Monday, December 15, 2014

Chicago Cubs: The first ever back-to-back champions

The offseason signing of World Series champion left-hander John Lester gives hope to the north side for competitive years to come in a tough National League Central division.  106 years and counting since the last World Series win for the Cubs. However, many people forget that before winning the World Series in 1908, the Cubs were also champions in 1907, making them the first ever back-to-back world champs.  The Boston Americans won the first ever World Series in 1903 and won the championship in 1904, but there was no World Series against the National League champion New York Giants because of a contradiction preseason agreement.

As part of the original eight National League teams in 1876, the then White Stockings won the first ever National League pennant with a 52-14 record. Over the next 15 years, Chicago changed its name from the White Stockings to the Colts, then Orphans, before coming the Cubs in 1903 on the senior circuit. That same year the American League became an equal league and an arrangement to have a World Series between the league’s two best teams was agreed upon.

While the Orphans finished under .500 in the previous three years, the Cubs finished 82-56 in 1903. The Pittsburgh Pirates would represent the National League and hoist the new trophy in the first ever World Series against the Boston Americans. 90+ wins for the Cubs during the next two years would lead them to 116 wins in 1906, the most ever regular season wins by a team until it was matched by the 2001 Seattle Mariners. 1906 was the first ever Windy City World Series as the White Sox knocked off the Cubs in six games with only a four-run margin between the teams.

1907 would be the year.  It would also become the first World Series appearance for Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers.  The first game went 12 innings, but ended in a 3-3 tie due to the game being called for darkness. The Georgia Peach and club would not score more than one run a game the rest of the series as the Cubs took it all in a 4-0 sweep, wrapping up the series with a 2–0 victory on "Three-fingered" Mordecai Brown's seven-hit shutout. 

The following year, the Cubs and Tigers would face-off in a rematch in the 1908 World Series, with Ty Cobb looking for revenge. The Tigers had game one in their paws up 6-5 going into the top of the ninth, but the Cubs would hit six straight singles to score five runs to win the game. The first three games was an offensive outburst compared to the 1907 World Series with the Cubs scoring 19 runs to the Tigers 15. With the Cubs up 2-1, the series would head back to Bennett Park in Detroit. Mordecai Brown and Orval Overall would throw back-to-back shutouts against Detroit, neither giving up more than four hits to finish out the series. Orval Overall would be the first pitcher to strikeout four batters in an inning, and game 5 would be recorded as the smallest crowd to ever attend a series game with 6,210 paid attendees.

The Chicago Cubs were back-to-back champions, atop the baseball world with future Hall of Famers Frank Chance and Mordecai Brown leading the way.  The Cubs would win 104 games the next two years, and stay above .500 until 1914, however they would only win 90+ games 12 times over the next 100 years. The Cubs have had their chances in those years, going to the World Series seven different times between 1910-1945, but lost every one of them. 

Baseball is better when the Cubs are spirited and captivating. The Cubs might be known as a losing franchise with a charming and historic ballpark, but they are also an organization with strong history and tradition.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Maury Wills & The Sandlot

The 2010 MLB All-Star game in Anaheim, CA was only 20 minutes from my house in Orange County. I volunteered to work the MLB All-Star fan fest for multiple reasons, but one was the week pass at the event. I worked every morning shift that week which gave me the chance to be done at noon and in line for the Hall of Fame players who came to sign autographs at 1pm.  Some of the greatest players of the last 50 years showed up and I got about half of them with my strategic planning.

The balls that I got autographed were old and warn baseballs that I had used through my playing days. They were the good ones. The ones rubbed well with fully intact seams. Ones that were always the favorite to pick out of a bag. To me an autograph has more personal value if it was a baseball I used in practice, at a park with friends, or playing catch with my dad. A Hall of Famer is signing it for you...on your ball. It should not be on Ebay.

My favorite moment came from a Dodger great, Maury Wills. A warm smile when you walked up to him made any fan feel comfortable.  I gave him a baseball that was sandy brown with some tenured seams. He looked at me, looked at the ball, looked back at me and jokingly said with a smirk, "This looks like something out of the Sandlot."

It made the little kid in me become overjoyed with happiness. Sandlot is my all time favorite movie. The movie was set in Los Angeles during the summer of 1962; the same year Maury Wills broke Ty Cobb's stolen base record with 104 and won the MVP, Gold Glove, and the All-Star Game MVP. In the movie, the first scene of Scotty Smalls as a kid is him unpacking the family moving trailer. As his older self narrates his younger self for the fist time, he recites:

"I moved to the neighborhood about two weeks before school let out. It was the same summer that Dodgers' Maury Wills would break the stolen base record. So with something that incredible going on, it should've started out with loads of great things happening for me...but it didn't. I was from a different state and I didn't have a friend for 1,000 miles. It was a lousy way to end the 5th grade."

I got the ball from him, said thank you, shook his hand, and was on my way...I left with a grin that lasted the rest of the week. This is one of the millions of things that makes baseball so great.
Below you can see my mini Hall with Maury on the bottom row.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My short Tony Gwynn story

I got to work a booth at the MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville a few years ago and I’ve walked past Tim Kurkjian at least three times now, getting his picture once, asked a few questions, but still wanted to know what he thinks is the greatest stat of all time. Next to the ESPN stage I got my chance. I said ‘Tim, I’m a big history guy like you, what do you think is the greatest stat of all-time?” I got him to stop and face me. He thought about it for a split second and said, “Ok, during a five year period, Tony Gwynn hit .338 when battling with two strikes…The league average with two strikes during those five years was .192… Gwynn wrote on his shoes 5.5 to remind him” I then nodded and interrupted Tim “the 5-6 hole.” Tim nodded back and said, “That’s how great of a hitter Tony Gwynn was.” I stood in awe, and then Tim started to turn around to head to the stage. I still had to ask him one more question for my own sake. I yelled out, “Hey Tim! Whose the greatest player of all-time?” He turned back around and gave me the answer I wanted to hear… “Babe Ruth” he said. “He did it as both a hitter and a pitcher.” I yelled “Thank you!” and walked away with a smile that lit up my booth at the trade show.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wrigley, Cubs enjoy Catalina Island for Spring Training

By Sean Pellerin

In 1916, Wrigley bought a share of Chicago's National League entry, and over the next five years steadily increased his stake. Wartime privations hit some industries hard, but the chewing gum king was on the rise. By 1919 Wrigley bought $3 million of empty property on Catalina Island off the coast of southern California. Just two years later, he would schedule the Cubs to hold their spring training on the island. Mr. Wrigley loved the island and the move of the Cubs would open up new vacationing opportunities for the mainland population.

Instantly in 1921 the Cubs players and managers would take advantage of the mountains and terrain of the mountain. Conditioning with hikes and runs along rugged trails created by goats was something no other team was experiencing. A main diamond and practice field were built amongst the eucalyptus trees of Avalon in Wrigley's newly purchased country club. The diamond would replicate characteristics of Wrigley Field back in Chicago including a left field porch for a social atmosphere just like the rooftops off Waveland Avenue. This gave island residents and visitors the chance to see the Cubs in action as they became the main attraction on the island. Outside of inter-squad games, the PCL Angels were really the only regular visitors to scrimmage. Hollywood stars would put teams together that would create crowds, but were never really competitive. Girls, wives, and girlfriends would also be shipped in for games, dances and entertainment for the ballplayers.

The Cubs would train in Catalina for about a month before sailing back to the mainland and play exhibition games at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles and other stadiums as they slowly moved through the southwest in route to Chicago by the first week of April for Opening Day. The Cubs would leave Catalina after 30 years for Mesa Arizona; the location where the Cubs still train today.

Famous Cubs who were involved in the spring training years on Catalina Island:
Bob O'Farrell - Cub 1915-1925, 1934
Grover Cleveland Alexander - Cub 1918-1926
Gabby Hartnett - Cub 1922-1940 (The Homer in the Gloamin)
Guy Bush - Cub 1923-1934
Hack Wilson - Cub 1926-1931
Riggs Stephenson - Cub 1926-1934
Charlie Root - Cub 1926-1941 (Pitcher who gave up Ruth's called shot)
Woody English - Cub 1927-1936
Kiki Cuyler - Cub 1928-1935
Lon Warneke - Cub 1930-1936, 1942-1943, 1945
Rogers Hornsby - Cub 1929-1932, Manager 1930-1932
Billy Herman - Cub 1931-1941
Stan Hack - Cub 1932-1947
Charlie Grimm - Cub 1925-1936, Manager 1932-1938, 1944-1949
Bill Lee - Cub 1934-1943, 1947
Phil Cavarretta - Cub 1934-1953
Claude Passeau - Cub 1939-1947
Bill Nicholson - Cub 1939-1948