In our last unlamented feature, we looked at Hack Wilson, Woodrow Wilson, and other people having as much fun as is legal, and maybe a little beyond that. Today we salute the Sultan of Swat, Say Hey! to Willie Mays, feature a quartet of Cubs pitchers, and remember when Casey Stengel gave a whole crowd the bird, in a Cubs-centric look at baseball history.
Please enjoy immoderately, and tell your friends.
Today in baseball history:
“No matter how your mind works, baseball reaches out to you. If you’re an emotional person, baseball asks for your heart. If you are a thinking man or a thinking woman, baseball wants your opinion. Whether you are left-brain or right-brain, Type A or Type Z, whether your mind is bent towards mathematics or toward history or psychology or geometry, whether you are young or old, baseball has its way of asking for you. If you are a reader, there is always something new to read about baseball, and always something old. If you are a sedentary person, a TV watcher, baseball is on TV; if you always have to be going somewhere, baseball is somewhere you can go. If you are a collector, baseball offers you a hundred things that you can collect. If you have children, baseball is something you can do with children; if you have parents and cannot talk to them, baseball is something you can still talk to them about.” — Baseball Historian Bill James in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
- 1918 - Casey Stengel, traded by the Dodgers in the off-season to the Pirates, calls time, steps out of the batter’s box to give the razzing Ebbets Field fans the ‘bird’. The Pittsburgh right fielder doffs his hat, allowing a sparrow to fly out, much to the amazement and amusement of the fans. (1)
- 1935 - At Forbes Field, Boston Braves outfielder Babe Ruth hits three homers and a single in an 11-7 loss to the Pirates in Pittsburgh. The ‘Sultan of Swat’s’ seventh-inning solo shot off Guy Bush (the Mississippi Mudcat, who had three top-25 MVP nominations as a Cub), a blast which clears the ballpark’s roof, will be the Bambino’s 714th and final home run. (1)
- 1951 - At Shibe Park, the much-heralded Giant rookie Willie Mays makes his major league debut against the Phillies. The 20 year-old outfielder, who hit .477 in 35 games with the Minneapolis Millers before being called up, goes hitless in five trips to the plate, but makes two outstanding defensive plays to contribute to New York’s 8-5 victory. (1)
- 1982 - Future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins reaches the 3,000 strikeout plateau when he whiffs Garry Templeton in the third frame of the Cubs’ 2-1 loss to San Diego at Jack Murphy Stadium. Next season, the 39 year-old Canadian-born right-hander will finish his 19-year major league career with a total 3,192 K’s in 4,500.2 innings. (1)
- 1984 - The Red Sox trade pitcher Dennis Eckersley and minor leaguer Mike Brumley to the Cubs for veteran Bill Buckner, who had been benched in Chicago in favor of Leon Durham but will immediately become Boston’s starting first baseman. (2)
That was a good trade. Eckersley was decent for the Cubs, if a little underwhelming, due, he said later, to substance-abuse issues. He went on, of course, to stellar years as Oakland’s closer. Buckner played well for the BoSox. The Bull played well for a while til substance abuse derailed his fine career. Mike Brumley surfaced in 1987, hit .202, and promptly went back to Iowa until he was released and spent a few years journeying around the American League.
- 2001 - Kerry Wood gives up only one hit, a seventh-inning leadoff single to Mark Loretta, in the Cubs’ 1-0 victory over Milwaukee. The 24-year-old right-hander strikes out 14 batters in the Wrigley Field gem. (1)
- 2008 - Former major league pitcher Geremi Gonzalez is killed by lightning standing on a dock in western Venezuela. The 33-year-old pitcher, who was signed by the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1991, also hurled for the Devil Rays, Red Sox, Mets, and Brewers before being released by Milwaukee in 2006. (1)
- 2011 - In the 12th inning of an eventual 7-6 loss to Florida, Giants catcher Buster Posey is lost for the season as a result of a brutal collision at home plate with Scott Cousins, who scores the go-ahead run. An MRI will confirm that last season’s Rookie of the Year has a fractured left fibula and three torn ligaments in his left ankle, and will need season-ending surgery to repair the damage. (1)
Of course we know that this incident changed how catchers are allowed to guard the plate. Would the rule have been changed were it a lesser player? We don’t know. Some say yes, some no. Regardless, the change has been made, although interpretations differ.
- Cubs birthdays: Bob Wicker, Jim Marshall, Angel Echevarria, Todd Walker, Randall Simon, Scott Hairston, Brad Snyder, Neil Ramirez. Also notable: John “The Count” Montefusco, one of my favorite players.
Thanks for reading.