Saturday, February 15, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 15

Today's Cubs Birthdays

~Nate Schierholtz 1984 (Cubs 2013-present)
Nate was one of the budget free agent signings by the Epstein/Hoyer regime. He won a ring with the 2010 Giants, but he was never really given a chance to be a fulltime player until he arrived in Chicago. In his first season with the Cubs he hit more than 20 homers and played a very strong right field. (PHOTO: 2014 Topps Baseball Card)

~Charlie Irwin 1869 (Colts 1893-1895)
The team was still known as the Colts when Charlie manned third base and shortstop for Chicago. In 1894 he had a great season with the bat (100 runs batted in), but he was also the worst infielder in all of baseball. That season he committed 91 (91!) errors. He later played for the Reds and Brooklyn during a pretty respectable 10-year big league career, and he settled in Chicago after his playing days were over. That's where he was hit by a bus and killed in 1925.

~Chuck Estrada 1938 (Cubs 1966)
He pitched for the Orioles for several seasons before coming to the Cubs, leading the American League in wins as an All-Star rookie in 1960, and in losses in 1962. He got one start with the Cubs in 1966 and didn't make it out of the first inning. His final Cubs ERA after pitching out of the bullpen the rest of the season was 7.30.

~Footer Johnson 1932 (Cubs 1958)
His real name was Richard Allen Johnson, but everyone called him Footer or Treads because he was fast. He was known for his speed in the minor leagues and at Duke University (he was there the same time as Dick Groat), but he didn't make much of an impact in his very short major league career. In 1958, Footer got a grand total of 5 at bats in 8 games (his other three appearances were as a pinch runner), but never got a hit. He did, however, score one run when he pinch ran for Cubs catcher Sammy Taylor during a double header on June 22nd. He was knocked in by another obscure Cub...future manager Chuck Tanner.

~Ron Cey 1948 (Cubs 1983-1986)
Ron Cey earned his nickname 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. Cey was one of the first "star" players (not affiliated with the Phillies) acquired by Dallas Green. He was a 6-time all-star and a World Series MVP with the Los Angeles Dodgers. (The Cubs got him for Vance Lovelace and Dan Cataline, which has to qualify as a rare good trade.) When Cey joined the Cubs they offered him an incentive they've probably never offered since...a bonus for increased attendance. That little clause paid off nicely for the Penguin. Even though Cey was definitely on the downside of his career, he had a few good years left in him. He hit 25 HR and 97 RBI (which led the team) in the Cubs playoff year of '84. He also hit a home run in the '84 NLCS. Unfortunately, in that series another former Dodger stuck a dagger in the heart of Cub fans everywhere.

~Rolando Roomes 1962 (Cubs 1988)
Rolando was born and raised in Jamaica, and it took him quite awhile before he got his cup of coffee (16 at bats) with the 1988 Cubs. He was 26 years old at the time. The Cubs traded to the Reds for Lloyd McClendon after the season. While McClendon was an important part of the 1989 division winning Cubs, Roomes was out of baseball by 1990.

~Brian Williams 1969 (Cubs 2000)
Williams showed some promise early in his big league career with the Astros, finishing in the top ten in the Rookie of the Year voting that season, but the pitcher really struggled after that. The Cubs were desperate when they signed in January of 2000. It didn't work out. He pitched in 22 games and his ERA was a staggering 9.62. The Cubs released him at the end of May.

A/V Club

Birthday boy Nate Schierholtz makes a great catch...

Friday, February 14, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 14

Today's Cubs Birthdays

~Ace Stewart 1869 (Colts 1895)
Ace was given that nickname because of his stellar play, his real first name was Asa, and Ace was just a shortened way of saying that. The Indiana native (Terre Haute) was a second baseman for Chicago in his only big league season, and was a bit of a butcher in the field. He made 52 errors. Even though he never made it back to the bigs, he did play professional baseball in the minor leagues until 1907. Oh, and he also had a tremendous mustache. (Photo: 1895 Colts. Ace is standing in the back row. Furthest mustache on the right)

~Mike Hechinger 1890 (Cubs 1912-1913)
He had a cup of coffee with his hometown Chicago Cubs at the tail end of the 1912 season and the beginning of 1913, but the backup catcher got only five at bats, and didn't manage to get a hit. He finished his career with Brooklyn.

~Uel Eubanks 1903 (Cubs 1922)
Uel's cup of coffee was both empty and full. In his one month on the Cubs, he pitched 1.2 innings and got exactly one at bat. In that one at bat, he got a hit, so his lifetime average is 1.000. But he was rocked hard on the mound. His final ERA is 27.00. Eubanks was in the minors for six seasons after his little nibble of the big leagues, but he never got another shot in the Show.

~Len Gabrielson 1940 (Cubs 1964-1965)
Gabrielson had one of the best seasons of his nine year career with the Cubs in 1964. After Lou Brock was traded in June of that season, Len became the team's starting right fielder. It was just a tiny bit of a downgrade for the Cubs. Brock hit .348 for the Cardinals (and led them to the World Series), and Gabrielson hit .246 for the Cubs (and led them to 8th place). Len's father (also named Len) was a big leaguer too. He played for the Phillies in 1939.

~Daniel Garibay 1973 (Cubs 2000)
Garibay was born and raised in Mexico, and didn't get his first shot at Major League Baseball until he was 27 years old. The Cubs used him as a spot starter and a reliever, and he didn't do well in eithe role. He went 2-8 with an ERA over 6.

A/V Club

The crowd goes crazy for Cubs outfielder Len Gabrielson in 1964. Oh wait...I think it might have been someone else appearing in Chicago the same year Len roamed right field for the Cubs.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 13

Today's Cubs Birthdays

~Bill Bradley 1878 (Orphans 1899-1900)
Chicago signed him as a shortstop, but he made eight errors in his first five games, so they moved him over to 3B. When his career ended 14 years later, he was considered one of the top third basemen in baseball history. He jumped to the American League in a contract dispute in 1901 (urged to do so by another ex-Chicago star Clark Griffith), and over the next three seasons he was in the top ten in batting average, runs, hits, doubles, triples, homers and slugging percentage. He was also the best fielding third baseman in the league. How much was the difference between the Cubs offer in 1901 and the offer from Cleveland? $3100. Doesn't sound like much, but it was 3/4 of his yearly salary.

~Gilly Campbell 1908 (Cubs 1933)
Gilly was a catcher, and had a cup of coffee as Gabby Hartnett's backup during the 1933 season. He hit .280 in that limited capacity, and helped handle a pitching staff that included big-time pitching stars like Lon Warneke, Guy Bush, Charlie Root, and Pat Malone (all of them double digit winners that year). The following season he was sold to Cincinnati. Gilly was a big leaguer until 1938.

~Donnie Moore 1954 (Cubs 1975, 1977-1979)
The Cubs traded him before he reached his prime. He became an all-star closer with the California Angels, but he also gave up the home run that knocked them out of the playoffs in 1986. That moment tormented him, and he was out of baseball just a few years later. The depressed Donnie took his own life in 1989.

~Matt Mieske 1968 (Cubs 1998)
He was a fourth outfielder for the Cubs in their wildcard winning season of 1998, and an important bat off the bench. He hit nearly .300 in that capacity. The Cubs let him go after the season and he palyed another four years (for Seattle, Houston & Arizona)

A/V Club

On this day in 1964, Cubs second baseman Ken Hubbs passed away in a plane crash. This video tells part of that story...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 12

Today's Cubs Birthdays

~Sweetbread Bailey 1895 (Cubs 1919-1921)
His real name is Abraham Lincoln Bailey because he shares a birthday with the famous president. What is the origin of his nickname? Well, "sweetbreads" is defined as "the thymus or, sometimes, the pancreas of a young animal (usually a calf or lamb) used for food," and though the origins of Bailey's nickname have been lost to time, historians think it may have come from Bailey's tendency to swerve his pitches right into the batter's "sweetbreads". He hit seven batters there. The Cubs signed him in 1917, but before he joined the team he served in the military with the 72nd field artillery. He was a reliever for the Cubs, winning four games and saving none. That was the extent of his big league career. After a few more seasons in the minors, he returned to his hometown of Joliet, and that's where he died of pituitary cancer in 1939 at the way too young age of 44.

~Bill Mack 1885 (Cubs 1908)
The college boy from Syracuse may have only pitched in two big league games (both for the Cubs), but he achieved something that most Cubs cannot claim to achieve. He was part of a Cubs World Series championship team.

~Virgil Cheeves 1901 (Cubs 1920-1923)
Cheeves was part-Cherokee, and in the politically incorrect 1920s, his teammates nicknamed him "Chief". To be fair, nearly every Native-American to ever play the game was given the same nickname. Virgil's best season was 1922 when we won 12 games and posted an ERA of 4.09.

~Monk Dubiel 1918 (Cubs 1949-1952)
After the 1948 season the Cubs decided they needed to boost their pitching staff, so they traded their popular first baseman Eddie Waitkus to the Phillies for two aging starting pitchers (Dutch Leonard and Monk Dubiel). Eddie Waitkus was shot by a deranged fan in his first trip back to Chicago. Monk won a total of 14 games in his four seasons with the Cubs.

~Joe Garagiola 1926 (Cubs 1953-1954)
He was a backup catcher for most of his nine-year big league career, and that's the role he served in Chicago. His big claim to fame with the Cubs was catching all nine innings of a game in what was at the time, the hottest day in Chicago history, June 20, 1953. Despite the 104 degree heat, 17,000+ fans came out to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs lose to the Dodgers 5-3. Of course, Joe became much more famous after his playing career as a sportscaster and television personality.

~Lenny Randle 1949 (Cubs 1980)
Lenny was known as the guy who had punched his manager (Frank Lucchesi) in the face when the Cubs acquired him. They knew they were taking a chance, but Randle had a pretty good season with an incredibly bad Cubs team in 1980. He signed with the Mariners as a free agent the following year, and that's where he did the other thing he is most remembered for doing--he got on his hands and knees and tried to blow a slow roller down the line into foul territory.

~Gene Krug 1955 (Cubs 1981)
To say the 29th round draft choice was a long shot to make it is an understatement, but Krug managed to defy the odds, and was called up to the show. His big league career consisted of exactly seven games in the 1981 (strike) season. He went 2 for 5 at the plate (both singles), giving him a lifetime big league average of .400.

`Jeff Pico 1966 (Cubs 1988-1990)
He pitched a shutout in his Major League debut, but won only 12 more games, all of them with the Cubs. He was a member of their 1989 division champion team.

A/V Club

Here is Joe as the host of the game show "To Tell The Truth", with the man who inspired the film "Catch Me If You Can"

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 11

Today's Cubs Birthdays

~Willie Smith 1939 (Cubs 1968-1970)
Willie's greatest day as a Cub happened on April 8, 1969. He hit a pinch-hit 2-run walk off home run to win the game on Opening Day. That began a year long love affair between the Cubs and their fans. On September 4, 1969, with the Cubs still holding onto a 5-game lead over the Mets, Willie and teammate Nate Oliver released a parody of the Righteous Brothers hit "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling". Unfortunately for Willie, Nate and Cubs nation, they weren't "going, going, going, all the way" like the song predicted.

~Red Shannon 1897 (Cubs 1926)
The bulk of Red's big league career was from 1915-1921, but he did re-emerge after five years in the minors to get in 60 more games with the Cubs in 1926. He was mainly a defensive replacement for the Cubs infielders that season.

~Hal Rice 1924 (Cubs 1954)
Hal's nickname was "Hoot" and he was an outfielder and pinch hitter for seven big league seasons, including his last one with the Cubs. He was probably best known as Stan Musial's backup in St. Louis, and as you might imagine, didn't get a lot of playing time in that capacity. The Cubs brought him aboard to pinch hit, but when you hit only .153, it's usually enough to end your career. That's what happened to "Hoot" in Chicago.

~Chris Kitsos 1928 (Cubs 1954)
Some players a cup of coffee in the show. Chris Kitsos only got a sip. He was a switch-hitting shortstop, but he languished in the minor leagues until April 21, 1954. On that day he finally got the call from the big club and was inserted as a defensive replacement for shortstop Eddie Miksis in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Braves in Milwaukee. Two of the Braves batters hit grounders to him, and he retired them both, including future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. But he didn't get a chance to bat in the top of the ninth inning, and he never appeared in another big league game.

~Tom Veryzer 1953 (Cubs 1983-1984)
In many ways Veryzer was the prototypical journeyman infielder, but he did have a few career highlights. He broke up a Ken Holtzman no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning, and was named to the All-Rookie team as a Detroit Tiger in 1975. With the Cubs he was a backup to both Ryne Sandberg and Larry Bowa during their ill-fated 1984 season. He made the post-season roster and got into a few of the games as a late-game defensive replacement. That was his last hurrah in the big leagues.

~Dave Swartzbaugh 1968 (Cubs 1995-1997)
The Cubs used him as a spot starter his last two seasons, but it didn't turn out so well. He started seven games and didn't win a single one of them.

A/V Club

Willie Smith and Nate Oliver sing about the Cubs

Monday, February 10, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 10

Today's Cubs Birthdays

-Randy Jackson 1926 (Cubs 1950-1955, 1959)
His real first name was Ransom, and gosh darnit, he was kind of handsome, so his teammates began calling him Handsome Ransom (His teammates thought he looked like Gregory Peck). "Handsome Ransom" Jackson was one of the best players on the Cubs in the early 50s; a National League all-star third-baseman in 1954 and 1955. He hit 19, 19, and 21 homers in 1953-55 (his three seasons on the Cubs), and was a pretty good fielder too. (In 1955 he led NL third basemen in double plays.) His greatest day in a Cubs uniform was April 17, 1954 against St. Louis. Jackson had four hits - including a home run that hit an apartment building on Waveland Avenue. With the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field, the Cubs beat the Cardinals 23–13 in a National League record (at the time) three hour and 43 minute game. The two teams combined for 35 hits — including five homers. The Dodgers traded Walt Moryn, Don Hoak, and Russ Meyer to the Cubs for Jackson and pitcher Don Elston after the 1955 season with the expectation that the slugger would succeed Jackie Robinson at third base. Unfortunately for Jackson and the Dodgers, he suffered a serious knee injury in 1957, and Handsome Ransom never played regularly again. (Photo: 1952 Topps Baseball Card)

~Bob Logan 1910 (Cubs 1937-1938)
Bob Logan was a pitcher with a bit of a wild streak. He walked 17 batters in 22 innings. He also pitched briefly with Detroit, Cincinnati, and Brooklyn, but during the war he got his one extended shot with the Boston Braves. After not starting a single game in his previous big league career, he went 7-11 as a member of Boston's rotation. Logan was a left-handed pitcher, so naturally, his nickname was Lefty.

~Cesar Izturis 1980 (Cubs 2006-2007)
He will always be remembered by Cubs fans as the player the Cubs got in return for Greg Maddux. Cesar was a slick-fielding shortstop, but his stay in Chicago was a relatively short and unhappy one. All told he was with the Cubs for about one calendar year before they shipped him off to Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, Izturis has enjoyed a long and productive big league career. He has played for nine different teams in 13 seasons, and has been an All-Star and Gold-Glove winner.

A/V Club

On this day in 1950, the proprietor of the Pump Room, Ernie Byfeld passed away. The Pump Room opened just before the World Series of 1938, and was THE hot spot in Chicago. Here's Cubs fan Tom Dreesen being interviewed at that famous restaurant...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 9

~Heinie Zimmerman 1887 (Cubs 1907-1916)
Heinie saw some of the biggest moments in Cubs history, including both of their World Series championships, their last ever game at West Side Grounds, and their first ever game at Weeghman Park (now known as Wrigley Field). He was a great hitter--he nearly won the Triple Crown in 1912--but he was a butcher in the field (making four errors in a game several times) and a trouble maker in the clubhouse. In 1908 he threw bottle of ammonia at a teammate's face (Jimmy Sheckard), and nearly blinded him. He was suspected of being a game fixer later in his career (in New York), and was kicked off the team. He later worked in a speakeasy with the notorious gangster Dutch Schultz. (Photo: 1914 Cracker Jack Baseball Card)

~C.L. "Chink" Taylor 1898 (Cubs 1925)
Chink was a speedy little outfielder who was used primarily as a pinch runner by the Cubs during the first month of the 1925 season. He only got into eight games during that time, and was sent down to the minors in May. He never made it back to the big leagues.

~Freddy Schmidt 1916 (Cubs 1947)
He came up to the big leagues during the war, and pitched in the 1944 all St. Louis World Series (Browns vs. Cardinals), but when the regular players came back from the service, Freddy had a much tougher time making rosters. His last stop in the big leagues was with the Chicago Cubs. He started exactly one game, on September 24, 1947 in Cincinnati's Crosley Field, and was roughed up pretty badly by the Reds. He gave up four hits and five walks in only three innings pitched. The Cubs lost the game 6-5, but Freddy wasn't charged with the loss. Cubs reliever Emil Kush threw exactly one pitch that game, and it was knocked over the fence in the bottom of the ninth by Grady Hatton for a walk-off home run.

~Eddie Solomon 1951 (Cubs 1975)
The Cubs traded stud pitcher Burt Hooton to the Dodgers to get Eddie, but they found out pretty quickly that he wasn't their type of guy. He was considered a bad apple by Cubs management, and they didn't waste any time getting rid of him. Eddie was with the Cubs for only two months, but he did manage to pitch in the big leagues until 1982 with the Cardinals, Braves, Pirates, and White Sox. Just four years after his last big league game, he died in a car accident in Macon Georgia at the age of 34.

~Todd Pratt 1967 (Cubs 1995)
Pratt was a catcher in the National League for fourteen seasons, but he couldn't have picked a worse one to be with the Cubs. The summer of 1995 is still considered the hottest summer in Chicago history. On July 13th and 14th, the two hottest days in the city's hottest summer (106 degrees and 102 degrees), Todd Pratt caught all nine innings of both games. The second one was a day game. The Cubs lost both games.

~Dioner Navarro 1984 (Cubs 2013)
He only played one season with the Cubs as their backup catcher, but Navarro hit several dramatic game winning home runs, and provided the only pop off the bench that season for the Cubs.

A/V Club

On this day in 1920, the spitball was outlawed by Major League Baseball. Pitchers that currently threw one were grandfathered in, but no new big leaguer would be allowed to throw one. The last one to do it legally was Cubs pitcher (and Hall of Famer) Burleigh Grimes.