Today’s Cubs Birthdays (November 23)
~Harpo Marx 1888 (Cubs Fan)
The Marx family moved from New York to Chicago in 1909. For much of that time they lived in a large house at 4512 South Grand Boulevard (now called Martin Luther King Boulevard). The house is still there. The Marx Brothers (Gummo, Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo) were already a traveling Vaudeville Act in April of 1917 when America entered World War I. They had been touring in the south when War was declared. But the war forced them to take drastic measures: they purchased a farm in LaGrange, Illinois. Their mother had heard that farmers were going to be exempt from military service, and she wanted to do whatever was necessary to keep her boys out the fight…even if it meant becoming farmers. This is the way Groucho Marx described his days on the LaGrange farm…”The first day we got up at 5 in the morning. The second morning we dawdled until 6. By the end of the first week we slept until noon, which gave us just enough time to catch the 1:07 train to Chicago to see the Chicago Cubs play.” They became regulars at Wrigley Field (then known as Cubs park) during the World Series year of 1918. The Marx family moved back to New York in the fall of 1920 and a decade later they moved west to Hollywood. But the boys came back to Chicago often to perform. In 1930, the same year they filmed “Animal Crackers,” they also performed the stage version of the play with the same cast at Chicago’s new Civic Opera House. Each time they returned to Chicago, they made a pilgrimage to their old stomping grounds at Wrigley Field. They may have been the worst farmers in American history, but farming’s loss was the Chicago Cubs’ gain.
~Billy Ott 1940 (Cubs 1962, 1964)
No relation to Hall of Famer Mel Ott. Billy was an outfielder used primarily as a pinch hitter on two of the worst Cubs teams of all-time. He got 73 plate appearances over those two seasons and mustered a .164 batting average.
~Herman Reich 1917 (Cubs 1949)
Herman was the starting first baseman for the Cubs in 1949, and it’s safe to say they weren’t happy with his offensive production. In over 100 games played, he hit only three homers and drove in 34 runs. It was his only season in the big leagues.
~Claude Jonnard 1897 (Cubs 1929)
Claude had a couple of good seasons as a reliever with the Giants before coming to the Cubs, but let’s just say that the stock market isn’t the only thing that crashed in 1929. Jonnard pitched in twelve games for the Cubs that summer and was pounded. He allowed 52 baserunners in 27 innings and that wasn’t going to do on a team that was headed to the World Series. They released him in July. His brother Bubber (yes Bubber) was also a big leaguer for four big league teams, including the White Sox.
~Jesse Petty 1894 (Cubs 1930)
Jesse was known as “The Silver Fox” because he didn’t really make it in the big leagues until his 30s. He was a 35-year-old reliever on the Cubs team that blew the pennant in the last few weeks of the 1930 season, costing Joe McCarthy his job. Don’t blame Jesse for that. His ERA was a respectable 2.97 in a year that was very friendly to the hitter (the same year Hack Wilson got 191 RBI).
~Jimmy Sheckard 1878 (Cubs 1906-1912)
Sheckard was one of the first players Frank Chance had acquired when he took over the Cubs in 1905/06. He gave up four players and $2000 (a high price) to Brooklyn to acquire him—but he knew that Brooklyn was mad at Sheckard for playing in the American League one season, and he knew that Sheckard was a great outfielder. Sheckard was more than a good ballplayer. He was a character. Thanks in large part to the writings of Ring Lardner, who was a beat reporter covering the Cubs, Sheckard became well-known for his horseplay with Solly Hofman and pitcher Lew Ritchie, with whom he formed three-quarters of a barbershop quartet (Jimmy sang baritone). One of Jimmy’s most memorable moments on the field also involved his trademark sense of humor. After Pittsburgh Pirate hitters sprayed the ball all around him, a frustrated Sheckard stopped in the middle of left field, whirled several times, threw his glove up in the air, and went to the spot where it landed. Orval Overall, pitching for the Cubs, couldn’t figure out why Sheckard was standing only a few feet from the left-field foul line and motioned for him to reposition himself. Sheckard refused. The next batter, Fred Clarke, hit a screaming line drive that went straight into Sheckard’s glove. Jimmy told his teammates that the scheme changed his luck in the field from that day forward. He was a member of all four pennant winning teams during the Cubs dynasty (1906-1910), but his best season was probably 1911. He led the league in runs scored that year. Jimmy’s game was speed. In his 17-year big league career, he stole 465 bases. (Photo: 1909 Baseball Card)