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Len and JD’s Cubs Baseball Blog

Cub announcers Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies bring you behind-the-scenes insight and commentary on WGN’s Len and JD’s blog. Also check out video of player interviews, photo galleries, and unique Cubs statistics from STATS, Inc

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* The Cubs have lost two-of-three in all four series this season. In 2013, Chicago was 13-7 in interleague play, the most interleague wins the Cubs have had in a single season. The Cubs last doubleheader was July 30, 2013 versus Milwaukee at Wrigley Field (Brewers swept the DH).

* The Yankees took three-of-four versus Boston over the weekend and are now just 0.5 games out of first place in the AL East. New York was 9-11 in interleague play last season. It was the first time the Yankees had a losing record in interleague play since the inaugural season of interleague play (5-10 in 1997). The Yankees are still looking for their first 8+ run game of the season. They are one of five MLB teams that has scored seven runs or fewer in each game this season: also Boston, Houston, Kansas City and San Diego.

stats_logo_400x225* This is the fourth interleague series between the Cubs and the Yankees. The Yankees have won six-of-nine games, and five of the last six. The last time the teams met was June 17-19, 2011 at Wrigley Field (Yankees won 2-of-3). The Cubs have never won at the Yankees, going 0-3 in 2005 at Old Yankee Stadium.

* Anthony Rizzo drove in 21 runs in interleague play in 2013. His 21 RBI were tied for the most in the majors in interleague play in 2013 (Jay Bruce – Cin) and tied for the most by a Cub in a single season (2000 Sammy Sosa).

* Jacoby Ellsbury has six stolen bases in the first 13 games of the season. He is just the second Yankee in the last 25 years (since 1990) to have six-plus stolen bases through the first 13 Yankee games of the season (also Brett Gardner with seven stolen bases in the first 13 Yankee games of 2010).

* The Yankees lost 5-4 versus Baltimore on April 9 in Masahiro Tanaka’s last start. Tanaka received a no-decision, but it was the first time his team lost one of his regular-season starts since April 16, 2013 (Tohoku Rakuten lost 6-5 in 10 innings versus Fukuoka). Tanaka’s team had won 26 consecutive regular-season Tanaka starts in between team losses.

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On April 16, 1972, making only his fourth major league start, 22-year-old Burt Hooton electrified a chilly crowd of only 9,583 at Wrigley Field with a stunning no-hit win over the Philadelphia Phillies 4-0.

It was only the second game of the season for the Cubs because of the players’ strike that spring. Cubs vice-president John Holland almost cancelled the game that day due to the wet conditions and a bitter north wind, but there was a good advance ticket sale so the game went on. The few fans that stuck it out were rewarded with a gem delivered by the Cubs top draft pick out of the University of Texas.

“The things I remember were that it was cold, damp, and the wind was blowing in from the north,”said Hooton. “Somebody (Denny Doyle) hit a line drive and Don Kessinger jumped up to make a real nice catch on it. I remember Greg Luzinski hitting a ball that I thought was out of the ballpark, but of course the wind kept it in the park and Rick Monday caught it in the ivy just in front of the basket.”

Randy Hundley was behind the plate and happy to be a part of history after having missed both of Ken Holtzman’s no-hitters. “It was a pretty chilly day,” he said. “It was cloudy, a little bit nippy, and a little bit damp too. It had rained some. The wind was blowing in and Hooton had this knuckle-curve ball that was unbelievable. How he threw it I have no idea. But he pushed the ball out with his knuckles and the ball just turned over and got to the plate and boom! Just like rolling it off the table. He had pretty good command of his fastball. He didn’t have much speed, but he could throw it in and out. We just dazzled them that day and what a thrill it was.”

Hundley guided Hooton in and out of several jams as he walked seven Phillies through the first eight innings. On another day, Cub manager Leo Durocher might have lost patience with the rookie who struggled with his control, but Durocher was home sick with a virus and acting manager Pete Reiser let Hooton continue.

Hooton was at his best in the ninth inning. Willie Montanez grounded to Glenn Beckert at second, then Deron Johnson flailed at Hooton’s knuckle-curve for a strikeout to set the scene for Luzinski to get another crack. The Bull went down swinging and Hooton was now the one who was overwhelmed. “I walked seven guys, so the best inning I actually had was the ninth inning. That was a three-up, three-down inning with two strikeouts. After it was over, I didn’t know what to do.”

Hooton no-hitter

Rick Monday played center field that day and tracked down Luzinski’s seventh inning blast, but got more of a kick out of watching television when he got home. “My biggest memory of Burt Hooton’s no-hitter was not the day of the no-hitter, it was the evening of the no-hitter, and here’s why,” he said. “Ernie Banks was doing some sports on WGN Television and he came on that night when they went to the sports segment. Ernie says it was a big deal at Wrigley Field and he goes on and all of a sudden you see Ernie on camera and he says ‘at Wrigley Field, everybody was rootin’ and tootin’ for Burt Hooton.’”

Handling the instant fame turned out to be Hooton’s toughest task that day. He went 8-14 for the Cubs that season and after two more losing years was traded to the Dodgers in 1975 where he flourished and pitched in three World Series.

-Bob Vorwald (excerpted from “Cubs Forever” available from Triumph Books)

Cubs Forever cover

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66 years ago today, WGN-TV got into the baseball business as Jack Brickhouse took to the mike and called a 4-1 White Sox win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. From Larry Wolters story in the Chicago Tribune:

“The baseball shows, directed by Don Cook, will be relayed with the aid of the station’s new mobile unit from the ball parks to the transmitter atop the Daily News building. Special telephone circuits also will be employed.

Three of the latest type orthicon cameras will be used by WGN-TV. One of them includes the new $7500 zoomar lens, so-called because it zooms quickly into focus, enabling the cameraman to change from distance shots to close-ups with the flick of a finger.

At Wrigley Field, the zoomar camera will be placed outside the foul line in left field; another camera will patrol around third base and the Cubs dugout; and a third will be on the ramp next to the press box. Brickhouse will be stationed in the press box section, using a video monitor for reference while talking.”

WGN 1st Cubs telecast

There were 9,233 fans on hand at Wrigley to witness the game in person as the Sox evened the 10-game preseason series at four games apiece. (The teams had started playing games on the West Coast back in March.)

66 years later, we’re proud to still be bringing you Chicago baseball.

-Bob Vorwald

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Opening Day at Wrigley Field on April 14, 1978 was filled with anticipation. The Cubs had surprised their National League East rivals with a sustained pennant run the year before until a Bruce Sutter injury sent them in a tailspin.

The Cubs staked starter Woodie (“ie” not “y”) Fryman to a 1-0 lead thanks to an RBI double by Bill Buckner who left the game with a leg injury and was replaced by outfielder/first baseman/pinch-hitter Larry Biittner in the second. Biittner tripled and scored in the third t0 make the lead 3-0 but the Pirates battled back to tie the game at 3. Willie Stargell’s  homer in the 8th was matched by an RBI double from Ivan DeJesus and the two teams were tied 4-4 going into the last inning.

Willie Hernandez (I’ll take Cub reliever for $400 Alex) set the Pirates down in the 9th, which set the stage for Biittner (two i’s, two t’s) to be the hero. He played the part when he led off the 9th with a home run off Jim Bibby into the left-center field bleachers.

“I didn’t start the game, and Bill Buckner was playing first,” said Biittner. “He hurt his leg, so I came in the game against the Pirates. We got to the bottom on the 9th inning in a tie game and I jokingly turned to Herman Franks and said, ‘I’m just going to hit a home run and get this game over with. I might hit a home run.’ Jim Bibby was the pitcher and I had played with him in Texas. He was a big guy and I knew he was going to throw me a fastball. I just jumped on the first pitch he threw me, which was a fastball, and it went out of the park. That was pretty exciting and a very memorable moment in my career for sure.”

The Cubs made another run that summer, then faltered again to finish 79-83.

Larry Biittner - Bob Vorwald

stats_logo_400x225* The Cardinals went 12-7 against the Cubs last season, holding Chicago to two or fewer runs in each of the last five games (all St. Louis wins). St. Louis will be looking to hold the Cubs to two or fewer runs in six straight games for the first time since an eight-game streak during the 1947 season.

* Joe Kelly has pitched at least 5.0 innings in each of his last 30 starts, the eighth-longest active streak in the majors. It is also the longest streak by a Cardinals starter 25-years-old or younger since a 25-year-old Dizzy Dean had a 35-start streak during the 1935 season.

* Yadier Molina hit .460 (23-for-50) with three home runs and 16 RBI in 15 games against the Cubs in 2013. Molina’s .460 average was the highest single-season average by a Cardinal versus the Cubs since Bernard Gilkey hit .476 against Chicago in 1992 (minimum 40 PA).
* Jeff Samardzija has received zero runs of support in five of his last six starts, including each of his last four starts. He is the first Cubs pitcher to receive zero runs of support in four consecutive starts since Ruben Quevedo had a four-start streak during the 2000 season.
* Emilio Bonifacio’s 19 hits are the most by any player through their first nine career games with the Cubs since Andy Pafko had 19 hits through his first nine games with the Cubs in 1943.
* The Cubs’ starters have combined for a 2.95 ERA this season, the third lowest in the NL so far in 2014.

 

*The Cubs can win their first series since taking 2-0f-3 from Cincinnati September 9-11 last season.

*Travis Wood is tied for second among major league left-handers with 25 quality starts dating back to last year, trailing only Clayton Kershaw’s 28.

*It took Emilio Bonifacio just seven games to record a one-hit game, two two-hit games, a three-hit game, a four-hit game, an a career-high five-hit game.

*The Cubs have scored 21 runs in the last three games after scoring only eight runs in the first five games.

*Anthony Rizzo has recorded a career-high four straight multi-hit games, including a 4-for5 game last night with three hits off lefties.

*Starlin Castro has hit safely in his last six games going 10-for-25.

Sports
04/09/14

The Match Game

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Couple of quick notes for Pirates-Cubs tonight on WGN. Rick Renteria has been playing the matchups early on and by and large will continue to try to exploit the platoon splits. However, he will try to get right-handed hitting players in there against righties and same for the left-handed hitters vs. southpaws as we go. I’ve called this club the land of opportunity and it’s apparent that he is very open to the idea of guys grabbing every day spots outright with their performance, regardless of handedness.
Along those lines, I’ve read a lot of fan forum posts on the various websites expressing frustration that Junior Lake and Mike Olt aren’t playing every day. There’s a very simple reason for that–young players generally are protected and put in the most favorable matchups possible. Yes, there are times when you need to throw guys into the deep end and hope they can swim, but it does a young player a disservice when you put him in positions to fail too often. This is game of confidence and as a young player’s confidence grows (usually via positive results), you’ll see him get more opportunities.
Enjoy the game. Gorgeous night here at Wrigley Field.

len

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* With their victory last night, the Pirates are off to their best start in the last 11 seasons (and tied for the team’s best in the last 25 seasons) at 5-2.

* Jason Hammel made his return to the National League a triumphant one with a win over the Pirates last Thursday – a team he has had great success against since 2010 when he was with the Rockies (3-0 in 3 starts with a 2.39 ERA).

*Emilio Bonifacio’s 17 hits in the first 7 games are a team record going back to 1914.

*With a double last night, Starling Marte now has at least one hit in nine straight games vs. the Cubs at Wrigley.

Sports
04/08/14

Wrigley 100 4/8: Willie Smith Wins It

WRIGLEY_FIELD_100_LOGO

After Opening Day in 1969, there was no doubt that it was going to be the Cubs’ year. They had posted back-to-back winning seasons in 1967 and 1968 and were poised for a breakthrough as they took the field against Philadelphia on April 8 to open the season. What followed that day set the stage for a Wrigley Field summer of love like no other.

The love-in started for Ernie Banks when he received a standing ovation during the pregame introductions. Banks then celebrated his 17th Cubs Opening Day with a home run in the first followed by his second standing O of the day. The crowd rose again for Banks as he came to the plate in the fourth, then stayed on its feet after Banks launched another homer. By the day’s end, the Tribune’s George Langford counted nine standing ovations for Mr. Cub to go with his two home runs.

On the strength of Banks’ heroics, the Cubs held a 5-2 lead going into the 9th inning. However, rookie Don Money’s second home run of the game (and second of his career) wiped that out and chased starting pitcher Ferguson Jenkins as the first game of the year went into extra innings.

The Phillies broke through in the top of the 11th as Money, who had five RBIs on the day, drove in a run against Cub reliever Phil Regan and it appeared that the Cubs might have let one slip away. In the bottom half of the inning, Randy Hundley picked up a one-out single off another Phillies rookie, reliever Barry Lersch, to keep hope alive at Wrigley.

Enter Willie Smith. The Cubs backup outfielder and right-handed pinch- hitter went to the plate so jacked up that he got a stitch in his side after a vicious warm-up swing. Smith winced a bit, then laced a 1-0 pitch from Lersch into the right field bleachers to set off the first of many post-game celebrations at Wrigley Field that season. As Willie was joyously rounding the bases, a familiar voice was hitting a new octave overhead where Jack Brickhouse was nearly falling out of the booth. His call was one of his finest, sheer exultation on the Cubs’ dramatic win.

“Well-hit, deep to right. Back…..back….back, It’s all over!!!! Willie Smith just homered!! The Cubs win the game!!”

Hundley was relieved the ball carried out. “I can still see that ball going over my head at first base,” he said. “It was kind of like a knuckleball. It didn’t have a lot of spin on it and I didn’t know if it was going to carry enough to get out, so immediately I’m hauling fanny to try and score from first base if the ball was off the wall. Luckily he got the ball out of the ballpark and what a thrill!”

A mob of twenty-four teammates and several fans met Smith at the plate. He managed to fight his way in to step on the plate and for his efforts, one of the Cubs accidentally spiked Willie’s right big toe.

Willie-Smith-HR-1969

Billy Williams would win the game on Opening Day 1971 with a 10th inning home run of his own, but he still maintains 1969 was his favorite opener. “I don’t think Leo or Mr. Wrigley or anybody on the ball club realized what was going to happen that particular year. It just started when Willie Smith hit that home run on Opening Day and I think things just took off from there. I can still see him now, he was running around the bases proud as a peacock. All of a sudden we won that game and from then on, it was a beautiful summer.”

For Glenn Beckert, Smith’s blast couldn’t have come at a better time. “I was in the dugout trying to keep warm and I wanted to give Willie a big kiss for doing it, because I was freezing. That was a big ballgame. To get a win on Opening Day you could just see the momentum starting.”

The home run jump started the Cubs in a big way. “Being down and hitting that home run in the 10th inning was unbelievable,” said Ron Santo. “It just inspired us and then we went on to win, I think we were 11-1 to start the season. I think we all knew this was our year.”

-Bob Vorwald

Excerpted from “Cubs Forever” – Triumph Books.

Cubs Forever cover

* The Pirates took two of the three games from the Cubs in their season-opening series last week. Pittsburgh improved to 14-8 versus Chicago since the beginning of 2013.

* With the exception of a 12-run explosion against the Cardinals on Friday, the Pirates have totaled just 10 runs in their other five games combined. Pittsburgh has been limited to six hits or fewer in four of the six games overall.

* Similarly, the Cubs matched their previous output through their first five games by hanging eight runs on the scoreboard Sunday. It was just the fifth time in the past 100 years (since 1914) that Chicago scored at least eight runs despite being limited to six hits or fewer.

* After permitting no runs in 6.0 innings against the Cubs last week, Charlie Morton has surrendered just seven hits, two walks and no runs over 13.0 innings in his last two starts versus Chicago. He’s also allowed just one home run in 14 starts overall dating back to last July 27.

* Edwin Jackson has allowed exactly one earned run in each of his last three starts against the Pirates. He’s gone 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and a .169 average allowed over the three outings.

* Emilio Bonifacio is still batting .500 after going 3-for-9 over his last two games. His 14 hits are the most by any Cub through six team games since Randy Jackson (16) in 1954.

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