Cubs with early-career grand slam, Part 1

Alexander Canario electrified Wrigley Field on Tuesday night when he hit a grand slam against the Pirates in the first start of his career.

It was widely reported that no Cub had done that since 1901.

According to my research, no Cub did it before 1901 either.



A few years ago, I documented each of the 998 home runs that the Cubs hit from 1876, first season of the National League, through 1900, last before the Modern Era.

During those years, 17 different players for the White Stockings/Colts/Orphans smacked 24 homers with the bases loaded. The first to do it was pitcher Larry Corcoran, in 1882; the last, shortstop Bill Everitt, in 1899.

They were among 12 who hit 1. That group that also included Cap Anson, the team's greatest star.

Anson hit 97 homers in his 22 seasons with the team. Jimmy "Pony" Ryan hit 99 in 15 seasons to claim the pre-modern record.

4 of Ryan's were grand slams. Howard Earl, Malachi Kittridge, Bill Lange and Fred Pfeffer each hit 2.



Canario's slam was the Cubs' 5th this year and 349th since 1876.

Back in February, I had determined the season's game number of the slams up to then. They ranged from Opening Day, by Hank Sauer in 1952, to Game 162 (of 163) by Rafael Palmeiro in 1988.

Prompted by Canario's slam, I spent about 6 hours going through all the slams again.

For each, I calculated what number game it was in the player's Major League career and with the Cubs.

I also noted what home run number it was as a big leaguer and as a Cub.


Canario's slam came in his 1st start but his 2nd game, 13 days after his first. On Sept. 6, he had struck out as a pinch hitter against the Giants.

Still, Canario shattered a team record that had belonged to Howard Earl for more than 133 years.



Earl stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 180 pounds, leading to the nickname "Slim Jim."

He began his professional career in 1886, at the tender age of 19, with a Boston team in the New England League.

Over the next 3 years, Earl played for clubs in Lawrence and Salem, Mass.; Easton, Pa.; and Milwaukee.

He was among a bevy of new players on Chicago's roster on Opening Day of 1890, as many of the team's veterans had jumped to the rival Players League. The youth of the replacements earned the club the nickname "Anson's Colts," which soon was shortened to "Colts."


On Sunday, April 20, the day after the season started, the Chicago Tribune offered profiles of the newcomers. This is what it said about Earl:

"The general utility man of the team will Howard J. Earl. This young player is said to be quite a useful all-around man, as he can play any place but in the [pitching] box. He is also a hard hitter, and made quite a reputation last season in the Western Association as a batter and second baseman."


Earl did not take part in the Colts' first-game victory at Cincinnati.

On Monday, April 21, he started at second, as the Colts lost, 9-4.

"Bad errors of Earl, [shortstop Jimmy] Cooney and [third baseman Tom] Burns were largely responsible for the defeat which the Chicagos sustained today," said the one-paragraph account of the game in the next day's Tribune.

Earl and Burns each was charged with 2 errors; Cooney, with 1. At bat, Earl went 0 for 4.

The next day, he made his first hit, a single, and stole a base in a 13-3 victory.



He sat out the finale of the series at Cincinnati, then tripled in 5 at bats during a 10-6 loss at Cleveland on April 25.

In the Colts' next game, 3 days later, Earl made 2 singles in a 5-4 win.

The following day, April 29, the Colts won their home debut, 9-4 over a Pittsburgh club that would end the season 23-113-2.

Earl watched from the bench. He continued to do so through 6 more games, of which the Colts won 3, lost 2 and tied 1.


Finally, on Thursday, May 8, Anson put Earl in the lineup again, but only because shortstop Cooney was too sick to play. Earl took his place and batted at the top of the order.



The Tribune's uncredited report of the game is a gem (paragraph breaks added for easier reading).


The smiling afternoon swelled the attendance at the National League Park, where Chicago and Cincinnati played the final game of their May series.

It will be remembered by those who have followed the record closely that 386 people were present at Wednesday's game, when the teams played in a chunk of weather left over from last January.

Yesterday the lines of spectators continued filing in until 390 men and boys and one woman, by official count, had found their way inside the fence. And yet it was not uncomfortably crowded.

At one stage the game was quite exiting. This was in the sixth inning.

Then the home players discovered the secret of Mr. [Lee] Viau's curves and exposed him before the whole crowd. Nearly everyone was vexed at Viau, anyway, because no one knew how to pronounce his name.

The people were pleased, therefore, when they saw the Colts play horse with him and pound him until the wild rushing of red socks in the bright sunlight looked like a bursting skyrocket.

Boys on the bleaching-boards said unkind things to the Cincinnati pitcher in this inning. They called him a picnic and bad him begone to the prairie.

"You are too easy, Vi-o," a friendly crank suggested.

"You're a puddin', Vee-o," another one shouted at the mangled remains.

"Mr Voo is not in form this afternoon," said the woman in the box.

Before the bloody sixth was ended Chicago had added twelve runs and an equal number of hits to its score.

One of the hits sent the ball over on Congress Street and into an areaway. Slim Jim Earl, the smiter, crossed the plate about the time the ball disappeared behind the fence.

[Descriptions omitted of earlier innings, ending with the Reds' run in the top of the sixth.]

Then Chicago went to bat. Seventeen times it went there.

[Jim] Andrews was the first man to face the Cincinnati's bete noire (French for hoodoo). He lifted the first ball that approached and sent it between [] Mullane's feet for a single.

Mr. Burns then held up his stick, and Viau hit it savagely, Burns going to first.

[Pete[ O'Brien repeated the performance, and Andrews scored.

Viau couldn't find [Bill] Hutchison's club, so he gave the Chicago pitcher first on balls, filling the bases.

Long Mr. Earl now walked to the plate and unfolded himself. Viau threw the ball at him. Earl dodged, but it was too late. The ball hit the bat and bounded over the Congress Street fence.

Four men trotted over the plate while the crowd cheered lustily.

[end of excerpt]


6 straight singles completed the onslaught -- 2 more hits than the Colts had managed in the previous 5 innings.

They finished the 18-9 rout with 18 hits, including 3 by Earl, who added a pair of singles to his grand slam. Hutchison and O'Brien also homered.



Earl's second home run, on June 26 against Brooklyn, also was a grand slam.

His next 2 were with 1 on, the second of those off Viau, now with Cleveland, in Game 2 of a double header on Sept. 11.

He slugged a pair of 3-run shot in the first of 2 games the next day, then a 2-run drive in Game 2, off a promising rookie named Cy Young.

That was his final homer of the year, so all 7 were with men aboard.

Earl played in 92 of the Colts' 139 games. He spent all or part of 49 in right field, 39 at second, 4 at short and 3 at first.

He batted .247/.285/.344, for an OPS of .628 and an OPS+ of 79. His 95 hits also included 10 doubles and 3 triples.



When the Players League folded after the season, many of the jumpers returned to their old National League clubs, including Fred Pfeffer, who had played second base for the White Stockings from 1883-89.

That made Earl expendable, and in January of 1891 he was sold to Minneapolis of the Western Association.

He wound up playing 31 games that year for the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association. He batted .248/.281/.341 and hit 1 home run -- with the bases empty.

After those 2 seasons and 123 games, Earl never played in the big leagues again. But he continued to play, from 1892 through 1907, for 10 minor league teams: Milwaukee and Oshkosh, Wis.; Oakland, Calif.; Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; then 5 clubs in 8 cities in New York: Syracuse, Utica, Schenectady, Ilion and Amsterdam-Gloversville-Johnstown. The last was known, understandably, as the hyphens.

At all levels, Earl played 22 seasons and appeared in at least 1,747 games, coming to the plate at least 6,554 times and hitting at least 53 home runs.

He died 2 days before Christmas in 1916, at age 49.



Prior to Canario, the fewest games to hit a grand slam by a Cub in the Modern Era was 9, by Nelson Mathews, in 1962.


Mathews, a center fielder, was just 50 days past his 19th birthday when he made his debut with the Cubs in 1960. He appeared in 2 more games that year, then 3 in 1961.

He began 1962 at the Cubs' top farm club in Salt Lake City, batted .214 in 9 games, and was demoted to Class AA San Antonio. He struggled there, too, batting .200 in 11 games, and was sent down another rung, to Class B Wenatchee, Wash.

Mathews flourished in the Northwest, slashing .368/.465/.708 in 101 games, with 19 doubles, 10 triples and 23 doubles. That earned him a trip back to Chicago when the roster size was increased in September.


On Sept. 10, at Los Angeles, he hit into a ninth-inning forceout on which the Cubs scored their only loss in an 8-1 loss.

Four days later, he started at home against the Dodgers, who scored 7 runs in the first inning and coasted to a 13-7 victory.

Mathews grounded out, then popped up to first twice, once in foul territory.

He singled on the first pitch leading off the sixth and scored when Andre Rodgers tripled on the next pitch.

The hit was Mathews' 4th, all singles, in his 8 career games.

Mathews was on the bench the next day, when the Dodgers scored 2 runs in the eighth to tie the game, then 2 in the ninth to win, 6-4. It was their 98th win and the Cubs' 96th loss.



A crowd of 19,251 saw the series finale on Sunday afternoon.

The first 2 Dodgers made hits off Cubs starter Bob Buhl, but the first, renowned thief Maury Wills, was caught stealing on the first pitch to the second, Jim Gilliam.

A forceout and popup by brothers Willie and Tommy Davis ended the inning.

Don Landrum began the Cubs' half by lining a single to right off Stan Williams.

Ken Hubbs, soon to be crowned Rookie of the Year, beat out an infield hit.

Billy Williams dribbled a ball toward the mound and was safe at first, giving Ernie Banks a chance to hit his 10th career grand slam. He swung at the first pitch from Williams, but hit a routine fly to left, on which the runners held.

That brought up Mathews, who walloped the first pitch he saw deep into the bleachers in left for his first slam in his 9th big league game, all as a Cub.


The Cubs added a run in the second on a walk to Landrum, a single by Hubbs and a sacrifice fly by Williams.

Neither team scored again, as Buhl blanked the Dodgers on 4 hits and 4 walks while striking out 6.

Mathews grounded out to end that inning. He fouled out in the fifth, then singled with 1 out in the seventh and stole second. He was stranded there, following an intentional walk to Ron Santo, a popup by Rodgers and a tap to the mound by Moe Thacker.



Mathews played in 12 more games before the season ended. He hit another homer, with 2 on base, and a pair of doubles, and finished with 13 RBI. His slash line was .306/.393/.469, for an OPS of .862 and an OPS+ of 127.

He was the Cubs' center fielder in only 7 of their first 19 games in 1963, then in 30 of the next 45. But even after he hit his 4th homer and singled in his 37th game, he was batting just .165/.257/.306.

Mathews appeared in only 24 more games, starting just 6. He did not hit a homer and slashed .118/.143/.177, with 15 strikeouts and 1 walk in 35 trips to the plate.

In mid-December, the Cubs traded him to the Athletics for pitcher Fred Norman.


Mathews played in 224 games for the A's in 1964 (157) and 1965 (57). He hit 14 homers the first year, the third and fifth grand slams. He also led both leagues with 143 strikeouts while slashing .239/.293/.377.

His line was .212/.300/.359 in 1965, when he hit 2 homers, for a career total of 22 in 306 games.

They were the last in the big leagues, as he spent 1966-67 with minor league affiliates of the A's, Tigers and Phillies before calling it quits. He was only 24 years old.

Mathews turned 82 on July 21.

His son, pitcher T.J. Mathews, was 32-26 with a 3.82 earned run average in 362 games, all as a reliever, for the Cardinals, Athletics and Astros in 1995-2002.


TOMORROW: Other Cubs who hit grand slams early in their careers, and those whose first homer was a slam.

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