Third in a series of posts about Cubs pitchers since 1901 who have played other positions in the field. The first post focused on those who played first base and the second on those who played second, third and short.
In his 833 games over 7 seasons as a Cub, Kris Bryant played 6 different positions, including center field, where he appeared in 24 games, the first 7 as a rookie in 2015 and the last 14 before being traded to the Giants on July 30.
But he wasn't the first Bryant to play center for the Cubs.
Clay Bryant beat Kris to the punch by more than 75 years when he trotted out to center in the bottom of the sixth inning at Cincinnati on July 9, 1939.
Clay was a pitcher, just 1 of 21 since 1901 who have moved from the mound to the outfield at least once.
Eleven of them, more than half, did so exactly once, and Bryant was among those 11.
A 6-foot-2, 195-pound right hander, Bryant was just 18 when he played his first professional game in 1930. He pitched for teams in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Alabama through 1934.
On July 30 of that year, the Cubs purchased him from the Indians. He finished the year 16-10, with a 3.48 earned run average, good enough to be invited to spring training the next year, and he made the Cubs' Opening Day roster.
His big league debut came in the 10th inning of a 4-4 game on April 21, 1935, at home against the Reds. He pitched 2 scoreless innings, then surrendered 4 runs on 4 hits in the 12th and took the loss.
After notching a 1-out save on April 29,he did not pitch again until May 24, when he came in with 2 outs in the first inning and worked 5.1 innings, allowing 3 runs.
Then he was idle until a mop-up assignment on June 9.
But on June 23, he got his first start, at Philadelphia. He lasted 6.1 innings, in which he gave up 1 run on 3 hits, and earned his first career victory.
A pair of 2-inning relief stints came next, 2 days apart in late June, then another start, on July 1 at Cincinnati. This time, he was knocked out after 1.1 innings, having permitted 3 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks.
Two days later, Bryant took over with the bases loaded and 2 out in the bottom of the ninth. He struck out the batter, sending the game into extra innings, only to serve up a homer to the leadoff man in the 10th.
The Cubs then returned Bryant to the minors, loaning him to the Pirates' Class A team in Birmingham.
He rejoined the Cubs at the start of 1936 and remained with them for 5 years. He appeared in 26 games in 1936, all in relief, then started 9 of 38 games in 1937, followed by 30 of 44 in 1938.
That year, he went 19-11, with a 3.10 earned run average, to help the Cubs win the pennant. He pitched 17 complete games, 3 of them shutouts, and finished 10 other games, saving 2.
He also led the league in both strikeouts (135) and walks (125).
During his first 3 seasons, he showed skill with the bat, slashing .333/.372/.492, with 2 home runs and 11 runs batted in. In 1938, he hit only .226/.241/.349, but he hit 3 homers and collected 15 RBI.
Bryant's pitching did not go well in 1939. In 3 starts between April 23 and May 7, he was rocked for 19 runs on 29 hits in 23.1 innings, an ERA of 6.94.
He pitched only once more all season, on Aug. 6, when he labored through 8 innings, in which he gave up 13 hits and walked 3, yet still beat the Pirates, 6-4.
During the Cubs' final 138 games, he was deployed as a pinch runner 21 times and pinch hit just twice: on June 16, when he struck out at home against the Giants, and on July 9, at Cincinnati.
On that second date, the host Reds tallied 6 runs in the first inning, 4 of starter Gene Lillard, then 2 on a homer off Dizzy Dean. A 3-run homer off Dean capped a 4-run third that made the score 10-1.
After the first Cub was retired in the sixth, Bryant was sent to the plate for center fielder Carl Reynolds, whose fourth-inning groundout had driven home the Cubs' only run.
Bryant grounded to short. So did Rip Russell, ending the inning.
When the Reds came to bat, Bryant was standing in center, where he caught a line drive for the second out.
He grabbed 2 flies in the seventh, then he fielded a 2-out single in the eighth that completed the scoring in the 13-1 rout.
Leading off the ninth, Bryant hit a fly to center. A walk and 2 more flies ended the carnage.
Bryant played 1 more season, but it wasn't much of one. He appeared in just 16 games, 8 as a pinch runner, 8 as a pitcher. None of the latter were starts; 5 were finishes.
He was 0-1, with a 4.78 ERA, making his career record 32-20, 4.78.
And that became his final record, as he never pitched in the big leagues again.
Bryant was with Cubs affiliates in Tulsa, Okla., and Zanesville, Ohio, in 1941-42, then returned to Zanesville after World War II, pitching in 2 games in 1946 before retiring at age 34.
Between April 1903, when the Cubs obtained him from St. Louis, and June 2, 1906, when they sent him to Cincinnati, Wicker pitched in 138 games.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound righty won 53 of them, including 20 in 1903 and 17 in 1904, while losing only 29. He completed 69 games, posted 9 shutouts and compiled a 2.73 ERA.
Wicker batted .245/.295/.337 for the Cubs in 1903, and he was 3 for 10 during his first 4 starts of 1904, capped by 2 for 3 and a walk against Boston on May 7.
When the teams played again 2 days later, center fielder Jimmy Slagle led off for the Cubs, as he usually did.
"After drawing a base on balls in the opening round, he went to second on an out," the Chicago Tribune explained, "and was caught between second and third on [Frank] Chance's shot to [pitcher Togie (!)] Pittinger.
"The Bostonians ran him down between the bases and Jimmy, in an effort to get back to second, slid into [second baseman Fred] Raymer, who spiked him on the right arm below the elbow, cutting a chunk out of his arm.
"[Davy] Jones was then shifted over to center, while Wicker went to right field."
Wicker went 0 for 3, but hit a sacrifice fly for the final run in the Cubs' 6-0 victory.
Slagle "is not likely to get into the game for at least a week,"
the Tribune's story said.
It turned out to be 15 games, and after he returned on May 28, he played left, not center, in each of the Cubs' final 102 games.
Beginning May 10, in the first game Slagle missed, Wicker played center field for 7 straight games, going 6 for 25, including a double, plus 6 walks, with only 1 strikeout.
He pitched on May 19, then was back in center for 8 more games, but this time was just 3 for 31, with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. The last 2 games, he played alongside Slagle.
Wicker started and went the distance in center on June 10, going 0 for 3. Between June 14 and Aug. 13, he took over in center once, then in right twice. After that, he was a pitcher in each of his 12 remaining games.
For the season, Wicker batted .219/.244/.226, with 16 singles and a double, and drove in 9 runs. But his average was just .150 (12 for 80) in the 20 games he played in the outfield, barely half his .293 (22 for 75) when he pitched!
Wicker played 3 more games in center, Aug. 10-12, 1905, going 0 for 10. The reason he returned to the outfield?
On Aug. 9, while Wicker was pitching a 6-hitter and singling twice against the Giants, the Cubs lost left fielder Jack McCarthy "and the left field bleachers have themselves to blame for putting McCarthy out of the game at a time when he is badly needed," the Tribune declared.
"Chasing [Bill] Dahlen's high foul in the second inning, Jack turned his ankle on a carelessly thrown pop bottle and had to be helped from the field. That necessitated swinging [center fielder] Slagle and [right fielder Billy] Maloney around and sending [catcher Johnny] Kling from the mask row to right field, [Jack] O'Neil donning the windpad."
Wicker played between Slagle and Maloney for the next 3 games, with Kling back behind the plate. Once McCarthy was healthy, Wicker's days anywhere other than on the mound were at an end.
His 20 games in center field are 19 more than by any other Cub who was primarily a pitcher.
Besides, Bryant, described previously, the only other pitcher to play even 1 game in center was Jock Menefee, who will be subject of his own post to conclude this series.
The 22 total games by pitchers in center is 1 more than the total in left. But while only 3 played center, 12 played left.
Menefee did it the most, 6 times. Travis Wood, described in the first post of this series, did it 3 times.
So did Packard, a 5-foot-10, 155-pound lefty, who was 10-6 with a 2.87 ERA in 39 games for the Cubs in 1916-17.
After going 8-11 in 2 seasons with the Reds, Packard jumped to the new Federal League. During its 2 campaigns, he was 20-14, 2.89, and 20-12, .268, for the Kansas City Packers. The Cubs bought him as part of the dispersal of the failed league's personnel.
He was 7-3, with a sparkling 1.74 ERA, after throwing a 1-hitter against Brooklyn on July. But he was hit hard in his next start(5 runs, 7 hits in 4.1 innings) and started in only 2 of his next 7 appearances. After 2 scoreless innings of relief on Aug. 14, he was 7-5, 2.58.
On Aug. 16, following a rainout, the Cubs played the second game of a series at Cincinnati.
"[Third baseman] Heinie Zimmerman was banished from the contest in the second inning," according to the Tribune, "when he made a positively senseless protest on Umpire [Peter] Harrison's decision at the plate, when he attempted to steal home. Harrison endeavored to avoid the wrangle, but Zimmerman insisted on continuing it, and when he kept up a line of abuse after going to his position he was banished.
"As soon as he was gone the spirit of the Cubs increased and they appeared to play better ball when he was off the field."
On the field, Rollie Zeider moved from left to third, with Packard taking over in left.
In 3 trips to the plate, Packard walked twice. The other time, he bunted into a forceout, then raced to third on a single and scored by beating the throw to the plate on a grounder to the second baseman.
The Cubs won, 5-0, behind the 6-hit pitching of Claude Hendrix. The Reds came close to scoring only once, in the fourth, when Packard barely missed a ball that turned into a double, but the runner was thrown out at home on a single that followed.
The next day, at home, the Cubs nipped the Giants, 1-0.
The lone run came when Zeider walked, leading off the first, and scored on a 2-out double. Packard, batting fifth, was 0 for 3 with a strikeout but made a successful sacrifice.
"The Cubs still were badly wrecked," the Tribune reported. "Cy Williams wasn't even present because of his broken wrist, Joe Kelly still was nursing a bad ankle, Vic Saier still was pale from eating a bad piece of cheese, so he couldn't appear, neither Archer nor Wilson could do any backstopping, and Heine [sic] Zim was out for some unknown reason, though there were rumors that it was because the manager thought the team stronger without him.
"But with a patched up outfit, even to the extent of Gene Packard playing in left field, the Cubs played a swell game of ball, and had to in order to get the victory."
In the rematch 24 hours later, the Cubs again scored in the first, but this time they already trailed, 2-0. Saier, back in the lineup, singled home the Cubs' run with 2 out, then stole second, but Packard, in left once more, struck out.
A bases-loaded triple by Fred Merkle in the third put the Cubs in a 6-1 hole. They had 2 on with nobody out in their half of the inning. After Saier grounded out, advancing the runners, Zimmerman pinch hit for Packard. He walked, loading the bases, but the next tapped to the mound and the Cubs went on to lose, 8-1.
Packard played 11 more games as a Cub, all as a pitcher: 9 in 1916 and 2 in April 1917 before being sold to the Cardinals.
ONE-TIMERS IN LEFT
The lone games in left field by Frank Corridon, Steve Cishek and Brian Duensing were described previously in this series.
Here is a quick look at the others, in alphabetical order:
1. Mordecai Brown: May 14, 1904, took over after Jack McCarthy "lamed an ankle" in the second inning. Went 1 for 3, a bases-loaded triple, plus a walk to help the Cubs crush the Phillies, 12-4.
2. Claude Hendrix: July 29, 1917, in a 6-5 loss at home to the Giants, the Cubs pinch hit for starting right fielder Harry Wolter after he had gone 0 for 3, then Max Flack played right. When Flack came up limping after stroking a 2-run double in the eighth, Hendrix ran for Flack, then played left in the top of the ninth.
3. Les Lancaster: June 13, 1990, against the Mets, came in to get the last out of the top of the sixth, then gave up 3 singles, a strikeout and single in the seventh, making the score 8-6 in favor of the Cubs. He was moved to left, where he watched Paul Assenmacher give up 2 more singles that put the Mets in front, 9-8, then walk another batter.
With the bases loaded, Lancaster returned to the mound and got 2 fly outs, the first scoring a run. Lancaster pitched a scoreless eight but yielded 5 runs in the ninth, capped by a grand slam. His line for the day: 2.2 inning, 9 runs (all earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks, with no strikeouts. Yikes!
4. Sean Marshall: July 12, 2009, with nobody out and Cardinals on first and second in the top of the ninth, was summoned from the bullpen and walked a batter, loading the bases. Switched to left and watch Aaron Heilman get a full-count strikeout. Came back to the mound and notched a strikeout and fly ball to strand the runners. All 3 Cubs fanned in the bottom half, ending a 4-2 loss.
5. Spencer Patton: June 28, 2016, in the 14th inning at Cincinnati, got a 3-2 fly out, the traded places with Travis Wood, who had gone to left after giving up a pair of 2-out singles in the 13th. Wood made a 3-1 putout and went back to left, with Patton getting a groundout to end the inning.
With 1 out in the 15th, the Cubs got a walk and 2 singles to take the lead. Following an intentional walk, fellow pitcher Jason Hammel pinch hit for Patton and grounded into a forceout at home. Then Javier Baez unloaded a grand slam to make the score 7-2.
6. Pedro Strop: June 28, 2016, in the game just described. Wood went back to the mound in the bottom of the inning, with Strop becoming the left fielder. Wood struck out 2 batters, gave up a single and coaxed a line out to end the marathon, in which the Cubs used 23 players, 9 of them pitchers, including Strop, who did not pitch!
TOMORROW: The pitchers are all (in) right!