Fallen Hero

Former Cub Dwight Smith, who, as a rookie, was a key member of the 1989 NL Easy champions, died yesterday at the age of 58.  The Braves, with whom Smith played for after leaving the Cubs and earned a World Series ring in 1995, said he died of congestive heart and lung failure,

As a rookie, Smith hit .324 with an OPS of .875 in 109 games in 1989, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting to teammate Jerome Walton.  He also sang the national anthem at Wrigley Field on July 21.  In his five seasons with the Cubs, he hit .285 with 32 home runs and 159 RBIs.  After the 1993 season, Smith was non-tendered by the Cubs and, following a nomadic 1994 season, he ended his career with the Braves from 1995-1996.  His son, Dwight Smith Jr., played parts of the 2017 through 2020 seasons with the Blue Jays and Orioles and is currently playing in the Mexican League.

2022 All Star Break Standings

For the first time since 1980, the Midsummer Classic returns to Los Angeles and Dodger Stadium.  As the stars of the baseball world gather in Tinsletown, it’s time to take a look at the team records for the 21 games, featuring exactly half of the teams in the league, that I attended in the first half of the baseball season, a disappointing one, for different reasons, on both sides of town.

2022 Team Records

Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Los Angeles Dodgers 2 0 1.000
Texas Rangers 1 0 1.000
New York Mets 1 0 1.000
Cleveland Guardians 1 0 1.000
Baltimore Orioles 1 0 1.000
New York Yankees 2 1 0.667
Chicago White Sox 10 8 0.556
Minnesota Twins 1 1 0.500
Chicago Cubs 2 5 0.286
Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 3

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #3.  52 different players have donned #3 while playing in Chicago, 33 for the White Sox and 19 for the Cubs, including one who had it retired for him while he was still an active player.

Harold Baines was the first overall selection in the 1977 draft after White Sox owner Bill Veeck had seen him play little league years before.  He made his major league debut less than 3 years later, on Opening Day 1980 against the Orioles at old Comiskey Park.  Baines started to break out in 1981, but the long player’s strike limited him to only 82 games.  With a full slate of games played in 1982, Baines appeared in all but one of them, with numbers good enough to garner votes for AL MVP.

1983 was a banner year on the south side, as the White Sox captured their first ever division title.  Baines was a key contributor, hitting .280 with 20 home runs and 99 RBIs.  During the ALCS against the Orioles, Baines struggled, like most of his teammates, getting only 2 hits in the 4-game series.  At season’s end, he picked up 49 votes to finish 10th in MVP voting.

Baines continued to excel in 1984, though the rest of the team did not.  On May 8, he ended the longest game in major league history (8 hours and 6 minutes over 25 innings on successive evenings) with a walk-off home run against Chuck Porter of the Brewers.  He finished the year with a .304 average, a career high 29 home runs, and 94 RBIs, while leading the league in slugging at .541.  He once again garnered MVP consideration, finishing the vote tied for 13th place.  1985 was another strong season for Baines.  He earned his first All Star selection, singling off former teammate LaMarr Hoyt in his only at bat at the Metrodome.  He finished the year hitting .309 with 22 home runs and a career high 113 RBIs.  He earned 49 votes in placing 9th in MVP voting.

Baines saw his body start to betray him for the first time in 1986.  He appeared in his second straight All Star game, going hitless in his one at bat.  A late August knee injury caused him to miss time, and a late September collision with Neal Heaton in a loss to the Twins reinjured the knee, leading to arthroscopic surgery following the season.  He finished the season hitting .296, just missing his 3rd consecutive .300 season, with 21 home runs and 88 RBIs.  He returned for opening day in 1987, getting two hits and knocking in the winning runs on the hard artificial turf of Royals Stadium, but was unable to walk the following day.  A second arthroscopic surgery caused him to miss 23 games before he returned, moving from right field to designated hitter.  He still was named to his 3rd straight All Star team, going hitless in the 2-0 loss by the AL.  Come year end, he had hit .293 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs.

1988 was a down year for Baines, though he managed to appear in 158 games.  His average dropped to .277, his lowest total since 1982, while hitting only 13 home runs, his lowest total since 1981.  He made only 9 appearances in the outfield while becoming accustomed to being a full-time designated hitter.  He bounced back in 1989.  He was named the starting DH in the All Star game, going 1-3 with an RBI in the AL’s victory at Angel Stadium.  On July 29, he was traded to the Rangers, along with Fred Manrique, for Wilson Alvarez, Scott Fletcher, and Sammy Sosa.  “It’s an unpopular decision as far as the fans are concerned, but sometimes unpopular means exactly that-unpopular,” GM Larry Himes said at the time.  “It doesn`t mean that it isn`t a good decision.  This is a decision we made as far as direction of the Chicago White Sox for today and for our future.”  Baines was hitting .321 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs at the time of the trade.  Less than a month later, as the Rangers visited Chicago for the first time on August 20, the White Sox retired Baines’ #3, a somewhat awkward attempt to placate the enraged fanbase.

Baines returned to the White Sox as a free agent in 1996.  Appearing in 143 games, Baines hit .311 with 22 home runs and 95 RBIs.  He returned in 1997 and was putting together another fine season, putting up a .305 average with 12 home runs and 52 RBIs in 93 games when, on July 29 again, he was traded to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Three years later, once again on July 29, the White Sox re-acquired Baines, along with Charles Johnson, from the Orioles for Miguel Felix, Juan Figueroa, Jason Lakman, and Brook Fordyce.  Appearing in 24 games down the stretch, Baines hit .213 with a single home run and 9 RBIs as the White Sox took the Central Division crown.  Baines went 1-4 in the ALDS as the White Sox were swept by the Mariners.  He returned to the White Sox in 2001 at the age of 42, getting extra playing time once Frank Thomas went down with an injury.  In 32 games, he hit .131, failing to homer and driving in only 6.

On July 20, 2008, the White Sox unveiled a bronze statue of Baines at U.S. Cellular Field prior to their game against the Royals.  On December 9, 2018, Baines was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019 via the Today’s Game Era ballot.

David Ross donned #3 when he joined the Cubs in 2015 on a two-year deal.  Ross announced his plans to retire following the 2016 season, after playing 15 seasons in the major leagues.  During Game 7 of the World Series, Ross hit a home run in his final at-bat, making him the oldest player to homer in World Series history.

Throwback Thursday – Team Records Of The 2000s

It’s time for another trip in the wayback machine, as this week we move our focus to the start of the 21st century and see what my view of the baseball world looked like in the 2000s.  This was my first decade as a season ticket holder, starting in 2002 for the Cubs and 2005 for the White Sox.

I attended 518 contests during the 2000s, starting with my first trip to Cincinnati in April of 2000 and finishing with Daniel Hudson’s first major league victory in September of 2009.  I attended games at 13 stadiums from coast to coast and saw my first post-season action, with an ALDS in 2000, an NLCS in 2003, and a World Series game in 2005.

2021 Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Arizona Diamondbacks 11 1 0.917
Philadelphia Phillies 10 4 0.714
Toronto Blue Jays 6 3 0.667
Florida Marlins 12 7 0.632
Tampa Bay Rays 3 2 0.600
Texas Rangers 8 6 0.571
Los Angeles Dodgers 8 6 0.571
Chicago White Sox 130 107 0.549
Chicago Cubs 172 147 0.539
Baltimore Orioles 9 8 0.529
Cleveland Indians 10 9 0.526
Los Angeles Angels 10 9 0.526
Boston Red Sox 9 9 0.500
Colorado Rockies 6 6 0.500
Seattle Mariners 5 5 0.500
Anaheim Angels 1 1 0.500
Houston Astros Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 11

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #11.  59 different players have donned #11 while playing in Chicago, 18 for the White Sox, who retired the number in 1984, and 41 for the Cubs.

Rudy Law was acquired by the White Sox from the Dodgers at the end of spring training in 1982 for Cecil Espy and Bert Geiger.  Wearing #11, Law split center field duties with veteran Ron Leflore, appearing in 91 games in the middle of the outfield.  He hit .318 with a .361 OBP, stealing 36 bases along the way.  Law took over as the everyday center fielder in 1983, helping the White Sox claim their first division title.  His 77 stolen bases remain a team record, and he finished the year with a .283 average.  During the ALCS against the Orioles, he led the White Sox with a .389 average.  His season was good enough to earn him 2 votes for MVP, tied for 21st place.  Law was forced to change his number during the 1984 season when Luis Aparicio was elected to the Hall of Fame and the White Sox retired the number in his honor.

Another #11 made their way to Chicago via the Dodgers when the Cubs acquired third baseman Ron Cey following the 1982 season.  Cey provided veteran leadership for the Cubs over four seasons and, in 1984, helped lead the Cubs to a division title, hitting 25 homers and driving in 97 runs, both team highs.

Throwback Thursday – Team Records Of The 1990s

Last week, we took a trip in the wayback machine to see all of the games that I attended during the 1980s.  This week, we turn our attention to the 1990s to see what my view of the baseball world looked like.

I’ve been able to identify 32 games I attended during the 90s, starting with a late April outing during the final season at Comiskey Park in 1990 through a September 2000 game at Wrigley Field, including my first visits to stadiums outside of Chicago starting with a July 1993 visit to County Stadium in Milwaukee.  All told, I saw games at eight different ballparks throughout the decade.

1990s Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Houston Astros 1 0 1.000
California Angels 1 0 1.000
Cincinnati Reds 1 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 0 1.000
Florida Marlins 1 0 1.000
New York Yankees 1 0 1.000
San Francisco Giants 1 0 1.000
Detroit Tigers 3 1 0.750
Oakland Athletics 2 1 0.667
Chicago White Sox 12 10 0.545
Chicago Cubs 6 5 0.545
Kansas City Royals Continue reading →

Throwback Thursday – Team Records Of The 1980s

With the 2022 season well underway, I thought it would be interesting to take a trip in the wayback machine and see what my view of the baseball world looked like in the long-ago period known as the 1980’s.

I’ve been able to identify 14 games I attended during the 80’s, starting with Luis Aparicio’s number retirement in 1984 through a September 1988 game at Wrigley Field, which turned out to be the second official night game.  There are more games that I remember something about attending, voting for the new White Sox uniform designs in 1981, Carlton Fisk bat day some point in the early 80s, getting a Cubs calendar in 1986,  and winning tickets from WGN radio for a game, but I haven’t been able to track down specifics about them as of yet.

1980s Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Toronto Blue Jays 1 0 1.000
San Diego Padres 1 0 1.000
Cleveland Indians 1 0 1.000
California Angels 1 0 1.000
Texas Rangers 1 1 0.500
Seattle Mariners 1 1 0.500
New York Mets 1 1 0.500
Baltimore Orioles 1 1 0.500
Chicago White Sox 5 6 0.455
Chicago Cubs 1 2 0.333
Kansas City Royals 0 1 0.000
Boston Red Sox 0 1 0.000

The Time Of Your Life

After a disastrous 2021 that saw his reunion with the Cubs end with his August release followed by an even worse stint with the Padres, Jake Arrieta called it a career earlier this week.  Arrieta, 36, debuted with the Orioles in 2010.  He was acquired by the Cubs in July of 2013, in what turned out to be one of the best trades in team history, in a trade for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.  He left the Cubs as a free agent after the 2017 season and signed with the Phillies on a 4-year deal.

After being acquired by the Cubs, Arrieta was sent to Triple A, where he made seven starts for Iowa before being recalled to the rebuilding big league club, showing vast improvement over the pitcher he was with the Orioles.  He turned into an ace for the Cubs in 2015, winning the NL Cy Young Award, and was a key contributor to their World Series championship in 2016.  He threw two no-hitters for the team, one in 2015 against the Dodgers and the second in 2016 against the Reds.  Injuries after the 2017 season left him a shell of his former self, but the Cubs rolled the dice for 2021, hoping for a miracle.  Instead, they got a rude awakening, as Arrieta set the team record for highest ERA for a pitcher in a season with at least 20 starts.  He followed up his last game, where he gave up 8 hits and 7 runs in the first inning, with a post-game tirade where he berated a reporter for wearing a mask, which he was required to do by city regulation, during a Zoom press conference.

For a brief period of time during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Jake Arrieta was the best pitcher in baseball.  He was a key contributor to the 2016 World Series championship, earning him a place in Cubs lore for years to come.  His horrid performance in 2021, both on the field and as a functioning member of society, did little to hurt that standing.  I’m sure later this year or next year, there will be a Jake Arrieta Day at Wrigley Field, where he will rightly be feted as he throws out a first pitch and sings during the 7th inning stretch.

All Time Team Records

After a long lockout and an abbreviated spring training, the 2022 baseball season finally gets underway today, so, to celebrate, it is time once again to look at the all-time team records for games that I have identified as having attended dating back to 1984.  Last year, I tied 2004 for my 5th highest game total of all time and managed to see 25 out of the 30 teams, so there should be some nice changes.  Thanks to a name change, the all-time record of the Cleveland Indians become static moving forward, forever stuck at 4 games over .500.

The White Sox look to once again lead an improving AL Central and move past the ALDS in the post-season, while the Cubs are neither contending nor rebuilding.  The 2022 season should be an interesting one on both sides of town, even more interesting if we are able to see it in person.

All-Time Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
California Angels 2 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 14 2 0.875
Florida Marlins 15 8 0.652
Colorado Rockies 10 6 0.625
New York Yankees 17 11 0.607
Boston Red Sox 19 13 0.594
Los Angeles Angels 20 14 0.588
Toronto Blue Jays 15 11 0.577
Philadelphia Phillies 11 9 0.550
Washington Nationals 7 6 0.538
Cleveland Indians 31 27 0.534
Chicago White Sox 335 307 0.522
Chicago Cubs 224 206 0.521
Houston Astros Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 16

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #16.  65 different players have donned #16 while playing in Chicago, 24 for the White Sox, who retired the number in 1987, and 41 for the Cubs.

Aramis Ramirez switched to his familiar #16 shortly after being acquired by the Cubs from the Pirates.  Ramírez finished the 2003 season strong, appearing in 63 games down the stretch and hitting 15 home runs while helping the Cubs capture their first division title since 1989.  He managed 11 hits during the post-season, including 4 home runs and 10 RBIs and hitting the first playoff grand slam in Cubs’ history during Game 4 of the NLCS.  The following year, Ramirez became the 14th player in baseball history to hit 3 home runs in 2 different games in the same season.  While his offense remained strong, posting a .951 OPS, his defense was a bit of a liability, as he posted the lowest range factor among all third basemen.

Ramirez was elected to his first All-Star Game in 2005.  He finished the season with 31 home runs and 92 RBIs despite missing the last month of the year with a strained quadriceps femoral muscle.  While his defense continued to suffer in 2006, with his third straight season with the lowest range factor, his offense continued to carry the load.  He collected his 1000th hit in July against the Mets and ended up with 38 home runs, 119 RBIs, and an OPS of .912.  A free agent at the end of the season, he re-signed with the Cubs, scoring a 5-year, $73 million contract.

In April of ’07, Ramirez launched his 200th career home run.  His continued offensive presence helped lead the Cubs back to the post-season in 2007 and 2008, winning division titles both seasons.  Unfortunately, Ramirez, like his teammates, went cold in both series as the Cubs were swept in the NLDS each season.  In 2009, Ramirez christened the season with his 250th career home run on Opening Day against Roy Oswalt.  He followed that with #300 in July of 2011 against the White Sox.  Following that season, he declined his portion of a mutual option and became a free agent.

Julio Cruz wore #16 on the southside following his June 1983 acquisition from the Mariners, when he gave the White Sox the spark they were looking for, helping the team go on a 72-31 run to finish the season and go from 6 1/2 games back to 20 games ahead.  Cruz scored the winning run on a Harold Baines sacrifice fly against, of all teams, the Mariners on September 17, clinching the first division title in White Sox history.  Cruz hit .333 during the ALCS against the Orioles, swiping 2 bases in the 4-game series.  Heading in to the 1984 season, Cruz re-signed with the White Sox with a 6-year deal, thought to be worth between $3.6 to $4.8 million.  Unfortunately, time, and injuries, were starting to take their toll.  1984 was the best year of the deal, and Cruz saw his average drop to .222 and he stole only 14 bases, a career low to date.  Following that season, Cruz changed his number from #16 to #12.