Wednesday, August 5, 2015

ZOINKS! Like, This Post is Haunted!

"I'd turn back if I was you."

There's ghosts in this here post!  But don't worry, there's no need to summon Ghost Hunters or Ghost Adventures or Ghostbusters or whatever reality TV show ghost-hunting crew you want to name... what's that?  Ghostbusters wasn't a documentary?  Well then, this is awkward...

Anyway, the ghosts in this post are more of the baseball variety.  These ghosts are men who suited up for the Cubs and were placed on the active roster; yet, they never actually appeared in an official game.  Spooky!

I picked up this 1963 Topps Cookie Rojas card from my LCS in order to fill a gap in my Cubs coaches collection.  You see, the 5-time All-Star and 16 year veteran was signed on as a player-coach for the September stretch run in 1978 on the first day of roster expansion.  

As it turned out, despite sitting on the active roster for 30 days, Cookie never fulfilled the latter portion of that title.  The middle infielder was blocked by starters Manny Trillo & Ivan DeJesus, backups Mick Kelleher & Rudy Meoli and call-up Mike Sember.

Cookie was miffed at the Cubs for leading him on; nevertheless, he stayed on exclusively as a coach through the 1981 season.

This is the kind of ghost that I'm talking about, players who haunted the Major League bench for the Cubs and, yet, never were able to "cross-over" into the light... I mean, the field.  Picking up this card got me curious as to how many similar cases there have been:

Here are two, much more recent examples from just earlier this season.  They were added to and deleted from the roster so quickly that I wasn't even able to acquire a card for them; so, I had to swipe these images from COMC.  

Both of there bullpen arms were waiver claims; Varvaro from the Red Sox and Rowen from the Orioles.  Anthony was claimed, added to the roster and DFA'ed in May and promptly accepted an AAA assignment.  However, it was discovered that he was nursing a previously undisclosed injury and sent right back to the Sawx before the month was out.  We hardly knew ye!

I already covered Rowen's backstory here.  He was DFA'ed as a result of the trade deadline acquisitions and was quickly claimed by the Blue Jays.  Hopefully the guy gets to stick around there for a while and maybe unpack his bags for a change. 

Meanwhile, this next guy still has a chance to change his ghost status, Casper-style - I think.

Bard's rapid descent from productive bullpen arm to out of baseball has been well-documented.  Since he's a Theo guy, the Cubs claimed him off waivers and activated him going into September of 2013 to see if they could solve his control issues.  However, outside of a single bullpen session, Bard never made it to a mound at Wrigley Field and was granted free agency at the end of the year.

After completely falling out of baseball and spending his free time cycling around Europe, Bard underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery as a last ditch effort to figure out why he went full Steve Blass.

Now, I say I think he still has a chance at fixing his Cubbie ghost status because the club signed him to again to a minor league deal this past off-season.  However, he has no 2015 stats - but I cannot find any indication that the Cubs released him either.  Maybe he had an publicized set-back?  At any rate, I did find that he's Rule 5 eligible this off-season; so, regardless, the odds of him officially becoming a Cub are rather slim.

All of this being covered, we aren't out of the haunted house yet.  The most famous (infamous?) Cub ghost of all-time is this guy:

Thanks again, COMC!

Why is Mark more notable than the previous few names?  Well, despite getting the call to join the Cubs in 1987, never appeared in the Major Leagues whatsoever.  While our previous friends at least saw action in other cities, Marky Mark here wasn't so fortunate.

The skinny reliever was part of one of the worst Cubs trades of all-time, brought in when the future HOF'er Dennis Eckersley was sent to Oakland for a trio of unimpressive prospects (none of whom made the majors, btw).

His stay was expected to be brief that June, as injured pitcher Scott Sanderson was due back any day.  His time on the roster amounted to only four days and, despite being teased with warming up on at least one occasion, never did get sent in.  Who knew that the 25 year old would never again have that opportunity?

Somehow, someone managed to snap a picture before he disappeared
Image courtesy of Kasey Ignarski

It is here we can conclude our paranormal investigation; I can find no other examples of ghosts on the Cubs' MLB roster.  Now, that doesn't mean that there haven't been other cases.  In fact, I'd wager that there have been several more in the franchise's long history, especially in the earlier days of the sport with looser roster rules and shoddier record-keeping.

Is anyone else aware of any similar instances?  Let me know!

In the meantime, since these guys were never "official" Cubs players, they unfortunately do not reside in my CATRC binder (except for Cookie, due to his coaching days).  Ain't that a shame?  Perhaps I should start another side-collection...

Darn ghosts... stealing my money!

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