Today’s Cubs Birthdays (April 15)
~King Cole 1886 (Cubs 1909-1912)
His real name was Leonard Leslie Cole. He started his baseball career as a pitcher with the Cubs in 1909. By 1910, he was the ace of the staff. He led the National League that season with a record of 20-4 and helped win a National League Pennant for the Cubs. His 20-4 record is the best winning percentage (.866) for a Cubs pitcher in the twentieth Century. He was immortalized as “King” Cole by Ring Lardner, who no doubt, got it from the children’s nursery rhyme ‘Old King Cole.’ King Cole didn’t stay with the Cubs very long. He won 18 games for them in 1911, and was traded (along with fan favorite Solly Hofman) to the Pirates for Tommy Leach early in the 1912 season. He later landed in the American League, where Cole gave up Babe Ruth’s first ever hit in the majors (a double on October 2, 1914). But this King Cole would not live to be a merry old soul. In 1915, he contracted a disease that knocked him out of baseball. Some sources say it was malaria, others say tuberculosis, and still others speculate it was syphilis, but whatever the disease, it took Cole’s life. He died on January 6th, 1916, a few months shy of his 30th birthday.
~Ted Sizemore 1945 (Cubs 1979)
He was the Rookie of the Year in 1969 with the Dodgers, and played a scrappy second base for the Cardinals and the Phillies after that, but his Cubs career was rather brief. In 1979 he played most of the year for the Cubs. On August 2nd of that year he was involved in a little altercation at a Montreal restaurant. Cubs management treated the players to dinner that night, but they put a limit of two bottles of wine per table. Sizemore was incensed at the limit, and stormed out of the restaurant. He complained on the bus ride the next day, and he complained on the plane ride. The Cubs traded him to the Boston Red Sox two weeks later. When Herman Franks resigned as Cubs manager at the end of the year, one of the reasons he said he quit was because of the whiny players; specifically naming Sizemore, Bill Buckner, Barry Foote and Mike Vail.
~Milton Bradley 1978 (Cubs 2009)
It’s not that Milton Bradley wasn’t a good player. He was an all-star and led the entire American League in on-base percentage with a .436 on base percentage the year before he joined the Cubs. But Milton was troubled, and his time in Chicago was a mess. He was suspended in the first week of the season for bumping an umpire. He later threw a ball into the stands thinking it was the third out…allowing two runs to score. He got into a near-fight with manager Lou Piniella in the dugout. In September he ripped the organization and said “I can see why they’ve gone a hundred years without winning.” The Cubs suspended him for the rest of the season, and traded him to the Mariners for Carlos Silva in the off-season.
~Mike Diaz 1960 (Cubs 1983)
Diaz only played six games for the Cubs in September of 1983 (backing up Jody Davis). The following spring training he was part of the trade that brought Bobby Dernier and Gary Matthews to the Cubs. He later went to Japan and played there for a few years. He did something in Japan that foreigners are almost never allowed to do: he played catcher. When he did it, he was the first foreigner in twelve years to do so.
~Ed Bailey 1931 (Cubs 1965)
Ed was one of the best catchers in the National League in the late 50s and early 60s. He was a five-time All-Star, and a World Series hero during his time with the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. One of his personal highlights during those years was when he caught his brother Jim (a pitcher for the Reds in 1959). The Cubs acquired him along with Harvey Kuehnn and Bob Hendley in 1965. He was near the end of his career when he came to the Cubs, but he still played well. He was clearly the best catcher on that 1965 team. The Cubs acquired Randy Hundley the following year, which made Ed expendable. He finished his career with the Angels.
~Sy Sutcliffe 1862 (White Stockings 1884-1885)
He’s the other Sutcliffe in Cubs history. When Sy played for the Cubs they were known as the White Stockings, and they were a powerhouse. Sy played catcher and outfiled in Chicago, although he was just a part time player. He later got more playing time for St. Louis, Dayton (yes, Dayton), Cleveland, Washington, and Baltimore. Unfortunately for Sy, he lived in a time when high blood pressure wasn’t fully understood. He died at the age of 30 from “Bright’s Disease”, which is now basically known as kidney failure, brought on by hypertension.
Bonus Fact: The Cubs have never played on Tax Day (April 15th) at Wrigley Field during a pennant winning season.