Today’s Cubs Birthday (June 22)
~John Dillinger 1902–1934 (Cubs fan)
He was Public Enemy #1–so hounded and hunted by the FBI that he underwent drastic plastic surgery to change his appearance. The surgery left him disfigured, but didn’t do a very good job of disguising his appearance. Other bank robbers and gangsters tended to lay low while they were “on the lam,” but die-hard Cubs fan Dillinger couldn’t stay away from Wrigley Field. In the weeks before he was shot, in June and July of 1934, Dillinger attended several games. He went to Wrigley on June 8th, and again on June 26th. He was convinced his new face was fooling everyone. At that June 26th game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, a fan in the stands (Robert Volk from Crown Point) couldn’t keep his eyes off the man sitting two seats away from him. There was something familiar about him, but he just couldn’t put his finger on it. Was it possible? Was that…no, it couldn’t be. It looked like it could have been him. He introduced himself to the man, who shook his hand and introduced himself as Jimmy Lawrence. A reward was being offered for Dillinger’s capture dead or alive, so Volk considered turning him in, but he couldn’t be sure. Would John Dillinger really take a chance by going to a Cubs game? Nah, it couldn’t be him. On July 8th Dillinger went to his final Cubs game. Jim Weaver was on the mound for the Cubs. He was the fifth starter on the team that year, an 11-game winner at season’s end. But it wasn’t the Cubs pitching that drew fans to the ballpark that year; it was their hitting. Future Hall of Famers KiKi Cuyler and Gabby Hartnett paced the most feared offense in the league. They pounded the Pirates that day, 12-3. The next day the Cubs left on their longest road trip of the season.
They were only three games out of first place on July 22, 1934. (Photo: The Biograph in 1934) That afternoon they played an extra inning game against the Phillies in Philadelphia. Dillinger probably didn’t know that the Cubs had blown it in the bottom of the 12th inning because he was in one of the only cool places in Chicago–the Biograph Theater. He was watching the movie “Manhattan Melodrama” with his girlfriend. When he emerged from the theater and back into the scorching heat (it was over 90 degrees that day), he felt a different kind of heat. FBI Agent Purvis related what happened next. “I was about three feet to the left and a little to the rear of him. I was very nervous; it must have been a squeaky voice that called out, ‘Stick ’em up, Johnnie, we have you surrounded.'” Dillinger ran to the alley and allegedly reached for his gun, but he was cut down quickly by the agents on the scene. Agent Purvis was among the first ones to examine the body. “Probably I will never forget, although I would like to, the morbidness displayed by the people who gathered around the shooting. Craning necks of curious persons, women dipping handkerchiefs in Dillinger’s blood. Neighborhood business boomed temporarily. The spot where Dillinger fell became the mecca of morbidly curious.” Cubs fan John Dillinger went to his grave thinking that 1934 might be “the” year for the Cubs. Needless to say, it wasn’t. They ended the season in third place, eight games out of first.
~Jim Asbell 1914–1967 (Cubs 1938)
They called him Big Train. Jim Asbell was a big powerful 24-year-old outfielder who had shown promise as a slugger in the minor leagues when the Cubs brought him up to the bigs during their pennant-winning season of 1938. The Cubs used him mainly as a pinch hitter. He had 33 at-bats — the only 33 at-bats of his major league career. After that he took the Big Train back to the minors. He spent a few more years in the Cardinals minor league system, but Big Train Asbell never made it back up to the big leagues again.
~Brant Brown 1971– (Cubs 1996-1998, 2001)
Brant Brown had good pop in his bat and played well in his time with the Cubs. He also paid big dividends for the team because trading him to the Pirates brought 20-game winner Jon Lieber in return. But Brant Brown will always be known for an error he committed during the Cubs playoff push in 1998. The date was September 23, and the Cubs were poised to win a game against the Brewers. They had a two-run lead with the bases loaded when a routine fly ball was hit to Brown that should have been the last out of the game. He dropped the ball, and Cubs radio announcer Ron Santo famously screamed “OH NO!” The Cubs lost that game, so the moment had that certain Cubs doom feel to it. But the Cubs won a one-game playoff game at the end of the season, and still managed to get the Wild Card in 1998. Brown came back to the Cubs a few years later for his final big league season.
~Jason Motte 1982– (Cubs 2015)
The Cubs signed Motte before the 2015 season to provide some veteran leadership in the bullpen. Motte was coming off serious arm troubles he suffered in 2013 with the Cardinals. Just a few years earlier he had been their closer in the World Series. For a brief stint during the summer of 2015 he served as the Cubs closer, but he soon developed more arm problems. For the season he was 8-1, with 6 saves. After the season, he was granted his free agency and signed with the Rockies.