FanPost

A long-forgotten Cub: Mandy Brooks

Three relatively unknown players have joined the Cubs this season and made an immediate impact with their bats.

Patrick Wisdom had 2 at bats as a Cub last season. After rejoining the club on May 25, he has hit 25 home runs in 320 plate appearances, 1 short of Kris Bryant's team record for homers by a rookie.

Rafael Ortega made his debut the next day, May 26. He has hit 10 homers, 3 of them in 1 game and another a walk-off.

Frank Schwindel, called up June 30, has slugged 12 homers, in just 145 trips to the plate.

...

During their long history, the Cubs have had many other newcomers who made a splash. Some have become fixtures in the batting order. Others have flamed out in short order.

Among the latter: Mandy Brooks, who was less than 3 months from his 27th birthday when he played his first big league game for the Cubs on May 30, 1925.

..........

MYSTERY MAN

Brooks' birth name was John Brozek. He was born in Milwaukee on Aug. 18, 1897. Other than that, almost nothing is known about him until the year before he came to the Cubs -- including why he became known as "Mandy" or when his last name was Anglicized.

He has no biography by a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, and his minor league statistics begin in 1924, at age 26, when he batted .342 for the Columbus (Ohio) Senators of the Class AA American Association.

Brooks rapped out 195 hits in 145 games, including 37 doubles, 14 triples and 7 home runs.

The next year, after 28 games, his average was .331, with 9 doubles and 5 triples. That's when he was obtained by the Cubs.

...

"Mr. Jonathan Brooks, the new outfield[er] just purchased from the Columbus (O.) team, will report to Manager [Bill] Killefer at Cincinnati [on] Thursday," the Chicago Tribune wrote on Wednesday, May 27, 1925.

"Brooks, for whom the Cubs gave Outfield[er] 'Chink' Taylor, Pitcher George Stueland, and $25,000 in cash, is said to be quite a hitter and fielder.

"He bats right handed and will be given the center garden job.

"The Cincinnati club also sought his services, but weren't quick enough with the checkbook.

..........

SLOW START

The Cubs were 16-25 and in seventh place in the 8-team league after losing Game 1 of a doubleheader at Cincinnati on May 30, Memorial Day.

Brooks replaced veteran Jigger Statz in center field for Game 2. He batted cleanup, no less, but went 0 for 4 with a strikeout. The Tribune's account of the game does not mention his name.

The next day, in his home debut against the Pirates, he singled and scored a run. Then he went 1 for 4, a triple, on June, making him 2 for 12.

..........

The Cubs were idle the next 2 days before beginning a 4-game series against the Dodgers.

Brooks made 3 hits in the first game and 2 in each of the next 3. For the series, he was 9 for 17, including 2 doubles, a triple and his first home run, a solo shot in the second game.

On June 8, against the Giants, Brooks homered to ignite a 5-run fifth inning, then added a second homer in the seventh. Both came with nobody on base.

He singled and doubled, too. In 5 games, his slash line was .571/.609/1.190 for an OPS of 1.799. His batting average on balls in play was an even .500.

For the season, in 11 games, he was lashing .425/.457/.879.

..........

25-GAME MARVEL

Brooks went 0 for 5 on June 9, then went on another tear: 13 games in which he slashed .423/.444/.904. Among his 22 hits in 52 bats were 6 doubles, 2 triples and 5 homers. He had at least 1 hit in 11 of the 13 games, with 3 in 3 of them.

In the first of those 3, on June 15, he homered twice to help beat the Braves. Six days later, his home run with 1 out and 1 on in the bottom of the ninth beat the Phillies, 3-2.

...

Through 25 games, his line was .398/.421/.825, built on 41 for 103, including 9 doubles, 4 triples and 9 homers.

Those 41 hits are tied for 8th most since 1901 by any player in the first 25 games of his MLB career. And 5 of the 7 with more actually had played in 1900 or earlier.

The only true rookies with more his than Brooks after 25 games were Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees, who had 46 in 1936, and Tom Oliver of the Red Sox, who had 42 in 1930.

So when Brooks had 41, it was a record for any rookie in the Modern Era. To this day, it is the National League record; Yasiel Puig had 40 for the Dodgers in 2013.

Brooks holds another record for any batter's first 25 games: 32 runs batted in.

The runnerup, Yordan Alvarez of the Astros, had 29 in 2019. The same year, Will Smith of the Dodgers had the most of any NL player since Brooks, 28.

..........

BIG CHILL

Brooks was bound to cool off, if only because his BAbip through 25 games was .364.

And he didn't just cool off, he went a deep freeze

Over his next 23 games, his BAbip was just .198, as he batted .187/.260/.275. He had only 17 hits, of which 5 were doubles and 1 a home run, and drove in just 8 runs.

After going 0 for 4 against the Giants on July 30, his average dipped to. 299. It had been above .300 after each of his previous 43 games.

...

Brooks had 2 hits on the final day of July, then went 0 for 3 in consecutive games to begin August.

Then came an 8-game spurt in which he hit .400/.438/.567, with a BAbip of .444. In the last of the 8 games, Game 2 of a doubleheader on Aug. 9, he had 2 doubles and a single, raising his season slash line to .308/.355/.556, for an OPS of .910.

None of those numbers ever would be as high again.

.........

COLD, HOT, COLD AGAIN

In his next 10 games, Brooks was just 6 for 36, .166, and his season average fell to .289.

But in the 4 games after that, he was 6 for 17, with a double and a homer. The homer was a ninth-inning grand slam that capped a 19-10 rout at Philadelphia and gave him 6 RBI for the day, raising his total to 59 in 73 games.

Another cold snap began the next day: 11 games, in which Brooks batted .128/.150/.179, managing just 3 singles and 2 doubles in 39 at bats. He knocked in only 1 run.

..........

STRONG FINISH

On Sept. 7, he added 3 RBI with 1 swing, blasting a 3-run homer in the ninth inning of Game 1 of a doubleheader at Pittsbugh. It served only to make the final score 8-5 instead of 8-2.

Two days later, Brooks was not in the lineup for the series finale. He missed the next 10 games, too. The Tribune is silent as to why. When he returned, on Sept. 23, he went 0 for 3, dropping his average to .267.

The Cubs had 5 more games to play. Brooks played in 3 of them and finished his season with a flourish:

4 for 4, including a double and a triple

2 for 4, including a triple

2 for 4, including a 2-run homer

The Cubs lost 2 of the games to end the year 68-86, in last place, half a game behind the Dodgers and Phillies, both 68-85.

...

Brooks finished the season at .281/.322/.513, for an OPS of .835 and and OPS+ of 108. His WAR was 1.6.

Of his 98 hits, 46 were for extra bases: 25 doubles, 7 triples and 14 home runs, in 378 PA and 349 at bats during 90 games.

..........

IMPRESSIVE COMPANY

His 72 RBI were second most on the team, just 4 behind Charlie Grimm, who batted 189 more times, in 51 more games.

Beginning in 1926, only 12 players have knocked in more runs in the first 90 games of their careers. Joe DiMaggio had 88 and Ted Williams, 87. No one else had more than 81.

Just 5 have done it since 1940. Jose Abreu had 78, in 2014, and Alvin Davis, 75, in 1984. Three had 73: Wally Joyner in 1986, Ryan Braun in 2007 and Cody Bellinger in 2017.

Next most since 1940: 69, 3 fewer than Brooks, by Alert Pujols, in 2001.

The most by any Cubs rookie since Brooks in his first 90 games: 59, by Kris Bryant, in 2015. Ian Happ (53, in 2017) and Rip Russell (50, in 1939) are the only other Cubs with more than 46.

..........

APPARENT 'FIXTURE'

Brooks started each game of the City Series against the White Sox. He was 0 for 6 in the opener, a 2-2 tie halted by darkness after 19 innings, then went 7 for 19, .368, as the Cubs won 4 of the next 5 games to win the series.

The day after the series ended, the Tribune described how the Cubs' roster would change for 1926 under new manager Joe McCarthy, beginning with the departure of shortstop Rabbit Maranville, who had served as player-manager for 53 games from July 7 through Sept. 1.

"Along with the 'Rabbit' a couple of pitchers and one or two outfielders will pass out of the north side picture," the paper said. "[Cliff] Heathcote and Brooks appear fixtures and suitable trades might even take them elsewhere."

...

A fan's letter published in the Tribune on April 8, 1926, declared: "As for Brooks, I look for him to lead the Cubs this year in extra base hits, and, better than that, he will be leading Hartnett in home runs, because he is a more sure hitter and a steady man at bat."

..........

STUCK ON BENCH

But Brooks was not in the lineup on Opening Day, as Hack Wilson played center and batted cleanup. When Brooks pinch hit, he was struck by a pitch.

Four days later, in his next appearance, he started in right field and was 0 for 3. No one might have expected it, but Brooks would start only 7 more games as a Cub, and play in only 17 others.

He went 1 for 4 on April 20, then 0 for 11 in 7 games through May 8. His slash line through that date: .053/.100/.053.

From May 9-31, Brooks was 3 for 16: 2 singles and a double.

..........

ONE LAST SURGE

On June 1, at home against the Cardinals, he made his first start in 3 weeks, playing left field.

He singled to lead off the third inning and trotted home on Hartnett's 2-out grand slam that put the Cubs in front, 6-4.

By the sixth, they trailed, 7-6. With 2 out and a runner on first, Brooks homered -- his 15th and last home run.

The next day, Brooks came off to bench to make 2 more hits and drive in a run.

...

A day later, June 3, he was 0 for 2 with a walk in a walk-off loss at Pittsburgh.

That turned out to be his last appearance in the field.

He pinch hit in 3 subsequent games and pinch ran in another.

On June 15, at Philadelphia, with the Cubs behind, 5-0, in the fifth inning, he batted for the pitcher and hit an infield single.

.........

FAREWELL FAILURE

On June 22, at Cincinnati, Brooks pinch hit again, in the eighth inning, with the bases loaded, 1 out and the Cubs trailing, 3-2. He popped up to second, the next batter grounded out and the Cubs went on to lose by that 3-2 score.

The popup came in Brooks' 435th plate appearance, in 116 games, over 388 days. He would never have another.

...

The Tribune's coverage of the loss to the Reds was overshadowed by another bit of news: the team had waived veteran pitching star Grover Cleveland Alexander and he had been claimed by the Cardinals.

In October, the 39-year-old Alexander would enter Game 7 of the World Series in the seventh inning with 2 outs, the bases loaded and the Cardinals leading the Yankees, 3-2. Alexander would strike out Tony Lazzeri, then pitch 2 more hitless innings as St. Louis won its first championship.

..........

'NO LONGER AMONG US'

Back on June 23, there had been more news about the Cubs, buried on the third page of its sports section:

"Mandy Brooks and Andy Moore are no longer among us. Man[d]y was transported tonight to Minneapolis on option and Moore, the University of Georgia outfielder, goes to Williamsport in the New York-Pennsylvania league, also on option."

...

Brooks' slash line for 1926 was .188/.278..274, for an OPS of .549. A year earlier, it had been .281/.322/.513, for .835.

In his 2 seasons, he batted .270/.316/.484, for .800. His OPS+ was 101; his WAR, 1.2.

He left Chicago with 107 hits, including 26 doubles, 7 triples and 15 homers.

...

His RBI total was 78. No Cubs has had as many in the first 116 games of his career. Kris Bryant had 77, in 2015. Joe Marty, in 1937, and Ian Happ, in 2017, each had 69. Phil Cavarretta, in 1934, had 68 -- 10 fewer than Brooks.

..........

MUDDLED AFTERMATH

Brooks, still 2 months from turning 29, bounced back to bat .281/.322/.513 in 84 games for Minneapolis. He played in the minors through 1931 but never made it back to the big leagues.

Exactly when and where he played after leaving the Cubs is something of a muddle.

Here is an extended excerpt from a 2018 online article about Brooks (ripbaseball.com/2018/10/21/mandy-brooks/):

...

"Brozek was usually called Mandy Brooks but sometimes called John Brooks. The usually impeccable Baseball Reference has a listing for Mandy, and one for a minor-leaguer named John, and here’s where it gets weird.

"John Brooks played in Peoria in 1921-2 and Columbus in 1923. I think those are Mandy’s stats. John Brooks also played for Louisville in 1927 and Nashville in 1927-8. Again, those are Mandy’s stats.

"Our Brooks definitely played for the Nashville Vols in 1927-8, as he was referred to in the papers as a former Cub several times. He played very well there and hit .335 with 9 homers in 49 games in 1928, but he was suspended by manager Jimmy Hamilton for 'indifferent play' in June.

...

"So if John Brooks is Mandy Brooks, can we assume that we get a complete minor-league career if we just merge the two pages together? Not so fast.

"Mandy Brooks’ minor-league register has him playing in Waterbury, Ct. for part of 1927. The one box store I found of a Hartford game shows a Brooks as a catcher, but there is no record that Mandy Brooks ever caught. I’m not wholly confident that Brozek/Brooks played there.

"Also, the 1927 Louisville Colonels page on Baseball Reference shows a Mandy Brooks and a John Brooks on the roster. Were there two Brookses on the same team? I have a headache from researching this guy as it is, so someone else can comb through 90-year-old Louisville box scores.

...

"Mandy Brooks did go to Oakland after he wore out his welcome in Nashville and continued to hit well through 1928. He split time between Oakland and Little Rock in 1929 and then spent a couple seasons in Springfield, Mass. of the Eastern League.

"He seems to have dropped out of professional baseball after 1931, but his name still popped up in Wisconsin papers as a player on several state teams. He hit a game-winning homer in 1936, when he would have been almost 39, to lead the Milwaukee Red Sox over the Madison sBlues. By the 1940 census, he was living in Milwaukee, working as a shoe cutter.

...

"We’re not out of the Brozek/Brooks woods yet. Jonathan Joseph Brooks died on June 17, 1962 in Kirkwood, Mo. According to a SABR Biographical Research newsletter, the 1963 TSN Baseball Guide assumed it was Mandy Brooks, and the 1962 death date became attached to the player. The person who died in 1962 was really named John Bux, and he had nothing to do with baseball. Mandy Brooks -- the REAL one -- died December 6, 1976 in Fort Atkinson, Wis. He was 79 years old, though the baseball world assumed he’d been dead for 14 years.

"The confusion over his death was discovered in 2008 and has been corrected.

"To think, all this mess could have been avoided had he just stuck with Brozek."

...

Here's hoping that Patrick Wisdom, Rafael Ortega and Frank Schwindel have much longer, successful careers, with the Cubs or other teams -- and that there is no confusion about their lives after their time in MLB comes to an end.

FanPosts are written by readers of Bleed Cubbie Blue, and as such do not reflect the views of SB Nation or Vox Media, nor is the content endorsed by SB Nation, Vox Media or Al Yellon, managing editor of Bleed Cubbie Blue or reviewed prior to posting.