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Baseball history unpacked, October 5

Matt Murton for certain, and other stories

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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. It’s a beautiful day for a ball game — let’s get started!

Today in baseball history:

  • 1905 - The Beaneaters suffer their 100th loss of the season when they drop the first game of a Washington Park doubleheader, 11-5, to the Superbas, a team that has already lost 103 games. It is the first occurrence in major league history that two teams with triple-digit losses have been opponents. (1)
  • 1945 - Claude Passeau of the Chicago Cubs pitches a one-hitter, beating the Detroit Tigers, 3 - 0, in Game 3 of the World Series. (3)

Box score. Stan Hack and Peanuts Lowrey doubled for the victorious Cubs, who went up 2-1 in the series. Rudy York had the only hit for the Tigers, a 2nd-inning single.

  • 1993 - Bob Watson replaces Bill Wood as the general manager of the Astros, making the former Houston player the first black GM in baseball history. Bill Lucas had performed many similar duties for the Braves in the late 1970s, but he never officially held the title. (1)
  • 2010 - Hanshin Tigers outfielder Matt Murton breaks Ichiro’s Japanese record for the most hits in a single season when he strokes his 211th hit of the year, a two-run single to center in a game against the Yakult Swallows. The 29-year-old former major-leaguer, a 2003 first-round draft pick of the Red Sox who was traded to the Cubs in a four-team deal that included Nomar Garciaparra, also played with the A’s before being released by the Rockies last season. (1)
  • Cubs birthdays: Roger Denzer, Norm McMillan, Charlie Pechous, Al Heist, Rey Sanchez.

The sad saga of Matt Murton:

Matthew Henry Murton was born October 3, 1981, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He played baseball for Eagles Landing High School in McDonough, Georgia, and later for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Matt’s younger brother, Luke, also played for Georgia Tech and played in the New York Yankees organization.

He was drafted in the supplemental first round of the 2003 MLB draft by the Boston Red Sox, and played a total of 155 games in the Red Sox organization for the Lowell Spinners and the Sarasota Red Sox. He was traded at the 2004 trading deadline, along with Red Sox star shortstop and fellow former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs as part of a four-team deal. He spent the rest of the year with the Class A-Advanced Daytona Cubs.

He started 2005 with the Double-A West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, but was called up to the major leagues for the first time on July 8, along with Adam Greenberg, to replace the struggling Corey Patterson and Jason Dubois. On the same day, he went 2-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice fly against the Florida Marlins in his major league debut. He continued his success in the majors over the rest of the season, hitting .321 with two stolen bases, seven home runs, and an on-base percentage of .386 in 51 games in 2005.

In 2006, Murton became the Cubs’ starting left fielder. On August 3, 2006, Murton went 4-for-4 with 4 doubles and 5 RBIs in game 2 of a doubleheader against the Arizona Diamondbacks, matching a major league record for doubles in a single game. He finished the year with the second-highest mark on the team in batting average, at .297, with 13 home runs and 62 runs batted in. (5)

The acquisitions of Cliff Floyd and Alfonso Soriano cut his playing time drastically, and Murton was optioned to Triple A on June 13, 2007, for LH pitcher Clay Repada. Though he was brought back up July 27th, 2007 was not his best year. 2008 was worse, and after 42 at-bats, on July 8, 2008, Murton was traded along with Cubs prospects Josh Donaldson, Eric Patterson, and Sean Gallagher to the Oakland Athletics for pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. (5)

Murton spent 2009 with the Colorado Rockies and signed with the Hanshin Tigers after his release. He played six seasons for the Hanshin Tigers, with a .310 career batting average and 1,020 hits. In 2015, Murton became the 16th foreign player to achieve 1,000 career hits in NPB.

He spent 2016 with the Cubs and the Detroit Tigers, until his release on April 17, 2017. He joined the Cubs front office in 2018, and is still employed by that organization.

His 3.3 lifetime WAR in MLB is testament to his lack of time more than anything else. He logged 952 at-bats in the majors, hitting .286 with 29 homers and 112 RBI, with a very good .352 OBP. Not a superstar, but a very serviceable player with above-average speed and a decent glove. Current Cub Albert Almora Jr. is one of his top comps.

Cliff Floyd, his replacement in 2007, hit 9 homers and drove in 45 runs in 322 at-bats, though he did log a .373 OBP. Murton could hardly have done worse with those at-bats, as he played a limited time in right field and produced similar numbers. Alfonso Soriano took over the position and was a little more successful, becoming an All-Star and garnering some MVP votes.

The problem was playing time. He received almost none in the major leagues the next two years. Once Murton went to Japan and played every day, he put up good numbers again. (3)