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The 19 greatest starts in Cubs history, No. 14: Juan Pizarro, August 5, 1971

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The lefthander had a good career, but it could have been better.

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The eagle-eyed among you will notice right away that’s not a Cubs uniform Juan Pizarro is wearing in the photo above, and you’re right. It’s a White Sox jersey from the mid-1960s, and that’s because Pizarro’s best years were there and his Cubs tenure was reasonably short — just 46 appearances (21 starts) — and so there aren’t any photos of him available to me of him in a Cubs uniform.

It’s too bad, because Pizarro did have some outstanding seasons on the South Side and the Cubs, typical of the time, were hoping to recapture some of that magic.

The Cubs acquired Pizarro July 9, 1970 for Archie Reynolds. Right there, that’s a big win because Reynolds posted a 5.67 ERA in 20 games post-trade in 1971 and 1972 and then was done with baseball.

Meanwhile, Pizarro didn’t pitch much for the Cubs in 1970 after the trade, as he was still recovering from arm trouble that had seen him go from the Pirates to the Red Sox to the Indians to the Athletics to the Angels to the Cubs in just two years from mid-1968 to mid-1970.

In 1971, though, Pizarro did get his chance in the Cubs’ rotation, though not till he had spent half the year at Triple-A Tacoma. After a couple of what we used to call “spot starts” in second games of doubleheaders and a pair of relief appearances, Pizarro threw a complete-game victory over the Mets August 1.

Four days later, he took the mound against the Padres at Wrigley Field and tossed a gem. He retired the first 13 Padres before Ollie Brown singled with one out in the fifth inning. That was San Diego’s only hit of the game. Pizarro walked two and struck out nine as the Cubs won 3-0, plating all three runs thanks to some Padres errors in the eighth.

Pizarro threw a couple more good games in August 1971 as the Cubs sneaked to within 4½ games of first place, but then he faded, as did the team. He had one final moment in the sun as a Cub, September 16 against the Mets in New York, facing Mets star Tom Seaver. He threw a six-hit shutout and homered off Seaver for the Cubs’ only run in a 1-0 win. That’s the only game in Cubs franchise history where a pitcher’s solo homer was the only run in a Cubs victory.

Pizarro pitched briefly and ineffectively for the Cubs in 1972 and 1973 and was sold to the Astros in July 1973.