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Cubs unsung heroes: Ben Grieve, September 17, 2004

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He was gonna be somebody.

Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB via Getty Images

Ben Grieve.

Now there’s a career that could have been something. The son of former big leaguer Tom Grieve, Ben was drafted second overall by the Athletics in 1994. Three years later he had a September callup, then was A.L. Rookie of the Year in 1998 when he hit .288/.386/.458 with 18 home runs at age 22.

Grieve hit well for two more seasons in Oakland and then was shipped as part of a three-team trade between the A’s, Royals and Devil Rays. The A’s sent Grieve, Angel Berroa and AJ Hinch to the Royals. Tampa Bay sent Cory Lidle to Oakland and Roberto Hernandez to Kansas City and the Royals sent Johnny Damon and Mark Ellis to the A’s.

Grieve got worse in his first two years in Tampa, apparently feeling pressure to produce since he was “the guy” there, instead of being a complementary part as he had been in Oakland. Several injuries ruined his 2003 season and he signed with the Brewers as a free agent for 2004. He hit reasonably well in Milwaukee, but injuries again curtailed his production. On August 31, 2004, the last day a player could be acquired to be postseason-eligible, the Cubs acquired Grieve from the Brewers for a PTBNL. (The PTBNL turned out to be Andy Pratt, a lefthanded pitching prospect who did nothing in Milwaukee.)

The Cubs were trying for lightning in a bottle again, and in that they mostly failed. Grieve served mostly as a pinch-hitter for the Cubs, going 4-for-16 with two doubles and one home run.

It is that home run that’s the basis for today’s unsung hero article. It wasn’t a particularly meaningful home run — it produced the last run of a 12-4 Cubs win over the Reds — but I note it here mainly because it was the last of Ben Grieve’s 118 big-league home runs, hit off former Cub Todd Van Poppel.

And as such, it deserves to be commemorated. [VIDEO]

The Cubs were in a stretch of games in which they won 13 of 16 and took over the N.L. wild-card lead. I trust I don’t need to remind you what happened after that.

Grieve departed the Cubs in free agency after 2004 and signed with the Pirates. When Pittsburgh released him at the end of spring training 2005, the Cubs signed him back to a minor-league deal. He hit .266/.371/.481 in 86 games at Triple-A Iowa and went 5-for-20 in some brief callups to the Cubs in 2005, then retired from baseball, aged just 29.