Today’s Cubs Birthdays (May 13)
~Jimmy Archer 1883 (Cubs 1909-1917)
He was the regular Cubs catcher from 1911 to 1917, but Jimmy Archer was much more than that. He was an early version of television’s Steve Austin; the bionic Cub.
During the winter of 1902, at the age of 19, Archer was working as a barrel maker in Toronto when he fell into a vat of boiling oak sap. He scalded his right arm and leg so badly that he was hospitalized for three months. Jimmy was in so much pain during his hospitalization that he begged for his arm to be amputated. But the injury had an upside that he never could have expected. As a result of the accident, the tendon in his right arm shrunk and made his right arm shorter than his left. It also made it unusually strong. Suddenly Jimmy was able to throw the baseball with incredible velocity. The catcher became famous for his arm, and he always claimed it was due to the accident.
He got his MLB start catching for the Tigers, and got some action in the World Series against the Cubs that year. He even threw out the Cubs best base stealer (Jimmy Slagle). The Cubs acquired him shortly thereafter, and he eventually took over the starting catching job from Johnny Kling. Jimmy was one of the best players on the Cubs during his decade in a Chicago uniform, being named to the “All American” team three years in a row (1912-1914). His throwing arm was the envy of the league. Chief Meyers, the catcher of the Giants, was in awe. He said: “He didn’t have an arm. He had a rifle. And perfect accuracy.” The Irish born Archer settled in Chicago after his playing days were over and made headlines one more time before his death. On August 7, 1931, he was in the Chicago Stockyards when he saw two men dying in the cab of a truck. They were overcome with carbon monoxide gas. Archer pulled them out in time to save their lives, and then administered first aid to revive them. The National Safety Council awarded him a medal for his heroism.
~Bob “Riverboat” Smith 1927 (Cubs 1959)
One of three players in Cubs history with the name, this Bob Smith is differentiated from the others by his great nickname. They called him Riverboat because he grew up in Missouri, along the Mississippi River. He was acquired by the Cubs from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for future manager Chuck Tanner during spring training of 1959 (Photo: 1959 Cubs team). He had had a decent season for the Red Sox in his rookie season of 1958, but with the Cubs, he stunk up the joint. Although in all fairness to Riverboat, he didn’t get much of a chance. He pitched in exactly one game for the Cubs, faced nine batters, and gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, 6 ER, and a wild pitch in 2/3 of an inning. The Cubs traded him shortly after the game to Cleveland for former Cubs favorite Randy Jackson. Both players were toast. Riverboat finished out the season with Cleveland with a 5.22 ERA in 12 appearances. Jackson had the last 74 at bats of his career, and hit one home run. Neither player played a single MLB game in the 1960s.
~Terry Hughes 1949 (Cubs 1970)
Hughes is a great example of the Cubs drafting prowess in the first twenty years of the amateur draft. The Cubs took Terry with the second overall pick in 1967. They could have had future all-stars Jon Matlack, John Mayberry or Ted Simmons instead. It’s not like those guys were surprises. All of them were chosen in the top ten picks, and all of them eventually played in the World Series. Hughes played in two games with the Cubs in September of 1970. He went 1 for 3, including 0 for 2 in his debut, a 17-2 shellacking of the Phillies at Wrigley Field. He later got a cup of coffee with Red Sox as a late inning defensive replacement for Rico Petrocelli.
~Lou Stringer 1917 (Cubs 1941-1942, 1946)
Lou became the starting second baseman after the Cubs made the ill-advised Billy Herman trade in 1941, and started there in 1942 too. He was known more for his glove (a decent double play man) than his bat, although he did have two pretty good offensive seasons with the Cubs before being drafted into the military. He missed three seasons of his big league career serving in the Army Air Corp. When he came back from the war he had another cup of coffee with the Cubs before they traded him to the Boston Red Sox. He finished his career in Boston in 1950. Lou passed away in 2008, just a few weeks after the Cubs disastrous post season collapse.
~Willson Contreras 1992 (Cubs 2016-present)
Willson began the season as the Cubs top prospect, but it wasn’t until an injury to one of the big league Cub catchers that he was brought up to the Cubs. He started off with a bang, hitting a homer on the first pitch he ever saw in the bigs. Contreras didn’t slow down from there. His energy was contagious, and before the season was over he was the team’s starting catcher. The rookie catcher hit over .600 in the NLDS, slugged a homer in the NLCS, and knocked in a run in the World Series clinching Game 7.