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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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Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins sing the 7th inning stretch (4-4-14)

Dan Roan talks with the Cubs Hall Of Famers before the home opener


Opening Day Wrigley Photos



Cubs & Phillies At Wrigley Notes


*The Cubs and Phillies have played 867 games at Wrigley. The Cubs lead the series 476-387-4)

*August 25, 1922 – After scoring 14 runs in the first inning, the Cubs defeat the Phils 26-23. The 14-run inning remains the largest ever against the Phils.

*April 17, 1976 – Mike Schmidt ties a major-league record by hitting four home runs in four consecutive at-bats in a wild 18-16 Phils win. He finished 5-for-6 with 8 RBIs.

*May 17 1979 – another 10-inning classic as the Cubs rally from 21-9 down, tie the game at 22, and lose to Philadelphia 23-22 on a Schmidt 10th-inning homer. The two teams combine for 11 home runs.

*August 8, 1988 – in the first night game at Wrigley Field, Rick Sutcliffe is nearly blinded by flash bulbs on the first pitch, then gives up a lead-off homer to Phil Bradley. Mother Nature is not happy with the lights and the game is rained out.

*August 5, 1989 – Mike Schmidt hits the last of his 50 Wrigley Field homers off Jeff Pico. Those 50 HRs tie him for second on the visiting Wrigley list with Hank Aaron, trailing only Willie Mays (54).

Thanks to the Phillies PR dept.


After the events of 20 years ago today, we should have known it was going to be that kind of year. 12 straight home losses to start the season, Ryne Sandberg’s sudden retirement, a season shortened by the strike – we should have known these things were coming after Opening Day.

20 years ago today, Cubs center fielder Tuffy Rhodes hit three home runs (solo, of course) off the Mets Doc Gooden in his first three at-bats of the season. The Cubs lost 12-8 (of course).

First Lady Hillary Clinton was on hand to throw out the first pitch, gold medalist Bonnie Blair was in attendance, but Tuffy stole the show. For the record, he hit a 3-2 pitch out to lead off the bottom of the 1st for the Cubs.  In the third with two outs and a 3-1 count, he hit home run number two. Rhodes led off the 5th for the Cubs and drilled an 0-1 pitch for his third homer. Talk about starting off with a bang.

tuffy rhodes

With the jet stream still cruising out, Rhodes had two more chances to become the only Cub to hit four homers in a game. In the 6th, Rhodes walked on four pitches to load the bases. In the 9th, he singled to make it a 4-for-4 day. (In JD’s world, he was hitting 4.000.)

Rhodes had only five more homers the rest of the year, lost his starting job in mid-season and was out of the majors after 1995. However, he made the move to Japan and flourished, becoming the all-time home run leader among foreign players and tying the Japan single season record with 55 homers in 2001.

Tuffy was in the news last week and it’s nice to see he still has good hands.

-Bob Vorwald


Cubs Game Notes For Monday @ Pittsburgh

stats_logo_400x225* When Francisco Liriano takes the hill for the Pirates, he will be the seventh different Opening Day starter in seven years for the team.

* Liriano missed the first month and a half of last season, but still ended up with a 16-8 record. Over a four-month stretch from May to September, he had a decision in 23 straight starts, going 16-7 with a 2.92 ERA over that stretch.

* Like last year’s Opening Day at PNC Park, the Cubs counter with Jeff Samardzija, a pitcher who has always had success in Pittsburgh, allowing only 3 earned runs in 37 innings pitched.

* Last year, the Cubs got a lot of their production from the long ball, scoring 44.4% of their runs via the HR, second only to Seattle (46%) in MLB.

* Both teams had their problems last season getting runners home from third base. Th Pirates were second from the bottom in the majors, scoring only 45.8% of the runners at 3rd with less than 2 outs. The Cubs were third-worst at 49.1%


Wrigley 100 3/31: Mr. Banks Gets His Statue

WRIGLEY_FIELD_100_LOGOOpening Day on March 31, 2008 was a raw, rainy affair, but nothing was going to rain on Ernie Banks parade. Mr. Cub was honored that day as the first player from the franchise to have his own statue and the dedication ceremony was held along Clark Street at 11am that morning.

Local sculptor Lou Cella used a Banks at-bat vs. Warren Spahn in 1959 as the inspiration for the statue and when it was unveiled, Banks loved the new addition to his Friendly Confines.

Banks was joined by long-time teammates Billy Williams and Ron Santo at the ceremony and was honored that old friend Hank Aaron made the trek to be there as well. “You were the greatest ambassador for baseball, and you still are a great ambassador for baseball,” Aaron said in his brief remarks.

For Ernie, it was a dream come true that still tickles him to this day. “Having the statue at Wrigley Field is a great honor and I am just so pleased that Jesse Jackson, John McDonough, the Cub organization, and the fans bestowed this honor on me. It’s different, and it’s hard for me to believe I’ve done anything for a statue. In Chicago, people here like to honor their heroes and that is often the athletes. Chicago is amazing and as I thought about it, the more I thought about it and shared it with my kids, I thought this is amazing. Even when I’m not here, I’ll be here!”

Ernie Banks

 - Bob Vorwald


Opening Day


We’re finally here after 30-some spring training games that really didn’t matter much at all. Although I suppose Mike Olt, Ryan Kalish and Brian Schlitter would tell us otherwise. All three had something to prove this spring and all three are on the Opening Day roster.

It’s amazing how many changes have occurred with this club over the last few years. We’re at the point at which Jeff Samardzija is the long-tenured “veteran” and he’s not even 30. New manager, new closer, a bunch of new coaches and bench players. There is more flexibility and versatility on this team than in years past.

Emilio Bonifacio brings a dynamic game to the mix with his ability to switch-hit, play multiple positions and make things happen with his speed. Olt is a wildcard here. He could be quite a revelation if he lives up to his previous billing in the Rangers’ organization. As JD mentioned on the air recently, Jason Hammel could be poised for a big year as an under-the-radar rotation acquisition.

But it still comes back to the current core–Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. I might even include Darwin Barney, who doesn’t have the security the other two have but is trying to hang on to an every day role at second base. The Cubs need a lot more offensive production out of those three guys and if they get that, the offense has a chance to be decent. But everybody has to pitch in. It is not an offense that can operate efficiently with the same guys who struggled last year doing the same again this season.

The big story going in will be Samardzija’s future with the club. He won’t want to keep answering questions about a new contract or a possible trade, but he knows better than anyone that the story will follow him all season or at least until one of those things happens.

Then there’s the “When are the kids arriving?” question, which only the kids and the front office can ultimately answer. Would I be shocked to see Javier Baez on the club in 2014? Not at all, but I don’t think it will happen soon.

We are excited for another season of Cubs baseball on WGN. Hope you’re with us for the daily soap opera throughout 2014.




MLB Instant Replay

imagesWith replay upon us today, here are some of the basics to know as replays begin emanating from the MLB war room in New York. Replay officials can review only the portions of the play that were challenged. Replay officials will only reverse a call based on clear and convincing evidence. Replay officials have three options for review: Confirmed, Stands (no clear and convincing evidence), or Overturned.

Manager challenge:

-One per game and one additional challenge if the first challenge is correct

-Manager must specify exactly what he is challenging

- Manager challenges play by leaving the dugout and verbally notifying the umpire


Home run/collision calls

-HR calls and collision calls at the plate are subject to unlimited review at the discretion of the Crew Chief

-Clubs can request a review but cannot challenge HR calls

-If Crew Chief reviews a collision, the safe/out call is automatically reviewed and the manager will not be charged a challenge.

-Manager can challenge safe/out call even if Crew Chief doesn’t review the collision


Challenge timing

The manager must challenge the play prior to:

-Play within an inning: before the pitchers steps to the rubber and the batter gets in the box

-Pitching change: before the signal of the pitching change (defense) or before the pitcher crosses warning track or foul line (offense)

-Third out: the manager must immediately run onto the field to notify the umpires that he is considering a challenge and must challenge within 30 seconds.

-End of the game: the manager must immediately challenge


Included plays:

-Most common plays: force play, tag play, fair/foul outfield only, trap play outfield only, batter hit by pitch

-Base running: timing play, touching a base, passing runners

-Catcher collisions (no challenges)

-Boundaries: home runs (no challenges), ground rule double, fan interference, stadium boundaries (skywalk, fielder into stands, etc.)

-Record keeping (no challenges): ball/strike count, outs, score, illegal substitutions, rules check


Excluded plays:

- Balls and strikes

-Umpire judgements including interference/obstruction, checked swings, balks, infield fly rule

-Fair/foul and trap plays on the infield

-Tag up on fly ball – runner leaving early

- Judgement portion of neighborhood play


Dan Roan Previews the Cubs Season with Len and JD

Dan Roan with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies