Today’s Cubs Birthdays (June 6)
~Bill Lange 1871–1950 (Colts/Orphans 1893-1899)
Bill Lange was one of the star players for the 1890s Cubs/Colts. A flashy charismatic outfielder that played with grace, he was just as well-known for his fancy dance moves off the field. They called him “Little Eva” because of his dancing prowess. So how is it that you may never have heard of Little Eva? Because, at the age of 28, while still at the peak of his career, he abruptly retired. Little Eva had met an extremely wealthy girl, and the girl’s father, who controlled the purse strings, would not allow his daughter to marry a ballplayer. In those days ballplayers were held in low regard by proper society. So, Little Eva retired for his sugar mama. Unfortunately for him, the marriage ended in divorce, just like his baseball career. Bill Lange has the 4th highest Cubs career batting average of all-time (.330), was a 6-time .300 hitter, a 5-time 80-RBI man, and the fastest player on the Cubs. In his last season he stole 41 bases. But even though he also stole a girl’s heart, she jumped out of her crouch in time to throw out the last few productive years of his potential career.
~Brooks Kieschnick 1972– (Cubs 1996-1997)
Kieschnick was a great college hitter even though his primary position was pitcher. The Cubs liked him so much they drafted him with the tenth overall pick and converted him into an outfielder. He was considered their top prospect, and eventually made it up to the big league club. But Brooks was not an everyday player. He struck out too much, and he had a hard time in the field. The Cubs left him unprotected in the expansion draft of 1997 and Tampa picked him. Kieschnick eventually made it back up to the show with the Brewers who used him as a pitcher and pinch hitter. He is the only player in history to hit a homer as a pitcher, designated hitter, and pinch hitter in the same season.
~Bob Talbot 1927–2017 (Cubs 1953-1954)
Talbot was a good center fielder and a scrappy hitter who was tough to strike out, and was given the starting job during the 1954 season. Unfortunately for him, the Cubs converted Eddie Miksis into a center fielder the following year, and Talbot didn’t have the power to justify a spot as a corner outfielder in the big leagues. He continued to play in the minors until 1960.
~Ray Pierce 1897–1963 (Cubs 1924)
Pierce was a lefty pitcher who got his first taste of the big leagues with the Cubs in 1924. He got knocked around a bit, so the Cubs thought he needed a little more seasoning. The Phillies chose him in the Rule V draft and gave him another shot in 1925. It also didn’t go well there. Pierce didn’t really have a strikeout pitch (only 38 in 182 innings), and without that, he struggled mightily against big league pitching. His nickname was Lefty.
~Jim St. Vrain 1871–1937 (Orphans 1902)
St. Vrain had a fair amount of success on the mound for the Cubs (then known as the Orphans), but he is probably best remembered for running to the wrong base during an at-bat that season. Cubs manager Frank Selee convinced him to bat left-handed instead of right-handed, and when he hit the ball, he got confused and ran to third base instead of first. Needless to say, he was out.