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Baseball history unpacked, April 15

Famous firsts, and other stories

CHICAGO, IL - 1980's: General view as the Chicago Cubs take on the Philadelphia Phillies circa 1980's at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - 1980’s: General view as the Chicago Cubs take on the Philadelphia Phillies circa 1980’s at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

... as always on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I bring a you a wildly popular Cubs-centric look at baseball’s past. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along as we review select scenes from the rich tapestry of Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball history. The embedded links often point to articles that I’ve chosen as illustrative of the scenes, from The Society for American Baseball Research, reproductions of period newspapers, images, and other such material. It’s all lightly unpacked and folded neatly, just for you.

You might learn something, but mostly, it’s for fun!

Today in baseball history:

  • 1921 - At Redland Field, Pirates right-hander Chief Yellow Horse makes his major league debut against the Reds. The Pittsburgh hurler, a member of a North American Plains Indian tribe called the Pawnees, is believed by many baseball historians to be the first full-blooded American Indian to play in the big leagues.
  • 1942 - At Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, Hiram “Hi” Bithorn becomes the first Puerto Rican to play in major league baseball. The Cubs right-handed pitcher from Santurce makes a relief appearance in the 4 - 2 loss to the Cardinals. (3)
  • 1947 - In his National League debut, Hank Greenberg has the lone RBI in the Pirates’ 1-0 win over the Cubs. Pittsburgh bought the slugging first baseman from the Tigers in the off-season for $75,000.
  • 1969 - Roberto Clemente’s first hit of the season easily escapes the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. “Clemente, who had been 0 for 12,” writes Bill Christine of the Pittsburgh Press, “attempted to add some adrenalin to the Pirate attack in the 1st inning when he blasted a Joe Niekro fastball out in the street beyond left field.” The first-frame bomb, however, yields but a short-lived lead. “Billy Williams,” writes Lee Jenkins of the Chicago Daily Defender, “showing off his recently acquired ability to go with the pitch, slammed one into the left field bleachers in the 1st and rookie Don Young performed the same feat good for 2 runs in the 2nd to more than counteract Clemente’s tremendous shot over the left-field stands.” Additional adrenalin – accounting for Pittsburgh’s remaining three runs – is supplied by Clemente’s 5th-inning, bases-loaded single, whereby he will significantly enhance Niekro’s understanding of the phrase “dangerous hitter.” Jenkins writes: “Clemente fired a shot through the middle that knocked Niekro down and raced to second base when Young tried for a one-handed scoop and the ball got through for a two-base error with three runs counting.” By the 7th inning, the Cubs have finally wised up. Jenkins continues: “Hank Aguirre knocked off five Pirates before pinch-hitterJose Pagan lashed a single to lead off the 7th and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Clemente was given an intentional walk after he refused to bite at three Aguirre wide ones. But the crafty veteran fanned Willie Stargell to escape.”
  • 1972 - Reggie Jackson sports a mustache as the A’s top the Twins 4-3 in 11 innings. Jackson is reported to be the first major league player with facial hair since Wally Schang in 1914. (2)
  • Cubs birthdays: Sy Sutcliffe, King Cole, Ted Sizemore, Mike Diaz, Jeromy Burnitz.


Thanks for reading.

Cats rool.