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March 27 in baseball history-HOW THE “CUBS” BECAME THE “CUBS”

1902 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – The identity of Chicago‘s National League team is so ingrained that it’s hard to imagine the franchise not being called the Cubs, but for the first quarter century of the team’s existence it wasn’t. They were known at various times as White Stockings, Colts, even Orphans – more on that in a moment.

The Cubs moniker can be traced to the Chicago Daily News newspaper of this date in 1902. The term for young bears was used by a sportswriter at spring training to describe a team with a bunch of young but promising players. The story’s headline read:

Manager of the Cubs is in Doubt Only on Two Positions

A search of newspaper archives at Chicago’s Newberry Library shows that that March 27, 1902 story is the earliest known use of the term “Cubs” to describe the team. The article mentioned it once more in describing the intentions of the manager:

“Frank Selee will devote his strongest efforts on the team work of the new Cubs this year.”

The name caught on, which wasn’t surprising considering the club was known as Orphans at the time.

Here’s how that came about, as a charter member of the National League in 1876 the team was known as the Chicago White Stockings. A few years later star Cap Anson became player/manager, and sportswriters began referring to the team as Anson’s Colts, and eventually just Colts.

Anson was also known as “Pop.” When he left the team in 1897 the team became known as Orphans. Get it? You knew “Cubs” would stick when rival papers such as the Chicago Tribune (which later owned the team) began to use it.

Interestingly, when the Cubs relinquished the name White Stockings, the new American League franchise grabbed it, shortened it, and have been known as the White Sox ever since.

When the National Football League came to town in the 1920’s, the team chose Bears because they played in the home of Cubs.

More info:
The Chicago Daily News, Thursday, March 27, 1902 (Thanks to Newberry Library, Chicago)
The New York Times, “Nicknames of Baseball Clubs,” by Joseph Curtin Gephart,
Retrosheet has a treasure of information
MLB team histories
More info on team names, wikipedia

 

March 26th in baseball history-APARICIO’S CAREER ENDS

1974 | WINTER HAVEN, FLORIDA – All good things must come to an end, and on this date in 1974 it was the 18-year Hall of Fame career of shortstop Luis Aparicio. “Little Louie” – 5’9″, 160 lb. – was given his walking papers by Boston Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson right after they beat the Montreal Expos in an exhibition game. Aparicio was still in uniform.

Aparicio would be 40 in a few weeks and be able to spend his birthday at home in Maracaibo, Venezuela for the first time in 21 years.

Being let go was a disappointment, but Aparicio took it in stride, “The first thing I thought about when I walked out of the office was about my five kids.” Aparicio would be 40 in a few weeks and be able to spend his birthday at home in Maracaibo, Venezuela for the first time in 21 years.

Aparicio had been with the Boston Red Sox for three years, but played mostly for the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. He was an 11 time all-star with 9 Gold Gloves and a prototype lead-off man with 506 career stolen bases. Aparicio was on two World Series teams. He put the “go” in the 1959 “go-go” White Sox, which lost the Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he got some revenge while playing for the Orioles in 1966 when they swept the Dodgers in 4 games.

Contributing sources:
United Press International (UPI), by Milton Richman, March 27, 1974
More on Aparicio

March 25th in baseball history-JUDGE BALKS AT LIGHTS

1985 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – A Cook County, Illinois Judge ruled on this date in 1985 that the Chicago Cubs had gone without lights their entire history, there was no need to change now. The Cubs had held out decades longer than any other team in playing all their games during the day, but then they made it to the postseason in 1984, something they hadn’t done since 1945. Major League Baseball had been scheduling night games in the post-season for years. Since Wrigley Field didn’t have lights the Cubs had to give up a home game in the National League Championship Series in ‘84.

The shoe was now on the other foot. The Cubs wanted lights. Former general manager Dallas Green first proposed them in 1982. The neighborhood and the city (the mayor at the time, Richard J. Daley, was lifelong White Sox fan) didn’t, so the Cubs sued.

A judge ruled on March 25, 1985 that the ban on lights at Wrigley was constitutional – no night games at Wrigley.

It took a few more years of political cajoling and maneuvering for an ordinance to finally be passed allowing night games at Wrigley, but no more than 18 per season. The first night game at Wrigley was played on August 8, 1988 – 8/8/88, but it was called due to rain before it became official (maybe they shouldn’t have put lights in Wrigley).

Contributing sources:
MLB.com: 20 years of night baseball at Wrigley Field
Chicago Tribune, “The Cubs get lights at Wrigley,” August 8, 1988

 

March 24th in baseball history-BIRD WAS GUESSING CURVE

2001 | TUCSON, ARIZONA – Many hitters thought Randy Johnson‘s fastballs were deadly. On this date in 2001 one of them truly was, and the dove it struck never knew what hit it.

During an exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitcher wound up and threw a fastball to a Giants hitter at precisely the moment a dove flew in front of home plate. The ball hit the bird. The result was a cloud of feathers and an ex-bird

According to the Associated Press (AP), Diamondbacks catcher Rod Barajas said, “I’m sitting there waiting for it, and I’m expecting to catch the thing and all you see is an explosion.” The home plate umpire called it a “no pitch.”

Sportswriters and columnists had a field day with the unfortunate demise of the bird, which ended up in “fowl” territory. Johnson said he didn’t think it was all that funny.

When wildlife wasn’t getting in the way of Randy Johnson pitches he was pretty good, and as of this writing, still is. He’s won five Cy Young awards. Entering the 2009 season, has a record of 295 wins and 160 losses. He’s been on 10 all-star teams, and was a member of the 2001 World Series Champion Diamondbacks. And as far as we know, no more of his fastballs have collided with any birds.

Contributing sources:
The Associated Press (AP), Tucson, Arizona, March 25, 2001
More on Randy Johnson

March 23rd in baseball history-GEORGE, HOWIE & DAVE

1990 | BRONX, NEW YORK – A messy soap opera involving New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Dave Winfield, one of his players, hit the headlines again today with the arrest of Howard Spira. Spira, a small-time gambler and former sports radio station stringer, was arrested and charged with extortion. 

Spira was convicted a year later for trying to extort $110,000 from Steinbrenner. The mess ended up getting the Yankee owner banned from baseball when it was revealed that he had given Spira $40,000 to find out some dirt about Winfield. Steinbrenner insisted the money was to help “Howie” get back on his feet.

Steinbrenner and Winfield had been feuding for a number of reasons since Winfield signed a 10-year, $23 million contract with the Yankees that Steinbrenner didn’t feel he quite lived up to. Winfield was upset with Steinbrenner for, among other things, claiming he reneged on a promise to donate $300,000 to Winfield’s foundation. That’s where Howard Spira came in. Spira once worked as a publicist for the Foundation. Steinbrenner paid Spira to find out some stuff on Winfield that Steinbrenner could use against him.

Steinbrenner was reinstated as Yankees owner in 1993. Howard Spira served 26 months in a federal prison for extortion. What’s never been clear is why someone with the resources of George Steinbrenner would seek out someone like Howie Spira rather than, say, an ex-FBI agent.

Contributing sources:
ESPN.com
DeadSpin