Today’s Cubs Birthdays (November 9)
~Billy Sunday 1862 (White Stockings 1883-1887)
One of the most famous players in Chicago baseball history. The story of his fame began in the summer of 1886. Sunday was out carousing in Chicago with his fellow players Mike King Kelly, Ned Williamson, and Silver Flint on Van Buren Street, nearby the many famous decadent State Street saloons (in the Levee section of town). They were totally drunk, sitting in a gutter, and the sun was coming up. While they tried to rouse themselves, a gospel wagon drove up and conducted a service. Sunday recognized the songs from his childhood in Ames, Iowa and saw the light at that moment. He said to his buddies: “Boys, it’s all off; we have come to where the roads part.” He swore off booze forever, and dedicated himself to God. He would later be one of the leading voices in favor of Prohibition. He still played baseball a little longer, but he now he was playing with God on his shoulder. When he became one of the most famous evangelists in America, he would tell the story of the day God helped him in the field.
“I saw the ball coming out to right field like a shell out of a mortar, and it was up to me. There were thousands of people out in the field, for the grandstand the bleachers had overflowed. I whirled and went with all my speed. I was going so fast that day you couldn’t see me for the dust. I yelled to the crowd ‘Get out of the way!” and they opened up like the Red Sea for the rod of Moses. And as I ran I offered my first prayer, and it was something like this: ‘God I’m in an awful hole. Help me out, if you ever helped mortal man in your life; he me get that ball. And you haven’t much time to make up your mind. I am sure the Lord helped me catch that ball. It was my first experience with prayer.”
But not his last. After he quit baseball he toured the country as an evangelist—using incredible theatrics to get his point across. He was a friend to Presidents, and one of the most famous people in America. The song “Chicago Chicago” includes a line about him: “The town that Billy Sunday could not shut down.” Some say the ice cream sundae was even named after him. But it all began with a bunch of ballplayers sitting in a Chicago gutter in 1886.
~Walt Lanfranconi 1916 (Cubs 1941)
The small (5’7″) righthanded pitcher only got a cup of coffee with the Cubs in September of 1941 (two appearances) before being drafted into the military. He spent the rest of the war working for Uncle Sam. Lanfranconi never pitched for the Cubs again, but he did get one more cup of coffee with the Braves in 1947.
~Harvey Hendrick 1897 (Cubs 1933)
Gink, as he was known to his teammates, was a utility man in the big leagues for eleven seasons, including one year with the Cubs. He backed up defensively-challenged outfielders Babe Herman and Riggs Stephenson and third baseman Woody English. Gink’s story does not end well. Just a few years after his playing career ended, he shot himself to death at the age of 43.