Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Once a Cub... Literally, Just Once

In yesterday's post, I took a stroll down memory lane with Adam Greenberg as my tour guide. Greenberg, of course, is famous for being drilled in the head with the first pitch he saw in the Major Leagues and, if not for a immensely strong fan campaign, that would have been the only pitch he ever saw in the Bigs.

Even considering his "do over" at-bat with the Marlins in 2012, Greenie still made only one, lone appearance for the Chicago Cubs.  That got me curious, how many other men in the long history of the franchise have made only a singular appearance in Cubbie Blue?

My extensive research shows the answer to be quite a lot, the most recent being Donn Roach*:

Roach made a spot start before the Cubs kicked it into high gear last summer.  A minor league signing during the off-season, Roach was killin' it in AAA and the Cubs needed a consistent fifth starter; so, he got a chance against the Cardinals on June 27th.  It didn't go so well - Donnie gave up 4 earned runs in 3.1 innings as the Cubs went on to lose 8-1.  The front office was unimpressed and went out and acquired Clayton Richard before Roach's next turn.

Roach was promptly DFA'ed and claimed by the Reds.  At this point, he has yet to return to the Majors.

Before the Donn, there were many others who only got one shot and missed their chance this opportunity which comes once in a lifetime, yo.  Eminem would not be proud.  Here are the guys for which I have cards of, in alphabetical order:

Jophery Brown - 9/21/68
1 ER in 2 IP against the Pirates, Cubs lose 5-1

Jophery would injure his arm during the next season and with Tommy John Surgery still years away, his MLB career consisted of just that one appearance.  Brown then went into a career of acting and stuntman work; his IMDB page is pretty impressive!

Also, thanks go to long-time blog reader Stubby for creating this custom, otherwise Brown would be forever unrepresented in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection!

Alex Burnett - 5/29/13
0 runs (earned or not) given up in 1 IP against the White Sox, Cubs win 9-3.

The long-time Twins reliever was a roster jenga waiver claim from Baltimore and his only Cubs experience was closing out that blowout win over the cross-town rivals.  He was then shuttled to AAA Iowa, where he stayed for the rest of the year.

Thankfully Burnett made the Iowa Cubs team set that year (as any former Major Leaguer usually will), seeing as this as close as I'll ever get to an official Cubs card for him.

Dick Calmus - 9/2/67
1 Start, 4 ER in 4.1 IP against the Mets, Cubs lose 5-4

The September call-up hadn't seen the Majors since he had a 21 game trial with the Dodgers in 1963 and proved why in his only Cubs appearance.  He'd been picked up by Chicago in a trade with LA for Fred Norman at the beginning of the season.

I find it exceptionally surprising that a guy who'd only played in one game in the last 4 seasons somehow made it into the 1968 Topps set; but, who am I to complain?  It made checking his name off my list that much easier!

Bob Caruthers - 1893
4 PA's with 0 hits and 1 walk, playing center field

Parisian Bob played so long ago that I cannot locate the exact date on which he donned a Chicago Colts uniform.  Caruthers was a famed moundsman for the Cardinals and the Bridegrooms in the 80's, but age and the increase in distance between the plate and the mound put a halt to his pitching prowess.  He tried to revive his career as an outfielder, but alas, he was no Rick Ankiel.

This Origins of Baseball set is absolutely beautiful and appropriately ornate for the era in which it covers.  Love it!

Phil Collins - 10/7/23
1 Start, 2 ER in 5 IP against the Cardinals, Cubs win 10-3

The Chicago native got his first Big League audition with his hometown team at the end of a lost season.  With the team mired in fourth place, they gave the youngster a shot to prove himself on the second to last day of the season.

Despite his good performance, Collins was buried back in the minors until 1929, at which point he became the key swingman for the Phillies for the next several seasons.  After he retired, he went on to learn how to play the drums, becoming a founding member of a British progressive rock band known as Genesis...

Wait - I'm being told that this is not the same Phil Collins... there must be some misunderstanding.

Mort Cooper - 5/7/49
3 ER in 0 IP (3 batters faced) against the Dodgers, Cubs lose 10-4

Mort was the ace of the Cardinals staff for much of the 1940's and, along with his brother Walker (who'd also eventually become a Cub), made up the only brother-brother battery in baseball history.  However, he injured his arm and, as was often the case in those days, never fully recovered.  As a result, his weight ballooned due to lack of conditioning and his career was basically over.

Phil Wrigley granted Mort a favor and allowed him to attempt a comeback with the Cubs; however, as his infinite ERA will attest, that did not go so well.  He was officially done with professional baseball after that cameo.

Jim Cosman - 4/30/70
3 ER in 0.2 IP against the Braves, Cubs lose 9-2

Cosman was a Rule 5 draft pick by the Cubs from the Miracle Mets, hot on the heels of their infamous comeback over the Chicagoans and eventual World Series triumph.  The bush league-lifer was certainly no Hector Rondon or Willie Hernandez, though.

Jim got only one moment to prove his worth to Leo Durocher and the Cubs and promptly blew it, putting an end to his Major League career.

Dave Dowling - 9/22/66
1 Start, 2 ER in 9 IP against the Reds, Cubs win 7-2

Dave Dowling pitched in two games during his MLB tenure, one perfect inning for the Cardinals in 1964 and then a complete game gem for the Cubs two years later.  For all the early promise he showed at the Major League level, it's a wonder that Dave never got another chance to build off of it,  One can even forgive Topps for thinking this blip in MLB history would be a future star.

George Gerberman - 9/23/62
1 Start, 1 ER in 5.1 innings against the Mets, Cubs lose 2-1

The above stat-line is both the beginning and the end of Gerberman's time in the show; that singular start was the only MLB appearance he'd make, Cubs or otherwise.  Thank goodness for Larry Fritsch and his "One Year Winner" sets for shining the spotlight on such obscure players!

The September call-up gave up only three hits, though he did walk five.  The only run came on a long ball smashed by future Cub Frank Thomas (the original); furthermore, the only strikeout he recorded came courtesy of another future Cub - Jim Hickman.

Adam Greenberg - 7/9/05
1 PA, HBP on first pitch seen against the Marlins, Cubs win 8-2

The inspiration for today's post about one time (and one time only) Chicago Cubs players.  For a more detailed report on Greenie, please refer to yesterday's musings.

Tony LaRussa - 4/6/73
Pinch runner against the Expos, Cubs win 3-2.

Yes - that Tony La Russa.  The same man who made it to the Hall of Fame on the strength of his managing career with the despised White Sox and Cardinals was briefly (very much so) a Cub.

On Opening Day, the Cubs came behind in a thrilling walk-off victory against Montreal in the bottom of the ninth.  Tony scored the winning run after having come in as a pinch runner for Ron Santo.  La Russa was sent to the minors soon after the contest and never took the field or picked up a bat for the Northsiders (or any other MLB team, afterwards).

It's obscure bits of trivia like this that made me fall in love with the history of Cubs roster construction.

Jay Loviglio - 7/26/83
1 PA with a SO against the Dodgers, Cubs lose 5-2

Loviglio was a well-regarded prospect in the Phillies and the White Sox organizations before finding his way over to the other side of town for 1983.  His prospective shine had severely deteriorated by then, after having batted a collective .192 across three separate trials with Philly and the South Side.

As a result, Jay was only given a single plate appearance with his short leash, serving as minor league depth for the rest of the 1983 campaign.  That lone at-bat marked the end of his MLB playing career, though he would eventually go on to manage in the minors for the organization.

Thus, despite having a couple of multi-player rookie cards with the White Sox, this managerial MiLB card reps Jay in my CATRC binder, since Charlotte was a Cubs affiliate at the time.

Larry McLean - 1903
1 game at catcher, 1 BB and RBI in 5 PA

The famously volatile and temperamental catcher got a brief trial with the Cubs before game logs are available before being included in what is widely regarded in one of the worst trades in Cardinals history.  McLean and pitcher Jack Taylor were swapped with St. Louis for Jack O'Neill and Three-Finger Brown.  Eat your heart out Lou Brock.

The tallest catcher in Big League history (6'5") stuck around St. Louis for only one season before going on to star for the Reds and Giants.  However, McLean had a violent drinking problem and hicareer came to an end after a 1915 brawl with Giants manager John McGraw and coach Dick Kinsella.  Just a few years later, McLean was shot to death in a bar fight.

Thank goodness Tom Barker's baseball game cards were reprinted because I surely don't have the space in my budget for originals right now.

Roger Metzger - 6/16/70
1 game at SS, 2 groundouts in 2 PA against the Giants, Cubs lose 3-2

The Cubs of the late 60's/early 70's showed little to no love for young players, thanks greatly to the crotchety manager Leo Durocher.  That likely played into the decision to trade the 16th overall pick in the '69 draft after just a solitary MLB appearance.  In return from Houston, Chicago got light-hitting Hector Torres, who played just one year with the Cubs.

Meanwhile, Metzger went on to be a starting shortstop for most of the rest of the decade, even winning a Gold Glove in 1973.  While not a star, he did produce 3.4 WAR over his eleven seasons.


Bobo Newsom - 6/4/32
0 ER in 1 IP against the Pirates, Cubs lose 12-4

Bobo seemingly played forever and for every team in the League.  over the course of his 20 seasons in the Majors, Newsom found himself taking the mound for nine different teams (remember, this is pre-expansion) across four decades before retiring after the 1953 season.  One of those nine teams was, you guessed it, the Chicago Cubs.

In 1932, the Wrigley natives were marching their way to the World Series and Newsom got the call to join the bullpen.  Newsom took mop-up duty, closing out one blowout loss before the Cubs decided to sweep him off the roster and back to the minors.  He'd be drafted by the Browns in next year's Rule 5 proceedings and Bobo never looked back afterwards.

Don Prince - 9/21/62
0 ER in 1 IP against the Mets, Cubs lose 4-1

Another One-Year Winner and another "one and done" Major League pitcher - praise be to Larry Fritsch!

Prince made his Cubbie Cameo just two days before the already featured George Gerberman with a scoreless inning of relief against the hapless Mets (who still managed to beat the Cubs).  It was hairy though, he issued a walk to the first man he faced, Joe Christopher, then hit the next batter, Frank Thomas. However, Prince settled down and got Jim Hickman to ground into a double play and Sammy Drake to ground to second.

As hairy as that inning was, Prince's post-baseball life was even harrier. In 1996, Prince was convicted in a murder for hire plot in South Carolina. He received a 17.5 year sentence for attempting to have two people murdered by an undercover police officer he thought was a hit man.  Egad!

Clay Rapada -  6/14/07
0 ER in 0.1 IP against the Mariners, Cubs win 5-4

Due to a rash of injuries in the Cubs bullpen, Clay got the call to serve in the bullpen as the Cubs started heating up in the summer of 2007.  His entire Cubs tenure amounted to just one third of an inning, but he got his man before being returned to AAA.  A couple of months late, the eventual NL Central Champions moved him to Detroit for Craig Monroe in order to reinforce their offense.

Over the next few years, Rapada found some success as a LOOGY for the Tigers, Orioles, Rangers and the Yankees, getting as many as 70 appearances for the Bronx Bombers in 2012 before injuries derailed his career.

Roe Skidmore - 9/17/70
1 hit in 1 PA against the Cardinals, Cubs lose 9-2

First of all, can we all just agree that this is just an awesome baseball name?

Second, Roe suffered from the same disease as Roger Metzger did earlier in this feature, being a rookie.  Despite the fact that Roe laced a solid single in his first (and only) at-bat and spent the entire month of September on the active roster, Leo the Lip never used him again.  In fact, no manager ever used him again, leaving his career batting average at a perfect 1.000.  At least that's kind of cool.

Bob Smith - 4/29/59
6 ER in 0.2 IP against the Reds, Cubs lose 18-8

One of three Bob Smiths to call the Northside of Chicago home at some point, he was by far the least successful.  Acquired in a trade with the Red Sox for future managerial star Chuck Tanner in Spring Training, Smith was called upon to stop the bleeding when Cubs starter Moe Drabowsky couldn't make it past the first inning.  Already down four at the time, as you can see by the line above, Bob certainly didn't make the situation any better.

Just a few days later, the Cubs flipped him to Cleveland for the over-the-hill Randy Jackson, allowing "Handsome Ransom" to finish his career where it began.  Bob was done in the Bigs after 12 more lackluster assignments with the Indians.

Justin Speier - 5/27/98
2 ER in 1.1 IP against the Phillies, Cubs lose 10-1

The son of former short-term Cubs middle infielder Chris Speier, Justin made his father's two-year Cubs tenure seem like eons, in comparison.

Justin was a 55th round draft selection who beat the odds and became a long-time, middle relief nomad, finding work in the bullpens of several teams through the 2009 season.  He only hurled 1.1 innings for Chicago though, as the surprising Wild Card contenders shipped him off with Kevin Orie and Todd Noel to the Marlins for bullpen "help" in Felix Heredia.  

Seeing as bullpen guys hardly get any love from the card companies, unless their a big-time closer or a former star starter, thank goodness Upper Deck had such expansive checklists when they had a baseball license.

Bob Usher - 4/26/52
1 BB in 1 PA against the Cardinals, Cubs lose 4-3

We wrap up our Cubbie Cameo Countdown with Bob Usher, who had himself a nice go as an extra outfielder for a handful of teams in the late 40's/50's.  The Cubs acquired him from the Reds at the end of the 1951 season for Smokey Burgess (who would have looked great in Cubbie Blue for the next decade) and Bob Borkowski.  After making the Opening Day roster the next season, he was quickly scooped off of waivers by the PCL San Diego Padres.

Ah - nothing screams old-timey baseball quite like minor league teams making transactions with Big League clubs, independent of farm system structure.

Also, Usher did manage to get himself a true Cubs card, despite his "blink and you missed it" tenure; that said, it's a 1952 Topps and those aren't just falling off of trees.  In the meantime, this reprint of his 1951 Bowman card, produced by CCC in the 80's, will have to do.

Oh yes - it will be mine

With that, we've reached the end of the Cubs' one game wonders (for which I have cards of).  I hope you found this bit of research to be at least somewhat entertaining - it definitely ate up a few hours of my free time.

While these guys might have only spent a couple of hours donning blue pinstripes, they are all Cubs just the same in the eyes of the all-time Cubs roster.  Thus, they are included in my CATRC, alongside the Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Cap Ansons of the team history, just the same.  Be it one game or a thousand, a Cub is a Cub.

How poetic...


* - Reliever Spencer Patton has, as of today, only appeared in one game as a Cub (5/6/16).  However, seeing as he is still with the org, included on the 40-man, and tearing it up as the closer for AAA Iowa, I'm betting he'll get another shot with Chicago before the year as up.  At the very least, he'll likely get a September call-up.

I guess we shall see...


  1. There are some A+ names in that group.

  2. I was waiting in the rain for hours, you were late -- it is now in my head.

    This is a good idea. I'll have to do this for the Dodgers. I'm sure I won't have half the cards though.

  3. Before I went on my hiatus and was big in to my ATCRCS set, I had started a running series called One Game Wonders. I still have a few leftover in my draft folder ad others I couldn't find usable photos for my customs.

  4. Great post. If I had to sum it up in one word: sussudio.

  5. Frank Thomas was a former AND future Cub in 1962. Roger Metzger was never going to break into the lineup with Santo, Kessinger and Beckert in the infield, and Popovich was much more versatile. Skidmore came up when the Cubs had Banks, Hickman, Pepitone and Tommy Davis all able to play first. Dave Dowling's picture is a re-airbrush of his 1965 Rookie Stars card for the Cardinals.

  6. La Russa was a Cub? How has that slipped past me all of these years. That fact still doesn't make me like him anymore though.

  7. Great idea. I'm definitely going to have to do this for the Reds.