Starting pitcher Ted Lilly of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field in Chicago Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Phillies 4-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
This is another in an update to BCB's Top 100 Cubs series, originally posted in 2006.
You all know Ted Lilly pretty well, so this profile will be a summary of his life and playing career.
But I also wanted to take note of the one play that perhaps defined Ted "Bulldog" Lilly for Cubs fans, and particularly those of us here at BCB, forever.
You know the one I'm talking about -- it happened on September 10, 2008 in St. Louis. The Cubs came into that game having lost eight of their last nine, including the first game of the series against the Cardinals, and although they still led the Brewers by 4.5 games, it got to be nervous time, a little, at least.
The Cubs had given up a run in the first inning and then in the second, three singles tied the game. With runners on first and second, Ted came up and sacrificed -- but reached on an error by Cardinals 3B Felipe Lopez, loading the bases. Another error by Lopez allowed two runs in, and Ted wound up on third. After Ryan Theriot grounded out, Derrek Lee hit a ball to deep short; Ted had broken for the plate.
The throw came home and Ted, leading with his pitching shoulder, barrelled into Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
It was the hit of the year, literally. Ted was tagged out, but three innings later Molina was literally out -- he left the game and would play only parts of two games the rest of the season. (Ted knocked him out for the year!), and the Cubs wound up winning the game. It was the first of five in a row and nine of 11 on their way to the division title.
October 2008 didn't work out too well, but we'll always have that image (and sorry, SB Nation doesn't have the rights to post that photo) of Ted Lilly.
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly III is a California boy, born January 4, 1976 (happy 35th last week!) in Lomita, California. He received the name because his great-grandfather rode with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders. Here's more of the story; in that 2003 article Ted's father (Ted Jr.) said that TRL III's son was going to be named Ted IV, and indeed, when TRL III's son was born last March 14, he was named Theodore Roosevelt Lilly IV.
He was drafted by his hometown Dodgers in the 23rd round in 1996, but never played for them before he was traded away. In fact, looking down his transaction log, he was constantly involved in deals involving players who had some connection with the Cubs:
July 31, 1998: Traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers with Jonathan Tucker (minors), Peter Bergeron and Wilton Guerrero to the Montreal Expos for Hiram Bocachica, Mark Grudzielanek and Carlos Perez.
July 5, 2002: Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the New York Yankees with Jason Arnold (minors) and John-Ford Griffin to the Oakland Athletics. The Oakland Athletics sent a player to be named later, Franklyn German and Carlos Pena to the Detroit Tigers. The Detroit Tigers sent Jeff Weaver to the New York Yankees. The Detroit Tigers sent cash to the Oakland Athletics. The Oakland Athletics sent Jeremy Bonderman (August 22, 2002) to the Detroit Tigers to complete the trade.
And then, of course, he signed with the Cubs on December 15, 2006, a four-year, $40 million deal purportedly signed with Jim Hendry while he (Hendry) was in a hospital bed recovering from a heart procedure.
Heart? Ted Lilly had, and has, tons of it. We saw it in every start he made. Even when he was mocked for slamming his glove to the ground after giving up a home run in the 2007 NLDS, you could view that as being passionate -- he was upset with himself. In 3.5 seasons with the Cubs, he put up 12.4 WAR, which ranks 92nd in team history.
Ted nearly threw a no-hitter against the White Sox on June 13, 2010, having it broken up by yet another ex-Cub, Juan Pierre. It's too bad that he couldn't have stayed a Cub, but time marches on, and perhaps one of the players acquired in the deal that sent him and Theriot to the Dodgers (Blake DeWitt, Brett Wallach or Kyle Smit) will wind up contributing to the Cubs' future.
None of them will bowl over Yadier Molina, though. I wish Ted well -- except when the Cubs are facing him.