Thursday, February 4, 2021

Smalley to Terwilliger to the Right Field Stands

The Cubs have had a bevy of famous double play combinations throughout their long and sometimes storied history.  Of course, there's the poetic trio of Hall of Famers, Tinker to Evers to Chance - "a trio of bear Cubs fleeter than birds" and all that jazz.  Then, several decades later, the 1960's brought us the all All-Star infield powered by Kessinger to Beckert to Banks, who got oh-so-close to breaking the Cubs streak of futility.  Further still, the teams of the 80's and 90's had people passing through the turnstiles to see Dunston to Sandberg to Grace; you'd think they'd have done better than one playoff appearance with that slick-fielding bunch.  All in all, the franchise has managed to put together some decent infields over the years.

As notable as those combos were, there's yet another that earned a fair bit of attention during the time they were together.  In the 1950's, advanced scouting reports chattered all about Smalley to Terwilliger to... the right field stands!



The Cubs teams of the 1950's were always stuffed to the gills with young potentials that could never put it all together at the same time, only once reaching the .500 mark in '52 (77-77).  Like many Cubs prospects at this time, both Roy Smalley and Wayne Terwilliger eventually went on to have long and productive careers as role players.  However, when the two first came up, the young firebrands could hardly control their throwing arms, earning their infamous DP branding.  For instance, in 1950, Smalley was charged with 51 errors at shortstop while Terwilliger added 24 more from second base.  First baseman, Dee Fondy, was probably the most well stretched out man in professional sports!

While Smalley stayed in Chicago for most of his playing days, Wayne Terwilliger ventured out to far greener pastures.  In a professional baseball career that extended through eight decades and began when Harry Truman occupied the White House, "Twig" backed up Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn, won a pair of World Series rings as a coach in Minnesota, and stayed active as a manager and/or coach in the minor and independent leagues until well into the Barack Obama administration.  Talk about longevity! 


In fact, at the time the old second baseman was hired to manage the Fort Worth Cats in 2003, he became the oldest manager in minor-league history at age 77.  After three years at the helm of the United Baseball League club, he would wrap up his 62-year baseball career at the Cats' first base coach in 2010.


To really hammer home the point, take a look at his rookie and sunset cards, side by side. I don't have either of these (though I really wouldn't mind tracking them down), so thanks to the Trading Card Database for the scans!


It should also be noted that prior to making it with the Cubs, Terwilliger joined the United States Marine Corps and fought in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  A couple of the more famous conflicts in which Terwilliger fought include the Battle of Saipan (as a tank operator) and the immortalized Battle of Iwo Jima.   While he may have had an interesting career on the diamond, he was a certified hero off of it.


With that, it grieves me to say that, yesterday, the 95-year old baseball lifer left this mortal coil.  At the time of his death, the near-centenarian was the oldest living former Chicago Cub, a title which he now passes onto short-term reliever, Bobby Shantz, who is a scant three months younger than "Twig."  




Shantz's brief tenure in Chicago was measured in months, so no Cubs card exists of the man.  This Fleer Greats of the Game single has repped the now eldest statesman of the franchise in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder since I pulled from a pack at CVS in 2005.


Speaking of cardboard representation, as of now, Wayne Terwilliger is represented in my CATRC by the Card Collector's Company (CCC) reprint you saw earlier in this post.  Yea, unfortunately it's not a true 1951 Bowman and rather a reprint from the late 1980's.  While the reprint is fairly high-quality, a man of his intrigue deserves to be repped by the real deal.  Here's hoping that I can track down a more deserving card of Twiggy in the near future. 


Terwilliger may have been part of perhaps the most infamous double play combination in Cubs' history, thanks to his live-arm, but he ended up contributing so much more to the game and to the world at large.

R.I.P., Wayne Terwilliger.

1 comment:

  1. Although I recognize the name, I couldn't tell you anything about Mr. Terwilliger until after I read this post. I am always grateful for those who served in our country's armed forces. Thank you for sharing this information with your readers on this blog.