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Baseball history unpacked, October 31

Theo Epstein gets into the spirit, and other stories

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A wildly popular Cubs-centric look at baseball’s past. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along as we review select scenes from the rich tapestry of Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball history.

Today we look at some of baseball’s All-Hallow’s moments. There aren’t a lot, but the ones that exist are pretty Cub-flavored. No pumpkin spice!

Today in baseball history:

  • 1931 - The Cardinals release right-hander Burleigh Grimes, the last legal spitballer. Ol’ Stubblebeard will finish his 19-year Hall of Fame career with a 270-212 record along with an ERA of 3.53. (1)

The story of Hall-of-Famer Burleigh Grimes:

“I used to chew slippery elm - the bark, right off the tree. Come spring the bark would get nice and loose and you could slice it free without any trouble. What I checked was the fiber from inside, and that’s what I put on the ball. The ball would break like hell, away from right-handers and in on lefties,” Grimes once said.

Grimes started out in unspectacular fashion, winning 5 and losing 19 in two years with the Pittsburgh Pirates before getting traded to the Dodgers. He was an immediate hit with Brooklyn, going 19-9 his first year and winning another 139 in eight additional years, “while leading the National League in complete games three times (1921, 1923, 1924), innings twice (1923, 1924) and both wins (1921) and strikeouts (1921) once.”

It was during the latter portion of his career that the spitball was outlawed, but Grimes (and 16 other pitchers) was/were grandfathered in and allowed to continue throwing the pitch. He pitched through 1934, and would end up playing for the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. His most noteworthy effort came in his second stint with the Pirates in 1928 when he again paced the NL in wins (25), games (48), complete games (28) and innings pitched (330.2). In 1931 as a member of the St, Louis Cardinals, Grimes claimed his first and only championship, as he won both of his starts in the World Series versus the Philadelphia Athletics.(5)

“The only time I was ever scared in my life was one time when Burleigh threw at me on a 3-and-0 count.” — Frankie Frisch (5)

  • 1995 - Retired second baseman Ryne Sandberg announces that he will return to the major leagues in 1996. The ten-time All-Star signs a one-year contract to play for the Chicago Cubs. (3)
  • 2005 - On Halloween night, former Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, on the night of his resignation, eludes the media parked outside Fenway Park disguised in a gorilla suit. At a future charity event, the hairy costume will be auctioned and will make $11,000 for the Jimmy Fund and Theo’s Foundation, To Be Named Later. (1)
  • 2011 - Although offered approximately $4.5 million for a three-year extension, four times the amount of his previous salary, Theo Epstein decides to leave the BoSox after being the youngest general manager to lead a team to a World Championship. The split with team president Larry Lucchino, who hired the 18 year-old Yale undergraduate as an Oriole intern, gave him a position with the Padres before bringing the ‘Boy Wonder’ to Boston, takes the Red Sox Nation by surprise. (1)
  • 2014 - The Cubs dismissed manager Rick Renteria, who, according to GM Theo Epstein, “deserved to come back for another season." The availability of Joe Maddon, announced as the team’s new skipper an hour after Renteria’s dismissal, puts an end to the first-year skipper’s managerial career in Chicago.

“We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.” - THEO EPSTEIN, explaining manager Rick Renteria’s dismissal. (1)


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Thanks for playing along.