For the August issue of Vine Line, we took a look back at the inimitable career of former Cubs player, coach and manager Don Zimmer.
On July 17, 1990, manager Don Zimmer’s struggling Cubs squad was in the midst of a modest three-game winning streak. But what the team really needed was to get its slumping ace, Greg Maddux, back on track. Following a comfortable 7-2 win over the Padres, Zimmer was asked about the next day’s game and was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying:
“Hopefully, tomorrow, [Maddux] can go out and pitch well enough to get a W. If he does, who knows? He might win four, five, six games.”
And then the coup de grâce.
“I’d swim Lake Michigan if Maddux could win tomorrow.”
Though, at first glance, it would seem like a bad idea to bet against a future Hall of Famer and eventual 355-game winner, Maddux was in the midst of a rare rough patch. He had gone 0-8 in his last 13 starts with a 6.15 ERA and hadn’t won since May 5. He was also just 24 years old, and his shelves were not yet lined with Cy Young Awards, so a successful rebound wasn’t a certainty.
Apparently just as eager to see Zimmer jump in a lake as the press corps, The Professor responded by twirling seven solid innings in a Cubs 4-2 win and picking up his 50th career victory to propel the team to a three-game sweep of the Friars.
Following the game, Zimmer showed up at his press conference wearing sunglasses, an orange life jacket and an inflatable inner tube around his rather sizable waist. As for the 60-mile swim, the fun-loving Zim demurred, saying he swam “like a rock.”
“Sometimes you make statements,” he explained. “I just wanted the kid to win a ballgame.”
And that, in essence, was former Cubs player, coach and manager Don Zimmer, who died on June 4 in Dunedin, Florida, at the age of 83. He was passionate, comical and, above all, a dedicated baseball man who would do anything to motivate his players and pick up a win. Zimmer spent his life learning and trying to understand baseball, and he had a special gift for passing on his acquired knowledge in a friendly, accessible way.
“He was like a psychologist,” said Cubs Hall of Famer and former teammate Ernie Banks. “He understood things real well. A lot of people look at the world as backward. But he did not. He looked at [baseball] as a business you could learn. You can learn playing this game. You can learn how to play it. You can learn how to manage it.”
Over six professional decades, Zimmer made All-Star teams as a player and coach, collected six World Series rings, won a Manager of the Year Award and left an indelible mark on the game by influencing generations of players, from Cubs greats Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace to modern superstars like Evan Longoria and Derek Jeter (who used to rub Zim’s head for luck before at-bats).
“[He was] iconic, jolly,” said Cubs outfielder Justin Ruggiano, who was with Tampa Bay when Zimmer was a senior advisor there. “He was a voice of influence—a man with so much history in the game you couldn’t help but engage with him in conversation about baseball, stories about baseball, advice about things you could do differently to help improve your game.”
During his years on the diamond, the jowly, ebullient baseball lifer earned a reputation as a character. He was a phenomenal storyteller who was quick with a joke—especially if it was directed at himself.
Modern fans probably best remember Zimmer as the bench coach for Joe Torre’s championship New York Yankees teams, on which he collected four World Series rings between 1996-2003. In classic Zimmer style, he liked to downplay his impact on those dominant Yankees squads—even though Torre was always quick to admit he ran everything by his second in command, who managed more than 1,700 of his own major league games.
“People say, ‘What is the job of a bench coach?’” said Zimmer in a 2001 interview with Esquire. “Very simple—I sit next to Torre on the bench. When he plays hit-and-run that works, I say, ‘Nice goin’, Skipper,’ and if it doesn’t work, I go down to the other end of the bench, get a drink and get out of his way. We only got one manager. I don’t want no credit for doin’ anything.”
When most fans picture Zimmer, they probably see him wearing a green army helmet emblazoned with the Yankees logo one day after being struck on the side of his face by a foul ball during a 1999 playoff game against Texas. Or charging at, and being thrown to the ground by, then-Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS at 72 years old.
But lost in these remembrances is what a dedicated, intelligent, forward-thinking baseball man he actually was. Truly, there’s almost nothing Zimmer didn’t do in his years on a baseball field.
He married his high school sweetheart, Jean (nicknamed Soot), at home plate in Class-A Elmira, New York, in 1951, with his teammates holding a canopy of bats over their heads; he met Babe Ruth; he played alongside Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers; he helped move baseball westward on the inaugural Los Angeles Dodgers team; he was an original New York Met; he played in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Japan; he coached, he managed, he advised; he won World Series championships as a player and coach; and he taught legions of players what it means to be a major leaguer.
But Zimmer was also a survivor. He was fired from four managerial jobs; he was Boston’s manager when Bucky (Effin’) Dent hit his fateful, wind-aided home run over the Green Monster in the 1978 AL East tiebreaker game; and he had more than his fair share of run-ins with management.
But that was hardly the worst of it. During his playing career, he fought his way back from two near-fatal beanings—the first in 1953 and the second in ’56. The initial one, which happened when he was still in Triple-A, fractured his skull and left him unconscious for almost two weeks, requiring doctors to drill four holes in his head to relieve the pressure and swelling. The second, a fastball from Reds pitcher Hal Jeff-coat, crushed his cheekbone and almost cost him an eye. Though he was never really the same player after that, he still found ways to contribute to the game he loved and hung on to play until 1965.
“What you lack in talent can be made up with desire, hustle and giving 110 percent all the time,” Zimmer once told the Chicago Tribune.
Through it all, he never lost his passion for the game and never once considered any other career.
“I can’t say it enough about how much he still loved the game,” said former Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel, who met Zimmer during his time with the Rays. “To be in something for 60-plus years, you’ve got to really have a passion for it.”
Despite his success in New York, perhaps no stretch in Zimmer’s career was as wild and as colorful as his time with the Cubs. The squat, muscular infielder—his forearms were so large, Dodgers teammate Roy Campanella nicknamed him Popeye—made the lone All-Star appearance of his 12-year playing career as a Cubs second baseman in 1961. That season, he hit .252/.291/.403 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 13 home runs in 128 games.
Zimmer began his big league baseball career in 1954 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he won a World Series title as a reserve infielder in 1955 and then made the move westward to Los Angeles in 1958. In April 1960, with Maury Wills ready to take over the Dodgers shortstop job, Zimmer was traded to the Cubs for Ron Perranoski, Johnny Goryl, Lee Handley and $25,000.
But Zimmer’s first go-round in Chicago would be short-lived. In 1961, he played for the Cubs during the initial season of the College of Coaches. With the team forgoing a single manager and constantly changing leadership, owner Philip K. Wrigley and General Manager John Holland named Zim captain, calling upon his “veteran presence.”
But he ruffled a few feathers when WGN Radio broadcaster Lou Boudreau interviewed him midseason about the coaching experiment. Zimmer, as usual, spoke his mind and told the listening audience about the system’s faults—coaches playing favorites, guys not knowing who would be starting, one coach wanting things one way while another wanted things a different way, etc. The coaches had the radio on in the clubhouse and heard the interview. Afterward, one of them told Zimmer he wouldn’t have to worry about it for too much longer because he’d be gone before the start of the next season.
And the coaches were true to their word. On Oct. 10, 1961, Zimmer was selected by the New York Mets from the Cubs in the expansion draft. After that, he spent brief stints with the Reds, Dodgers and Senators, where he played his final major league game in 1965. He toiled one last year in Japan in 1966 and then moved into coaching, eventually becoming the manager of the San Diego Padres (1972-73), Boston Red Sox (1976-80) and Texas Rangers (1981-82).
He wouldn’t rejoin the Cubs until 1984, as the team’s third base coach under longtime friend and manager Jim Frey. Though that 1984 Cubs team ultimately won the NL East title, both Zimmer and Frey would lose their jobs in June 1986, with the club languishing 16.5 games out of first.
He spent the intervening years with the Yankees and Giants, but rejoined the North Siders as manager in 1988, when Frey was hired as GM following Dallas Green’s resignation.
After a below-.500 season in 1988, Zimmer had the finest managerial campaign of his career in 1989, when he led the “Boys of Zimmer” to a surprising NL East crown. His popularity on the North Side skyrocketed, as he used aggressive strategies no one had ever seen before—or since—to help Sandberg, Grace, Maddux, Andre Dawson, Rick Sutcliffe, Mitch Williams and the rest win 93 games.
“This guy was an amazing person,” Banks said. “He was like a genius to me. He could do things that were so special in this game. It was like the game was built for him. When he came in to manage the Cubs, the things that he was doing, nobody could understand it. Bases loaded—a bunt. You’d say, ‘Why is he doing that?’ He knew everything there is. He was one of the smartest guys I ever met in the game.
“He understood the fans here. He understood the players here. He understood everything about the park. The wind blowing out to right, the wind blowing to left field, the foul lines. I mean, he just knew everything about this park that I don’t think anybody knew about. He had great instincts for the game.”
Zimmer’s colorful personality and wild strategies grabbed the attention of the baseball world. Though the Cubs ultimately fell to the Giants in five games in the NLCS, he was awarded Manager of the Year for his efforts—and a permanent place in the hearts of Cubs fans everywhere.
“I’ve been in a lot of great cities and known a lot of great fans, but I’ve never seen so many fans of one team in so many different places,” Zimmer said during that 1989 season. “I was with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and there were a lot of Brooklyn fans everywhere, but I’ve never seen as many fans around the country as Cub fans.”
PAY IT FORWARD
In his last professional stop, Zimmer joined the Rays as a senior advisor in 2004 and remained there until his death. With Tampa Bay, the man who gave his life to the game was able to spend his later years dispensing knowledge and helping younger players develop.
“I always loved to go to the clubhouse early for lunch and just sit down, and he’d be in there, and he’d just be telling stories,” Ruggiano said of his days with the Rays. “I just feel like, as a player, you get a real feel for the history of baseball from older veteran guys’ stories, and he was one of the best at it. He could tell story after story. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to go work.”
Hammel, who was with the Rays during their shocking 2008 run to the World Series, credits Zim with helping turn that moribund franchise around after a decade in the AL East cellar.
“For him to come over and all of a sudden completely change the dynamic that he was surrounded with—[the Yankees had] a lot of veterans and a team that knew only winning,” Hammel said. “Then to come to Tampa, and it’s just a bunch of young guys who didn’t know winning. I really do believe he was part of the turnaround there.”
I guess, after 66 years on a baseball diamond, you learn a thing or two.
“The guy went through everything,” Ruggiano said. “You can imagine in 60 years of baseball, he’d been through everything that any player nowadays who plays the game for five or 10 years can go through. And then all the different things he did in the game—coaching, managing, playing. He had seen it all. He had so much information for younger guys that helped us all out.”
Zimmer is survived by his wife of 62 years; his son, Thomas; his daughter, Donna; and four grandchildren. He also leaves behind an unmatched baseball legacy and an unforgettable mark on Cubs history.
All three teams in action Monday picked up victories, with Iowa pitching a shutout, Boise putting up a big run total and quality pitching pacing Mesa. Tennessee, Daytona and Kane County were all off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (66-58)
1st Place (+1.0)
Iowa recorded the team’s 13th shutout of the season with a 3-0 victory over host Oklahoma City. The 13 shutouts lead the PCL and tie an Iowa Cubs franchise record (also done in 1985).
- RHP Dan Straily gave up two hits and no earned runs in six innings of action, striking out four in the win.
- RF Jorge Soler (.305) extended his hitting streak to six games, going 1-for-4 with his eighth double of the Triple-A season. Soler is 9-for-22 (.409) with four doubles in the six-game stretch.
- LF Josh Vitters (.216) went 2-for-4 with a run scored. He has hit in eight of his last nine games, going 12-for-38 (.316).
- CF Matt Szczur (.256) went 2-for-4, knocking in his 23rd run.
- LHP Zac Rosscup (2.33) and RHP Armando Rivero (1.61) each pitched a scoreless inning to earn holds.
- RHP Blake Parker (1.19) tossed a scoreless ninth to notch his league-best 23rd save.
Boise Hawks (8-10)
4th Place (-4.0)
Boise scored double-digit runs for the second-straight game, beating visiting Eugene, 11-6.
- 1B Danny Canela (.309) went a perfect 3-for-3 with two runs, a walk, his sixth homer and four RBI (38). He has five hits and six RBI in his last two games.
- 2B Bryant Flete (.333) went 3-for-4 with two runs and a double (3).
- LF Calvin Graves (.226) tallied two hits, including his first triple, and knocked in three (6).
- C Mark Zagunis (.306) recorded his second-straight two-hit game.
- RHP Brad Markey (1-0, 3.00) threw two innings and allowed one earned run, earning his first win in relief.
Mesa Cubs (5-7)
4th Place (-4.5)
Mesa’s six extra-base hits and a quality start from LHP Jose Paulino helped the Cubs defeat the AZL Rangers at home, 8-1.
- Paulino gave up two hits and struck out six over six scoreless innings to pick up the win.
- CF Kevonte Mitchell (.324, 2 3B), DH Yasiel Balaguert (.200, 1 3B) and 2B Ho-Young Son (.300, 1 3B) each tripled for the Cubs. Son’s three RBI bring his season total to nine.
- 3B Adonis Paula (.260, 5 2B), C Tyler Pearson (.189, 1 2B) and Mitchell (.324, 1 2B) added one double apiece.
- Each Cubs hitter recorded at least one hit, with five of the nine turning in multihit efforts.
It was a pretty successful Sunday for the Cubs minor league system, with everybody in play securing a win. Mesa had the day off and will resume play Monday. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (65-58)
T-1st Place (–)
Iowa jumped ahead to a 5-0 lead after two innings and never looked back, winning at Oklahoma City, 10-2. Each Iowa hitter had at least one of the team’s 12 hits.
- 1B Mike Olt (.338) hit his third homer in two days with a two-run shot in the first. He has 12 RBI in his last six games (19 total) and has slugged .757 in nine games in the month of August.
- SS Elliot Soto (.226) went 3-for-4 with his first homer of the year, and the third of his career.
- 3B Kris Bryant (.322) went 1-for-3 with two walks, two runs, and his 40th RBI. He has recorded at least one hit and one run in 13 straight games, batting .381 (16-for-42) while scoring 20 runs during the streak. Bryant’s 40 RBI with Iowa bring him to 98 on the season, tied for fifth in the minors.
- LHP Eric Jokisch extended his scoreless innings streak to 18.1 before allowing a run with two outs in the fourth. His 131 strikeouts lead the Pacific Coast League.
- RHP Alberto Cabrera (3.71) tossed 2.1 scoreless innings of relief for his second save.
- Since July 1, the I-Cubs have 51 home runs, best in the Pacific Coast League.
Tennessee Smokies (25-25)
1st Place (+1.0)
GAME 1: RHP Pierce Johnson and LHP Andrew McKirahan combined to one-hit the BayBears in Mobile, as the Smokies won the first game of a doubleheader, 3-0.
- SS Addison Russell (.301) and C Luis Flores (.277) each recorded their fifth double of the year. Flores recorded his second-straight multi-hit game, finishing 2-for-2 with his 13th RBI.
- RHP Pierce Johnson struck out eight for the third time in four games, giving up no runs on just one hit over six innings. He has 11.25 strikeouts per nine innings over that stretch (30 SO/24.0 IP).
- McKirahan’s perfect seventh inning earned him his first save with Tennessee and ninth of the year.
GAME 2: The Smokies could not complete the doubleheader sweep, falling 9-8 at Mobile on a walk-off homer from Mobile 2B Gerson Montilla in the bottom of the ninth.
- RF Jae-Hoon Ha (.220) finished 2-for-5 with his fourth homer of the year, a two-run shot in the second inning. He had two hits in his previous 24 at-bats (.083) before the multi-hit effort.
- SS Addison Russell (.308) extended his hitting streak to five games (.500/7-for-14), going 2-for-4.
- C Taylor Davis (.319) went 2-for-3 with two runs, a walk, a double (9) and an RBI (23). He is hitting .333 (16-for-48) with eight extra-base hits and 13 RBI in 17 away games.
- LHP Jeff Lorick (2-3, 4.19) allowed the walk-off homer, suffering his third loss of the year.
Daytona Cubs (28-19)
1st Place (+3.5)
1B Dan Vogelbach ended a 13-inning marathon with a walk-off single, giving Daytona the 4-3 win over visiting Lakeland.
- RF Rock Shoulders (.229) hit a solo shot in the fifth, his third in four games. In those contests, Shoulders is 6-for-13 with six runs, a double, three homers, and three RBI (41 total).
- Vogelbach (.267) finished 1-for-5 with a walk and two RBI. His 57 walks and 65 RBI lead Daytona.
- LHP Gerardo Concepcion (1-0, 0.00) earned the win in his third outing with Daytona, hurling three scoreless innings.
Kane County Cougars (29-20)
1st Place (+1.0)
DH-P Ben Carhart earned the win as Kane County scored three time in the top of the 15th inning to beat Cedar Rapids, 7-4.
- Carhart (1-0, 0.00) went 2-for-6 with a run and a walk at the plate and contributed two hitless frames of relief, walking two, to earn the win in his first professional pitching appearance.
- LF Shawon Dunston (.282) went 3-for-7 with his second homer of the season, a solo shot in the third.
- 1B Jacob Rogers (.267) went 2-for-7 with two RBI (35), including a go-ahead, two-run triple (2) in the 15th.
- C Cael Brockmeyer (.313) finished 3-for-7 with two RBI (35), one coming off a double (11) in the 15th.
- 2B Danny Lockhart (.290) recorded his fifth multi-hit effort in his last six games (.500/12-for-24), going 3-for-6 with two runs and a walk.
- RHP Zak Hermans (4.06) blew his third save, allowing two runs (one earned) over 1.1 innings pitched.
- The Chicago Cubs and their minor league affiliates played a total of 15 extra innings yesterday, going 3-1 in four extra-inning games.
Boise Hawks (7-10)
4th Place (-5.0)
After falling 16-3 to Salem-Keizer on Saturday, Boise beat visiting Eugene, 17-3.
- 3B Jesse Hodges (.256) went 4-for-5 with a double (7), a grand slam and a career-high seven RBI (32). He had been 1-for-17 (.059) before his first career four-hit affair. His seven RBI are the most for a single Boise player in the 14 years since the team became affiliated with the Cubs.
- Each of the first four Hawks hitters—CF Rashad Crawford (.278), RF Charcer Burks (.288), LF Mark Zagunis (.301), and 1B Danny Canela (.298)—tallied two hits. Zagunis knocked in three (26), while Canela plated two (34).
- Boise’s 17 runs were the team’s most since beating Everett 17-5 on July 6, 2007.
The Brewers’ hot start to the season may have come as a surprise, but it’s their continued excellence that’s really catching people’s attention. Milwaukee is led by its very impressive offense, which is making the Upper Midwest look a lot like the Mile High City. While the starting staff doesn’t boast a true ace, all five arms are quality rotation pieces. The bullpen came into the season as a major question mark, but it has managed to be strong thus far—though that isn’t a complete surprise considering how variable relief arms can be from year to year. The major issue for the pitching staff is the lack of depth in the minor league system. This kept the Brewers relatively quiet in the trade market, and it also likely means they won’t be able to inject much youth into their playoff push.
(4.0 RA/G, 9TH IN NL)
Wednesday starter Kyle Lohse has continued his late-career renaissance, as he looks to compile his fourth-consecutive sub-3.50 ERA season. As the de facto staff ace, he has delivered his usual steady performance. Tuesday’s starter Wily Peralta has also emerged as a strong mid-rotation arm. Monday night’s starter Yovani Gallardo has not have lived up to the lofty, early-career hype, but continues to produce solid starts. The bullpen has been anchored by resurgent closer Francisco Rodriguez and a breakout performance from fireballing setup man Will Smith. The biggest issue in the ’pen may be what happens if the wheels fall off for Rodriguez down the stretch.
(4.3 RS/G, 2ND IN NL)
The Brewers trail only the Coors Field-aided Rockies when it comes to scoring runs. The offense is led by three MVP-caliber players in Ryan Braun (who isn’t firing on all cylinders, but has still been strong), Carlos Gomez (who announced his presence with an elite 2013 season on both sides of the ball) and breakthrough performer Jonathan Lucroy. The backstop gets plenty of accolades for his abilities behind the plate, but his above-.860 OPS is also impressive, along with his 18 homers and 82 driven in. His 5.0 wins above replacement total is the fourth-highest among NL hitters. That trio has overshadowed another strong season from Aramis Ramirez and a solid year from Scooter Gennett. Add the power of Khris Davis and Mark Reynolds, and this is truly one of the more impressive offensive units in baseball.
Daytona won in extras, while Mesa salvaged a split Thursday. Iowa, Kane County and Boise were all handed losses, and Tennessee had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (63-57)
1st Place (+0.5)
Iowa lost at Oklahoma City, 16-4, after surrendering seven runs in the first two innings.
- DH Manny Ramirez (.211) doubled (1) and homered (2) in four at-bats, knocking in two (6). It was
his third multihit game and first game with two extra-base hits.
- 3B Kris Bryant (.323) launched his 37th homer and walked twice. His 37 homers tie Joey Gallo for
the minor league lead. Despite having played just 47 of Iowa’s 120 games, Bryant has the second
most homers of all Iowa players this season (15) and the fourth-most RBI (38).
Daytona Cubs (27-17)
1st Place (+4.5)
Two big innings—a six-run second and a seven-run fifth—helped Daytona rout the Threshers in Clearwater, 18-2.
- RHP Tayler Scott fanned seven over seven innings, giving up two earned runs in the win.
- LF Kyle Schwarber (.268) finished 3-for-4 with three runs, two walks, a homer and three RBI (14).
- CF Jacob Hannemann (.283) and DH Billy McKinney (.330) added three singles apiece.
- 1B Dan Vogelbach (.269) hit a three-run homer with two out in the fifth inning. It was his eighth
homer in 177 at-bats since the All-Star break after hitting five in 221 at-bats before the break.
- RF Rock Shoulders (.221) led off the third inning with his 10th home run. He has also drawn five free passes in
his last two games.
Kane County Cougars (27-19)
T-1st Place (–)
Cedar Rapids beat the Cougars, 4-3, in 11 innings, on a walk-off double from Kernels 3B Bryan Haar.
- RHP Duane Underwood struck out seven in six innings, giving up one earned run.
- 2B Chesny Young (.409) finished 2-for-5 with his third double since joining the Cougars, and one RBI
(4). He has an eight-game hitting streak (.441/15-for-34), including multiple hits in each of his last
five games (.524/11-for-21).
- LF Shawon Dunston (.280, 6 3B) and C Victor Caratini (.263, 1 3B) each tripled. Dunston’s six triples
lead the team.
- RHP David Garner (5.79) allowed two runs over 1.2 innings to blow his first save.
- RHP Francisco Carrillo (0-1, 18.00) allowed the game-winner without retiring a batter to suffer his first loss.
Boise Hawks (6-8)
4th Place (-4.0)
Boise dropped the series opener at Salem-Keizer, 9-5.
- C Mark Zagunis (.308) belted a two-run shot in the seventh to cut a 6-2 deficit in half. It marked
Zagunis’ sixth multi-RBI game of the season.
- Starting 2B David Bote (.347) went 3-for-5 and scored two runs. Bote has posted multiple hits in
eight of his 20 games with Boise this year.
- SS Bryant Flete (.326) went 2-for-4 with a double (2) and an RBI (6). He has five multihit efforts in
his last seven games (.462/ 12-for-26).
Mesa Cubs First Half: (13-14), Second Half: (3-4)
4th Place (-5.5)
GAME 1: In the makeup of a rained-out July 3 contest at the AZL Padres’ Peoria Stadium, Mesa fell, 5-3. The loss finalized the club’s first-half record at 13-14.
- LF Varonex Cuevas hit two doubles in two at-bats, while DH Kevonte Mitchell singled twice and stole two bases.
- LHP Jose Paulino (2.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 SO) suffered the loss.
GAME 2: Mesa took a 4-1 decision over the Padres in the second game at Peoria Stadium.
- LF Ricardo Marcano (.280) went 2-for-3 with a double (7) to extend his hitting streak to 16 games
dating back to July 9 (.328/20-for-61).
- CF Kevonte Mitchell (.333) tallied three singles for his third three-hit game of the campaign.
- 2B Andrew Ely (.351) finished 2-for-3 with a run, a walk, his first double and an RBI (6). After
recording three extra-base hits in his first 12 games with Mesa, he has tallied three more in his last
- RHP Tanner Griggs (1-1, 4.26) tossed 2.1 scoreless frames and fanned five for his first win.
- LHP Jordan Minch (10.13) allowed one run over two innings for his first save in his second professional
(Photo by Marilyn Indahl/Getty)
After making the postseason with a young and talented nucleus in 2013, the Rays got off to a terrible start this year before rebounding around the trade deadline. But even with their improved play of late, they still sit four games under .500 and 10 games back in the AL East entering the series with the Cubs. A combination of injuries, underperformance, and plain old bad luck has left Tampa Bay looking more like the team that was consistently among the worst in the game for a decade than the last few seasons’ perennial playoff contenders. However, unlike previous struggling Tampa teams, the 2014 Rays had actual assets to sell off at the deadline. The Rays rotation took a big hit last month when the team moved longtime ace and former Cy Young winner David Price to Detroit.
(3.9 RA/G, 5TH IN AL)
The Rays’ real strength this season lies on the mound. Things haven’t gone as expected, but with a core of former Cub, and Friday starter, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb (Saturday) and Jake Odorizzi (Sunday), the future of the pitching staff appears sound. Add to that a healthy Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and there is plenty of hope for the Rays to bounce back strong in 2015. Grant Balfour’s struggles in the closer role have just added to the list of things that haven’t gone right for Tampa Bay in 2014. Jake McGee has recently taken over that role.
(3.9 RS/G, 12TH IN AL)
Tampa Bay’s offense has never been a world beater, but this year it has been particularly poor. Wil Myers has been hurt, but even when healthy, he hasn’t lived up to the hype that accompanies being a reigning Rookie of the Year. And Desmond Jennings is in the same boat. For some reason, the Rays consistently struggle to develop their own hitters. Perennial MVP candidate Evan Longoria has proven to be the exception to that rule, but even he has been unspectacular this year. Ben Zobrist has provided his valuable versatility in the field along with a solid hit tool, and Matt Joyce has been one of the Rays’ best offensive weapons. James Loney continues to hit better with Tampa than he did with the Dodgers, but the Rays’ offense is still something less than formidable.
Tennessee secured a shutout win, and Kane County recaptured first place Wednesday. Meanwhile Daytona was shut out, and Mesa couldn’t get things going in a loss. Iowa and Boise had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Tennessee Smokies (24-22)
1st Place (+1.5)
Tennessee recorded its eighth shutout of the season, blanking host Mobile, 5-0.
- RHP Felix Pena fanned eight batters over 5.1 innings, giving up three hits and no earned runs to pick up the win.
- LF Pin-Chieh Chen (.234) recorded two hits from the leadoff spot, including his second double, and knocked in one run (4). He has hit safely in his last four games (.357/5-for-14).
- SS Addison Russell (.295) reached base three times, finishing 2-for-4 with a run, a walk, a double (4) and an RBI (19). Russell has tallied 10 multihit efforts in 27 games with Tennessee.
- Three Smokies relievers recorded holds en route to the combined shutout: RHP Tony Zych (5.36, 4 H), LHP Andrew McKirahan (2.41, 3 H) and RHP P.J. Francescon (3.88, 5 H).
Daytona Cubs (26-17)
1st Place (+4.5)
Daytona was held to two hits by host Clearwater, falling 4-0. In their last five games, the Cubs have been blanked four times and have been outscored by their opponents, 30-3.
- LF Kyle Schwarber (.239) collected his second double of the season, the lone Daytona extra-base hit.
- DH Billy McKinney (.312) singled and walked. He has reached safely in 25 of his 27 games with Daytona this season (.312/.402/.452).
- LHP Austin Kirk (3.57) tossed 2.2 hitless innings of relief. He has posted a 1.17 ERA (2 ER/15.1 IP) in his last eight outings.
Kane County Cougars (27-18)
1st Place (-1.0)
Kane County captured sole possession of first place with a 4-2 win at Peoria.
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.255) recorded three singles in four at-bats in his third three-hit game of the campaign.
- CF Jeffrey Baez (.262) added two singles of his own and drove in one (5). He also contributed defensively, recording an outfield assist in the fourth inning.
- RHP Jose Arias (1.77) recorded his fifth hold of the season with three scoreless frames of work, fanning five.
- RHP Tyler Bremer (2.43) earned his 12th save, striking out two in a scoreless ninth.
Mesa Cubs (2-6)
4th Place (-3.0)
The host AZL Reds jumped ahead with a two-run first inning and never looked back, beating Mesa, 10-4.
- SS Ho-young Son (.310) went 3-for-4 with a run, two RBI (6) and two stolen bases (8). His eight stolen bases in 15 games rank third on the team.
- RF Ricardo Marcano (.275) singled and doubled (6) to extend his hitting streak to 15 games dating back to July 9 (.310/18-for-58).
Iowa powered its way to a win, Daytona scored three runs late, and Kane County split a doubleheader Tuesday. Boise had a representative in the Northwest League All-Star Game, while Tennessee and Mesa had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (63-56)
1st Place (+1.5)
Iowa improved to a PCL-best 28-7 in day games this season, beating host Omaha, 7-4.
- RHP Dan Staily struck out nine in seven innings, giving up no earned runs in the win. He hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last two starts and has fanned 14 (13.0 IP).
- 1B Mike Olt (.345) went 2-for-4 with a third-inning grand slam. He’s hit safely in 10-straight games, batting .400 (16-for-40) with five doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI during the stretch.
- RF Jorge Soler (.286) fell a triple shy of the cycle, going 3-for-5 with two runs, a double (5), a home run and three RBI (12). He’s hit four homers and driven in 12 in his first 14 games with Iowa.
- 3B Kris Bryant (.321) extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 2-for-3 with two runs. He’s batting .400 (12-for-30) with 14 runs, three doubles, three homers and seven RBI during the streak.
- LHP Zac Rosscup (2.52) recorded the final out of the game to earn his fourth save of the campaign.
Daytona Cubs (26-16)
1st Place (+5.0)
Daytona scored three runs in the top of the eighth inning to sneak past host Clearwater, 3-1.
- LHP Rob Zastryzny gave up one earned run over five innings, striking out five.
- CF Jacob Hannemann (.279) went 2-for-5 with a run and a stolen base (4).
- DH Billy McKinney (.308) went 1-for-4 with a game-high two RBI (25).
- RHP Stephen Perakslis (3-0, 4.47) tossed three scoreless innings to earn his third win of the year.
- RHP Zack Godley (4.26) worked a scoreless ninth inning to pick up his fourth save.
Kane County Cougars (26-18)
T-1st Place (–)
GM 1: Kane County dropped the first game of a doubleheader at Peoria, 4-1.
- 3B Chesny Young (.389) went 2-for-4 with an RBI and his first stolen base of the season.
- 2B Daniel Lockhart (.281) went 2-for-3 with his 14th double of the year.
- RHP Jen-Ho Tseng allowed just one run on two hits and fanned two in 6.1 innings of work.
GM 2: Kane County limited Peoria to just four hits in the second game, beating the Chiefs, 4-1.
- RHP Ben Wells pitched six innings, giving up one earned run, to pick up the win.
- CF Jeffry Baez (.237) went 1-for-3 with a seventh-inning, solo home run.
- LF Shawon Dunston (.283) and 2B Chesny Young (.410) had two hits apiece.
- RHP Tyler Bremer (2.50) worked a scoreless seventh inning for his 11th save of the season.
Boise Hawks (6-7)
4th Place (-3.0)
The North and South teams combined for just nine hits in a 0-0 tie in the Northwest League All-Star Game Tuesday at Swede Johnson Stadium. Boise’s Mark Zagunis doubled for one of the South’s four hits and finished 1-for-2 in a game that was called after 10 innings.
Ryne Sandberg was a staple for the Cubs in the 1980s. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The 1980s in Wrigleyville will be remembered for Ryne Sandberg’s elite play, the start of Greg Maddux’s Hall of Fame career, a pair of postseason appearances and, maybe most notably, the introduction of night games at Wrigley Field. During the upcoming seven-game homestand against Tampa Bay and Milwaukee, the Cubs will honor the ’80s with throwback uniforms, giveaways and promotional concessions as part of the season-long celebration of the ballpark’s 100th birthday.
The Cubs’ promotional schedule includes four giveaway items, including a light-up bobblehead commemorating Wrigley Field’s first night game, plus two special events that offer fans a chance to attend a game with others who share similar interests. The team will host Cubs Scout Night in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America Chicago Area Council, as well as ’80s Rock Night/Zubazpalooza 2 featuring Zubaz pants for guests and opportunities for prizes from iconic rock bands KISS and Def Leppard.
On Sunday, Aug. 10, the Cubs will wear a throwback uniform from 1988, which was the year the team first played under the lights at Wrigley Field. The visiting Rays have developed a retro-inspired road uniform to participate in the throwback day as well.
Fans coming to the ballpark will have the chance to collect unique promotional items throughout the homestand, beginning with an impressive First Night Game Bobblehead with working lights for the first 10,000 fans Friday, Aug. 8. On Saturday, Aug. 9, the first 10,000 fans will receive Cubs Retro Headphones. On Sunday, Aug. 10, the first 5,000 kids 13-and-under will receive an ’80s Throwback Cubs Rubik’s Cube. The first 10,000 fans in the park Thursday, Aug. 14, will receive a Cubs Fathead.
The Cubs have collaborated with the Boy Scouts of America Chicago Area Council to host Cubs Scout Night Tuesday, Aug. 12, for Scouts, family and friends. Attendees will receive a commemorative Cubs-themed Scout patch, and $3 per each ticket sold will be donated back to the Boy Scouts of America Chicago Area Council.
On Wednesday, Aug. 13, ’80s Rock Night/Zubazpalooza 2 attendees will receive a pair of Cubs Zubaz pants featuring Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday logo. Thanks to a collaboration with rock bands KISS and Def Leppard, up to 100 attendees can win a pair of tickets to one of two local shows—August 15 at Alpine Valley Music Theatre and August 16 at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre—if they attend the game wearing KISS makeup or Def Leppard branded clothing (spiked apparel not permitted). Attendees may also win one of dozens of prizes including KISS and Def Leppard CDs, MLB-licensed T-shirts or concert tickets. Tickets for both concerts are still available for purchase.
Specialty Food Offerings:
Levy Restaurants continues its decade-inspired menu at the Decade Diner, located inside Gate D near Section 142. The 1980s homestand features a Sloppy Joe topped with Kraft Cheese served on a toasted bun. Fans can also try the Blackened Tilapia Po’ Boy, which includes blackened tilapia seasoned with Cajun spices and served on a toasted hoagie roll with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and Cajun aioli.
The Decade Dogs stand near Section 123 is serving the 1980s Nacho Dog; a Vienna Beef hot dog topped with tortilla strips, nacho cheese, salsa and pickled jalapenos.
Adults 21-and-over can enjoy an Electric Ryno Margarita. The cocktail features Don Julio Tequila, Blue Curacao, lime juice and agave nectar, served with a light-up straw.
Wrigley Field witnessed several noteworthy baseball events during the 1980s, including the Tribune Company’s purchase of the team and Wrigley Field, the installation of lights and the retirement of two Hall of Famers’ uniform numbers.
In 1981, the Tribune Company announced the purchase of the team from William Wrigley and 800 stockholders for $20.5 million. Three months after the sale, the Tribune went on to purchase Wrigley Field for a reported $600,000.
That same year, the Chicago Sting of the North American Soccer League beat the Cosmos, 6-5, before 30,501 fans, the largest crowd at Wrigley Field that year aside from the Cubs’ home opener. Later that year, Jack Brickhouse made his final Wrigley Field broadcast as the regular play-by-play announcer.
On April 9, 1982, Harry Caray led the Wrigley Field faithful in his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the first time. Four months later, fans packed Wrigley Field as uniform No. 14 was retired in honor of Mr. Cub, Hall of Famer Ernie Banks.
On June 23, 1984, in what is now known as the Sandberg Game, Ryne Sandberg hit two game-tying home runs off Bruce Sutter as the Cubs beat St. Louis, 12-11, at Wrigley Field. Later that year, Wrigley Field hosted its first postseason game in 39 years as the Cubs beat San Diego, 13-0, in the first game of the National League Championship Series.
On Aug. 13, 1987, uniform No. 26 was retired in honor of Cubs Hall of Famer Sweet Swinging Billy Williams.
On Aug. 8, 1988, night baseball came to Wrigley Field for the first time as the Cubs played the Philadelphia Phillies under the lights. Rick Sutcliffe made the start for Chicago, but the game was called in the fourth inning due to rain, resulting in the first official game being played one day later (a 6-4 win over the Mets). In September of that same year, Ronald Reagan visited Harry Caray for an inning in the booth at Wrigley Field.
To learn more about these historic moments and others, visit wrigleyfield100.com.
General tickets for the Rays and Brewers series remain available at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).