EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in an occasional series about past Cubs seasons, a profile of a random player from the chosen year.
The Cubs offseason has begun, and as winter draws closer, we thought it might be fun to look back on Cubs seasons past, and remember some lesser-known and unexpected Cubs players. Over the winter, we’ll be picking a season (starting at 1960) and selecting a player many might have forgotten all about. Let’s play “Remember him?”
Standing: 7th in the National League
Manager(s): Charlie Grimm and Lou Boudreau
The 1960 season isn’t one too worthy of remembering. The Cubs finished the season second to last in the league, winning only 60 games. Though they started the season with Grimm at the helm, he quickly swapped jobs with Cubs rasio broadcaster Boudreau. Yes, you read that right, the manager and the broadcaster switched jobs mid-season. It’s obviously worth noting that both Grimm and Boudreau were professional managers prior to that season, so while it might sound insane on the surface, it actually wasn’t too absurd.
Irv Noren is an interesting character in baseball, and one likely largely forgotten by Cubs fans. He only played for the team for two partial seasons. He joined the team in May 1959 from the Cardinals for no one you’ve ever heard of, and then had a partial season in 1960 before being released in June, and the Los Angeles Dodgers picked him up.
Noren has the make of a classic journeyman utility player, having spent his 11 MLB seasons with six different teams. His longest stretch was with the New York Yankees from 1952-1956. It was with the Yankees he had his sole All-Star season in 1954, when he hit an impressive .319/.377/.481.
Not many people know that Noren was actually a two-sport athlete. Beyond playing baseball he was also a gifted basketball player, participating in both sports in college and played basketball professionally in 1946, but was told by Branch Rickey to focus on baseball. A fun fact stemming from this is that he was actually teammates with Jackie Robinson on the Los Angeles Red Devils basketball team.
Noren was already accustomed to being traded by the time he made it to the Cubs in 1959, but he still had something to prove, especially after struggling early in the year with the Cardinals. In his first partial season in Chicago he hit .321/.384/.462, making him the only player other than Ernie Banks to hit over .300 that season.
Unfortunately, it was to be the last really solid year for Noren’s performance. The next season he hit only .167/.250/.250 between the Cubs and the Dodgers.
Baseball was still his home, though, and after leaving the game as a player, he shifted his focus to managing. He started out with the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders, who were an affiliate of the Angels at the time. He went on to work with the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system, then was a coach in the Athletics organization. Between playing and coaching, Noren was a member of five different World Series winning teams.
He returned to the Cubs to end his career, working as a coach with the team in 1975 before retiring from the game.
Noren is still living, per Wikipedia the 13th-oldest living former player at the time of this post. He’ll turn 95 next month. For anyone interested in a deep dive on Noren and his career, the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in his hometown of Jamestown, New York has put together a 90-minute interview with Irv about his life and experience in baseball. It is available to watch for free on YouTube.