We're all familiar with the story of Wally Pipp, right? In case you're not, Wally was the regular first baseman for the Yankees from 1915 until about halfway through the '25 season. He had a bit of a headache one afternoon and needed a little bit of rest. A young rook by the name of Lou Gehrig took over and the rest is history.
I hear what you're saying; this is a Cub-centric blog, why in the world am I recounting a Yankee story? Well today's subject kinda got Pipp'ed before Wally Pipp.
I pulled this card of Bobby Lowe from a package of Mayo Cut Plug Tobacco reprints. Even the most common of the originals will fetch a few hundred dollars; my 1986 reprint cost me pennies on the dollar.
Hooray for card collecting on a budget!
Lowe was one of baseballs' star players during the turn of the century. Playing for the Boston NL club, Lowe starred at (mostly) second base from 1890 through 1901.
I say mostly because he was one of the most versatile players of all-time, playing at every position on the diamond in the Bigs, except catcher (which he did in the minors). He was like Jose Macias, except he could actually hit a baseball.
Jose Macias - ye of little use
In May of 1894, Lowe was the first player in MLB history to hit 4 homers in a game. In addition, he tied or set records with 17 total bases in a single game and six hits in a single game.
With his career .273 batting average (deadball) and .953 fielding percentage (highest all-time at his retirement), this quiet and unassuming man was a complete player. Of course, by the time the Cubs acquired him, he was completely washed up.
In the 1902, the Orphans (as they were known at the time) were in a transition period, not too much unlike the Cubs of today. Franchise cornerstones Cap Anson and Jimmy Ryan had only recently departed, hence the nickname; Anson to retirement and Ryan to Washington. Frank Chance was still just an unproven outfielder.
As Simon & Garfunkel once sang, "Where have you gone, Anson & Ryan..." Wait,that ain't right...
Looking to stabilize their infield corps, they bought the reliable Bobby Lowe from Boston and manager Frank Selee promptly named him Captain. He had been coming off of a down year in Boston, hitting under .270 for the first time since 1892. Chicago thought they were buying low; in reality, they were buying junk.
Injuries piled up and his batting average tumbled down to .248 in '02. After just a few games in 1903, the struggling former star was given a break and the Cubs inserted a hot prospect into the lineup in his absence. That prospect? None other than Johnny Evers.
Johnny Evers - relegating Bobby to a new Lowe
After hanging on for a few more seasons, mostly as a reserve, he finally called it a career in 1907. Fittingly, just after Evers and the Cubs won their first World Series over Lowe's Tigers, a series in which Lowe did not appear.
If anything, Bobby Lowe's uninspiring Cubs tenure represents a time of transition. A time which we Cubs fans today can certainly relate to. Re-tread, washed up veterans and unpolished rookies populated the roster then and now.
Here's hoping TheoJed and crew can weather their period of transition as well as the Cubs of the early aughts did.