Today’s Cubs Birthdays (May 9)
~Billy Jurges 1908–1997 (Cubs 1931-1938, 1946-1947)
He was known as a fiery, ill-tempered, good fielding, weak-hitting shortstop for the Cubs, but he was also one of the team leaders during the best decade of the Cubs bad century (they were in the World Series in ’32, ’35, and ’38). Stories of Jurges’ on-the-field skirmishes were legendary. In 1933 he threw two balls into the Phillies dugout, which led to a benches clearing brawl. In 1935, he got into a fist-fight with his teammate Walter Stephenson…over the Civil War. In 1936, he punched Gilly Campbell of the Reds in the face after a hard slide into second base. In 1937, he got into a lengthy dirt-kicking fracas with an umpire. But truth be known, he and his teammates were happy he was around for those games, because his life very nearly ended in 1932. Billy Jurges will always be remembered for what happened on July 6, 1932. He was living at the Hotel Carlos at 3834 N. Sheffield Ave (now known as the Sheffield House Hotel), and so was a girl he had “seen” a few times– Violet Valli. She called Jurges on the telephone, and asked if she could see him. Before leaving her room, she wrote a suicide note saying that she was sorry for killing Billy Jurges and herself, but she had no choice because their “beautiful love had been broken up” by his teammates Kiki Cuyler and Lew Steadman. Jurges later said he had no idea what she meant by that. Jurges let Violet into his room, but when he saw she had a gun, he grabbed at it and took a bullet in the hand and another through the ribs. Despite the injuries, he managed to get the gun away from her, and prevented her from killing herself. Then, after he recovered from the shooting, he refused to testify against her in court. The case was dismissed. Valli used her notoriety as part of her act (she was a dancer), and signed a contract to sing in local nightclubs and theaters. She was billed as “Violet (What I did for love) Valli, the Most Talked About Girl In Chicago.” Amazingly, Jurges wasn’t hurt too seriously. He returned to the Cubs before the end of the season, and hit .364 in the World Series against the Yankees. He was traded to the Giants after the 1938 season, and was named to the All-Star team with the Giants the next two years. After his playing career was over, Jurges became a big league manager. As a manager, he is probably best remembered as being the manager of the Boston Red Sox the year they became the last team in baseball to break the color barrier. In his last season with the Red Sox, they finished in seventh place. He died in 1997 in Clearwater Florida at the age of 88.
~Laddie Renfroe 1962– (Cubs 1991)
Laddie was a 29-year-old rookie when he got his cup of coffee with the Cubs in 1991. He lasted exactly two weeks that summer (7/3/91 to 7/17/91). His ERA was 13.50, and he was 0-1. His son David played in the Boston Red Sox minor league system.
~Sam Mejias 1952– (Cubs 1979)
The Dominican outfielder was a defensive specialist. With the Cubs he got into 31 games, but only batted fourteen times. Sam served a similar role for the Expos, Reds and Cardinals. After his playing days, he went into coaching, and spent several years on the big league staffs of the Mariners and Orioles.
~Tommy Clarke 1888–1945 (Cubs 1918)
Clarke had a nine year run as the catcher of the Reds before coming to Chicago. To say his playing time in Chicago was brief would be an understatement. He only got in one game (defensively) for the Cubs in 1918, but didn’t get an at-bat. It came on August 21, 1918. Tommy replaced backup catcher Bob O’Farrell, and caught the last few pitches of Lefty Tyler’s 17th win of the season.
~Josh Reilly 1868–1938 (Colts 1896)
When he arrived in Chicago in 1896 from San Francisco, the Sporting News provided a little background information about the 27-year-old rookie, saying he had been “traded for a horse when he played in California some years ago.” Then, he created a new legend for himself right out of the box. In his first big league game he started a triple play. Though he started with a bang, he was more of a shooting star than anything. After eight games, Reilly contracted typhoid fever, and just like that, his big league career was over. He lived another forty-plus years, but he never played baseball again.
~Gus Krock 1866–1905 (White Stockings 1888-1889)
Gus was a shooting star. Krock won 25 games for the Cubs in 1888 as a 22 year old rookie (7th best in the league), and was 8th in the league in strikeouts with 161. Unfortunately he also gave up 20 homers, second worst in baseball. He started the next season with the Cubs too (then known as the White Stockings), before being shipped off to Indianapolis mid-season. By 1890 he was out of baseball. Krock was only 38 when he died in 1905.
~Dillon Maples 1992– (Cubs 2017-present)
The flame-throwing Cubs farmhand made his debut late in the 2017 season and got a handful of opportunities to show what he could do. While he managed to strike out eleven batters in only 5 1/3 innings of work, he also walked six and finished with an ERA over 10. In 2018, the results were almost identical — except his ERA was over 11. His third cup of coffee in 2019 was only slightly better. All told, he has now pitched 22.1 innings in the big leagues, and walked 21 batters. Even his 38 strikeouts can’t overcome that.