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Baseball history unpacked, March 26

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Dallas Green begins building a Division Champion.

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Dallas Green

Fields in the stream. Baseball history unpacked was last seen March 23rd, proceeding in a southerly direction, milord, en route home from the last weekend of spring training. There’s some light unpacking below — I do hope these small offerings can help your Monday be more pleasant, milord. This is after all an infotainment medium.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1960 - Baltimore chief Lee MacPhail moves an Orioles-Reds series scheduled for Havana, Cuba, to Miami. The Reds, with a farm club in Cuba, want the trip, but the Orioles fear increased political unrest in the area. (2)
  • 1976 - The American League votes to expand to Toronto, awarding a franchise to a group consisting of Labatt’s Breweries (45%), the Imperial Trust, Ltd (45%), and CIBC (10%). (1)
  • 1979 - The Padres and Giants announce that the 1980 exhibition series between the two teams will be played in Tokyo. But Giants owner Bob Lurie leaves the decision up to his players, who reject the agreement. (2)
  • 1984 - In a spring training deal, the Phillies trade outfielders Gary Matthews and Bob Dernier along with right-handed reliever Porfi Altamirano to the Cubs for right-hander Bill Campbell and Mike Diaz. (1)

Certainly Cub fans of a certain age remember this well. This was a trade that was evidently good right from the git-go. It was Bob Dernier’s best year against right-handers...in fact his only very good year against right-handers. You can look it up if you like. Dernier was a platoon waiting to happen that didn’t happen, and his career suffered as a result. I thought Thad Bosley had a chance to be that guy, and maybe he did have a chance, but he clearly didn’t measure up. The Cubs have had a leadoff-man problem like they have had a third base problem (well, used to have one, anyway), or like the Bears have had a quarterback problem.

It isn’t like Bosley or Dave Martinez or any number of other left-handed-batting players (or, on the other hand, Billy Hatcher or Darrin Jackson) didn’t find their way into center field for a couple hundred at-bats. They just weren’t very effective, and neither was Bob. Except in 1984, where he was dynamite.

Gary Matthews was a favorite very quickly. I remembered him from a play the previous year, where he robbed Ron Cey of a game-winning double, diving on his stomach toward the left-field wall to nab a ball down the line.

His influence on his teammates was clear and immediate as well. His bat was potent, he had a great eye, and he hustled every second. He was fifth in the MVP voting that year, the year of the ascendancy of Sandberg, with a mammoth .410 OBP and .838 OPS. It was his last excellent year, though he’d have one more good one after an injury-filled 1985.

“We needed a screamer, a holler guy, a leader,” Cubs general manager Dallas Green told the Chicago Tribune about Matthews. “I mean, when I realized we could get him from the Phillies, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. This guy talked when it was time to talk and produced when it was time to produce.”

Before that, Green had been hoping to just “be competitive.”

Porfirio Altamirano only made it into five games and didn’t leave much of an impression. He was traded to the Yankees in the offseason and didn’t make another major-league appearance.

cited: Joe Juliano (UPI); Baseball Egg: Bob Dernier; Fred Mitchell (3)

  • 2000 - In less than 20 seconds, the Kingdome is demolished thanks to 5,800 holes filled with gelatin dynamite ignited by 21.6 miles of detonation cord. The former home of the Mariners is now a mound of rubble over 65 feet high. (1)

Cubs birthdays (3): Jack McCarthy, Jimmy Lavender, Brad Hogg, Joe Klugmann, Jose Vizcaino, Jason Maxwell, Jason Dubois, Rob Zastryzny.

Thanks for reading. Where to get my books.