I thought it might be fun to do companion pieces for other decades, but in looking things up I discovered I had to go all the way back to 1970 to find at least six men who had played in just one Cubs game. Just nine Cubs players accomplished this “feat” in the 40 seasons from 1970-2009.
Here they are, in chronological order from most recent to oldest.
Clay Rapada, June 14, 2007
Rapada was signed by the Cubs as an undrafted free agent in 2002. After posting pretty good numbers split between Double-A and Triple-A in 2006, it looked like the lefthander would possibly make the team out of spring training. But he wound up at Iowa until he was called up in June 2007.
With one out and runners on first and second in the eighth inning and the Cubs trailing 4-3 in a game vs. the Mariners at Wrigley Field on June 14, 2007, Rapada was summoned to face Raul Ibanez. Rapada got Ibanez to line out to right field and then he was replaced by Bob Howry, who got Richie Sexson to fly to center to end the inning.
Had Rapada been left in to finish the inning, he would have recorded a win in his only Cubs appearance, because in the bottom of the frame Cesar Izturis (!) doubled in two runs for a 5-4 win.
Rapada was sent back to Iowa and in August he was traded to the Tigers as the PTBNL in the deal that brought Craig Monroe to the Cubs. He pitched in 151 more MLB games for the Tigers, Rangers, Orioles, Yankees and Indians through 2013, appearing in the postseason for the Rangers in 2010 and Yankees in 2012 and pitching in the minors as recently as 2015 in the Giants organization.
Adam Greenberg, July 9, 2005
This is a well-known story in Cubs history. Greenberg was a decent prospect, kind of a poor man’s Sam Fuld, called up in mid-July 2005. He made his MLB debut pinch-hitting against the Marlins, and this happened:
Greenberg suffered a concussion and left the game; he never returned to the Cubs.
Seven years later, he signed a one-day contract with the Marlins to come back and have one more at-bat on the last day of the 2012 season. R.A. Dickey of the Mets struck him out [VIDEO].
Greenberg’s one-day contract was worth $2,623. Per the link, he donated it to the Sports Legacy Institute for research into brain trauma for athletes.
Justin Speier, May 27, 1998
Speier, the son of former Cubs coach Chris Speier, was drafted by the Cubs in 1995 in a round that doesn’t exist anymore, and hasn’t for years — the 55th. Despite mediocre numbers in the system, he was called up in May 1998 and made his major-league debut against the Phillies at Wrigley Field.
He entered the game with two out in the top of the seventh, an inning where the Phillies had already scored six runs. He finished off the inning by getting Desi Relaford to pop up.
He was left in to throw the eighth, and struck out a couple of batters, but also allowed a single and walk and then wild-pitched the runners up a base each, after which he gave up a two-run single. The Cubs lost the game 10-5.
Speier was returned to Iowa and at the July 31 trading deadline was swapped to the Marlins, along with with Todd Noel and Kevin Orie, for Felix Heredia and a minor leaguer. Speier went on to have a 12-year career with six other teams, appearing in 612 more games after his Cubs debut.
Jay Loviglio, July 26, 1983
Loviglio had a couple of minor cups of coffee with the Phillies and White Sox in 1980, 1981 and 1982 and was sold to the Cubs in the 1982-83 offseason.
He spent most of ‘83 at Double-A and Triple-A, but was called up briefly in late July. He led off the seventh inning of the July 26 game pinch-hitting for pitcher Warren Brusstar, facing Fernando Valenzuela with the Cubs down 5-1. He struck out.
After the 1983 season he departed the Cubs as a free agent and never played professional baseball again, although this article says he coached in the Cubs farm system for a while later in the 1980s.
Tony La Russa, April 6, 1973
Yes, really. And, in fact, I wrote up the whole story of TLR’s one appearance in a Cubs uniform on the anniversary of that appearance here last April.
Rather than me rehashing that article here, just click on this link and read it for yourself.
Clint Compton, October 3, 1972
You know, it’s really too bad he didn’t make it, because “Clint Compton” is a great baseball name.
Compton was the Braves’ third-round pick in the 1968 draft out of high school in Alabama. He was traded to the Angels a year later and the Cubs picked him up in the 1971 Rule 5 draft. I am not certain what the Rule 5 rules were at that time, but he didn’t spend any time on the Cubs MLB roster before September’s roster expansion.
And then he didn’t pitch at all until the last day of the season, when the Cubs were getting blown out by a terrible Phillies team. He entered to throw the sixth inning with the Cubs trailing 8-0. He retired the Phillies 1-2-3 in the sixth, but when left in to throw the seventh, he loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, walked in a run, then induced a double-play ball that scored a second run. After that he departed for a pinch-hitter. The Cubs lost the game 11-1.
He spent 1973 in the Cubs organization at Triple-A Wichita but then left the game, aged just 22.
Roe Skidmore, September 17, 1970
Skidmore had quite the odyssey through several MLB organizations:
He had a .428 slugging percentage for Triple-A Tacoma in the Cubs system in 1969, was called up in September, but per his SABR biography he just sat on the bench:
Skidmore actually got his first call-up to the majors in September 1969, while the Cubs were in the process of losing the National League East to the New York Mets. He did not get into a game, though. “Mainly we just sat there and waited. [Manager] Leo [Durocher] wouldn’t play us [the call-ups]. He didn’t deviate from his regular lineup.”
According to Cubs general manager John Holland, “He’s so quiet, Leo said that when he reported, he said ‘Hello’ and that’s the last word he heard from him in the two weeks he was up. But, in his own way, he’s a determined, hard-nosed kid.”
He was called up again in September 1970, and finally got his chance September 17, in a game the Cubs were losing 8-1 to the Cardinals. With two out in the bottom of the seventh, Skidmore batted for Joe Decker. He singled to left:
When the opportunity to play came at last, it was not a pressure situation, but “I remember my knees were shaking,” Skidmore told Jerome Holtzman. In his 2003 chat with Mike Downey, he gave even more detail. “‘I remember going to the bat rack, being so nervous. I grabbed J.C. Martin’s bat because I couldn’t find one of mine. I had faced Jerry Reuss in the minors. I knew he had this big overhand curve ball. Well, his first pitch was a fastball down the middle. I swung about an hour late. Fouled it to the first-base side.’ He took the next pitch, a ball. ‘The third pitch, he threw me that overhand curve. He did me a favor.’”
Skidmore told Holtzman that as he was trotting back to the bench after being forced out, first-base coach Joe Amalfitano ran beside him and handed him the ball. ‘Here,’ Amalfitano said, ‘it’s your first hit. Save the ball.’” It went up on his mantelpiece, inscribed by his wife, “1st Big League hit,” – as [New York Times writer] David Margolick put it, “not knowing she could have written ‘last’ or ‘only’ too.”
As you can see from the transactions list above, Skidmore bounced around the minor leagues for five more seasons, last playing for Triple-A Pawtucket in the Red Sox chain in 1975.
Here’s an interesting story about Skidmore from the Tribune in 2003 and here’s one from his hometown of Decatur that was written on the 50th anniversary of the famous “Black Cat Game” at Shea Stadium in 1969 that shows Skidmore in the Cubs dugout as the cat goes by Ron Santo on deck.
Roger Metzger, June 16, 1970
Among all the players in this post, Metzger was “the one who got away.” He was the Cubs’ No. 1 pick (16th overall) in the 1969 draft and put up reasonable numbers (for a 1960s-era shortstop, anyway) in the Cubs farm system.
Called up to play against the Giants in this game, he went 0-for-2 before leaving for pinch-hitter Willie Smith in the top of the eighth.
After the 1970 season ended he was traded to the Astros for Hector Torres. Torres played in only 31 games for the Cubs.
Meanwhile, Metzger went on to have several fine seasons in Houston, winning a Gold Glove in 1973. No, he didn’t hit much, but again, middle infielders weren’t expected to in that area, as long as they were good fielders. Metzger was blocked at short with the Cubs by Don Kessinger, but you’d think they could have gotten more in trade for him than they did.
Injuries made him a part-time player by 1977, and his career essentially ended in the winter of 1979 when he accidentally cut off the tips of four fingers in a table-saw accident.
Jim Cosman, April 30, 1970
Cosman was signed by the Cardinals in 1962, in the era before there was a draft. He pitched in 11 games for St. Louis in 1966 and 1967, then was traded to the Mets, where the Cubs got him in the 1969 Rule 5 draft.
His only appearance for the Cubs came in yet another blowout. Fergie Jenkins had one of his rare bad days and didn’t make it out of the second inning. Cosman entered in the top of the seventh with the Cubs trailing 6-1.
It did not go well. The first hitter he faced, Henry Aaron, homered. Well, Aaron was a great home run hitter, no shame there. Cosman retired the next two hitters, then allowed a single and double. An intentional walk loaded the bases, then a two-run single made it a three-run Atlanta inning. Cosman issued another walk to load the bases, then got out of the inning. The Cubs lost the game 9-2.
Cosman pitched the rest of 1970 at Triple-A Wichita, then the transaction trail goes dry. He was in the Reds organization in 1971, then out of baseball.
This article, which is mostly about his Cardinals career, says he spent many years working in the waste-management industry after baseball, eventually becoming the COO of Republic Services. He passed away in 2013.