Tuesday, December 15, 2015

1971 Chicago Cubs (3rd T): 83-79, .512, 14GB

This Cub team actually had a great August to rally from being double digits out to just 4 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh.  Unfortunately for them they had an awful April and and didn't reach the .500 mark until the end of June.  Pundits always say "Pennants can't be won in April, but can be lost in April".  This summed up the season for the lovable Cubbies.  This was also a transition year.  The great Ernie Banks' skills were that of an overwhelmed Triple A call up.  Nothing is harder than watching one of the game's immortals fall apart right before your very eyes.  By 1969 Banks (.193-3-6) was only able to play in 39 games with minimal output.  No matter how much manager Leo Durocher wanted to pencil him into the lineup and hope father time wasn't ticking, he couldn't.  30 year old Joe Pepitone (.307-16-61), 10 years Mr. Cubs junior flat out deserved to play every day.  Pepi, despite his off field exploits, was producing and the Cubs needed production.  Most of the core was now well into their early 30's.  This was not a young team by any stretch of the imagination.  Injuries and age were sneaking up on them and slowly closing their window of opportunity.  Catcher Randy Hundley only played in 9 games, which adversely affected the pitching staff as well as the lineup.  Glenn Beckert (.342) and Billy Williams (.301-38-93) had fantastic seasons and Ron Santo (.267-21-88) had a decent year while manning the hot corner.  Jim Hickman managed to hit 19 homers while being shuttled around the outfield and first base.  With his slow feet and lead glove he needed to hit around 35 homers to be worthy of an every day spot.  That left Brock Davis (.256 & no homers) and Johnny Callision (.210-8-38) to man 2/3 of the outfield.  This explains the lack of production.  A team that plays half its' games in Wrigley Field must score more runs than the league average in order to win.  The pitching staff had 2 reliable starters (Milt Pappas & Bill Hands) and a Cy Young award winner in Fergie Jenkins (24-13, 2.77, 325 IP, 30CG).  Fergie was a horse logging well over 300 innings.  I still think Seaver, who's ERA was 1 point lower, should have won it...but you can refer to my earlier Met post to hear that rant.  The bullpen and the 4th starter absolutely killed this team's chances.  Ken Holtzman (9-15, 4.48), who was so good over the last 4-5 years really took a step back.  Veteran Juan Pizarro (7-6, 3.46) was adequate, but not as good as he was in his South side days.  The pen featured 4 guys with high ERA's and low save outputs, which would explain why Leo had his starters finish a league leading 75 games.  In fact the Cubs were dead last in saves with 13, which is less than what an average closer can now post in a month of action.  Phl Regan (5-5, 3.93) had 6 of those saves, but he wasn't fooling many batters.  Youngsters Bill Bonham, Joe Decker and Ron Tompkins had ERA's well over 4.00.  This mediocre Cubs team was destined for a middle of the road finish.  Some say that the troops were tiring of Leo "the lip" and his old school antics.  Others say that playing half your games during the day wore them out.  In any case they finished well back of the Pirates.

It took 21 new cards to finish off the team set.  Most photos (except where noted) were supplied by Jeff D.

The 37 year old lefty hitting Spangler appeared in 5 games for the Cubbies as a pinch hitter and went 2-5.  He would retire from baseball and end a solid 13 year career, where he hit .262 with little power as the quintessential 4th/5th outfielder.  He spent his final 5 seasons defending the ivy wall.
22 year old rookie Bill Bonham pitched all but 2 of his 33 games out of the pen.  In 60 innings he went 2-1, 4.65 and did not save a game.  He would eventually evolve into a back of the rotation guy, who posted just one winning season (out of 7) in Chicago before being shipped to Cincy where he became a winner.  In 10 years of major league action he posted a 75-83, 4.01 record.  In 1974 the Cubbies refused to score runs for him as he posted a 11-22, 3.86
23 year old speed merchant Billy North hit .375 in limited action (16 AB) for the Cubbies in 1971.  After hitting just .181 in 1972 he was shipped to Oakland for veteran reliever Bob Locker.  Once in Oakland he became an integral part of the A's dynasty and won 2 championships while leading the league in stolen bases twice.  North forged an excellent 11 year career where he hit .261 and stole almost 400 bases.  Another young player that Leo just didn't warm up to that the franchise gave up on way too early.
The 27 year old Davis was out of options.  After 4 cups of joe in the majors with the Astros and Cubs 71 was his make or break year.  In 106 games he hit just .256, with ony 6 steals and no homers.  In the offseason he was part of a big trade that sent Jose Cardenal to Chicago.  Davis hit .318 for the Brew Crew in '72, but had just 2 XBH's and took 55 games to get his first one.  He might be the only .300 hitter to be farmed out in the history of baseball.  Once he hit the minors he languished for the following 3 seasons before calling it quits.
Nicknamed "Happy" due to the constant scowl on his face, Hooton hit the majors with a splash going 2-0, 2.11 in his 3 late season starts.  The following season he would throw a no-hitter in his first start of the season.  His Cub career leveled off after that, as did the team's success.  By 1975 he was dealt mid season after going 0-2, 8.18.  He was sent to the Dodgers for Geoff Zahn and Eddie Solomon.  Once he arrived in LA it was smooth sailing all the way.  The master of the knuckle-curve posted a 112-84, 3.14 record in 10 years in LA plus 3 World Series appearances.  Just another young Cubbie who got away and did great somewhere else.

Fanzone was a versatile and effective utility man who was able to play all four infield positions, left field and right field, playing mainly as a third baseman.  Fanzone was dealt by Boston to the Chicago Cubs before the 1971 season. His most productive season came with the 1972 Cubs, when he posted career-numbers in games (86), home runs (8), RBI (42) and runs (26). Carmen is known for catching the last out in Milt Pappas's no-hitter on September 2, 1972. He appeared in 227 games with Chicago, mostly in pinch-hit duties, and did not return to the majors after the 1974 season. He also is one of three players in Cubs history to hit a home run in consecutive pinch-hit at bats. Fanzone is an accomplished horn player. He once played "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to a game at Wrigley Field. In the television program Transformers Animated, the captain of the Detroit Police Department was named Carmine Fanzone as a tribute.  (from wikipedia)
Chicago acquired Cannizzaro early in the season when Hundley went down due to injury.  He hit just .213 with 5 homers in 74 games.  After the season he was dealt to the Dodgers, where he was tasked with mentoring future stars Steve Yeager and Joe Ferguson.  He was know for having a rocket arm, slow feet, as suspect bat and at times a lead glove.  All in all he managed to put together a 13 year career that spanned 6 organizations, with the apex being his 1969 selection to the All-Star game as the Padres first ever representative.
James played in 100 games the previous year, but hit just .210.  In half the amount of games in '71 he hit .287 with a nice .373 OBP.  For some unknown reason the 30 year old, who stole a ton of bases in the minors, wasn't a base stealing threat in the majors so he was farmed out in 1972.  He resurfaced the following season and hit .111 in limited action and was never heard from again.
A career minor league backstop who was given an opportunity to play when Hundley went down.  In 25 games he hit just .154 and wound up back in Wichita (AAA).  Breeden's brother Hal also got a shot with the Cubs in 71 and also failed miserably.  Hal, however, moved on to the Expos and had some solid MLB seasons, unlike Danny.
Earl Stephenson made his major league debut in relief on April 7, 1971 against the St. Louis Cardinals. He pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh in a 14–3 loss at Wrigley Field. He earned his first and only save seventeen days later against the New York Mets, hurling 2.1 scoreless innings in a 7–5 home victory.  He got his first big league win on May 16, 1971. In the first game of a home doubleheader vs. the San Diego Padres Stephenson entered the 7–7 contest in the top of the 10th and gave up a run, but the Cubs bailed him out with two runs in the bottom of the inning, thanks to a 2-run walk-off homer by Jim Hickman.  Stephenson pitched just 20 innings for the Cubs and finished the season 1-0.

Fernandez was exceptionally well traveled during the '71 season.  He started out in Oakland and played 2 games before being dealt to Washington where he batted .100 in 30 AB's.  The he was sold back to Oakland where he again played just 2 games, before he was shipped to the Cubs who were in desperate need of a catcher.  Hitting .171 in 17 games was not exactly the tonic the Cubs desired.  Fernandez holds two MLB records that most players probably wouldn't brag about.  He has the most home runs (39) for a player with a sub .200 lifetime BA and he has more career walks (164) than hits (145).

Jestadt played 3 games for the Cubs before being dealt to the Padres in exchange for Chris Cannizzaro.  He would go on to have two solid seasons in SD before being sent down to the minors.
Hiser played five seasons for the Chicago Cubs from 1971 through 1975. He was drafted in the 1st round (19th pick) of the 1970 amateur draft.  He spent a portion of the 1971 season on active military duty prior to joining the Cubs for 17 games that year.  In 5 seasons with the Cubs he saw infrequent action and batted a career .202.
It must have been cool for the Breeden boys to at least get a shot at the majors on the same team.  Neither made much of his opportunity.  After hitting just .139 for the Cubs in 1971 he was traded, along with Hector Torres, for Dan McGinn and a player to be named later.
Torres played in only 31 games with the Chicago Cubs in the 1971 season, as he had a .224 batting average with 0 HR and 2 RBI. The Cubs traded Torres and Hal Breeden to the Montreal Expos for Dan McGinn. 
Ortiz appeared in 67 Major League games played over parts of those three seasons, including 36 for the 1971 Cubs. He collected 37 hits, including nine doubles and one triple. He had a .301 career average in 123 at bats. He played eleven seasons and 1,159 games in minor league baseball, retiring after the 1976 season.
The 1971 season with the Cubs had noteworthy performances, though. Chicago called Pizarro up from Triple-A Tacoma in July and used him mainly as a starter (14 times in 16 outings). On August 1 at New York’s Shea Stadium, Pizarro went all the way and beat the Mets’ ace, Tom Seaver, 3-2. Four days later, he threw his other big-league one-hitter, blanking San Diego at Wrigley Field. On September 17, again at Shea, once more he bested Seaver, who was having his greatest season ever. The score was 1-0 – and Juan’s solo homer in the eighth inning accounted for the game’s only run.  (from SABR)
Bourque made his professional debut in 1971 with the Cubs, and went on to play parts of three and a half seasons with the franchise. He had a successful minor league tenure, winning the American Association MVP in 1972 while playing with the Evansville Triplets. Midway through the 1973 season, Chicago traded Bourque to the Oakland Athletics for fellow first baseman Gonzalo Marquez. He spent a season with Oakland before being traded to the Minnesota Twins in another summer deal. Oakland received Jim Holt in return. Oakland reacquired Bourque following the 1974 season, trading Dan Ford and a minor leaguer to the Twins. Ford went on to play for eleven seasons in the majors, while Bourque didn't play another major league game.  (from Wikipedia)

Newman saw limited action in his brief career, usually as a reliever. He became known for riding a bicycle to Wrigley Field. On one occasion, he was struck by a driver and was unable to pitch that day due to the mishap. Cubs manager Leo Durocher was not amused, and Newman was traded by the next spring. Durocher, talking about his team that year, referred to "this nut who used to ride a bicycle to the ballpark.  In 38 games he was 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA.

Webster started out the '71 campaign playing for San Diego, who purchased his contract from the Oakland A's on April 26th.  By May 14th he was doing so poorly (.125 BA) he was returned to Oakland where he didn't so much as get a hit in 5 at bats.  His final stop that season was Chicago where he hit .313 in 16 AB's.  Following the conclusion of the '71 season he returned to Oakland for a 3rd time and played 4 more seasons in their farm system before hanging it up at the age of 36.

Submariner "Stretch" Thompkins pitched 39 innings in 35 games in relief for the Cubbies.  His 0-2 record that season would be his final major league numbers.  After bouncing around the minors for a decade he called it quits after the '73 season at AAA.

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