddard was born on this day in 1953. In college he played in a national championship game in both basketball and baseball for North Carolina State University. He was basketball teammates with superstar David Thompson, and had to cover Bill Walton in their Final Four game.

But he chose baseball over basketball and never looked back. He had a very successful 13-year big league career, including two seasons as the closer in Baltimore. Stoddard only pitched one season for the Cubs, but it just happened to be their division-winning season of 1984. He was the primary setup mustache for Lee Smith that year, saving seven games and winning ten in 58 appearances. After the season he was granted his free agency, and signed with the team that beat the Cubs in the playoffs, the San Diego Padres.

The Cubs got a first round pick as compensation and selected Rafael Palmeiro.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Cliff Heathcote

(1933 Goudy Baseball Card)

Cliff Heathcote was born on this day in 1898. He became a Cub in 1922 when he was traded to them between games of a double header with the Cardinals. The Cardinals got Max Flack in return, and both players played for both teams that day. Cliff was an excellent defensive outfielder and played with the Cubs until 1930. On 8/25/22 he was part of the highest scoring game in baseball history. He reached base seven times during that 26-23 win. Cliff died tragically at the way too young age of 40 in 1939 from a pulmonary embolism.

The stats on this card are from his final season in the big leagues, 1932, with the Philadelphia Phillies: 33 at bats, 11 hits, 2 doubles, 0 triples, 1 homer, 5 RBI, and a .282 batting average.

Nickname of the Day: Bunk

He was born William Millar Congalton in Canada on this day 1875, but his Chicago teammates all called him "Bunk". He was 27 years old when he finally made the show in 1902 and the outfielder hit .239 in his one season in Chicago. He later had a few better seasons with Cleveland. Read Bunk's full story at the Baseball Biography Project.

He died in 1937 at the age of 62 after suffering a heart attack at a Cleveland Indians game.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~John Briggs 1934 (Cubs 1956-58)
He was a righthanded pitcher for the Cubs who saw limited duty over three seasons in the 1950s. His best year was '58 when he won 5 games in 17 starts.

~Ron Dunn 1950 (Cubs 1974-75)
Dunn was a backup infielder for the Cubs for two seasons. He had a total 112 at bats, and hit 3 homers.

A/V Club
On this day in 1916, Hall of Fame Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse was born. Jack was the man that had to describe the play of play of a Cubs team that went twenty seasons in a row without being in the upper division. There were bright spots, though, and Jack was always able to find them. Just like his favorite player on the Cubs during that era, Ernie Banks...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 23

Today's Featured Cub Announcer: Jack Quinlan

On this day in 1927, Cubs radio announcer Jack Quinlan was born. He was the radio play by play man for the Cubs for nearly a decade, starting in the mid-1950s. When he first began there were several stations covering the Cubs, and he handled the honors for WIND-AM. Beginning in 1957, he moved over to what became the exclusive flagship station of the Cubs, WGN. Jack was at the microphone during both of Ernie Banks' MVP seasons, and was the first Cubs radio announcer to mention the names of future Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Lou Brock, and Ron Santo.

Jack Quinlan was a master of painting a picture with his words, and when he died in a car crash after a golf outing during Spring Training 1965, the Cubs lost one of the best. Since 1967 a charity golf tournament in his name is staged every year to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Joey Amalfitano

(Topps 1965 Baseball Card)

Joe Almafitano was born on this day in 1934. He not only played for the Cubs in the mid-60s (64-67), he also managed them twice (1979-1981) as an interim manager after Herman Franks resigned and Preston Gomez was fired. He didn't have a lot of success as a player or a manager, but has been continually employed in baseball his entire adult life. He's currently a special assistant for player development for the San Francisco Giants.

The stats on the back of this card are from the 1964 season, his best with the Cubs: 324 at bats, 78 hits, 19 doubles, 6 triples, 4 homers, 27 RBI, and a .241 batting average.

From the Pages of History

John Hancock was born on this day in 1737. He later became a founder of our nation, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and inspired an insurance company to name themselves after him. That insurance company later built a famous skyscraper in Chicago, the John Hancock Center, which opened in 1969. There was exactly one resident living in the building, Ray Heckla--the building engineer, when Willie Smith hit the dramatic opening day homer at Wrigley Field.

Nickname of the Day: Shark

Jeff Samardzija is celebrating a birthday today (born 1/23/85). During his college days as a football and baseball star at Notre Dame, his teammates called him "Shark". He has been a member of the Cubs since 2008.

Cup of Coffee

Dick Burwell was born on this day in 1940. He got two very short cups of coffee with the Cubs in September of 1960 and 1961. In those two Septembers he pitched in a total of five games, and was hit pretty hard. He walked eleven batters in just over 13 innings of work and gave up two homers. Both of those homers were given up in his first (and only) big league start against the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field. Although he didn't get a lot of time in the big leagues, he did manage to pitch against some Hall of Famers including Frank Robinson in his 1960 debut, and Willie Mays & Orlando Cepeda in his 1961 finale. He was only 21 years old but never made it back to the big leagues. After four more years in the minors, he hung it up at the age of 25.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Bill Bowman 1867 (Colts 1891)
He was a 24-year-old catcher in his one big league season (1891). Though he was considered good defensively, he hit only .089 in more than 50 at bats.

~Don Nottebart 1936 (Cubs 1969)
He pitched for five teams and even had a no-hitter in 1963 for the Colt 45s, but Nottebart only got into 16 games with the Cubs in 1969. He tore a muscle in his arm, and his career was over. The last hitter he faced in his big league career was Roberto Clemente.

A/V Club
Cubs fans know Jeff Samardzija as a pitcher, but some youngsters may not remember his days as a great wideout for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 22

Today's Featured Cub: Jack Littrell

Future Cub shortstop Jack Littrell was born on this day in 1929. Jack got a few cups of coffee with the Athletics before coming to the Cubs in 1957. Even though he was backing up the league's MVP that season (Ernie Banks), Jack got the most extensive playing time of his career in 1957. He also got a little time at second base and third, and did a very respectable job with his glove, but Jack never quite got the hang of big league pitching. His lifetime batting average was .204.

1957 turned out to be his last year in the big leagues. After he retired he became a railroad brakeman on the L&N/CSX Railroad. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 80.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Brian Dayett

(1986 Topps Baseball Card)

On this day in 1957, future Cub Brian Dayett was born. The Cubs got him from the Yankees (for Henry Cotto) the December after their famous 1984 playoff collapse. He got tastes of big league action in September of 1985 and 1986, but got his big chance in 1987. That year he shared the left field job with another great mustache, Rafael Palmeiro. Palmeiro eventually beat him out, so after the season Dayett took his mustache to Japan. He never played in the majors again.

This card shows his stats from the 1985 season: 26 at bats, 1 run, 6 hits, 0 doubles, 0 triples, 1 homer, 4 RBI, and a .231 batting average.

From the Pages of History

Two days after President Obama was inaugurated President of the United States in 2009, the Chicago Tribune announced they would be selling the Cubs to Tom Ricketts and his family for $900 million.

Cup of Coffee

On this day in 1945, future Cubs pitcher Jophery Brown was born. The story of Jophery Brown's Cubs career is a short one. He pitched exactly two innings of one game on a Saturday afternoon, September 21, 1968, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

Joe Niekro started that game for the Cubs against the Pirates, but he simply didn't have it. He gave up four runs in the fourth inning, so Cubs manager Leo Durocher sent Brown out to start the 5th inning.

The first batter he faced was Maury Wills. Wills singled to center. Freddie Patek batted second, and he sacrificed Wills to second base. Brown must not have felt too comfortable on the mound with Matty Alou, Roberto Clemente, and Don Clendenon due up next, but he buckled down, and got Alou to fly harmlessly to left field.

That brought up future Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. There was no question what had to be done in this situation. Cubs catcher Randy Hundley held up four fingers, and Brown intentionally walked the fierce Pittsburgh slugger to face Don Clendenon.

If you mention the name Clendenon to Brown today, it would probably still elicit a groan from him, because Clendenon singled to left, driving in Maury Wills. That run turned out to be the only one given up by Jophery Brown in his big league career.

Brown pitched one more year in the minors after that, developed arm trouble, and retired from the game at the ripe old age of 24.

But Jophery Brown certainly didn't go quietly. Even during his minor league career he had dabbled in Hollywood, working as a stuntman for the television series "I Spy" (starring Bill Cosby). When his baseball career was officially over, he returned to Hollywood and was soon working steadily.

Among his 117 feature films and television shows, Jophery Brown has done stunts for "Live and Let Die," "Papillon," "Smokey and the Bandit," "Convoy," "Foul Play," "The Blues Brothers," "Vacation," "Scarface," "To Live and Die in LA," "Die Hard," "Speed," "Get Shorty" and all three "Lethal Weapon" movies.

The many famous people on Jophery Brown's "Brushes with Greatness" list are truly astounding, but if you asked him which celebrity impressed him the most, would it be one of those Hollywood legends with stars on the Walk of Fame, or would it be one of his teammates with plaques in Baseball's Hall of Fame?

Hall of Famer Billy Williams played left field behind him and threw the ball back to the infield after Clendenon's RBI hit. Ron Santo was at third base. Fergie Jenkins was a fellow member of Brown's pitching staff. Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks, was the heart and soul of that 1968 team. Even the manager of the Cubs, Leo Durocher, was a future Hall of Famer.

That's not to say that Brown's Hollywood career hasn't been remarkable, because it surely has. But how many players in MLB history managed to play only two innings in the big leagues, and can still say they played for a Hall of Famer, played with four Hall of Famers, and pitched to another Hall of Famer?

I'm betting Jophery Brown has told that story to his Hollywood friends more than a few times, and even they were impressed.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Jimmy Anderson 1976 (Cubs 2004)
Jimmy pitched in the big leagues for six seasons, and during part of 2004, he pitched for the Cubs. He ended his career more than twenty games under .500 and with a lifetime ERA of 5.42.

A/V Club
Jophery Brown was a Cubs pitcher and a movie stuntman, but he also got an occasional on-screen role. One of those was in the movie "The Relic". Kids...don't try this at home...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 21

Today's Featured Cubs Announcer: Lew Fonseca

On this day in 1899, Lew Fonseca was born. Fonseca went on to become a major league player and manager. In 12 big league seasons he played first base, second base and left field for the Reds, Phillies, Indians, and White Sox. As a manager, he led the White Sox to one of their worst seasons of all time in 1932. They finished that year 49-102.

After his playing/managing career ended, he settled in Chicago and became one of the early radio announcers for the Chicago Cubs.

Listen for his play-by-play in this montage of very early Cubs announcers.

Lew Fonseca is buried in the same cemetery (All Saints in Des Plaines) as another famous Cubs announcer, Harry Caray.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Dave Smith

(Topps 1992 Baseball Card)

Dave Smith was born on this day in 1955. He was a great relief pitcher for the Houston Astros for ten years. He was a two-time all-star, and is second on the all-time Astros team save list. He came to the Cubs at the end of his career, and quickly developed arm problems. He struggled through two seasons for the Cubs 1991-1992, before retiring.

When Smith died unexpectedly in 2008 at the age of 53, it hit his ex-teammates hard. “He was probably one of the most giving people I ever met,” former Astros reliever Charlie Kerfeld told the Houston Chronicle. “He was probably known around the league as the best tipper around the league. (The news of his death) is a tough one. You ain’t supposed to go this early.”

The stats on the back of this card are from the 1991 season: 35 games, 33 innings pitched, 39 hits allowed, 19 walks, 16 strikeouts, 17 saves, and an ERA of 6.00.

Nickname of the Day: The Polish Prince

Mike Krukow shares a nickname with singer Bobby Vinton, but Mike Krukow was not known for botching the National Anthem. He was known for his stellar career as a starting pitcher for the Cubs, the Phillies and the Giants. He never quite managed to harness his wild streak while he was a Cub, so they traded him to the Phillies as part of the deal that brought Keith Moreland to the Cubs. Krukow didn't really flourish until joining the Giants. He put it all together in the 1986 season, winning 20 games. He also pitched in the NLCS for the Giants the following year, beating the St. Louis Cardinals in his only start. After retirement The Polish Prince became a broadcaster for the San Francisco Giants, and he remains in that job today. He's known for his quick wit, his rascally sense of humor, and his unique lexicon.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Alan Benes 1972 (Cubs 2002-03)
His brother Andy was already a star MLB pitcher when Alan came to the big leagues. Alan had a few good years with the Cardinals before hurting his arm. He was never quite the same after that, including his two seasons with the Cubs.

A/V Club
In 1979, Mike Krukow won a game at Wrigley Field, and he also punched out the opposing pitcher on the Phillies. All of that is captured in this local NBC sports report from that day...

Monday, January 20, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 20

Today's Featured Cub: Ron Cey

On this day in 1983, Cubs general manager Dallas Green acquired a player that he thought would be the cornerstone of a Cubs World Series team. His name was Ron Cey, and he holds the distinction of being the last Cub to sign a contract that included an attendance clause. (It's hard to believe that was ever necessary, but those of us who lived through those dark days remember it well)

He had a couple of good years with the Cubs in the mid 80s (including 97 RBI in the division winning season of '84), but he really didn't have much range anymore at 3B. By this stage of his career, his squatty body and bushy mustache got in the way of any ball hit directly at him, but anything else was ticketed for left field.

After the 1986 season he was traded for a lesser bat with a lesser mustache, Luis Quinones.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Ron Cey

(Topps 1986 Baseball Card)

Cey started to decline in 1985, and the stats on the back of this card back that up. He had 500 at bats, 64 runs, 116 hits, 18 doubles, 2 triples, 22 homers, 63 RBI, and a .232 batting average.

From the Pages of History: Weeghman buys the Cubs

On this day in 1916, a partial eclipse of the moon was visible on Earth. It looked a little bit like this. On the same day, Charles Weeghman and nine investors purchased the Chicago Cubs from Charles Taft, the former president's brother. The Cubs would begin playing in Weeghman's Park (now known as Wrigley Field) a few months later.

Nickname of the Day: The Penguin

Ron Cey had one of the greatest nicknames in baseball history. He earned it because of the way he waddled when he walked. One look at his stocky build, short legs, and choppy running style was all it took to see that "The Penguin" was a perfect nickname.

Cup of Coffee

Earl Smith was born on this day in 1891. He got his cup of coffee with the Cubs in their first season at their current ballpark. During that 1916 season, the corner outfielder got only twenty-seven at-bats, all of them in the month of September. He did manage seven hits, including a double and a triple, but the Cubs released the 25-year-old after the season. He later resurfaced with the Browns and the Senators.

Earl Smith passed away in Ohio in 1943.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Geovany Soto 1983
He was the Rookie of the Year and an all-star for the Cubs in 2008, but never even came close to living up to those numbers again. It all started going downhill for Geo when he tested positive for pot in the 2009 World Baseball Classic when he was playing for his native Puerto Rico. The Cubs traded him to the Rangers in 2012.

A/V Club
This song has to be heard to be believed. Before he came to the Cubs, Ron Cey was a 6-time all-star third baseman with the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his time in LA, he recorded this song called "Third Base Bag". Hard to believe, but it never quite caught on...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 19

Today's Featured Cub: Willie Greene

On this day in 2000, the Cubs signed a slugging free agent third baseman to finally, once and for all, solve their long 3B woes.

His name was Willie Greene.

He batted .201 in more than 300 at bats and never played in the big leagues again.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Ernie Banks

(Topps 1969 Baseball Card)

On this day in 1977, Ernie Banks was elected into Baseball's Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. He was the only player that received enough votes that year. Al Lopez, Amos Rusie, and Joe Sewell were also voted in by the Veteran's Committee.

On the back of this baseball card, you'll see the stats from Ernie's resurgent 1968 season: 552 at bats, 136 hits, 27 doubles, 0 triples, 32 homers, 83 RBI and a .246 average. He was 37 years old at the time.

Cup of Coffee

Future Cub Ollie Hanson was born on this day in 1896. He got a very brief shot with the Cubs in 1921. Very brief. Eight days, to be precise. In those eight days he was the starting pitcher twice. In his first start on April 27, 1921 at Redland Field, he pitched pretty well against Cincinnati. He went the distance and gave up only two runs in a 2-1 loss. His second start was his only one at Wrigley Field (then known as Cubs Park). He gave up five earned runs in one inning and was yanked out of the game. Ollie never made it back to the big leagues.

He passed away in New Jersey in 1951.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Ken Frailing 1948 (Cubs 1974-76)
He was part of the Ron Santo trade with the White Sox (along with Steve Stone and Steve Swisher). He was mainly used as a swing man, switching between the bullpen and starting. He did pitch one complete game.

~Anthony Young 1966 (Cubs 1994-95)
Anthony will always be remembered for his O-fer streak. From April 14, 1994--May 1, 1994, Anthony went 27 consecutive starts without a win.

~Phil Nevin 1971 (Cubs 2006)
He was a member of the Cubs for exactly two months, but during that time the former #1 overall pick in the draft did pretty well. He hit 12 homers filling in for the injured Derrek Lee.

~Kevin Coffman 1965 (Cubs 1990)
The Cubs got him in the Jody Davis trade, and things never really worked out in Chicago. His 11.26 ERA in 18.2 innings pretty much sums it up.

~Chris Stynes 1973 (Cubs 2002)
He had a couple of really good seasons as a third baseman for the Reds before coming to Chicago, but with the Cubs he hit only .241. He's more remembered for his goggles than his hitting stroke.

~Amaury Telemaco 1974 (Cubs 1996-1998)
He did manage to pitch in the big leagues for nine seasons, but if you look at his stats, you have to wonder how he pulled it off. His lifetime ERA is 4.94.

A/V Club
Ernie was elected into the Hall of Fame on this day in 1977, but he received an even higher honor in November of 2013. He won the Presidential Medal of Freedom.