Today’s Cubs Birthdays (April 20)
~Justice John Paul Stevens 1920– (Cubs fan 1920-present)
He was a moderate Republican when he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975, and is now considered the most liberal member of the Supreme Court, but Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has other interests besides the law and politics. Namely Baseball. More specifically; Cubs baseball. Judge Stevens was born in Chicago in 1920. His father built the famous Stevens Hotel (which is now the Hilton), and John and his brothers posed as models for the bronze sculptures by the grand stairway. In 1932 at the age of 12, Stevens, who had become a huge Chicago Cubs fan, remembers sitting at Wrigley Field and watching Babe Ruth, in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the World Series, gesturing with his bat toward center field and hitting his famous “called shot” home run. He went to college in Chicago, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago in 1941. During those years, he was a frequent visitor to Wrigley Field. During the 1950s and 1960s while he practiced law in Chicago, he continued to follow his favorite team. Starting in 1975, however, after becoming a Supreme Court Justice, his visits to Chicago became less frequent. He now lives in Washington & Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. But every now and then, he’ll still stop by the favorite place of his youth. In 2005, at age 85, he threw the first pitch at a Cubs-Reds game at Wrigley Field and got it right over the plate. (Photo by AP Photos/Jeff Robertson)
~Charlie Smith 1880–1929 (Cubs 1911-1914)
Smith hooked up with the Cubs just as their dynasty was beginning to fall apart. Frank Chance would retire as a player during this era, Johnny Evers would suffer a nervous breakdown, and the once proud Cubs team would not win the National League. Smith was a pitcher for the Cubs, pitching mainly out of the bullpen his first few years, before becoming a starter in 1913. He won seven games that season; his best season in the big leagues. Charlie went into the horse business after his baseball career and owned a livery stable when he died of pneumonia in 1929. His brother Fred also played big league baseball.
~Preston Gomez 1923–2009 (Cubs Manager 1980)
Two days before Pope John Paul II landed in Chicago in 1979, the Cubs announced the name of their new manager: Preston Gomez. Gomez’ track record included one of the worst winning percentages in baseball history (.392). He had managed for the Padres and the Astros and was a colossal failure both times. Needless to say the same thing happened with the Cubs. He didn’t make it through the entire 1980 season before he was fired. The Cubs were 39-51 at the time.
~Willie Prall 1950– (Cubs 1975)
Willie was a September call up in 1975, and was absolutely pounded by the National League. In fourteen innings pitched he gave up 21 hits and 14 runs. He remained in the Cubs organization a few more years but never returned to the big leagues. Some Willie Prall trivia: In the television series “Prison Break”, one of the characters claimed that Willie Prall was his favorite player as a boy (in a flashback scene).
~Milt Wilcox 1950– (Cubs 1975)
Milt had a very successful 16-year career, but only made a brief stop to the north side of Chicago. The Cubs traded future closer Dave LaRoche and speedy outfielder Brock Davis to get him, but when Milt didn’t make the club in 1976, they sold him to the Detroit Tigers. With the Tigers, Wilcox recorded double-digit wins seven seasons in row. He was a member of the 1984 World Series championship team.
~Mike O’Berry 1954– (Cubs 1980)
O’Berry was one of the backup catchers for the Cubs in 1980. They acquired him from the Boston Red Sox for Ted Sizemore. After the season the Cubs traded him to the Reds for relief pitcher Jay Howell. That would have been a great trade if the Cubs had held on to Howell. He went on to become an All-Star closer for the A’s and Dodgers. O’Berry played five more years in the big leagues with the Yankees, Reds, Angels, and Expos.
~Todd Hollandsworth 1973– (Cubs 2004-2005)
Hollandsworth was the 1996 Rookie of the Year for the Dodgers, and was part of that 2003 Florida Marlins team that broke the hearts Cubs fans in the playoffs, but he was mostly a fourth outfielder for the Cubs in his time here. He hit a few dramatic homers and contributed to the team in both of his seasons in Chicago, but the Cubs traded him for a pair of minor leaguers once they determined they were out of the pennant race in 2005. Hollandsworth later worked in the Comcast studios doing pre and post-game analysis during the Cubs television broadcasts.