I thought I'd give you someone completely different for today's installment, someone you might have forgotten about: Steven "Turk" Wendell. But first, a little No. 13 history.
Starlin Castro is the best player to wear Cubs No. 13. I say that advisedly, because Claude Passeau, who wore it for nine seasons from 1939-47, went 124-94 with a 2.96 ERA in 1,914⅔ innings, pitched for the Cubs in the World Series, and started the 1946 All-Star Game for the National League. (He's still the only Cubs pitcher to do that.)
Passeau, though, doesn't rank in the top 10 in any Cubs major pitching category. Granted, a lot of those guys pitched before 1900.
But Castro is already moving up the ranks of team leaders. He'll likely post his 1,000th career hit this year -- that would put him 36th in team history at age 25. I think Castro is ready for a breakout year in 2015.
We've talked about Castro a lot here, and do so almost every day. So I thought I'd bring back the memory of a guy who was supposed to be a big star. He had the clever nickname and some pretty good minor-league numbers (1991: 11-5, 2.67 ERA, 1.287 WHIP in 168⅔ innings for two Atlanta affiliates). He was acquired by the Cubs with two days left in the 1991 season (I still can't figure out why a trade like this was made almost literally at the last minute) along with Yorkis Perez from the Braves for Damon Berryhill and Mike Bielecki.
He bounced up and down between Iowa and the Cubs for three years, and with the Cubs not really having a closer in 1996, they turned to Turk and his wacky habit of jumping over the foul line when he left the mound after an inning ended. He had a pretty good year closing: 18 saves, 2.84 ERA, 1.286 WHIP and only three blown saves.
He probably could have handled the job full-time, but Andy MacPhail went out and signed Mel Rojas. You know how that worked out. Wendell was relegated to setup duty and eventually shipped to the Mets along with Rojas and Brian McRae for Lance Johnson, Mark Clark and Manny Alexander. That turned out to be quite a good deal for the Cubs, as Johnson and Clark were key contributors on the 1998 wild-card team.
It was also a good deal for Wendell. Never a closer again, he posted some good years as a middle relief/setup guy and pitched in the World Series for the Mets in 2000. He never turned into what the Braves thought they might have, but he put together an 11-year major-league career with some good seasons. Most guys drafted into a big-league organization would take that.
I always thought he would turn into something better than he was; I went out of my way to have him sign a ball at a Cubs Convention sometime in the mid-1990s. Still have that ball around, somewhere.
There aren't many Cubs who have ever worn No. 13. Here's the whole list:
Claude Passeau (1939-47), Hal Manders (1946), Bill Faul(1965-66), Turk Wendell(1993-97), Jeff Fassero (2001-02), Will Ohman (2006-07), Rey Ordonez(2004), Neifi Perez(2004-06), Andres Blanco (2009), Starlin Castro (2010-14)
All of the players who wore it prior to 2007 were pitchers. All of the players who have worn it since then have been shortstops. Only one player -- Faul -- wore it between 1946 and 1993. Faul was an odd sort; it was said he used to hypnotize himself before starts. Didn't help much, as he went 12-16 with a 4.97 career ERA in a low-offense era. Very few players wore No. 13 in the 1960s -- here's the complete list. Superstition, I suppose. It became popular again after 1970 when Reds shortstop Dave Concepcion wore it in multiple World Series, and many shortstops from Venezuela (Concepcion's home country) and other Latin American countries adopted that number.
Castro, it would appear, is carrying on in that tradition. Here's hoping he becomes one of the greatest Cubs.