Today’s Cubs Birthdays (November 25)
~Joe DiMaggio 1914 (Offered to the Cubs 1934)
He was never a member of the Chicago Cubs, but he could have been. That’s right: The Chicago Cubs passed on Joe DiMaggio. Is there anything that sums up a bad century better than that sentence? The sad part of the story is that it was even worse than it sounds. In the off-season between the 1934 and 1935 seasons, the Chicago Cubs were offered Joe DiMaggio by his minor league team, the San Francisco Seals. DiMaggio had a minor knee injury at the time (he banged his knee stepping out of a cab), and the Cubs were scared off by that injury. They didn’t want to commit any money to someone who might have been damaged goods. Understandable, right? It was even understandable to the owner of the Seals. That’s why he upped the offer. He told the Cubs they could have Joe DiMaggio for spring training in 1935, and if he wasn’t 100% recovered, and he wasn’t 100% the player the owner promised he was, the Seals would gladly take him back and refund every dime the Cubs paid for him. P.K. Wrigley had just finished his third season as the owner of the Cubs and thought he understood the game better than his baseball guys. He looked at his outfield (Chuck Klein, KiKi Cuyler, and Augie Galan) and decided that the Cubs didn’t need another outfielder. He passed on the offer. The Yankees did not. They signed him in December of 1934 for $25,000. While it’s true that the Cubs made the World Series in 1935, one of those outfielders Wrigley was counting on (KiKi Cuyler) was released before the season was over. Another one, Augie Galan, was a converted infielder with a weak arm. He made a crucial error in the 1935 World Series that cost the Cubs a game. The third one, Chuck Klein, was traded the following season; 1936. That was DiMaggio’s rookie year with the Yankees. All he did that season was lead the Yankees to a World Series championship. The following year he did it again. In 1938, he not only led the Yankees to the another championship, he beat the Cubs with a ninth inning home run at Wrigley Field to seal Game 2 of the World Series. Before he was through playing in New York, DiMaggio was a 13 time all-star, a nine-time World Series champion, a two-time batting champ, a two-time home run and RBI champ, a three time MVP, and the holder of the all-time hitting streak record of 56 games. Oh, and he married Marilyn Monroe. But at least the Cubs saved $25,000.
~Randy Veres 1965 (Cubs 1994)
Randy wasn’t with the Cubs very long, but still makes it on the all-embarrassing Cubs injuries list. He hurt his hand pounding on the wall of his hotel room, trying to get the people next door to make less noise. He pitched in ten games for the Cubs in the strike season of 1994 and posted an ERA of 5.59. He also pitched for Milwaukee, Florida, Detroit, and Kansas City.
~Chico Walker 1958 (Cubs 1985-1987, 1991)
Chico was strictly a backup in his first stint with the Cubs, mainly in the outfield. When he returned to the team in 1991, he had reinvinted himself as a super-utility man. He played 2B, 3B and all three outfield positions and got the most extensive playing time of his 11-year big-league career. Chico hit .257, and stole 13 bases.
~John Pyecha 1931 (Cubs 1954)
If you want to go back in time to see John pitch, set your wayback machine for April 24, 1954 and go to Cincinnati’s Crosley Field for his big league debut. He was brought in from the bullpen in the 7th inning with the Cubs down 3-2. The Cubs took the lead 5-3 and Pyecha was in line for his first career win. Unfortunately, the bottom of the ninth didn’t quite go the way he envisioned it. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and two runners on base, he gave up a walk-off three-run homer to Wally Post. He never pitched in the big leagues again.
~Ben Wade 1922 (Cubs 1948)
Ben made his big league debut as a Cub, but only appeared in two games for Chicago. He got more time pitching for Brooklyn in the early 50s. He pitched 16 seasons in the minor leagues.
~Jim Weaver 1903 (Cubs 1934)
Big Jim was a starting pitcher for the Cubs in 1934, but he also pitched for Pittsburgh, Washington, New York (Yankees), St. Louis (Browns), and Cincinnati in his big league career. He won 11 games as the fifth starter for a stacked Cubs rotation featuring four ace-caliber starters Lon Warneke, Pat Malone, Guy Bush & Bill Lee. Those five starters combined for 78 wins, but the Cubs only finished in 3rd place, 8-games behind the Gashouse Gang St. Louis Cardinals. Weaver was on the mound the day that John Dillinger attended his final Cubs game, a few days before he was shot dead outside the Biograph Theater.
~Jakie May 1895 (Cubs 1931-1932)
The little lefty (only 5’8″) pitched 14 seasons in the big leagues, the last two of which were for the Cubs. He was used almost exclusively out of the bullpen. Jakie won 7 games and saved 3. He retired after the 1932 World Series loss to the Yankees, a few months shy of his 37th birthday. He had been rocked for seven runs in only two innings pitched in that series.
~Joe Vernon 1889 (Cubs 1912)
If you want to go back in time to see Joe Vernon pitch, set the wayback machine for July 20, 1912 and go to West Side Grounds in Chicago. He pitched the final four innings of a humiliating blowout to the Philadelphia Phillies. Grover Cleveland Alexander and the Phillies won the game 14-2. Joe gave up five of those runs. It was the only appearance of his big league career.
~Frank Corridon 1880 (Cubs 1904)
Frank is known as the father of the spitball. He is said to have invented the pitch that was eventually outlawed by baseball in 1920. Unfortunately for Frank, it didn’t help him too much. He was sickly and developed arm problems. He won 70 games in his five-year big league career. The first five wins came for the 1904 Chicago Cubs. His nickname was “The Fiddler” because of the way he fiddled with the ball–not because he could play the violin.
~Bert Cunningham 1865 (Orphans 1901-1902)
He was small even by 19th century standards (5’6″), but he pitched in the big leagues for 12 years. The last stop of his career was Chicago. He was not exactly overpowering. Bert only struck out nine batters in 73 innings pitched for the Cubs (then known as the Orphans).