Before Christopher Morel homered in his first major-league at-bat Tuesday night at Wrigley Field against the Pirates, eight other Cubs preceded him in accomplishing this rare feat.
It is a reminder on the randomness of this kind of event that five of the previous eight Cubs who did this hit fewer than seven career homers. Only Starlin Castro, Carmelo Martinez, Jorge Soler and Willson Contreras have done better.
That tells a lot about the temporary fame of most of the other Cubs who did this. After Morel’s blast, the Cubs are 6-3 in the nine games in which one of their players has gone deep in his first time to the plate in the big leagues.
Here are the details of all eight previous Cubs who homered the first time they stepped to the plate in the major leagues.
September 11, 1942, first game, Paul Gillespie: Gillespie's solo shot off Giants righthander Harry Feldman gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Gillespie later drove in another run with a single, but the Cubs lost 4-3 when Hiram Bithorn issued a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth. Gillespie, a catcher, would hit just five more homers, one of which was in his final regular-season at-bat in the first game of a doubleheader September 29, 1945. Gillespie is one of just two players to homer in both their first and last big-league at-bats (this is the other guy). He went 0-for-6 in the 1945 World Series.
May 24, 1957, Frank Ernaga: Ernaga, whose last name is also the user name of a regular BCB poster who can probably fill in even more details on this, homered in his first at-bat off future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn in the second inning, tying the game 1-1. He later tripled in a run that gave the Cubs the lead they would never relinquish in this 5-1 win. Two days later Ernaga homered again, in the eighth inning of the second game of a Wrigley doubleheader against the Braves, off future Cub Juan Pizarro. The blast tied the game and the Cubs won in the bottom of the ninth. Sadly, these would be the only two homers of Ernaga's big-league career.
September 1, 1961, Cuno Barragan: Just after Andre Rodgers had hit a two-run homer off Dick LeMay of the Giants, Barragan followed back-to-back with a homer to left in his first big-league at-bat, giving the Cubs a 3-0 lead... which they blew and lost the game in 14 innings, 4-3. Barragan, a catcher, was a 29-year-old rookie at the time of his blast, and played in just 68 more major-league games, never homering again.
August 22, 1983, Carmelo Martinez: The only one of these players to have any significant major-league career until Castro, Martinez was a hyped rookie, having hit 31 home runs that year at Triple-A Iowa before his callup. His homer in the fourth inning off the Reds' Frank Pastore helped the Cubs to a 2-0 win, and he hit six homers overall in 89 at-bats that year. After the season he was traded to the Padres in a three-way deal with the Expos that brought Scott Sanderson to the Cubs. He wound up with 108 lifetime homers — the only one of this group before Castro and Contreras who hit more than six total — in a nine-year career that included stops with the Phillies, Pirates, Royals and Reds.
June 8, 1992, first game, Jim Bullinger: Bullinger, a converted shortstop, had pitched in three games before he came to the plate. He had entered the game to relieve starter Shawn Boskie after four innings, and came to the plate to lead off the fifth, and hit Rheal Cormier's first pitch over the left-field wall to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead; they eventually won the game 5-2 in 14 innings. Of the 129 players to homer in their first MLB at-bat, Bullinger is one of just 32 to hit that blast on the first big-league pitch he saw (including Contreras) and one of just six pitchers to do so.
May 7, 2010, Starlin Castro: After his three-run homer in the second inning off the Reds' Homer Bailey, Castro smacked a bases-clearing triple in the fifth, becoming the second Cub to homer and triple in his big-league debut. The six RBI are still a major-league record for anyone's first major-league game, and he wound up with the most home runs of any other Cub who accomplished this feat in his first big-league at-bat, 138. Here is Castro’s homer:
August 27, 2014, Jorge Soler: Soler smacked his homer off the Reds' Mat Latos back-to-back with Luis Valbuena to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Soler later had an RBI single, but the Cubs lost the game to the Reds 7-5. Soler became the first major-league player to accomplish this feat in nearly two years; the previous one had been hit by the Rangers' Jurickson Profar September 2, 2012. Here is Soler’s home run:
June 19, 2016, Willson Contreras: Before the biggest crowd (41,024, a Wrigley sellout) to see any of the previous seven, Contreras ripped the first major-league pitch he saw off the Pirates' A.J. Schugel into the bleachers in right-center field, giving the Cubs a 6-1 lead in a game they eventually won 10-5. It was one of five Cubs homers in the blowout win. He became the 32nd player to hit a homer on his first big-league pitch, and second Cub (after Bullinger). Here is Contreras’ blast: