If you have any questions, just ask - cubsconvention@hotmail.com. And be sure to send along your photos and experiences after the Convention so we can share!

Please visit the Cubs Convention Fans Subreddit to share your thoughts on the Cubs Convention, who you got to meet, what presentations you attended, what you got autographed, what players and features you would like to see at the Cubs Convention or to ask questions.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Three Records Held by the Chicago Cubs that Just Might Stand Forever

The Team with Pitchers Having the Most Different Number of Fingers on Their Pitching Hands

Throughout history, the overwhelming majority of Chicago Cubs pitchers - from David Aardsma to Bob Zick - have had five fingers on their pitching hands.  There are two hurlers, however, that did not - Mordecai Brown and Antonio Alfonseca.  

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown was born in rural Indiana.  As a child, he had a farm machinery accident in which the index finger on his right hand was severed, leaving him with just three functioning fingers and a thumb.  

Brown's right hand

Brown took full advantage of the disfigurement, however, finding that his grip caused the baseball to exhibit unusual movement.  He went on to put together a Hall of Fame career, posting 239 wins against 130 losses, a lifetime ERA of 2.06 and having led the Cubs to World Series championships in 1907 and 1908.  

His 1909 campaign was also noteworthy as he lead the National League in both victories (27) and saves (7).  His ERA was 1.31 and he turned in a sparkling WHIP of .873.  Even with those numbers, however, he got no Cy Young award votes - mainly because Young was still active with Cleveland and the award had not been invented yet.  

Antonio Alfonseca, on the other hand, was born with six fingers on each of his hands, earning him the nickname "Octopus."

Alfonseca's right hand
Alfonseca's best years were with the Florida Marlins and he got his Major League career off to a great start in 1997, winning the World Series as a rookie.  He appeared in three World Series games against the Indians, hurling 6 innings without giving up any runs.

In 2000, he led the National League with 45 saves as a member of the Marlins and was awarded the Rolaids Relief Man Award.  In 2003, he appeared in 4 games during the Cubs playoff run and was solid, not allowing any runs.

The Cubs record was briefly in jeopardy, however, in 2009 and 2010 when six-fingered Oneli Perez was pitching for the rival St. Louis Cardinals AAA affiliate in Memphis.  He was never called up to the Major League team and now appears to be out of baseball after playing in Japan and Mexico.  If he had appeared for the Cardinals, they would have tied the Cubs for this record because Mordecai Brown had also pitched for St. Louis as a rookie in 1903.    

The Team with the Most Players Who are Named After Days of the Week

In the history of the Major Leagues there have been only four men whose last name is also a day of the week.  The Cubs have featured two of those players - Billy Sunday and Rick Monday.

Billy Sunday was an outfielder for the Chicago National League team which was then called the White Stockings.  He played for the Chicago from 1883 through 1887, enjoying his best season in 1887 when he hit .291, to go along with 3 home runs and 34 stolen bases in 50 games.  He played a few more seasons for other teams and retired from baseball after the 1890 season.

Old Judge tobacco card
Sunday, appropriately named, was to become much more famous for another reason, however.  Near the end of his baseball career and perhaps because of it, Sunday converted to evangelical Christianity and eventually became a powerful and influential evangelist in the early 1900s.  In fact, it was widely believed that he was a driving force behind the 1920 enactment of the 18th Amendment, more commonly known as Prohibition.

Rick Monday, also an outfielder, played for the Cubs from 1972 through 1976, turning in his most productive season in 1976 when he hit .272/.346/.507, smacked 32 home runs and drove in 107 runs. Monday also has the distinction of being the first player ever selected in the Rule 4 amateur draft having been first overall pick of the Kansas City Athletics in 1965.

1973 Topps Rick Monday
Monday is probably best remembered for a non-baseball related event, however.  The Cubs were visiting the Dodgers for a game on April 25, 1976 when protesters entered the field and attempted to light an American flag on fire in the middle of the outfield.  Monday, who had served in the Marine reserves, took exception and snatched the flag away before the damage could be done.  The event was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and made Monday a national hero.

On August 27, 2013, the Dodgers commemorated the event with a bobblehead, marking the first time the team had ever distributed a bobblehead featuring a player in another team's uniform.

The only team that may be able to threaten the Cubs record in this case may be the Twins.  Long before the Washington Senators moved the franchise to Minnesota in 1961, Skipper Friday played a lone season for the Senators in 1923.  The only other player to qualify was Art Sunday, who played for the 1890 Brooklyn Ward's Wonders in the ill-fated Players League (and whose name at birth was actually August Wacher).

As an aside, the Cubs, Reds and White Sox are also tied with the Indians for most players named after Christian holidays - Steve Christmas appeared in 24 games over three separate seasons for these club in the mid-1980s while Luke Easter put together some monster years for the Indians in the early 1950s. 

The Longest Time Between the Initial Purchase of Stadium Lights and the Actual Installation of Stadium Lights

Cubs owner Phillip Wrigley was set to have lights installed at Wrigley Field for the 1942 season and had, reluctantly, plunked down the money to buy the necessarily equipment and materials.  After the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, however, Wrigley decided instead to donate the valuable materials to be used in the war effort.

Wrigley Field, pre-lights
Although the remaining teams in the league had all installed lights by 1948, the Cubs held out and the Wrigley family never made any further attempts to install lights for night baseball at Wrigley Field.

In fact, the Cubs had to defend a lawsuit in the late 1960s in which a frustrated minority owner of the ball club sued Phillip Wrigley and the directors for negligence and mismanagement.  The plaintiff, William Shlensky, sought damages and an order compelling the team to install lights at Wrigley Field for the scheduling of night baseball games.  Shlensky alleged that Phillip Wrigley had refused to install lights, not because of interest in the welfare of the corporation, but because of his personal opinions that baseball is a "daytime sport" and that night baseball would have a deteriorating effect on the surrounding neighborhood.

The court found that the failure to install lights, just because all the other teams had done so, did not constitute negligence and the case was dismissed.  The appellate court agreed and affirmed the ruling of the trial court.

After the Cubs were sold to the Tribune Company in 1981, however, the absence of lights became an issue once again.  Ironically, the Cubs now had to sue in order to get approval to have the lights installed.  Lawmakers in the City of Chicago and State of Illinois had recently passed legislation that prevented the Cubs from adding lights to Wrigley Field, mainly because of a desire to protect the surrounding neighborhood from disruptive and unruly behavior night baseball would bring.

The Illinois Supreme Court ultimately found that these laws, a 1982 amendment to the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and a Chicago city ordinance regarding "nighttime-noise-emissions," were unconsitutional.  Specifically, the measures violated due process because the laws, in operation, applied only to Wrigley Field.  The 1985 decision finally cleared the way for the Cubs to install lights at the Friendly Confines.

Wrigley Field, June 2013
Although the first night game was supposed be held on August 8, 1988, the game was postponed due to rain and the first first official night game was played at Wrigley Field on August 9, 1988 with the Cubs beating the Mets 6-4.

It seems rather unlikely that any other team will take 46 years between the initial purchase of stadium lights and the actual installation and use!  Besides, who would build a stadium today without lights anyway?

No comments:

Post a Comment