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Baseball history unpacked, June 15

Billy’s birthday, the Brock imbroglio and other stories

MLB: World Series-Parade
The Sweet Swinger from Whistler, Alabama
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

A Cubs-centric look at baseball’s past. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1938 - In the first night game played in New York City, Johnny Vander Meer pitches his second consecutive no-hitter, beating the Dodgers at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, 6-0. Four days ago, the Reds’ southpaw held the Braves hitless in a 3-0 victory at Crosley Field. (1)

Box score. Vander Meer is the only MLB pitcher to have thrown two or more consecutive no-hitters. Nolan Ryan came close, says Tim Kurkjian. “Ryan took a no-hitter into the eighth inning 23 times...”

“I was busting the ball real good. I was probably throwing the ball 95, 96, 97 miles an hour,” Vander Meer said in a 1988 interview. “When I started to lose a little bit off my fastball, I started throwing curves and everybody kept looking for fastballs, and so that really helped me.”

  • 1949 - Shortly after 1 a.m., Ruth Ann Steinhagen shoots Eddie Waitkus in the chest with a rifle at Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Hotel, after luring him to her room with an urgent note delivered by the bellhop. The obsessed fan, who had become infatuated with the first baseman when he played with the Cubs, apparently is upset and agitated because the All-Star infielder was traded to the Phillies. (1)

This story is not as well-known as it once was, but it’s still a sordid tale that is said to have inspired Bernard Malamud’s The Natural. Waitkus survived and returned to baseball but was never the same.

“It is extremely important that I see you as soon as possible,” the note read. “We’re not acquainted, but I have something of importance to speak to you about. I think it would be to your advantage to let me explain this to you as I am leaving the hotel the day after tomorrow. I realize this is out of the ordinary, but as I say, it is extremely important.”

Pafko was a fan favorite and a very good ballplayer. The players the Cubs got back were mostly prospects-turning-suspects, men with tools that hadn’t manifested at the MLB level. My pop used to tell me that this trade almost made him a Dodgers fan — Pafko and Phil Cavarretta were his favorite players, ever. Al wrote this up a bit ago.

  • 1964 - In a six-player transaction that also includes Jack Spring, Paul Toth, Doug Clemens, and Bobby Shantz, Chicago trades a little-known outfielder named Lou Brock, who will become a fixture with the Redbirds for the next fifteen years, amassing 3,023 career hits, to St. Louis for right-hander Ernie Broglio. The deal, thought at the time to be a steal for the Cubs, will become infamous when the former 20-game winner pitches poorly for his new team, posting a 7-19 record during his brief two and half seasons with the team, and the 24 year-old they gave up enjoys a Hall of Fame career. (1)

Al wrote this up real nice a couple of years ago.

  • 1969 - En route to setting the National League record of playing in 1,117 consecutive games, Billy Williams, after fouling a pitch off his foot in yesterday’s contest, hobbled to the plate as a pinch hitter in the Cubs’ 7-6 loss to Cincinnati at Crosley Field. The contest marks the first time “Sweet Swingin’ Billy” had not been in the starting lineup during the 878 games of the streak. (1)

Box score. Phil Regan was unable to vulture the game and took the loss on a base hit by pinch-hitter Jimmy Stewart, a one-time Cub. The Big Red Machine wasn’t yet completely assembled, but most of the parts were there.


Thanks for reading.