Saturday, February 1, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 1


~Carl Reynolds 1903 (Cubs 1937-1939)
He was a ten-year veteran of the big leagues when he joined the Cubs in 1937, and claimed a starting outfield spot on the 1938 pennant winners. But in the World Series he came up to bat thirteen times and only got on base once (via walk). He went back to fourth outfielder in 1939--his last season in the big leagues. (1933 Goudy Baseball Card)

~Lew Brown 1858 (White Stockings 1879)
Brown was a catcher and considered a troublemaker. After he left Chicago he was suspended for an entire season for "general insubordination". One night, at the age of 30, he was wrestling with a friend, and twisted his knee. He went into the hospital for treatment, contracted pneumonia, and never came out again. The January 23, 1889 issue of Sporting Life had his obituary, and praised his catching abilities during an age when the catchers didn't wear any equipment (including mitts) or padding.

~Walt Golvin 1894 (Cubs 1922)
He got his cup of coffee with the Cubs early in the 1922 season as a 28-year-old rookie. The first baseman got two at bats and didn't reach base either time. He played another three years in the minors after that, and retired for good at the age of 31.

~Vince Barton 1908 (Cubs 1931-1932)
Vince was a Canadian who played outfield for the Cubs in the early 30s. As a rookie on the Rogers Hornbsy managed team in 1931, he hit 13 homers in a part-time role.

~Edwardo Zambrano 1966 (Cubs 1993-94)
He had some pop in his bat, but by the time the Cubs gave him a break, he was already 27 years old. During the strike shortened 1994 season, the 1B/OF hit six homers in only 116 at bats.

~Kent Mercker 1968 (Cubs 2004)
Merker was a good relief pitcher for the Cubs in 2004, appearing in 71 games as a left-handed specialist and registering a 2.55 ERA, but he is most remembered for his role in driving Steve Stone away from the Cubs broadcasting booth. On September 30, 2004, after the Cubs had choked away a nearly certain playoff spot, Steve Stone assessed the team on the air. He said the 2004 Cubs were: "(a) bunch of talented guys who want to look at all directions except where they should really look and kind of make excuses for what happened. ... At the end of the day, boys, don't tell me how rough the water is, you bring in the ship." Kent Mercker was particularly vocal about what he considered a betrayal. Stone resigned after the season.

~Phil Norton 1976 (Cubs 2000-2003)
He didn't exactly start his Cubs career well. In his second start he gave up four homers in one inning to the Dodgers. Light-hitting Kevin Elster knocked one out, then the pitcher Darren Dreifort did. Gary Sheffield followed that up with a solo homer, and Shawn Green hit a 2-run shot. The Cubs lost the game 7-5.

A/V Club

There is some footage of the 1938 World Series, and you can briefly see Carl Reynolds. The clip is as brief as the Series. The Yanks swept it in four games.

Friday, January 31, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 31

Today's Featured Cub: Ernie Banks

On this day in 1931, Ernie Banks was born. 22 years later he became the first African American player to play for the Chicago Cubs.

The way he became a Cub is almost a fluke. At the end of the 1953 season, Gene Baker was called up to be the first African-American Cubs player. Ernie was signed shortly thereafter from the Kansas City Monarchs. They signed Ernie strictly because they needed another black player to room with Baker. If they didn’t have Baker, they wouldn't have signed Banks. They honestly had no idea what they were getting in Banks, either. One of the Cubs coaches, Ray Blades, gave Ernie a book called "How to play baseball" even though he had hit .380 for the Monarchs.

Banks only got in the lineup first because Baker was hurt (he got into a game three days later). At the time, inserting Banks into the lineup was a very controversial move, because shortstop was considered a "thinking man's" position, and Banks was the first African-American in Major League history to play shortstop on a regular basis.

Needless to say, it worked out just fine.

In a little known bit of trivia, he also was the first African-American manager. When manager Whitey Lockman was kicked out of a game in 1974, Ernie was the acting manager for one inning. Frank Robinson became the first full-time African American manager just a few months later.

Ernie Banks was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Ernie Banks

(1955 Bowman Baseball Card)

This card features the stats from his rookie season of 1954: 593 at bats, 70 runs, 163 hits, 19 doubles, 7 triples, 19 homers, 78 RBI, and a .275 batting average. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year vote behind Wally Moon of the Cardinals.

Nickname of the Day: Mr. Cub

Why do they call Ernie Banks Mr. Cub? Ernie is among the top 5 all-time Cubs in games played (1st), at bats (1st), hits (2nd), runs (5th), doubles (3rd), home runs (2nd), and RBI (2nd). Unfortunately he also played in more losses than any other player in baseball history.

Wrigley at 100

(Photo: Wrigley Field postcard, 1940s)

On March 31, 2008, Ernie Banks became a part of Wrigley Field when the club unveiled his statue. It stands right in front of the main gate at Addison and Clark. Countless Cub fans take pictures in front of it every year.

Cup of Coffee

Ray Brown was born in Chicago on this day in 1889. He was only 20 years old when he got his cup of coffee with the Cubs in 1909, the tenth youngest player in league history at that point. He pitched exactly one game, on September 29, 1909 against the Phillies at West Side Grounds. Brown threw a five hit complete game victory. He never pitched in the big leagues again. After a few more seasons in the minors, he hung up his spikes at the tender age of 24.

Ray passed away in Los Angeles in 1955.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Bob Ferguson 1845 (White Stockings 1878)
He was the player/manager for one season, and was known for his ferocious temper. He hit .351 as a player, but was fired because owner Al Spalding considered him tactless and brutish. Read his very interesting story at the Baseball Biography Project. (I love his nickname--"Death To Flying Things")

~Charlie Wiedemeyer 1914 (Cubs 1934)
Charlie was only 20 when he pitched for his hometown Cubs. It didn't go well (9.72 ERA). He pitched in the minors until 1938.

A/V Club
Ernie takes on Gil Hodges in home run derby. (Spoiler alert: Don't bet on Gil)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 30

Today's Featured Cub: Davey Johnson

Davey Johnson had a very distinguished playing career before he became a manager. He was a four-time All-Star, three time Gold Glove second baseman, two-time World Series champ, and once hit 43 homers in a season, but by the time he came to the Cubs, those days were in his rearview mirror. The Cubs got him from the Phillies in August of 1978, and he played with them for the last few months of his big league career.

He went into coaching shortly thereafter and has since won six divisional championships and a World Series title (with the 1986 Mets) as a manager.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Davey Johnson

(Topps 1979 Baseball Card)

This card has the stats from his final big league season of 1978: 138 at bats, 19 runs, 32 hits, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 20 RBI, and a batting average of .232

Nickname of the Day: Doc

Charles Watson was born on this day in 1885. He pitched for the Cubs very briefly during the 1913 season, then jumped over to play in the Federal League in the first season at what is now known as Wrigley Field. Why was he called Doc? It's elementary, my dear Watson. He was nicknamed after the famous sidekick of Sherlock Holmes.

From The Pages of History

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on this day in 1882. Just over fifty years later he would become president of the United States. The year he ran for president, he spent a memorable afternoon at Wrigley Field, during the 1932 World Series. FDR was in the ballpark the day that Babe Ruth supposedly called his shot.

Wrigley at 100

(Photo: Wrigley Field postcard, 1940s)

On this day in 1904, Andy Frain was born. Frain's first job was in the stockyards, but he quickly discovered that he had the skill of keeping peace. He approached the owner of the Blackhawks first, and after he did a good job for them, he pitched his services to William Wrigley, the owner of the Chicago Cubs.

The year was 1928, and Wrigley Field was known as a place that ushers would take bribes to allow people into the good seats. Frain offered to give back Mr. Wrigley's money if he wasn't completely satisfied with his performance as an usher. Wrigley was so impressed he hired Frain to run the entire show, and gave him $5000 for uniforms.

Those uniforms became his company's trademark.

In the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, the Notre Dame blue and gold Andy Frain uniforms were on hand at every major sporting event in Chicago, including football, baseball, and hockey games. They also kept the peace at political conventions, the Kentucky Derby, and more.

Here are a few tips for keeping the peace, directly from the mouth of Andy Frain...

*"Never trust a man with a mustache or a man who carries an umbrella"

*"No muscle is gonna clip me. I never had a nickel. Finally after a lot of hard work I made something of myself. They're gonna take that away from me?"

*"Ninety percent of the public wants somethin' for nothin'. When you run a big sports event, every one of those seats is there to be cracked. They throw every gimmick in the book at you."

*"The only color I'm interested in is the color of the customer's ticket."

*"There's nothing like a six-footer in uniform to control a panicky crowd. Besides that, a tough guy isn't so likely to give you an argument if you're lookin' down on him. That's psychology."

*"Never let a standee sit down. Once they sit down, you can't get 'em up."

Andy died in 1964. His sons carried on the company until 1982 when they sold it to a group of investors from Cleveland. The people that bought it went belly up a few years later and the Frain brothers repurchased the company once again. They finally sold it off for good in 1991.

Cup of Coffee

Future Cub Vin Campbell was born on this day in 1888. He got his cup of coffe with the Cubs in their most momentous year, 1908. He got his chance only because the Cubs were decimated with injuries. Outfielder Jimmy Sheckard was out with an eye injury, reserve infielder Heinie Zimmerman was out because he was beaten up by his teammates for causing Sheckard's eye injury, backup catcher Pat Moran was spiked, starting pitcher Chick Fraser was hit in his pitching hand with a line drive, starter Orval Overall had a bad back, and a flu bug was sidelining utilityman Solly Hofman, reserve Del Howard, and most importantly, first baseman Frank Chance & second baseman Johnny Evers. Campbell got only one at bat on June 6, 1908.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Matt Alexander 1947 (Cubs 1973-74)
Matt was an outfielder/third baseman who known for his speed. In only 60 at-bats with the Cubs, he managed to steal ten bases. He stole nearly a hundred more before his big league career was over despite only hitting .214.

A/V Club
Think the Andy Frain guys had it easy at Wrigley? Maybe, but they sure didn't at Chicago Stadium. A bit of it is captured on this video. You can see the old Andry Frain uniforms. The orange jackets are the off-duty cops.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 29

Today's Featured Cub: Big Ed Reulbach

On this day in 1915 one of the best pitchers of the Cubs dynasty, Big Ed Reulbach, hung up his MLB spikes so he could sign with the new upstart Federal League. After starring in the Federal League, he came back to the National League with the Boston Braves (1916 and 1917), but wasn't nearly the pitcher he once was.

During his years with the Cubs, Ed was a superstar. It seemed that Ed always saved his best performances for the most crucial games. He pitched a one-hitter in the 1906 World Series against the White Sox (one of only 5 one-hitters in World Series history). In 1907 he won another World Series game for the Cubs. In 1908 he did something truly remarkable; he pitched two shutouts in one day! Those late September games against Brooklyn were crucial to the Cubs pennant hopes. He was rewarded for his heroic performance by being given the ball for Game 1 of the 1908 World Series, which he also won.

His final World Series appearance for the Cubs came in Game 3 of the series against the Philadelphia Athletics in 1910. Big Ed's luck run out that day, as the A's beat the Cubs 12-5 at West Side Grounds.

Ed was the last surviving member of the last World Series Champion Cubs team when he passed away at age 79 in 1961.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Big Ed Reulbach

(1909 Tobacco Baseball Card)

These cards are very small. This photo here is close to it's actual size.

The back of the card doesn't have any stats. It simply has an ad for "Piedmont: The Cigarette of Quality"

If it did have his 1908 stats, they would be impressive: 24 wins, 7 losses, 297.2 innings pitched, 227 hits allowed, 133 strikeouts, 106 walks, and a 2.03 ERA.

Nickname of the Day: Ninety Six

Bill Voiselle was born on this day in 1919. "Ninety Six", as he was called, pitched in the big leagues through most of the 1940s, and landed with the Cubs in 1950. By the time he arrived he had already been an All-Star, National League pitcher of the year, and led the league in strikeouts. As you might have guessed, that wasn't the type of pitcher he was when he arrived in Chicago. In 19 appearances, including seven starts, he didn't win a single game. When he was finished with the Cubs, he was finished with baseball. He got the nickname "Ninety Six" because Voiselle went to Ninety Six High School in Ninety Six, North Carolina. He passed away in 2005.

Cup of Coffee

Hy Cohen was born on this day in 1931. He got his cup of coffee with the Cubs in 1955. The big righthander (6'5", 220 lbs) pitched in exactly seven games for them that year, between April and June. He was 24 years old at the time. He got his first action on April 17, 1955 when the Cubs starting pitcher Harry Perkowski couldn't record an out in the first inning. Cohen pitched seven innings of relief to save the bullpen that day. But he was hit hard. He gave up 13 hits and 7 earned runs against the Cardinals. Ken Boyer doubled. Stan Musial tripled. Wally Moon homered. It was ugly. The final score was 14-1. In his final game on June 2nd, he entered under simliar circumstances in the second inning, and got hit hard again--this time by the Phillies. Hy never made it back to the big leagues. He pitched three more seasons in the minors before hanging up his spikes.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Bill Krieg 1859 (White Stockings 1885)
He played one game with Chicago, got three at bats, struck out twice, and made two errors as a catcher. Believe it or not, he did play another two years in the big leagues with Washington after that.

~Jim Tyrone 1949 (Cubs 1972-75)
The outfielder saw limited playing time with the Cubs during three different seasons. His brother Wayne also played in the Cubs organization at the same time, but somehow never played on the same team as his brother.

~Kevin Roberson 1968 (Cubs 1993-1995)
In his rookie year of 1993, Roberson did get a fair amount of playing time (180 at bats) and did deliver some power (9hrs, 27RBI), but his lifetime batting average was .197.

A/V Club
In 2008 we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Bill Ed Reulbach's clutch performances. But Just One Bad Century's Tom Latourette had a funny feeling things weren't going to work out despite the best record in the National League. He put pen to paper, and wrote and recorded this song. Needless to say, he was right.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 28

Today's Featured Cub: Alex Distaso

On this day in 1967, the Chicago Cubs had the first pick in the amateur draft. Most of the teams in the league agreed the top two picks were outfielder Ken Singleton and catcher Carlton Fisk. The Cubs disagreed with most teams.

They chose a pitcher instead; an 18-year-old high schooler from California. His name was Al Distaso. The Cubs considered him the second coming of Don Drysdale. He didn't have Drysdale's size or fastball, but he did resemble him physically. And at first, he showed some promise. In his first two minor league seasons he struck out 225 in just over 300 innings.

But he also hurt his elbow, and by the time spring training rolled around in 1969, he wasn't the same pitcher. Leo Durocher took a chance he could rediscover the magic, and named him the 10th man on the pitching staff going into the season. Al debuted on April 20th against the Expos and pitched two scoreless innings.

He came in again on April 22nd, but this time he wasn't facing the Expos. He was facing the fearsome Pittsburgh Pirates. Richie Hebner, Matty Alou, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargell all got hits against Al in what turned out to be his final major league appearance.

He was sent down to the minors after that and never returned.

But Al found a higher calling after leaving baseball for good in 1970. He became a police officer; a decorated homicide detective in the roughest neighborhood of Los Angeles. Al retired from the force in 1994, and as a gift for the other guys in his unit, he presented all of them with a copy of his 1969 Cubs Rookie card.

Al Distaso passed away in 2009.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: 1969 Rookie Stars

(Topps 1969 Baseball Card)

The one pictured on the far left is Alec Distaso.

On the back of this baseball card they list Alec's minor league lifetime totals (up until that point), which read this way: 59 games, 306 innings pitched, 19 wins, 19 losses, 225 strikeouts, 173 walks, and an ERA of 3.76.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Bob Muncrief 1916 (Cubs 1949)
When the Cubs acquired Muncrief in 1949, he had already pitched in an All-Star Game (1944) and two World Series (1944 with the St. Louis Browns and 1948 with the Cleveland Indians). With the Cubs he didn't do much. He went 5-6 in 34 games out of the bullpen. He later pitched for the Yankees in their 1951 World Series season.

A/V Club
Future Cub Bob Muncrief pitched in the 1948 World Series, but there were several other Cubs-ties to that team. The owner of the team was former Cubs treasurer Bill Veeck Jr. The shortstop and manager was future Cubs manager and announcer Lou Boudreau. This video has some fun tidbits of information about that team. They haven't won the World Series since. I know it's a little hard for us Cub fans to understand that kind of long drought.

Monday, January 27, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 27

Featured Cubs Trainer: Andy Lotshaw

On this day in 1880, future Cubs trainer Andy Lotshaw was born. Andy was the Cubs trainer from 1922 to 1952 and also served in the same capacity for the Chicago Bears. Why are featuring a Cubs trainer on a day when Cubs greats like Otis Clymer, Bob Barrett, Jessie Hollins, and Bob Borkowski were born? (Cough)

Well, Andy actually played an important role in the career of Cubs pitching great Guy Bush. Bush was one of the mainstays of the Cubs pitching staff during most of the 1920s and the early 1930s. He won double digit games in nine seasons in a row (including 20 wins one year), but was really best known for his incredible endurance.

He was always among the league leaders in games pitched, and often served as the closer between his starts. During his Cubs years he pitched an amazing 2201 innings and completed 127 games. The rest of the league wanted to know what his secret was, but Guy Bush would never reveal it. There was a very good reason for that--he didn't know what it was.

Cubs trainer Andy Lotshaw applied a "secret dark liniment" to Guy's arm, and Guy was convinced that liniment was what kept his arm loose. Andy wouldn't even tell Guy what it was. It wasn't until the Cubs traded Bush to the Pirates in 1935 that Lotshaw finally admitted the ingredients of the secret dark liniment to the pitcher.

It was Coca-Cola

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Ryne Sandberg

(1983 Topps Baseball Card)

On this day in 1982, the Cubs acquired veteran shortstop Larry Bowa from the Philadelphia Phillies for Ivan DeJesus. The Phillies also threw in a minor league infielder to sweeten the deal. (Photo)

His name escapes me at the moment. I need to check how his career turned out. It looks like the Cubs played him at third base.

The stats on the back of the card are from the 1982 season, his rookie year: 635 at bats, 103 runs, 172 hits, 33 doubles, 5 triples, 7 homers, 54 RBI, 32 stolen bases, and a .271 batting average.

Nickname of the Day: Jumbo

His real name was Bob Barrett, and he was born on this day in 1899. Barrett was mainly a backup infielder in his three seasons with the Cubs, and he wasn't a particularly big man. He stood at 5'11" and weighed 175 pounds, but his teammates all called him "Jumbo". He may have been nicknamed after the grocery chain Holland & Barrett, which sold a Jumbo Roll.

Cup of Coffee

Jesse Hollins was born on this day in 1970. His cup of coffee with the Cubs came in 1992. He made four appearances for the Cubs out of he bullpen after being called up in September, and was hit hard. He hurt his arm the next season and never made it back to the big leagues. On July 9, 2009, Jessie passed away at the age of 39. His body was found floating in a lake, apparently the victim of a fishing accident.

Other Cubs Birthdays

~Otis Clymer 1876 (Cubs 1913)
Otis played six years in the majors, including part of the 1913 season for the Cubs. He hit .229 as a backup outfielder.

~Bob Borkowski 1926 (Cubs 1950-51)
The son of Cubs scout was an umpire in an Army pickup game during the war and recommended Borkowski to his pop. Bob played quite a bit as a reserve outfielder in his rookie season of 1950, and was traded to the Reds along with Smoky Burgess in 1951. The Cubs lived to regret that trade. Burgess played in the big leagues until the late 60s.

A/V Club
I checked into that trade throw in from 1982. Apparently he turned out to be pretty good. At least according to this Hall of Fame video...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--January 26

Today's Featured Cub: William Wrigley

On this day in 1932, Cubs owner William Wrigley Jr. passed away. It was a great loss for the Cubs, not only because Wrigley was a savvy businessman. He was also the last owner before Tom Ricketts that LOVED baseball. This is William Wrigley in his own words, in Time Magazine in 1930...
"Outside of school hours, when I was a boy in Philadelphia, I worked for my father. This seemed to me a cruel conspiracy of the fates. He was a kind man, but he belonged to a generation which was work-minded. Baseball was nothing to him. My work took me directly past the ball park of the Nationals (the Phillies). That was the trouble! I hadn’t a chance in the world to get away to the ball game on any of the familiar alibis. The near relatives of my boy friends were buried regularly on ball game days. No use to tell my employer of the imaginary funeral in my family, for he was my father and had the death statistics of the family down to the minute. No other excuses worked. Whenever I came to the ball park and heard the wild cheering within, I was in a state of rebellion. One day when the cheering was particularly wild in the park, I resolved that one day I would own a ball team and a ball park. My interest in the game has never relaxed for one instant from that moment to this.”

On his deathbed, William Wrigley made his son Phillip promise never to sell the team. Even though Phillip didn't much care about baseball, he honored his father's wish, and held on to the Cubs until his own death in 1977.

Under the son, the Cubs atrophied and became the worst team in baseball, but they still played, and continue to play in the stadium that is named after his father; baseball lover William Wrigley.

Today's Featured Baseball Card: Kevin Blankenship

(1989 Donruss Baseball Card)

Blankenship was acquired in the trade that sent fan favorite Jody Davis packing in 1988. He pitched a total of 23 innings over three seasons with the Cubs. He never had the impact of Davis, but Jody couldn't have grown that mustache if he tried. Blankenship was a member of the division winning 1989 Cubs, although he only pitched 5 1/3 innings for them that season.

The stats on the back of this card are from his 1988 season: 1 win, 1 loss, 3 games, 15 innings pitched, 14 hits allowed, 9 strikeouts, 8 walks, and a 4.60 ERA.

Nickname of the Day:

Rip Russell was born on this day in 1915. He real first name was Glen, but Rip Russell was known for being able to rip line drives. He also came to the Cubs just after another first baseman named Rip Collins played for the team, so it was only natural that his teammates started calling him Rip.

Russell played for the Cubs for four seasons, but his best season was definitely his rookie year of 1939. Filling in for the injured Phil Cavarretta on the defending NL champs, Rip knocked in 79 runs, good enough for second best on the team. He spent the rest of career as a bench player, first with the Cubs in 1940-42, then after a stint in the military, with the Boston Red Sox in 1946 and 1947.

Rip died in 1961. R.I.P. Rip.

A/V Club
In honor of Kevin Blankenship we feature this great video from WGN-TV. It's a package of Cubs highlights from that season put to the tune of Freiheit's "Keeping the Dream Alive" and it's very well done.