I was 10 years old in 1984. In fact, I was not yet 10 when I proudly told my Mom’s boss that the Cubs were going to the playoffs. I was a veteran of four seasons of little league baseball and clearly was an expert in the field of making baseball predictions. I totally did not understand why her boss laughed and rolled his eyes at my proclamation. I had done a serious amount of homework before making my prediction. In those days, my Mom brought home the Chicago Sun-Times from work every day and I read the sports section every single day. I was armed with the information that was provided in the paper’s baseball preview section, I felt that the team was loaded with talented veterans and that they would make it to the playoffs. Yes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
On opening day in 1984, the Cubs boasted the following lineup:
- Bob Dernier CF
- Ryne Sandberg 2B
- Gary Matthews LF
- Ron Cey 3B
- Keith Moreland RF
- Jody Davis C
- Leon Durham 1B
- Larry Bowa SS
- Dick Ruthven P
Yep, looked like a winner to me. I’ll be telling you about all of those players and hopefully everyone else who appeared in a Cubs uniform along the way, or at least those who had an impact on a game or two.
That opening day game was played on April 3 in San Francisco. The Cubs would win that game behind 7⅓ innings from Dick Ruthven. The game’s Superhero was Jody Davis. Jody batted with two outs in the seventh inning and the score tied 2-2. Gary Matthews was on second after drawing a one out walk and moving up to second on a two out Keith Moreland single. Jody had a two out double that was worth (.321) and gave the Cubs a 4-2 lead. They’d go on to win 5-3.
Jody Davis was in his age 27 season. Jody was a very durable catcher and would appear in 150 games in 1984, his second consecutive season reaching that mark. It was the third of six straight seasons in which Jody appeared in 125 or more games. Jody was an All-Star in 1984 and actually finished 10th in MVP voting.
Game 1, April 3 – Cubs defeat the Giants 5-3 (1-0)
- Superhero – Jody Davis (.313)
- Hero – Larry Bowa (.191) – Larry had three hits, one of three three-hit games on the season.
- Sidekick – Lee Smith (.140) – Lee recorded five outs for his first save of the season.
- Billy Goat – Bob Dernier (-.136) – Bob had a hit and a walk, but that wasn’t enough to keep him from the top spot.
- Goat – Leon Durham (-.063) – Leon also had a hit, a walk and a run scored.
- Kid – Ron Cey (-.062) – Tough crowd right away to start the season, as he hit a home run and had a walk in the game.
An honorable mention in this game to Dick Ruthven. The Cubs actually had nine different players with a plate appearance in this game. Dick had four of them and did record a successful sacrifice bunt. He was the only Cubs regular not to record a hit.
Game 2, April 5 - Cubs complete the sweep of the Giants with 11-7 victory (2-0)
- Superhero - Bob Dernier (.174). Bob had a hit and three walks in five plate appearances. He scored once and drove in a run.
- Hero - Gary Matthews (.112). Gary had two hits and two walks and scored three times.
- Sidekick - Chuck Rainey (.093). 1984 was a very different time for starting pitchers. Chuck was allowed to complete 5⅓ innings despite allowing 12 hits, though he didn’t walk anyone. He struck out just one hitter. But during the time he was on the mound, the Cubs had built up a 10-1 lead before Rainey allowed 3 runs in the sixth.
- Billy Goat - Ron Cey (-.069). Ron actually had two hits and a run. He struck out twice in five at bats. Ron had three hits including a home run, two runs scored, an RBI and a walk over the first two games and was on the Goat side of the ledger twice.
- Goat - Mel Hall (-.030). Mel had a hit, a run and an RBI as well. Games that get lopsided early can be harsh if you don’t get a hit the first time through the order. Mel struck out with the bases loaded to end the first inning.
- Kid - Jody Davis (-028). The trend continues as Jody had two hits, two RBI and a run scored. Alas, he was retired in his first two at bats including batting in the fourth inning with it still 1-1 and a runner on second and one out (-.042).
Bob Dernier was one of the many players Dallas Green raided from the Phillies. Bob came to the Cubs in 1984 with Gary Matthews in a trade for veteran reliever Bill Campbell. This deal is underrated as one of the better deals in Cubs history. The Cubs didn’t give up much and Bob Dernier played four seasons as a Cub. He received nominal downballot MVP support in ‘84 and received a Gold Glove as well. Bob stole 45 bases in 1984, a career high. He also scored a career high 94 runs.
Game 3, April 6 - Cubs lose 3-2 to Padres (2-1)
- Superhero - Richie Hebner (.313). Richie had one plate appearance in the game, he pinch hit in the ninth inning with two outs and the Cubs down 2-1. He drew a bases loaded walk to tie the game.
- Hero - Larry Bowa (.121). Larry was also a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and he had a two out double to put runners at second and third.
- Sidekick - Keith Moreland (.080). Keith had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances on the day. He is here because he lead off the ninth inning with a single (.115) and later scored.
- Billy Goat - Lee Smith (-.374). Lee came into a 2-2 game and only faced three hitters. He retired the first and then allowed a Gary Templeton single and a Champ Summers walk off double.
- Goat - Gary Woods (-.280). Gary had one hit and one strike out in his four at bats. He lands here because he grounded into a double play with one out and the bases loaded in the seventh inning (-.288).
- Kid - Ryne Sandberg (-.236). Ryne reached base once, on a walk, in five plate appearances. He lands here because he struck out with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth with the game tied (-.164).
Lee Smith was drafted by the Cubs in the second round of the 1975 draft out of high school. He debuted in the major leagues on September 1, 1980. Lee was a reliever almost exclusively in the majors, with just six starts all occurring in ‘81 and ‘82. 1983 was his best season as a Cub as he was an All Star (one of two appearances as a Cub), and received some downballot votes for Cy Young and MVP on the strength of 29 saves and a 1.65 ERA in 103⅓ innings of work. He struck out 91 batters.
Game 4, April 7 - Cubs drop second straight to Padres 7-6 (2-2)
- Superhero - Gary Matthews (.116). With an honorable mention to Steve Trout who had a .138 WPA based on his two run single with the bases loaded in the fourth. Gary gets here on a day when he had just one hit in five plate appearances, but he also walked twice and scored a run.
- Hero - Ryne Sandberg (.091). Ryne had a home run, a sacrifice fly, a walk, scored twice and drove in two runs.
- Sidekick - Larry Bowa (.061). Larry reached base twice in three plate appearances, reaching on a walk and an error. He scored after reaching on error.
- Billy Goat - Porfi Altamirano (-.382). Porfi pitched 2⅓ innings, allowed four hits and two runs and took the loss. This is another one of those games that illustrates the times changing. Porfi allowed a double to the first batter he faced in the fifth, allowing an inherited runner to score. He got out of that inning, pitched a perfect sixth and then came back out for the eighth to face the heart of the Padres lineup. He allowed two hits to start the inning and pitched the full inning allowing two runs, three hits and two stolen bases.
- Goat - Steve Trout (-.142). Despite the offensive contribution, it was a tough day for Steve as he allowed nine hits, two walks and four runs in just 4.2 innings of work and didn’t strike anyone out.
- Kid - Tom Veryzer (-.134). Tom pinch hit against Goose Gossage with two outs and runners on first and second and the Cubs down by one in the ninth inning and grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Porfi Altamirano actually came over in that same trade that netted Dernier and Matthews. The right hander from Nicaragua had pitched in 60 games over two years for the Phillies. At the age of 32, he pitched in just five games for the Cubs and compiled a 4.76 ERA, despite a WHIP of .794, largely because he allowed two home runs in just 11⅓ innings of work. I wasn’t able to find any articles referencing what happened to Porfi.
Game 5, April 8 - Cubs win 8-5 (3-2)
- Superhero - Henry Cotto (.635). In what would be the third highest single game WPA on the season, Henry Cotto had three hits in five at bats and also reached on a hit by pitch. Ironically, the biggest WPA event for him was one where he didn’t record a hit, he reached on an error with two outs in the tenth inning (.362) that scored the go ahead run. Henry scored three times.
- Hero - Gary Matthews (.351). Gary had two hits and two walks. Gary finishes second here despite being taken out of the game early in an extra inning game. Gary drove in one run with a two out double in the seventh inning to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead (.219).
- Sidekick - Ryne Sandberg (.239). Ryne had a hit and a walk in this game and also reached on an error. Ryne drove in the game’s first run with a fielder’s choice in the fifth. He scored in the ninth inning following reaching on an error on a sacrifice bunt. He tripled in a run in the tenth and then stole home, to increase the lead from 6-5 to 8-5.
- Billy Goat - Tim Stoddard (-.477). Tim came into the game in the seventh inning with the Cubs leading 2-1, but runners on first and second and only one out. The batter was Tony Gwynn. Gwynn promptly untied the game with a two run triple. Stoddard intentionally walked the next hitter and then retired the final two hitters to get out of the inning. Tim then came back out to start the eighth and allowed a single and a balk before being removed. This was actually the ninth worst game of the year by WPA for the Cubs.
- Goat - Ron Cey (-.174). Ron was hitless in this one, though he did draw a walk and drive in a run. The biggest culprit here was a fielder’s choice ground out to end the third with the bases loaded (-.082)
Kid - Leon Durham (-.154). Leon had one walk in four plate appearances. He too did not finish this game. His biggest negative was a foul out in the third inning with one out and the bases loaded (-.085).
Henry Cotto was signed as an international free agent out of Puerto Rico in 1980. 1984 was his rookie season. He appeared in 105 games in 1984, usually as a substitute. Henry actually had a few good years later in his career with the Seattle Mariners and actually twice lead the American League in SB% (‘91 and ‘92). This game was just his second major league start and he recorded three hits in it. This was by far, his biggest game as a Cub by WPA. Following the season, he was traded (along with Porfi, Rich Bordi and Ron Hassey who we will talk about later) to the Yankees for Brian Dayett and Ray Fontenot.
Game 6, April 9 - Cubs lose 4-2 to Dodgers (3-3)
- Superhero - Gary Woods (.050). Gary had a pinch hit double leading off the eighth inning with the Cubs down 4-1. He later scored to make it 4-2. The Cubs didn’t muster much offense in this one.
- Hero - Dickie Noles (.028). Dickie came into a 3-1 game in the fifth inning with runners on first and second and no outs. He retired the first two hitters he faced to get out of the inning. He pitched a perfect sixth as well. This is another reminder of how different baseball was in 1984. Having retired the first five hitters he faced, Noles went back out to start the seventh. Re retired the Dodgers pitcher for his sixth consecutive out before allowing a sequence of single, stolen base, single to allow the fourth run to score before getting the final two outs.
- Sidekick - Bill Buckner (.020). Buckner came into the game with Dickie Noles as part of a double switch. He lead off the sixth with a single (.054) and grounded out in the eighth.
- Billy Goat - Chuck Rainey (-.233). Chuck started the game and only made it one out into the fifth before being replaced. He allowed five hits and four walks. He did strike out five. He took the loss in this one.
- Goat - Larry Bowa (-.117). Larry was hitless in his three at bats including grounding into a double play to end the second when the Cubs were leading 1-0.
- Kid - Ryne Sandberg (-.108). Ryne was hitless in four at bats.
Chuck Rainey was drafted in the first round (19th overall) by the Boston Red Sox out of high school in 1974. He made his debut for the Red Sox in 1979. The Cubs acquired Rainey after the season ended in 1982 via a trade for Doug Bird. The Cubs then traded him mid-season in 1984 to the A’s for a player to be named later. Chuck made 34 starts for the Cubs in 1983 compiling a 14-13 record with a 4.48 ERA. The best game of his career occurred August 24, 1983 when he carried a no hitter into the ninth inning before allowing a two out single. Over the course of his career, Chuck allowed a WHIP of 1.531 which lead to his general ineffectiveness. Chuck pitched out of the bullpen for the A’s for the remainder of 1984 during which he turned 30. He never again appeared in the major leagues after that season. A fun tidbit, if you google his name, the first entries you’ll find belong to a bass player of some renown who looks a little like Morgan Freeman. Chuck Rainey the baseball player in no way resembles Morgan Freeman.
Game 7, April 11 - Cubs swept by Dodgers in 2-1 loss (3-4)
- Superhero - Keith Moreland (.109). Keith had two hits including a fourth inning RBI single (.080) that tied the game at 1-1.
- Hero - Dickie Noles (.023). Dickie threw a scoreless eighth inning with the Cubs already down 2-1. He allowed only one hit.
- Sidekick - Scott Sanderson (-.002). The negative hero. Always a bit of a bummer. The Cubs didn’t muster much offense in this game with only seven hits, no walks and one run. Scott Sanderson threw seven innings. As was often said in those days, he scattered 11 hits over those seven innings resulting in two runs. He neither walked nor struck out any hitters.
- Billy Goat - Larry Bowa (-.115). Larry was hitless in three at bats.
- Goat - Ron Cey (-.099). Former Dodger Ron Cey was also hitless in the game, though he got four tries. One of his ground outs advanced a runner to third. I’d love to say this was an example of hitting behind the runner to advance him from “when baseball was played right” but that would be a lie. He grounded out to third, the runner advanced anyway.
- Kid - Jody Davis (-.086). Jody had one hit in three tries, a second inning single.
Larry Bowa debuted in the Major Leagues in 1970 for the Philadelphia Phillies. He played 140 games that season and finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting. I remember him from 1984 as an almost totally inept hitter. I’m not sure I was ever aware that he was a five-time All-Star in the 1970’s. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that he finished third in the MVP voting in 1978. Dave Parker was the MVP that season and Bowa finished five points behind Steve Garvey for second while receiving three first place votes (all of the other first place votes went to Parker). He received down ballot votes in 3 other seasons. Durability was a calling card for Bowa as he had 13 seasons with over 130 games played including six over 150 and one in which he played in 162. He had 2,191 hits and 987 runs while stealing 318 bases.
Cumulative Standings (7 games)
- Gary Matthews 5
- Dickie Noles 4
- Keith Moreland 4
- Richie Hebner 3
- Henry Cotto 3
- Ryne Sandberg 1
- Scott Sanderson 1
- Gary Woods 1
- Bill Buckner 1
- Jody Davis 1
- Bob Dernier 0
- Larry Bowa 0
- Tom Veryzer -1
- Lee Smith -2
- Steve Trout -2
- Mel Hall -2
- Chuck Rainey -2
- Leon Durham -3
- Tim Stoddard -3
- Porfi Altamarino -3
- Ron Cey -6
Next week, we’ll look at the first homestand of the 1984 season for the Cubs. It was a seven-game homestand against the Mets, Cardinals and Pirates. Thanks for joining me for this week’s column. I welcome any feedback you might have on the column and I also hope that some of you will share some of your memories of some of these players be they the biggest stars or especially those who are mostly forgotten. As the column goes on, I’ll be covering virtually every player who played for the team in 1984 and will eventually talk about more than just when they were drafted, debuted and their best seasons, particularly for those who were the biggest contributors on the team. My intent is to introduce the player and then when I check back on them to give you more in season analysis and perspective about their contributions to the team.