Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tonight You're Perfect - RIP Milt

Word has arrived that former Cubs ace Milt Pappas passed away today at the age of 76.  According to reports, Milt died of natural causes in his home in Beecher, IL, just down the road apiece from where I reside.

Milt hit the Major Leagues with a fair amount of hoopla as a Baltimore Orioles.  The young phenom was still a teenager and had only spent a couple of weeks in the bushes before taking the mound against the likes of Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle.  He went on to spend the next 17 seasons as a front line hurler for the O's, Reds, Braves and, of course, wrapped it all up with the Cubs from 1970-73.

Despite a long career, starting an All-Star Game, a 209-164 lifetime record and a career 3.40 ERA, Milt is probably best remembered by baseball fans for two things that were not entirely under his control.

First, "Gimpy" was the main ingredient going to Cincinnati in the infamous Frank Robinson trade.  Frank went on to immediately win the Triple Crown and World Series MVP and then blossom into a bonafide Hall of Famer while Milt spent only two years in a Reds uniform.  In the annals of baseball history, this trade is often cited as one of the most lopsided to have ever occurred.

Second, surely by now we've all heard about his near perfecto, the most egregious slighting of a pitcher until Armando Galarraga.  In a 1972 tilt with the Padres, Milt took a perfect game until two outs in the bottom of ninth.  On a 3-2 pitch, Bruce Froemming called a borderline pitch as ball four, putting an end to the perfecto.

In the end, Pappas retired the next hitter and preserved the no-hitter, which was the last by a Cubs moundsman until Carlos Zambrano in 2008.  However, having come so close to perfection, that feet seemed minute in comparison.  Until the bitter end, Pappas insisted his pitch caught the plate - "To this day, I just don't understand it," Pappas said in 2009.

 In the time since, both Big Z and Jake the Snake have tossed no-no's

All in all, it's kind of a shame that such a productive career has been reduced to those two infamous moments; but, that's baseball

Milt has been a good sport about it in the ensuing years and has been a common sight at Cubs functions in the intervening years, often showing up at Cubs Conventions and to lead the Wrigley faithful in the seventh inning stretch.  In the words of owner Tom Ricketts, "we will always consider him part of the Chicago Cubs family."

RIP Milt and thank you for the memories - here's hoping the umpires are a little more generous on that spacious, eternally green diamond in the sky.


  1. Funny how one's perspective changes due to your rooting interests. I always think of Milt as an Oriole.

    But it's sad news to hear of his passing. He had an eventful life that's for certain. RIP Gimpy.

  2. I always felt bad for him. Losing the perfecto really seemed to get into his head.