Catcher Joe Girardi of the Chicago Cubs moves to scoop the ball during a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Ezra Shaw /Allsport
This is the first of a series, leading up to the All-Star Game next week, revisiting interesting anecdotes regarding Cubs in the All-Star Game, or stories surrounding Cubs and All-Star festivities.
Some of these moments are truly memorable; others are a little offbeat. I'm going to start this series with one of the more offbeat ones.
Joe Girardi, current Yankees manager, had two stints as a catcher for the Cubs, from 1989-92, when he was taken by the Rockies in the expansion draft, and then again from 2000-2002. He had a pretty good career, posting over 4,000 at-bats and 1,100 career hits and was known as a hard-nosed defensive player and a good clubhouse guy; his well-received speech to Cubs fans at Wrigley Field the day Darryl Kile of the Cardinals died helped cement his image as a leader.
He made just one All-Star team, in 2000 -- and not in the usual fashion.
In 2000, Mike Piazza, still near the peak of his career, was voted National League All-Star starting catcher. However, on July 8, the Sunday before the game, Piazza was hit in the head by Roger Clemens and was ruled out of playing in the game.
Jason Kendall, then of the Pirates, took over as starter and Mike Lieberthal of the Phillies was already on the roster as his backup. But NL manager Bobby Valentine wanted another catcher to back up those two.
MLB officials started calling every catcher in the league, but no one was home, or answering phones. Girardi, at home in suburban Chicago with his kids, was the only one that could be reached, so he got the offer.
At the time, Girardi was hitting .302/.374/.415 with four HR and 21 RBI in 61 games, so it wasn't as if he were having a terrible season. But neither was he considered having an All-Star caliber year.
As it turned out, all Girardi got for it was a free trip to Atlanta. He was the only position player to not play in the game, so his only All-Star appearance ended with his role being primarily to warm up pitchers in the NL bullpen. The National League lost 6-3. Maybe they should have let him play.