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Baseball history unpacked, April 25

The White Stockings’ first game; Don Zimmer, manager; Monday, Monday; the immortal Herman Segelke; and other such factoids, with links, illustrations and footnotes.

Bill Buckner #22 Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

(last episode)

May it please your honor, but today’s selections have a distinct Chicago flavor. While this is as it should be, sometimes we might need a bit of reminding that the Cubs are an historic concern and have loomed large in the annals of the sport.

This then would be one of those times, if it please your honor. I submit to you that we dug into the rabbit holes and found the following:

Today in baseball history:

Here’s a handy Cubs timeline.

  • 1876 - The Chicago White Stockings make their National League debut with a 4-0 victory over the Grays at the Louisville Baseball Park. The franchise, which will be also known as the Colts and Orphans before becoming the Cubs in 1903, will finish in first place in the circuit’s inaugural season. (1)

We’ve covered this previously, but it bears mentioning that the 1876 Chicago White Stockings were widely regarded as a powerhouse. They played “in a wooden ballpark bounded by 23rd Street, 22nd Street (now Cermak Road), and present-day Federal Street. Known as both the 23rd Street Grounds and the State Street Grounds, the park had a capacity of about 4,500 and was conveniently located on the State Street streetcar line.”:

Bob Vanderberg (Chicago Tribune {$}) has a nice writeup on the White Stockings 1876 opener.

  • 1963 - In the second year of their existence, the Mets win a game on a Thursday for the first time when they beat Chicago at Wrigley Field, 3-2. In their inaugural season, the expansion team failed to register a victory in the 15 games played on the fifth day of the week. (1)
  • 1972 - After getting off to a 4-7 start, the Padres fire Preston Gomez, and replace the only manager the team has known since their inception in 1969 with 41-year-old third base coach Don Zimmer. The Cuban-born skipper averaged over 103 losses per season during his three-year tenure with the expansion team. (1)

After a stint with the Astros and a couple of years out of the manager’s office, Gomez was of course the skipper of 90 games worth of the truly fantastic 1980 Cubs team, which featured such notables as Dave Kingman, Jerry Martin, and Barry Foote, and the still-splendid Bruce Sutter, Rick Reuschel and Bill Buckner, and resulted in Joey Amalfitano being named interim manager for the remaining 60% of the season. Gomez never managed again.

They were bad. 64-98 bad. Kingman was an All-Star on the strength of his 1979 campaign but was hurt a lot. Daily Herald reporter Don Friske would remember Davy Ding-Dong as he had a bucket of ice water dumped on him by an enraged Kingman.

This all had the unfortunate result of the acquisition of Steve Henderson the following year from the Mets. Not that anyone was sad to see Kingman go, but Henderson was not the best player to have either, as he often wasn’t on the field and didn’t possess the power generally wanted from a player at his position. The former Rookie of the Year lasted two years before he was acquired by the Mariners.

Kingman went on to challenge the Mendoza line repeatedly and launch bombs in several cities. Eventually he found his niche as a DH with Oakland and batted balls ceased to cause him difficulty.

Don Zimmer went on to manage many teams from the seat of his pants and endear himself to many fans with his ways before being thrown to the ground by Pedro Martinez, who he doesn’t believe.

  • 1976 - During the fourth inning of the game being played at Dodger Stadium, Rick Monday becomes a national hero when he takes away an American Flag about to be set on fire by the two trespassers (a father and son) in the outfield. The Cubs’ 30-year-old fly chaser, who served six years in the Marine Reserves, will be presented the flag a month later in a pregame ceremony at Wrigley Field by L.A. executive Al Campanis as a gesture of patriotic thanks. (1)
  • 1978 - At Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, the Phillie Phanatic makes his debut in a game against the Cubs. The six foot green mascot with a 90-inch waistline is played by Dave Raymond, who will keep the job for 15 years after starting as an intern in the team’s front office. (1)
  • 1989 - With former players on hand, including Billy Herman, Andy Pafko, and Billy Williams, the Cubs celebrate the 75th anniversary of Wrigley Field with a 4-0 victory over L.A. at the Friendly Confines. The ‘ceremonial’ first pitch of the game, a spitball, is thrown by 97-year-old Bob Wright, who appeared in two games for Chicago in 1915 when the team played their home games at West Side Park. (2)

Thanks for reading.