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Former Cubs pitcher Chuck Hartenstein has passed away

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He pitched for the Cubs in the late 1960s. Let’s remember a guy.

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Those of us of “a certain age” remember Chuck Hartenstein, a capable reliever for the Cubs from 1966-68. He was nicknamed “Twiggy” for his tall, thin build; some of you might remember a British actress named Lesley Hornby from around the same time, also given that nickname for being tall and slim.

Hartenstein passed away October 2 in Texas. He was 79.

I’m posting this mostly to show yet another example of how Leo Durocher wound up ruining the Cubs after he brought them out of a 20-year slumber in 1967.

Hartenstein, signed by the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1964 — the year before the draft was instituted — debuted briefly for them in 1965, but in just one game as a pinch-runner. He spent most of 1966 in the minor leagues but pitched in five games in the majors late in the season.

It was in 1967 that “Twiggy” Hartenstein was effective as a Cubs reliever and was tagged with that nickname, reportedly by Billy Williams, according to Hartenstein’s SABR biography written by Bill Nowlin:

Jerome Holtzman said it was “The Monster” Dick Radatz who “hung the name on him.” But it was actually Billy Williams who had bestowed it, Hartenstein said in his 2018 interview. “His locker was next to me. I got a save or something that day and there is a bunch of writers gathered around the locker and Billy looks at me and says, ‘Twiggy!’ It caught on with the writers.”

Hartenstein posted a 3.08 ERA and 1.247 WHIP In 1967 and had 10 saves, though the save would not become an official stat until two years later. He had a funky sidearm motion and was a sinkerballer, in an era when guys like that could record lots of outs on ground balls. He struck out only 20 in 73 innings — imagine a reliever being effective that way today. (Narrator: He wouldn’t.)

Anyway, Hartenstein’s numbers regressed in 1968 — 4.54 ERA and 1.458 WHIP — and he got on Durocher’s bad side. Bill Nowlin quoted Hartenstein in the SABR bio:

As a matter of fact, Leo Durocher and I just did not see eye to eye. In ’67, I had a great year for him. I was 9-5 and have 10 saves or whatever it was. I go to spring training with them in ’68 and the pitching coach was Joe Becker, and the days that I was scheduled to get an inning’s work here or there, Joe would always come out and say, “Hey, get your work in on the side. Leo wants to see these other guys.” When the season opened, I wasn’t ready. My arm was fine, but unless you face hitters in spring training, you don’t really get ready and I wasn’t. It just showed up. I struggled that first half. Me and John Boccabella got sent to Tacoma.

When we came back up, both of us had been flying all night to get back there from Tacoma to Chicago. We were playing San Francisco at the time and at some point in the game, they brought me in. I got a few guys out here and there and then Jack Hiatt — their catcher — I got a ball up to him and he hit a fly ball to right that dropped into the bleachers.

As soon as the game was over, we were walking out and the traveling secretary hands me an envelope. I said, “What is this?” He said, “Leo didn’t talk to you? Well, this is your ticket to go home.” I went right from there to Leo’s office. He and I had a…discussion. it was probably a little louder than most. Then I went upstairs to the GM, Mr. [John] Holland, and I said, “Mr. Holland, I hate to have to ask you this. You guys have treated me great all the way through, but I just cannot get along with your manager. Would you please trade me?” Sometime during the offseason, they traded me to Pittsburgh.

If you got on Durocher’s bad side you were going to be dumped, no matter how good you’d been in the past. I can see why Hartenstein would have wanted out. (Incidentally, the game against the Giants Hartenstein refers to above is this one, September 2, 1968. It would turn out to be the last game he pitched in a Cubs uniform.)

The Cubs traded Hartenstein, along with outfielder Ron Campbell, to the Pirates January 15, 1969 for outfielder Manny Jimenez.

And you’re saying, “Who?”

Jimenez had a couple of decent seasons for the Kansas City A’s in the early 1960s and was an okay part-time player for Pittsburgh in 1968 — .303/.403/.394, but in only 77 plate appearances. Whatever the Cubs organization and Durocher thought of Jimenez in acquiring him — and giving up two players for him! — he played in only six games for the Cubs, all as a pinch-hitter, going 1-for-6 before being let go.

Meanwhile, Hartenstein was putting together a reasonably good year in Pittsburgh in 1969 — 3.95 ERA, 1.160 WHIP, 10 saves. The Cubs sure could have used a guy like that late that year when closer Phil Regan was wearing down.

Sigh.

Anyway, Hartenstein pitched through 1977 with the Pirates, Cardinals, Red Sox and Blue Jays and later worked as a minor league pitching instructor in several organizations and eventually became a pitching coach for Cleveland, as well as the Brewers. He was in uniform for both the first MLB game in Toronto in 1977 (as a Blue Jays pitcher) and the first game at SkyDome in 1989 (as Brewers pitching coach). After coaching, he spent 18 years as an advance scout for the Angels.

Just a few memories of a guy who could have been a long-term relief solution for the Cubs, if he hadn’t gotten onto Leo Durocher’s bad side.

Condolences to Chuck Hartenstein’s family and friends.