Cubs starters Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele have been among the top starters in all of baseball in 2023, and they have both been named to the National League All-Star team.
Congratulations to both pitchers — even if they don’t wind up pitching in the game, and Stroman has already announced that he won’t.
The Cubs have had many pitchers named All-Stars, the most recent before this year being Craig Kimbrel, who received the honor in 2021 for a lights-out first half — just a couple of weeks before he was traded in the big July selloff.
But it’s been more unusual for the Cubs to have two pitchers named to the N.L. All-Star team in the same year. It’s happened in just eight other seasons before 2023. Here’s a look at those selections, and you won’t be surprised to learn that many of them happened in years the Cubs made the postseason.
1936: Lon Warneke and Curt Davis
For Warneke, this was his third All-Star selection and he had won 20 games in three of the previous four years. He finished second in MVP voting in 1932 and had there been a Cy Young Award then, he’d certainly have won it.
The Cubs were coming off a 1935 N.L. pennant and were in second place at the All-Star break, just one game out of first. They were close to the top through mid-August, then faded and finished third.
Davis was a bit of an odd selection. He’d been acquired by trade from the Phillies in May, and had pitched in only nine games for the Cubs before his All-Star nod, posting a 2.21 ERA and 1.052 WHIP.
In the game, Davis pitched two-thirds of an inning and allowed three runs, including a homer to Lou Gehrig. Warneke relieved him and finished up for a (retroactive) save as the N.L. held on for a 4-3 win.
Warneke was traded to the Cardinals after the season for Ripper Collins and Roy Parmelee, a deal that didn’t do much for the Cubs. Davis was traded, also to the Cardinals, in April 1938 as part of the deal that brought Dizzy Dean to Chicago.
1945: Claude Passeau and Hank Wyse
The 1945 All-Star Game was not played due to World War II travel restrictions. However, a group of sportswriters got together and selected mythical All-Star teams from suggestions made by managers. Baseball-reference.com lists Passeau and Wyse as Cubs All-Stars for that year, and for Passeau, it was his fourth All-Star selection, and he’d have another one in 1946. That’s the most for any Cubs pitcher. Wyse insisted to his dying day that if Charlie Grimm had started him in Game 7 of the World Series, the Cubs would have won. It was his only All-Star nod.
As a “replacement” for the 1945 All-Star Game, eight exhibition games were played July 9 and 10 to raise money for the American Red Cross and other war relief efforts. That included a Cubs vs. White Sox game at Comiskey Park July 9, won by the White Sox 5-4 in 10 innings. 47,144 attended and $50,000 (equivalent to about $850,000 today) was raised for relief efforts. Neither Passeau nor Wyse pitched in this game — Paul Derringer threw the entire game for the Cubs.
Passeau wound up starting the 1946 All-Star Game. He’s the only Cubs pitcher to do so — perhaps that will change this year if Steele is named the N.L. starter. After his baseball career, Passeau returned to Mississippi and became a successful farmer in a town called Lucedale — the same town where Justin Steele grew up. The high school field in Lucedale is named after Passeau, and it’s been reported that the Steele and Passeau families were close. What are the odds that two very good Cubs pitchers hailed from a small town in Mississippi with a population of fewer than 3,000?
1977: Bruce Sutter and Rick Reuschel
It would be thirty-two years after those 1945 “selections” before another All-Star Game would feature two Cubs pitchers on the N.L. roster. Sutter and Reuschel both had great first halves and so did the Cubs, who were 52-31 at the break and led the N.L. East by five games.
Reuschel threw a scoreless eighth inning in a game the N.L. won 7-5. Sutter did not appear in the game.
The Cubs went 29-50 the rest of the way and finished 20 games out of first place.
1987: Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe
The Cubs were 47-41 at the break, in fourth place, 10 games out of first. But Smith and Sutcliffe both had good first halves. Sutcliffe was 12-4 with a 3.47 ERA and finished that year 18-10, 3.68. He should have won that year’s Cy Young Award, which went to Phillies closer Steve Bedrosian, one of the worst Cy Young winners ever.
Smith had a decent first half, but had eight blown saves in 30 opportunities, one of the reasons for the Cubs’ failure that year.
Sutcliffe threw two scoreless innings in the All-Star Game, the third and fourth, and Smith entered the game in the 10th with the game still scoreless. He threw three innings, didn’t allow a run, struck out four and wound up the winning pitcher when Tim Raines tripled in two runs in the top of the 13th. The N.L. won 2-0.
Smith wound up with 12 blown saves in 1987 and by the end of the season was being roundly booed at Wrigley Field. After the season he was traded to the Red Sox for Calvin Schiraldi and Al Nipper, one of the worst trades in Cubs history.
1989: Mitch Williams and Rick Sutcliffe
For Sutcliffe, it was his third All-Star Game selection (he’d also been named to the A.L. squad in 1983 when he was with Cleveland). The “Wild Thing,” Williams, had a 1.93 ERA and 22 saves at the break — but also seven blown saves and 31 walks in 43⅔ innings.
In the game, eventually won by the A.L. 5-3, Sutcliffe allowed four hits and two runs in the third inning and Williams threw a scoreless ninth, with, of course, a walk and a strikeout.
2003: Mark Prior and Kerry Wood
Prior was in his first full Cubs season. Wood had come back from Tommy John surgery to be dominant, as he had been in his rookie year of 1998.
Wood had a 3.19 ERA in 19 starts before the break and 156 strikeouts in 127 innings — 11.06 per nine innings. Prior, who had also started 19 times before the break, had a 3.01 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 128⅔ innings.
Yes, that’s a large workload. Prior didn’t pitch in the All-Star Game, largely because he had suffered a hip injury when he collided with Marcus Giles on the basepaths at Wrigley Field in his last start before the break:
Prior missed a month. He came back and was dominant again, but who knows what that did to him long-term.
Wood threw a scoreless fourth inning with two strikeouts in the game that was played in Chicago at the South Side home of the White Sox. The A.L. won 7-6.
2008: Ryan Dempster, Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano
The four Cubs pitchers in this All-Star Game are the most for any Cubs team. They led a contingent of eight Cubs All-Stars, also a record. The others: Kosuke Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto. Fukudome and Soto were elected starters.
The game went into long extra innings. For Marmol, it was his only All-Star nod, and he threw a scoreless 13th. Dempster, who had previously been an All-Star with the Marlins in 2000, threw a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out Ian Kinsler, Dioner Navarro and J.D. Drew. Zambrano, who was a three-time All-Star, had thrown a scoreless fourth. Milton Bradley had reached on an error in that inning, but Big Z picked him off. Wood did not pitch in the game.
The A.L. won 4-3 on a sacrifice fly in the 15th inning. Here’s the entire 2008 ASG:
2016: Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester
The Cubs, headed to a World Series win, also sent starting position players Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist.
Arrieta, coming off his spectacular 2015 season, had been nearly as good in the first half of 2016, though a couple of clunkers just before the All-Star break had his season era jump from 1.74 to 2.68 over the course of just three starts. He did not appear in the game.
Lester, who would finish second in Cy Young voting in 2016, also had his season ERA jump by nearly a run (2.03 to 3.01) when he had two bad starts just before the break, including a horrific outing in New York where he allowed eight runs in fewer than two innings to the Mets. He was summoned in the seventh inning and faced four batters. One reached on an error and another by walk before Lester retired the next two A.L. hitters and was replaced by Mark Melancon. The A.L. won the game 4-2.
Let’s hope for some better performances, if needed, by Steele and Stroman in this year’s game next Tuesday.