Today’s Cubs Birthdays (June 16)
~Kerry Wood 1977– (Cubs 1998-2008, 2011-2012)
He wasn’t even 21 years old when he came up to the majors in May of 1998, but he made his mark right away. On May 6, 1998, he took the mound on a very cold and wet day in Wrigley Field and pitched one of the best games in Major League history. Before he was through, he had struck out 20 Houston Astros batters, allowed only one infield hit, and electrified an entire city. By the end of the day, he was forever branded Kid K. Wood won the Rookie of the Year award that season after striking out 233 batters in only 166 innings, and leading the Cubs to the playoffs. Though Kid K. had his injuries during his Cubs career (he missed the entire 1999 season and long stretches of two other seasons), he was also on the mound for some of the greatest triumphs in Chicago Cubs history after a very long drought. In 2003 he was the winning pitcher in the game that gave the Cubs their first playoff series victory since 1908. He also pitched magnificently in the NLCS that year, though his luck ran out in Game 7. In 2008, he was the closer during that magical season (which, sadly, ended so disappointingly). Wood came back in 2011 to end his career in his adopted hometown. He was taken out of the game after striking out a batter — a perfect way to end his career. When Wood retired he had the highest strikeouts-to-nine-innings rate in Cubs history, was third overall on the Cubs all-time strikeout list (behind Jenkins and Zambrano), and second on the all-time hit-by-pitches list (behind only the Old Fox, Clark Griffith).
~Jose Nieves 1975-– (Cubs 1998-2000)
Nieves was a backup infielder for three seasons, backing up Mickey Morandini and Eric Young at second base, Jose Hernandez and Ricky Gutierrez at shortstop, and Gary Gaetti and Willie Greene at third base. He later also played for the Angels.
~Joe Decker 1947–2003 (Cubs 1969-1971)
Decker was considered one of the Cubs best prospects when they brought him up during the September collapse of 1969. He pitched well that season, so they thought he would be ready to assume the role of fifth starter in 1970. He started 17 games and won only two. He did eventually win 16 games in a season, but that was after the Cubs traded him to the Twins (along with Bill Hands) for reliever Dave LaRoche. Decker passed away after hitting his head during a fall at his home.
~Calvin Schiraldi 1962– (Cubs 1988-1989)
The Cubs acquired Schiraldi in a lopsided trade that cost them their great closer Lee Smith. Calvin had been the Red Sox closer who helped blow the 1986 World Series, but the Cubs saw him as a starter. It didn’t go too well. He won only nine games in 1988, was moved back to the bullpen in 1989, and was shipped off to San Diego before the end of that year. Meanwhile, Lee Smith closed for another ten years and retired with the all-time saves record.
~Ken Johnson 1933–2015 (Cubs 1969)
Johnson only pitched the final two months of the 1969 season for the Cubs. When he joined the team they were riding high, with a big lead over the Mets. Six weeks later the season was over and the Cubs were eight games behind the Mets. It’s probably unfair to say that Johnson was a bad luck charm, but his previous claim to fame makes you wonder. In 1964 while pitching for the Houston Colt 45s, he pitched a nine-inning no-hitter…and lost the game 1-0.
~Fritz Mollwitz 1890–1967 (Cubs 1913-1914, 1916)
Fritz was born in Germany and played in the big leagues during World War I — a time when Americans were being told that the Huns were eating babies. He certainly got his fair share of grief (you can’t hide when your name is Fritz). Mollwitz was a backup first baseman for the Cubs. He didn’t get a lot of playing time, but later had a very good season with the Pirates in 1918. His native country may have lost the war that year, but Fritz stole more than 20 bases as Pittsburgh’s starting first baseman.
~Jack Rowan 1886–1966 (Cubs 1911)
Rowan pitched in the big leagues for seven seasons, but only made one appearance for the Cubs in 1911. He gave up four runs in two innings and was released. Rowan’s claim to fame is that he pitched nearly 700 innings in the big leagues and only gave up eight home runs.
~Pete O’Brien 1867–1937 (Colts 1890)
Pete was a 23-year-old backup second baseman on the Cubs (then known as the Colts). He hit .283 and played a respectable second base, but never played in the big leagues again.