Saturday, February 22, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 22

Today's Cubs birthdays

~Steve Barber 1938 (1970)
Barber was a two-time All-Star pitcher for the Orioles in the 1960s. He was also a 20-game winner. But by the time he arrived in Chicago, he had endured less successful stints with both the Yankees and the Seattle Pilots. He was signed as a free agent by the Cubs in April of 1970 and was released by the end of June. His ERA in only five appearances (all in relief) was 9.63. After leaving the Cubs, Barber managed to stay in the big leagues until 1974, pitching in relief for the Braves, Angels, and Giants. (Photo: 1970 Topps Baseball Card--he never had one as a Cub)

~Eric Yelding 1965 (Cubs 1993)
He had one of the greatest nicknames in Cubs history. His teammates called him Cool Breeze. Yelding was an infielder/outfielder who was known for his blazing speed. One year with the Astros (before he came to the Cubs) he stole 64 bases. Unfortunately, he was also caught stealing 25 times. He was a utility man for the Cubs in 1993, but was injured and missed most of the season. He hit only .204 in his limited time. He never played in the big leagues again.

A/V Club

This commercial describes baseball in the 1920s perfectly...

Friday, February 21, 2014

JOBC Cubs Alamanc--February 21

Adam Greenberg 1981 (Cubs 2005)
His Cubs career was undeniably unique. On July 9, 2005, the Chicago Cubs called him up to the big leagues. They were in Miami facing the Florida Marlins. Greenberg's entire family flew down to Florida from Connecticut to watch his first major league series. They could barely contain their excitement in the 7th inning of the game, when Adam was called on to pinch hit for Cubs pitcher Will Ohman. The pitcher was Valerio De Los Santos, a left-hander. "I get in the box," Greenberg remembers, "and all of a sudden he throws it, and I'm thinking, 'Am I swinging?' and all of a sudden, bam."

Here's the way New York Times reporter Ira Berkow described the only pitch of Greenberg's major league career: "No one imagined that the very first pitch the left-handed Greenberg faced in the major leagues would be a fastball that would crack him squarely in the head, smashing against his helmet and the part of his neck just under his right ear, making a sound so loud that it stunned the crowd of almost 23,000. His parents, his sister and two brothers had come to Dolphins Stadium from Guilford, Conn., near New Haven. His grandfather was watching at home on television. His mother, Wendy Greenberg, said she was horrified when she saw her son drop to the ground as Cubs Manager Dusty Baker and the trainer rushed to the plate."

Greenberg had to be removed from the game and was placed on the disabled list after the game. He never returned to the Cubs, and never returned to the majors until the Marlins gave him one at bat at the end of the 2012 season as a publicity stunt. He struck out. (Photo: 2002 Upper Deck Future Gems Baseball Card)

~Joe Hughes 1880 (Orphans 1902)
His cup of coffee in the big leagues was only slightly longer than Adam Greenberg's. Hughes played in exactly one game, on August 30, 1902 in Pittsburgh. He played right field and got three at bats (no hits) for the Orphans (Cubs) that day. The Cubs lost in the bottom of the 12th inning, 3-2.

~Ted Savage 1936(Cubs 1967-1968)
Savage played for eight teams in the big leagues, including the Cubs. He was a fourth outfielder type, who never really claimed a full-time position. With the Cubs he hit .218 in 1967. They traded him early in 1968 and it turned out to be a great trade. In exchange for Savage and Jim Ellis, the Dodgers sent the Cubs Jim Hickman and Phil Regan. Both players were key contributors to the Cubs over the next few years.

~William Petersen 1953 (Cubs fan 1953-present)
He was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1953 and grew up a Cubs fan. The Cubs of his youth were some of the worst teams imaginable, yet Wrigley Field was always one of his favorite destinations. But he didn't just watch the Cubs there, he also watched the Bears. When he was 9 years old his dad took him to a bar to watch the 1963 Championship game. "Hey! The game was blacked-out in Chicago," he explained. "We had to watch it somewhere. It's one of my favorite childhood memories."

After college he performed with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and was a co-founder of the Remains Theater Ensemble which also included other prominent Chicago actors Gary Cole and Ted Levine. And he attended Cubs games. His big break in the movies came in 1986 in the film "To Live and Die in LA." He continued working in films ("Manhunter," "Young Guns II") and television mini-series like "The Kennedy's" and "Lonesome Dove," but he really hit the jackpot in 2000 with his starring role (he was the producer as well) in the mega-hit TV show "CSI."

But even during those heady Hollywood days, he longed for Chicago. "Oh God, I don't know how long I can stick with this," he said. "I'd be in Chicago right now if it wasn't for this show. L.A.'s not my style. Just the other day, I had some friends in from Chicago and we went to see the Cubs beat the Dodgers out here. I was telling them there's no community here. You can't walk across the street from the stadium to the bar. I think that's a microcosm for the whole city." He still comes back to Chicago at least once a year to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at Wrigley Field.

A/V Club

Today's birthday boy William Petersen leads the crowd in song...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 20

Today's Cubs Birthdays

~Frank Gustine 1920 (Cubs 1949)
Frank was coming off three consecutive all-star seasons when he arrived in Chicago in December of 1948. The Hoopeston Illinois native was probably excited to be playing for the Cubs after spending the previous ten seasons with the Pirates. (His roommate on the road with the Pirates was Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner). Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out for Frank in Chicago. He split time at third base with Bob Ramazzotti, and neither of them hit well. Gustine hit only .226, and was released before the season was over. He resurfaced briefly with the St. Louis Browns the following season, but that was the end of his big league career. (Photo: 1948 Leaf Baseball Card)

~Jesus Figuero, 1957 (Cubs 1980)
The Dominican outfielder played for the Cubs one year, his only season in the big leagues. The Cubs used him mainly as a pinch hitter that season. He was a contact hitter with a good eye, but didn't really have the power necessary to stick in the majors as a corner outfielder. The Cubs traded him after the season (along with Jerry Martin) to the Giants, and he couldn't crack the roster there. The Giants had a stacked outfield that included Larry Herndon, Jack Clark, Bill North, and Jeff Leonard.

~Ryan Sweeney, 1985 (Cubs 2013-present)
Sweeney was a high draft pick of the White Sox, but he has travelled around quite a bit since he was drafted. The Sox traded him to the A's as part of the Nick Swisher deal, then the A's traded him to the Red Sox in the Josh Reddick deal. The Cubs signed him as a free agent just before the 2013 season. He probably would have started the whole season in centerfield, but he was injured. The Cubs signed him to a two-year deal before the 2014 season.

~Julio Borbon, 1986 (Cubs 2013)
He stole 19 bases in only 46 games as a rookie with the Rangers in 2009, and it appeared he was going to be a big star. But Borbon was undisciplined at the plate and couldn't get on base enough to take advantage of his speed. The Cubs claimed him off waivers in 2013 and he had a few good moments, but he was abruptly released in August when he angered manager Dale Sveum with a boneheaded play on the basepaths.

A/V Club

Cubs birthday boy Julio Borbon's first career homer, as a member of the Rangers...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 19

Today's Cubs Birthdays

~Jim Cosman 1943 (Cubs 1970)
Though Cosman is listed as a "Rookie Star" on this Topps baseball card, he pitched briefly for the Cardinals in 1966 and 1967 before coming to the Cubs. The big right-hander (6'5") had control problems throughout his pitching career. With the Cardinals he walked 24 men in 31 innings in 1967. He didn't make it back to the majors until the Cubs gave him a shot three seasons later. The date was April 30, 1970, and the Cubs were facing the Atlanta Braves. Chicago was already down 6-2 when Cosman came in to start the seventh inning. The first batter he faced was Hank Aaron and Aaron took him deep. Cosman didn't make it out of the inning, and never pitched in another big league game. After leaving baseball he became a successful executive in the waste management business. He passed away in January of 2013.

~Miguel Batista 1971 (Cubs 1997)
Miguel was a member of that horrible '97 Cubs team, and he didn't pitch particularly well either (5.70 ERA), but he did serve a very important role. He was the trade bait that convinced the Montreal Expos to trade Henry Rodriguez to the Cubs. Henry was a key part of the Cubs 1998 playoff team and helped stablize a position (left field) that had fielded eleven different opening day starters in the previous eleven seasons. Batista pitched for 18 seasons in the big leagues with the Pirates, Marlins, Expos, Royals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Nationals, Mets, Braves, and the 2001 World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. (The team that broke the ex-Cub curse. Two other ex-Cubs were on that team--Mark Grace & Luis Gonzalez)

A/V Club

On this day in 1987, Harry Caray suffered a stroke while playing cards. He would miss the first few months of the 1987 season. One of the people who filled in was Bill Murray...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 18

Today's Cubs Birthdays

~Jerry Morales 1949
(Cubs 1974-1977, 1981-1983)
Jerry was acquired in the trade with the Padres that cost the Cubs fan favorite Glenn Beckert, but Morales would have a very respectable Cubs career. For parts of two decades his reliable glove patrolled all three outfield positions for the Cubs. His best season in a Cubs uniform was probably 1977. Morales was named to the All-Star team that year, and even scored a run in the 1977 All-Star Game. But to many of his Chicago fans, Jerry Morales will remembered for his most impressive off-the-field accomplishment. In the era of the bushy mustache, Jerry managed to grow the bushiest.

~Walter Thornton 1875 (Colts/Orphans 1895-1898)
He was an outfielder and a pitcher for Chicago (when that was still relatively commonplace), and had a few respectable seasons, but he will always be remembered most for what happened on August 21, 1898. He took the mound in the second game of a doubleheader against Brooklyn (then known as the Bridegrooms) and pitched a no-hitter. Chicago won the game 2-0. After the season he left baseball in a contract dispute (at the age of 23). He later became a devout follower of another ex-Chicago-ballplayer, Billy Sunday. In the last few years of his life (he lived until 1960), he roamed the city of Los Angeles as a street preacher, doing whatever he could to help the poor.

~Zip Zabel 1891 (Cubs 1913-1915)
When the Zabels had their little boy in Kansas around the time of George Washington's birthday, they named him George Washington Zabel. But no-one ever called him George. His teammates called him Zip. Zabel pitched for the Cubs during their last three seasons at the rickety firetrap known as West Side Grounds (1913-1915). On June 17, 1915 he set a record there that will never be broken. He came in to spell Cubs starter Bert Humphries in the first inning, and went on to pitch the next 18 and 1/3 innings in relief. He faced 78 batters in those innings, and only gave up two runs. The Cubs finally won the game 4-3 in the bottom of the 19th.

~Cal Neeman 1929 (Cubs 1957-1960)
Cal was the starting catcher for the Cubs in 1957 and hit 10 homers, but he couldn't hold on to that spot and spent the rest of his career as a backup. In May of 1960 he was part of the trade that sent Tony Taylor to the Phillies in exchange for Don Cardwell and Ed Bouchee.

~Kevin Tapani 1964 (Cubs 1997-2001)
Tapani was coming off seven consecutive double-digit-win seasons in the American League (and a World Series championship in Minnesota) when he joined the Cubs before the 1997 season. He didn't realize it at the time, but he was walking into a buzzsaw. That '97 Cubs team lost their first 14 games on the way to a humiliating last place finish. On the other hand, Tapani was a key contributor the following season when the Cubs made it to the playoffs. He won 19 games during the regular season, and was leading the Braves 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 2 of the NLDS when Ryan Klesko touched him for a game-tying homer. The Cubs lost it in the 10th. Tapani lost it the following year, and never put up those kind of numbers again.

~Shawn Estes 1973 (Cubs 2003)
He was the fifth starter on a Cubs team that also sent Wood, Prior, Zambrano, and Clement to the mound. Estes was clearly the weak link. Dusty Baker remembered him fondly for his 19-win All-Star season with the Giants (Dusty was his manager), so he kept sending him out there every five days, and Estes kept getting rocked. His ERA in 28 starts was 5.83. The Cubs unloaded him after the season and he won 15 games for the Rockies in 2004. Shawn's claim to fame (other than his incredible 1997 season) happened on May 24, 2000. He became the first Giants pitcher to hit a grand slam home run.

~Brian Bogusevic 1984 (Cubs 2013)
He was drafted as a pitcher by the Astros, but converted to outfield. The Cubs signed him as a free agent before the 2013 season, and Brian would have had a decent chance to log significant playing time on that team, but he kept getting hurt. After the season he was traded to the Marlins for Justin Ruggiano.

A/V Club

Cubs birthday boy Kevin Tapani was in the dugout watching this famous rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in 1998...

Monday, February 17, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 17

Today's Cubs Birthdays

~Doyle Lade 1921 (Cubs 1946-1950)
The Cubs got him from the White Sox during the 1946 season, and Doyle stayed with the Cubs the rest of the decade. His best season was 1947. He won 11 games and posted a 3.94 ERA pitching for a less-than-stellar Cubs team. After that season, he was mostly used as a spot starter until his release in spring training 1951. Lade was a farm boy from Nebraska, and his teammates called him Porky. (Photo: 1949 Bowman Baseball Card)

~Pat Pieper 1886 (Cubs P.A. announcer/1916-1974)
He was known for his trademark opener..."Tention! Attention Please! Get your pencils and scorecards ready and I will give you the correct lineups for today's game." He got the job in 1916 when the Cubs first started playing in what is now known as Wrigley Field, and he kept the job until his death in 1974--an incredible streak of 59 years. When he first began, he had to do his job with a gigantic megaphone (this was before a public address system had been invented.) He said the starting lineups to the crowd from third base, and then did the same thing on the other side of the field from first base. In 1932, the Cubs finally installed a public address system. Pieper was the PA for 6 World Series, but he also handled those chores for the twenty consecutive seasons the Cubs finished in the bottom half of the league (1946-1966). When he died shortly after the 1974 season (October 22nd), the Cubs had just finished their most successful stretch since their World Series days.

~Mike Campbell 1964 (Cubs 1996)
After stops in Seattle, Texas and San Diego, Campbell came to the Cubs in 1996 and had his best season in the big leagues. He went 3-1 with a 4.46 ERA. He went to Japan after that and developed shoulder problems. Campbell's claim to fame was being part of the trade that brought Randy Johnson to the Mariners. He and Mark Langston went to the Expos in exchange for the future 300 game winner.

~Scott Williamson 1976 (Cubs 2005-2006)
The former Rookie of the Year, All Star, and World Series champ was coming off arm problems when the Cubs took a flier on him in early 2005. He was supposed to be the team's closer, but Ryan Dempster took over that role instead, and Wililamson struggled to regain his velocity. The Cubs traded him the following season to the Padres.

~Cody Ransom 1976 (Cubs 2013)
He had played for the Giants, Astros, Yankees, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Brewers and Padres before he came to the Cubs in 2013. Cody was the very definition of the well-travelled journeyman. He had good few months in Chicago hitting nine homers in only 158 at bats, before slumping and being released just before the season ended.

A/V Club

Today's Cubs birthday boy Cody Ransom is almost more well known for this video (posted in 2009) than he is for baseball career. It's a 60 inch vertical jump...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

JOBC Cubs Almanac--February 16

Today's Cubs Birthdays

~Carl Lundgren 1880 (Cubs 1902-1909)
Lundgren pitched for three Cubs pennant winners (1906, 1907, & 1908). Even though he was a great pitcher, he never pitched in the World Series during those pennant winning seasons because there were even better pitchers on the team (like Mordecai Brown, Orval Overall, and big Ed Reulbach). Lundgren was especially effective early in the season in cold weather, which led to his nickname "The Human Icicle." He won 17 games for the '06 pennant winners and 18 games for the '07 champs (with an unbelievable ERA of only 1.17 for the season), but slumped in '08 and managed to only win 6 games. After the next season his career was over.

Lundgren's teammates didn't just think of him of as their fifth or (sometimes) sixth starter. He was a shrewd baseball man; just as valuable on the bench as he was on the field. Lundgren later went on to succeed Branch Rickey as the baseball coach at the University of Michigan, before ending his career in his dream job, as the coach of his alma mater, the University of Illinois.

~Ed Schorr 1892 (Cubs 1915)
He only pitched in two games for the 1915 Cubs (in the last homestand of their final season at West Side Grounds), but one of them was in Grover Cleveland Alexander's 30th win of the season. Schorr pitched the final two innings in relief of Cubs starter Karl Adams.

~Ray Harrell 1912 (Cubs 1939)
The Cubs got Harrell in the off-season after their World Series loss to the Yankees, and had high hopes for him. Ray pitched horribly (8.31 ERA) however, so they included him in the trade that brought Claude Passeau to the Cubs. That turned out to be a great trade for Chicago as Passeau anchored their rotation for several years, including their 1945 pennant season.

~Don Eaddy 1934 (Cubs 1959)
Eaddy was a great athlete. He starred in three different sports at the University of Michigan (baseball, football, and basketball). The Cubs signed him just before he was drafted by Uncle Sam. Don had to serve in the Air Force for three years. When he finally returned to baseball, the Cubs brought him up to the big leagues to use him as a pinch runner. He got into fifteen games in that capacity, but only got into one game as a position player. On August 1, 1959, he came in to play third base. Two balls were hit to him and he made an error on one of them. He also got his only big league at bat in that game. He struck out. They never let him hit or field again.

~Don Landrum 1936 (Cubs 1962-1965)
Landrum was mostly a backup outfielder during his big league career, but he did get some extensive playing time with the Cubs in his final season with the club. Unfortunately, he only hit .226. But he served the Cubs well because he was included in a trade (along with Lindy McDaniel) that brought two important players to Chicago--Randy Hundley and Bill Hands. That remains one of the best trades the Cubs ever made.

~Bobby Darwin 1943 (Cubs 1977)
To say that Darwin was a free swinger is to understate the case. He led the AL in strikeouts three seasons in a row when he was with the Twins (1972-1974. His stay in Chicago was very short. In 1977 he got exactly twelve at bats.

~Mike Hubbard 1971 (Cubs 1995-1997)
Mike was the Cubs backup catcher behind Scott Servais for three seasons in the 90s. He also served as a backup for Montreal, Texas, and Atlanta.

~Barry Foote 1952 (Cubs 1979-1981)
Barry Foote hit sixteen home runs as the Cubs everyday catcher in 1979. Foote didn't have a great relationship with Cubs manager Herman Franks. When Franks (a World War II vet) resigned at the end of the 1979 season, he specifally called out Foote (along with Ted Sizemore, Bill Buckner, and Mike Vail) as a "whiner". The following year he became a part time catcher, and the season after that he was traded to the Yankees.

~Sergio Mitre 1981 (Cubs 2003-2005)
He was one of the better starting pitchers in the Cubs organization at a time when they had a stacked pitching rotation. Luckily for Sergio, the Cubs pitchers kept getting injured. He started 18 games over three seasons, and didn't have a tremendous amount of success, so the Cubs included him in the trade that landed Juan Pierre. Sergio stayed in the majors until 2011, and even pitched in the 2010 ALCS for the Yankees, but his lifetime record is 13-30.

~Eduardo Sanchez 1989 (Cubs 2013)
The young Venezuelan got a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2013, but he had control problems in his limited appearances. They let him go at the end of the season, and he signed with Detroit.

A/V Club

Today's Cubs birthday boy Carl Lundrgen was part of the 1906 team that set the record for most victories in a season...