Profile by BCB reader goody14
Successful major league careers happen because of the confluence of many factors; with the most important being talent and opportunity. It took a Cubs tragedy in the winter of 1964 to give Glenn Beckert the opportunity to play at the major league level. Ken Hubbs -- the 1962 Rookie of the Year -- died in a plane crash in February, 1964. The Cubs used a melange of mediocre backups (future manager Joe Amalfitano, Jimmy Stewart [not the actor], Ron Campbell and Leo Burke) at second base in 1964, then installing Beckert, previously a minor league shortstop, in the position in 1965. Beckert, born on October 12, 1940 in Pittsburgh, had originally been signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1962 out of Allegheny College, and the Cubs acquired him in the winter of 1962-63 in what was then called the "first-year draft", sort of a precursor to the current Rule 5 draft. Curious story: Cub management at the time was considering two different shortstops in the Red Sox chain to draft -- one was Beckert, the other was Rico Petrocelli, who went on to hit over 200 HR for the Red Sox.
Beckert would man the keystone bag from 1965 through 1973, racking up four All Star appearances and finishing in the top 25 of MVP voting three times, once as high as ninth (in 1968). Starting a string of amazing consistency and health, Beckert played with the same infield intact from 1965 to 1969. Those five straight seasons featured Ernie Banks at 1B, Beckert at 2B, Don Kessinger at SS and Ron Santo at 3B. Although these teams -- as we well know -- never won a pennant, they were in the race and the last Cubs team to be over .500 for an extended period of time.
Beckert was the type of player that Dusty Baker would have loved, always putting the ball in play. He never walked more than 32 times in a season but also never struck out over 36 times after his rookie season. He was in the top ten for at bats per strikeouts for eight seasons and the league leader for five. Offensively his best season was 1971 when he managed to put up an OPS about 7% higher than the league average -- he hit .342, which in those days ordinarily would have been enough to lead the league, but Joe Torre chose '71 to have his one MVP season and hit .363 that year, relegating Glenn to a distant 2nd in the batting race. He led the league in runs scored in 1968, primarily due to the bats of Banks, Williams and Santo batting behind him. He also won a Gold Glove that season.
Beckert also was a footnote for two unique occurrences -- one good and one bad. On On June 3, 1971, Ken Holtzman no-hit the Reds 1-0, with Glenn driving in the only run of the game, in typical Beckert fashion -- Holtzman had reached on an error, advanced to second on a groundout, then Glenn singled him in. Conversely, driving in a run was something he was famously not able to do on September 16, 1972. The Cubs smoked the Mets 18-5 that afternoon, with all the starters getting a hit for the Cubs except Beckert, who went 0-for-6. To make matters worse, he stranded a record 12 men on base and made two outs in an inning - twice.
After the 1973 season, when Cubs management "backed up the truck" and dealt away the popular players who had brought the club so agonizingly close to a title, Beckert was traded to San Diego for outfielder Jerry Morales. Injured most of the 1974 season, he played in only 64 games, then briefly in nine more games in '75 before retiring. Before he did so, however, he became part of baseball lore by becoming one of a handful of players depicted on baseball cards bearing the legend "WASHINGTON NAT'L LEA.", as the Padres were supposedly to move to DC for the 1974 season:
Beckert was a consistent player with a little pop and a good glove that manned one position for one of the most famous Cub teams, which made him quite popular in his playing days. The lore of the Durocher Cubs leaves people thinking he was a better player than he was. This isn't to say he was a bad player - far from it - but he was not the best second sacker of his generation. Of course, any manager would take average to slightly above average performance for an extended period of time from a starting player. He was the starting second baseman for nine consecutive seasons -- in all of Cub history only Ryne Sandberg and Billy Herman started at 2B for as many or more straight seasons. Beckert's 1206 games at 2B rank fourth in club history behind Sandberg, Herman and Johnny Evers.
After retirement Glenn worked for many years as a trader at the Chicago Board of Trade, and later returned to live in his native Pittsburgh.