The Top 100 Cubs Of All Time - #60 Keith Moreland

Profile by BCB reader billypilgrim

On December 9, 1981, Hall-of-Fame baseball reporter Jerome Holtzman wrote in the Tribune:

Hollywood, Fla. - It took six days to make heaven and earth, but Dallas Green, confronted with an equally challenging assignment, virtually remade the Cubs Tuesday. In a sudden, though not unexpected, burst of activity, Green hooked two established free agent pitchers, Bill Campbell and Ferguson Jenkins, and in between swung a five-player deal which Green insists brings a potential 100-RBI slugger to Wrigley Field.

He is Keith Moreland, a 27-year-old catcher who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies along with Dickie Noles and Dan Larson, right-handed pitchers expected to qualify as rotation starters. In exchange, the Cubs sent Mike Krukow, their most promising pitcher, to the Phillies, who will also receive a player to be named later, probably a minor-leaguer.

That was almost an afterthought-type description of Keith Moreland, born May 2, 1954 in Dallas. He attended the University of Texas, from where he was drafted in the seventh round by the Phillies in 1975, and that's why he'd always exchange "Hook 'em Horns" finger greetings with people in the right field bleachers at Wrigley Field during his tenure with the Cubs.

Moreland's career with the Cubs began within the context of Dallas Green trying -- as Holtzman said -- "to remake the Cubs in one day.". And for the next six seasons (1982-1987) this "poor-throwing," "below-average defensively," "power-hitting", "rugged player" was a mainstay in the middle of the Cubs line-up as an outfielder, third baseman, or catcher (descriptions all used in the Holtzman article).

Some memorable moments in Moreland's career with the Cubs include:

I simply remember him for less specific things -- just playing the game hard. Although I can't pinpoint exact games, when I think of Keith Moreland I have these images in my head:

  • chugging in for a fly ball in right field, diving, and making a shoe string catch as he lays out;
  • breaking up a double play by not just sliding feet or head first into second, but by turning sideways and rolling into a second baseman, taking the legs out from under him.

Nonetheless, Keith Moreland showed up everyday (averaged 150 games per season), played hard (like the former college football player he was), did whatever was asked of him (multiple positions in the field and in the line-up), didn't complain, and produced consistent results (averaged .281, 17 home runs, and 82 runs batted in, decent numbers for the lower-power era in which he played). In six Cub seasons he hit exactly 100 home runs, good for eighteenth place on the all-time Cub list.

On September 1, 1987 Moreland was playing third base against the Astros when Billy Hatcher's bat broke into several pieces. Keith held up remnants of the bat, which was hollowed out and corked. Hatcher was ejected from the game.

In the 1987 off-season, the Cubs traded Moreland and infielder Mike Brumley to the Padres for Goose Gossage and minor-league pitcher Ray Hayward. At the time, Cubs front-office boss Jim Frey said that the departure of Moreland left Vance Law, who was acquired as a free agent over that winter, as the Cubs starting third baseman.

In recent years, Moreland has been a high school baseball coach, a radio announcer for Texas Longhorn baseball and football, and a roving minor league instructor for the Washington Nationals.

Moreland seems like a stand-up kind of guy as this post on Chicago folk singer Steve Goodman's web site suggests:

A sad footnote to A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request

Excerpt from: Sport (New York, N.Y.). v. 76, Apr. '85, p. 96. Kieth [sic] Moreland pondered what to do with an autographed baseball that he failed to deliver to folk singer Steve Goodman prior to Goodman's death. The singer wrote a humorous song, "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request," in which he conjectured that the perfect ending to his funeral at Wrigley Field would be for outfielder Keith Moreland to "drop a routine fly" during the post-funeral game. Moreland, amused, signed the ball after learning that Goodman really was dying, and entrusted it to the writer, who never found time to deliver it. Ironically, Goodman passed away just as the Cubs were about to clinch the Eastern Division championship.

Keith Moreland's career stats at baseball-reference.com

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