ìNice guys finish lastî
ñ Leo "The Lip" Durocher
The 1965 season closed with the Cubs mired in 8th place in the National League, with a 72-90 record, 25 games behind the N. L. pennant-winning Dodgers.
1965 was the fifth year for the College of Coaches, and the experiment wasnít working. After the season, Cubs Athletic Director Col. Robert Whitlow (USAF ñ RET.) resigned, and there was some question about who P. K. Wrigley would hire to replace him.
Two Ton Baker?
Bozo the Clown?
The Doublemint Twins?
Garfield Goose, perhaps?
On October 25th, ten days after the conclusion of the 1965 World Series, P. K. Wrigley called a press conference in Chicago to announce that Leo Durocher had been hired as the new Cubs manager.
A Chicago sportswriter asked Leo if his title would be ìHead Coachî or ìAthletic Director,î and what would happen to the ìCollege of Coaches,î and Leo replied ìI donít know anything about that. I am the MANAGER
. Donít EVER
use the word ëcoachí around me!î
When asked his opinion of the Cubs, Leo said ìThe Cubs are NOT
an eighth place team.î (The Cubs had finished 8th in 1965, 25 games out of 1st place, 8-1/2 games behind the 7th place Cardinals, and ahead of only the Houston Astros and the hapless Mets). He also promised that the days of the Cubs trading away young players like Lou Brock were over.
Leo said he would ìback-up the truck, and start from scratchî if necessary, and that his goal was to rebuild the Cubs ìDodger-style,î with strong defense up-the-middle and a dominating starting rotation.
Leoís deal with the Cubs was unique. He had no written contract, just a ìhand-shakeî gentlemenís agreement with Wrigley. John Holland was NOT Leoís boss. Leo worked for and reported directly to P. K. Wrigley, although Wrigley was frequently absent from Chicago.
So Leo was the manager and de facto Major League player personnel director, while GM John Hollandís job was to negotiate player contracts, run the minor leagues and scouting, and (when necessary) attempt to acquire the players Leo wanted for the major league team. It was similar to the arrangement Whitey Herzog would have in the 1980ís with the Cardinals, when The White Rat was the manager and player personnel director, and GM Joe MacDonald did everything else.
When hired as the Cubs manager, Leo the Lip was 60 years old, and hadn't managed in the big leagues since 1955. But he was a baseball legend.
He had been a slick-fielding switch-hitting shortstop with the Ruth-Gehrig ìMurdererís Rowî Yankees in the 1920ís and the ìGas House Gangî Cardinals in the 1930ís, a player-manager with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940ís, and the skipper of the New York Giants in the 1950ís (where in addition to managing the club, he also coached third base, and where he supposedly placed a "spy" in the centerfield upper deck clubhouse at the Polo Grounds to steal signs from the opposing catcher).
Leo was Willie Maysí first manager and surrogate father (where after the 19-year old Say Hey Kid went into a horrific batting slump in his rookie season and was ready to quit and go home to Alabama, Leo told him, ìYouíre my centerfielder, kid... I donít care if you go ëOí for a hundred,î at which point Mays suddenly started to hit and never stopped).
Durocher led the Giants to N. L. pennants in 1951 (the great late-season ìMiracle at Cooganís Bluffî) and in 1954 (the Giants then won the World Series, an ìupsetî over the heavily-favored Cleveland Indians, in a four-game sweep).
Leo was also one of the most brash and mouthy bench-jockeys and umpire-baiters in major league history. He loved to argue with umpires, and his nose-to-nose "discussions" with N. L. umpire Jocko Conlon were legendary.
Along the way, he married actress Lorraine Day, consorted with ìknown gamblersî (for which he was suspended from baseball for one year in 1947), and hung-out with buddy-boys Frank Sinatra and George Raft on the Sunset Strip and in Vegas. After his managerial days were over (or seemingly over), Leo was the Los Angeles Dodgersí loudmouth 3rd base coach for four seasons (1961-64).
As an 11-year old kid, I knew Leo Durocher best from his appearance on an episode of ìThe Munsters,î where he ìdiscoversî Herman hitting baseballs 500 feet and insists that Buzzie Bavasi (the Dodgers GM) sign him IMMEDIATELY!
Needless to say, the news that Leo Durocher was the new Cubs manager was very exciting. I was STOKED!
Why Wrigley decided to scrap his pet project (ìCollege of Coachesî) and hire an actual genuine ìbaseballî man (and a true ìOLD SCHOOLî baseball man at that!) to manage his club is unclear. Maybe P. K. received an epiphany while at his summer cottage at Lake Geneva, or maybe it was a visit from the Ghost of a (Frank) Chance, or perhaps an offer from Chicago "Outfit" boss Sam Giancana (a friend of both Sinatra and Durocher) that P. K. couldnít refuse. I guess weíll never know.
Leo had spent the 1965 season as a color commentator for the ìMajor League Baseball Game of the Weekî telecasts, and had apparently done his homework. With John Holland as his ìfront-man,î Leo made sure the Cubs got four of the top prospects in baseball. In two of the best trades they ever made, the Cubs acquired 24-year old catcher Randy Hundley and 26-year old RHP Bill Hands from the Giants in exchange for 30-year old ace bullpen ìfiremanî Lindy McDaniel and 30-year old journeyman CF Don Landrum at the 1965 Winter Meetings, and then 22-year old RHP Ferguson Jenkins and 24-year old CF Adolfo Phillips (and back-up 1B-OF John Herrnstein) from the Phillies for the Cubs #1 and #2 starters, 35-year old RHP Larry Jackson and 37-year old RHP Bob Buhl, a couple of weeks after Opening Day in 1966.
It was a new tactic for the Cubs. Instead of the usual approach of making trades for established (often past their prime) veterans, the Cubs rolled the dice and traded their three best pitchers (all 30+) for four highly-regarded (yet still-unproven) 20-something ìMajor League-readyî prospects. It was almost like something Billy Beane would do today. Later, once the Cubs became a perennial contender, Durocher would have Holland do the reverse, trading two or three prospects to get a veteran who filled a particular need.
Remember, this was a time before free-agency, and the only ways to build a team into a contender were:
1. Sign the best amateur free-agents (except beginning in 1965 there was a draft that spread the amateur talent around, so that it now took several years to build a team that way), or
2. Trade your best established players for a package of two or three ìprospectsî (who may or may not ìpan outî), or
3. Find a new source of talent that nobody else has mined yet (as the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cleveland Indians did with the Negro Leagues 1946-49, and as the San Francisco Giants did in the Dominican Republic in the 1950's).
Leo Durocher opted for approach #2.
Besides being correct in his assessments of Hundley, Hands, Jenkins, and Phillips, Leo was right about something else, too. The Cubs were not
an 8th place team. They were a TENTH
place team, with the worst record in Major League Baseball in 1966!
But the difference between this lousy Cubs team and other previous lousy Cubs teams was that as the ë66 season progressed, the Cubs actually kept getting better and better. Sure, they lost 103 games, but they played over .500 for most of the month of September, and Don Kessinger said the guys felt like they were really starting to ìjellî as a team.
By the 1966 mid-season All-Star break, the Cubs ìusualî lineup looked like this:
Adolfo Phillips, CF
Glenn Beckert, 2B
Billy Williams, LF
Ron Santo, 3B
Ernie Banks, 1B
Byron Browne, RF
Randy Hundley, C
Don Kessinger, SS
The starting rotation at the start of the í66 season was Jackson-Buhl-Ellsworth-Broglio-Holtzman, with Abernathy-Hendley-Koonce-Hands-Hoeft-Faul in the bullpen. Jackson, Buhl, Ellsworth, and Broglio had been members of the starting rotation in 1965, and 20-year old rookie Holtzman--less than a year removed from the campus of the University of Illinoisóimpressed Durocher in Spring Training to such an extent that Leo replaced Bob Hendley in the rotation with Holtzman, moving the versatile and valuable Hendley to the bullpen.
When Fergie Jenkins arrived in Chicago, he told Jack Brickhouse on the ì10th Inning Showî (I remember the interview well) that he preferred to pitch out of the bullpen, because he did not like to sit around for several days between starts. So Leo initially put Jenkins in the bullpen, and he was one out-STANDING relief pitcher! Holland acquired a couple of veteran starting pitchers (Robin Roberts and Curt Simmons) to replace Jackson and Buhl in the starting rotation. And it was during this period when the Cubs played their worst baseball in 1966.
In August, with the 1966 season already A Nightmare on Addison Street, Leo moved Jenkins and Hands from the bullpen to the starting rotation, replacing Broglio and Roberts. This made the starting rotation solid 1-4 (Jenkins-Holtzman-Hands-Simmons), but Ellsworth was really struggling (he lost 22 games in 1966, allowing a whopping 321 hits in just 269 IP). Moving Jenkins and Hands to the starting rotation also greatly weakened the bullpen, with 1965 stalwart relievers Ted Abernathy and Bob Humphreys having been traded earlier in the season to make room in the bullpen for Hands and Jenkins.
It would have been nice if the Cubs had had the foresight to hang onto Abernathy and Humphreys (both of whom pitched very well for another five years or so), because the bullpen would be the Cubsí achilles heel for the duration of Durocherís tenure as Cubs manager. Basically, the Cubs bullpen never recovered from the combination of trading Abernathy and Humphreys and moving Jenkins and Hands to the starting rotation.
After the horrible 1966 season, Leo told Holland to ìback up the truck,î and the result was that the Cubs got rid of almost all of their players over the age of 30, except Banks, Simmons, Altman, and Lee Thomas, and Altman and Thomas were dumped early in the 1967 season (although veteran OFs Al Spangler and Ted Savage were subsequently brought on-board to platoon in RF).
The one notable off-season trade was 27-year old lefty starter Dick Ellsworth to the Phillies for 25-year old RHP Ray Culp, and that was a very good trade for the Cubs. The problem is, Culp was traded to Boston after only one season with the Cubs (for Rudy SCHLESINGER!!?!!), and Culp did pretty well for the Red Sox, winning 16 games in 1968, 17 games in 1969, 17 games in 1970, and 14 games in 1971 (all the while the Cubs were looking for a reliable #4 starter!). Trading Ray Culp after the 1967 season was one of the worst TACTICAL
trades the Cubs have ever made, because that was the very guy they needed most in 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971.
Or to put it another way: If the Cubs hadnít traded Ray Culp to Boston after the 1967 season, they would have had a very good chance to win the N. L. East in 1969 and a GREAT
chance to win the N. L. East in 1970.
Leo also desperately wanted to get rid of Ernie Banks, but Phil Wrigley would NEVER agree to trade Ern. That was the one thing that Leo wanted that he couldnít get. He could not get rid of Ernie Banks. Leo could not stand Ernieís cheerfulness, optimism, and ìletís play two!î good fellowship, believing that nice guys like Ernie were losers, and Leo absolutely HATED losers.
But even with Ernie Banks still playing 1B and hitting 5th in the order, the 1967 Cubs were a young and hungry team that was NOT your fatherís Cubs. This was the type of team Leo envisioned back when he was named Cubs manager after the 1965 season. A group of talented, feisty, and (mostly) YOUNG players:
The biggest problem facing the ë67 Cubs was Ken Holtzman getting called up to active duty in the military in May and missing most of the rest of the season (he was 5-0 when he got called-up, then came back later in the season to pitch whenever he could get a Weekend Pass, and he ended up 9-0!). I was at Holtzmanís last game before he left. It was a sunny Saturday in May, and the Cubs beat the Dodgers 20-3. Ted Savage stole home (and it was a Jackie Robinson-style ìrealî steal of home, too, not one of those ìback-end of a double-stealî jobs). I still have the scorecard from that game.
Besides losing Holtzman to Uncle Sam, aging Curt Simmons wasnít as effective as he had been in 1966. Also, the previously valuable Bob Hendley suddenly sucked working out of the bullpen, and Leo lost patience with Calvin Koonce (the late 60ís Cubs version of Kyle Farnsworth). And speaking of losing patience with Cal Koonce, one of Leoís main faults while with the Cubs was that once he had developed a contending team (1967-68), he began to distrust young players, the very type of player who got the Cubs into a position to contend in the first place!
With Holtzman in the military and Simmons struggling, Bill Hands and Joe Niekro were moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation (joining Fergie Jenkins and rookie Rich Nye), leaving Chuck Hartenstein as the lone arm in the bullpen that Leo trusted in critical situations. So naturally Leo just kept using Hartenstein over and over and over, until he wore him out. Even Dick ìThe Monsterî Radatzówho couldnít find home plate if his life depended on itówas acquired from Cleveland at one point to try and bolster the bullpen.
One other thing Durocher did was run his starting lineup into the ground. For instance, iron-man catcher Randy ìRebelî Hundley played in 149 games in 1966, 152 games in 1967, 160 games in 1968, and 151 games in 1969, Billy Williams set a National League ìconsectutive games playedî record, Santo, Kessinger, and Beckert played upwards of 160 games a year, and even the elderly Banks played 150+ annually.
The grind REALLY got to hyper-sensitive CF Adolfo Phillips, who worried so much about failure that he developed a stomach ulcer. This caused Leo to decide to switch Kessinger and Phillips, moving Kessinger to the lead-off spot and Phillips to the #8 spot (where there was supposedly ìless pressureî). Unfortunately, although Kessinger improved a lot as a hitter after he learned to switch-hit, Phillips still had the better OBP circa 1966-68, which should have made him a better choice to hit #1, stomach ulcer or no stomach ulcer.
My favorite memory of the í67 Cubs was when they went into 1st place (17 games over .500) after the 1st game of a DH on July 2. And then after falling back, they beat the Cardinals in St. Louis three weeks later and went back into a tie for 1st place, the latest any of us kids could remember the Cubs being in 1st place. They were 16 games over .500 at that point, but then they faded in the heat of August and September.
The Cubs finished 87-74 in 1967 in 3rd place 14 GB the 1st place Cardinals, with their best W-L record since they won the N. L. pennant in 1945!
Going into the 1968 season, the main ìholesî on the Cubs were RF and the bullpen. Holtzman was back from military service, and joined Jenkins, Hands, Niekro, and Nye to form one of the best young starting rotations in baseball (but it would have been even better with Ray Culp, because then Bill Hands could have stayed in the bullpen).
So trading Culp was mistake #1.
During the off-season after the 1967 season, the Cubs also acquired former Cub "Sweet Lou" Johnson (in exchange for #1 utility IF Paul Popovich) from the Dodgers to play RF. Johnson, one of several of Buck OíNeillís Kansas City Monarchs players acquired by the Cubs in the 1950ís, had been the Dodgers everyday LF for several seasons, and had played on a couple of pennant-winning teams (1965 & 1966) in L. A., so he seemed like the perfect piece to complete the Cub OF puzzle. But he had broken his leg in 1965, and (unbeknownst to the Cubs) apparently never really recovered from it. He lost the ability to ìdriveî the ball, and was totally lost in RF. And without Popovich around to play SS-2B, Kessinger and Beckert never got a day off.
So acquiring Lou Johnson to be the everyday RF was mistake #2, although it was probably a reasonable idea.
Mistake #3 was failing to address the bullpen during the off-season. This was inexcusable. As a lot of us Cubs fans expected, Chuck Hartenstein (who had difficulty pitching in clutch situations as the Cubs went deeper and deeper into the 1967 season) struggled in 1968, which left only veteran retread Jack Lamabe as a reliable reliever, and he did not have the stuff to be a ìfireman.î
So with Johnson a ìbustî in RF, and with the bullpen having more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese, Holland pulled off a slick ìsaving graceî deal with the Dodgers in May, acquiring veteran ìfiremanî (and suspected ìgreaserî) Phil Regan and RF Jim Hickman (who was initially used in a platoon with Al Spangler in RF) in exchange for a young pitching prospect (Jim Ellis) and veteran OF Ted Savage. Along with the deals that netted Hundley, Hands, Phillips, Jenkins, and Culp, the Regan/Hickman deal was one of the better ones executed by John Holland up to that point in time, mainly because it filled two critical holes.
Holland also somehow managed to con the Cleveland Indians into taking Lou Johnson in exchange for LHP-1B-OF-PH Willie Smith, who turned out to be one of the best combinations of a pinch-hitter & blues singer ever to play for the Cubs. So Smitty instantly made the Cubs bench pretty good (for a change), giving Leo his new Dusty Rhodes (the guy who hit two PH HRs good for 7 RBI for the Giants in the 1954 World Series).
The Cubs played around .500 until midway in the í68 season, then they got ìhotî and looked like they would mount a challenge to the Cardinals, only to suffer an inconvenient six game losing streak in mid-August that effectively torpedoed their chances. The Cards and Giants were still just a little better, and so the Cubs once again finished in 3rd place in 1968, 13 GB the Cards with an 84-78 record (3-1/2 games off their í67 pace).
1968 was the end of baseball as we knew it. For those of you too young to remember, prior to 1969, the team in each league with the best record went directly to the World Series. There were no ìdivisions,î no ìLCS,î no ìWild Card,î just a ìwham, bam, thank you ma'amî pennant race that led directly to the World Series, do not pass go, do not collect $50,000.
Finishing 2nd or 3rd put a team ìin the money.î Obviously the pennant winner got the ìbig bucks,î but the 2nd and 3rd place teams got a piece of the pie, too, so it was important to try and finish 2nd or 3rd if you couldnít win the pennant, and teams would actually play really hard at the end of the of the season trying to finish 2nd or 3rd. Itís hard to understand this now, but back then, before ìfree-agency,î the "place" and "show" money that was paid to each player on a 2nd or 3rd place team often exceeded what some players made in salary for the whole season!
Beginning in 1969, with expansion that increased the number of clubs in each league from 10 to 12, MLB instituted so-called ìdivisional play,î with six teams in each divsion (a team played the other five teams in its own division 18 times each--nine home and nine road, and each team in the other division 12 times each--six home and six road), with a best 3-out-of-5 ìLCSî playoff after the regular season prior to the World Series. For the first time, the team with the best regular season record in each league MIGHT NOT play in the World Series. This was RADICAL stuff in 1969, let me tell you!
Originally, the Cubs and Cardinals were supposed to be in the N. L. West with the Dodgers, Giants, Astros, and expansion Padres, while the Reds and Braves (both located in cities in the Eastern time zone) were supposed to be assigned to the N. L. East. But because the Cardinals, Giants, and Cubs finished 1-2-3 in the N. L. in both 1967 and 1968, N. L. owners decided to divide the teams more evenly, based on where the clubs finished in 1968, while at the same time, making sure to keep the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry intact within the same division. So thatís how come Cincinnati and Atlanta (though located east of Chicago and St. Louis and in the Eastern time zone ) were in the N. L. West back when there were only two divisions in each league.
The assignments were made like this (1969 division assignment in parenthesis):
1. St. Louis 97-65 (EAST)
2. San Francisco 88-74 (WEST)
3. CUBS 84-78 (EAST)
4. Cincinnati 83-79 (WEST)
5. Atlanta 81-81 (WEST)
6. Pittsburgh 80-82 (EAST)
7t. L. A. 76-86 (WEST)
7t. Phillies 76-86 (EAST)
9. Mets 73-89 (EAST)
10. Astros 72-90 (WEST)
Looking at the new "divisions," the Cubs and their fans (like me, for instance) believed their main competition in 1969 would come from the Cardinals and POSSIBLY the Pirates, but that was it. The Phils, Mets, and Expos werenít taken seriouslyÖ
So itís on to 1969! CUB POWER!
KEY CUBS TRADES 1965-1968
WINTER MEETINGS 1965:
Traded RHP Lindy McDaniel and OF Don Landrum to SF for C Randy Hundley and RHP Bill Hands.
COMMENT: This was one of the all-time best trades the Cubs ever made.
Thanks to their groundbreaking foray into the Dominican Republic in the 1950's, the Giants had one of the top farm systems in baseball in 1965. (Almost every Dominican player in major league baseball circa 1965 was originally signed by the Giants).
The Giants #1 need post-season 1965 was for a bullpen "fireman," and McDaniel was one of the best in baseball. And he was only 30 years old (which was young for a proven "fireman"). And (most importantly) he was AVAILABLE for PROSPECTS.
From his work broadcasting the "Major League Baseball Game of the Week" in 1965, and with his many contacts throughout baseball, Leo Durocher knew all about the top prospects in baseball in 1965 (including Hundley and Hands), so Leo knew just who John Holland should ask for when the Giants came calling about McDaniel. And the Cubs had Ted Abernathy and Bob Humphreys still left in the bullpen, so McDaniel was definitely "expendable."
Although he had been the Cubs everyday CF off-and-on for a couple of years, Landrum was best-suited to be a back-up defensive specialist who could pinch-run and then stay in a game as a late-inning defensive replacement, which is what he did with the Giants in '66.
SPRING TRAINING 1966:
Traded RHP Bob Humphreys to WAS for OF Ken Hunt.
COMMENT: A seemingly "minor" trade that was a BAD trade because of unforeseen ramifications.
Along with Ted Abernathy and Lindy McDaniel, Bob Humphreys had been a valuable and reliable relief pitcher for the Cubs in 1965, but he had a bad Spring Training in 1966, so he got traded for Ken Hunt, who had been an everyday OF with the A. L. expansion Los Angeles Angels just a couple of years earlier. Leo saw RF as a "black hole," so Holland "rounded up the usual suspects" (outfielders with major league experience who could play RF), including Hunt, Carl Warwick, Wes Covington, Billy Cowan, Frank Thomas, and Marty Keough, and then Leo decided on an in-house candidate (rookie Byron Browne) anyway. Hunt went directly to AAA and never actually played for the Cubs.
Humphreys would go on to be one of the better relievers in the American League over the next five years, with the Washington Senators and Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs sure could have used him in 1967-70!
Traded RHPs Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl to PHI for RHP Ferguson Jenkins, CF Adolfo Phillips, and 1B John Herrnstein.
COMMENT: Another one of the best trades in Cubs history.
Durocher and Holland really rolled the dice on this one, trading their top two starting pitchers for two unproven prospects. But once again, Leo knew best.
Jenkins would become a Hall of Famer, and Phillips SHOULD HAVE BEEN one of the game's best CF & lead-off hitters (and he WAS pretty good the first two or three years he played for the Cubs), but he was EXTREMELY sensitive and prone to nervous exhaustion and stomach ulcers. If Phillips could have overcome his emotional problems and played CF and hit lead-off, the Cubs would have had a superior team to the one they ultimately fielded in 1969.
Herrnstein was only with the Cubs for about a month, before being traded to ATL for Marty Keough (one of the "usual suspects" Holland rounded up to compete for the RF job).
Traded RHP Ted Abernathy to ATL for 1B-OF Lee Thomas.
COMMENT: Another bad "minor" trade that passed under the radar.
Bill Hands and Ferguson Jenkins were working out of the bullpen at this point in time, so Abernathy was "expendadble." Thomas was a good lefty PH, but Abernathy was one of the better relief pitchers in baseball over a period of several years.
Like with Humphreys, the Cubs really could have used Abernathy in 1967 and 1968, and once they did reacquire him (prior to the 1969 season), Leo kept going to the obviously worn-out Phil Regan in clutch situations late in the '69 season, instead of giving Abernathy the ball. Leo admitted "putting all of his eggs in Regan's basket and not using Abernathy enough" was the one big mistake he made in August-September 1969, and it may indeed have been the most significant mistake made by Leo that season.
Purchased LHP Curt Simmons from STL.
COMMENT: Simmons was 37 years old and in the "twilight" of his career. He was one of the first post-WWII "bonus babies," and had been one of the best lefty starters in the National League for nearly 20 years, pitching for the Whiz Kid Phillies N. L. pennant-winning club in 1950, and teaming with Robin Roberts to form the Phillies 1-2 starting pitching punch in the 1950's. Simmons replaced Ernie Broglio in the starting rotation, and did a decent job for a couple of seasons.
WINTER MEETINGS 1966:
Traded LHP Dick Ellsworth to PHI for RHP Ray Culp.
COMMENT: An EXCELLENT trade, except the Cubs only kept Culp for one season.
The still young (27 years old) Ellsworth had been a starting pitcher for the Cubs for seven seasons (winning 22 games with a 2.11 ERA in 1963, before losing 22 in 1966).
Along with Ferguson Jenkins, Culp was one of the Phillies best young pitchers. He went 36-28 as a starter over a three-year period (1963-65), before being moved to the bullpen in 1966. When the Cubs got him, Culp was only 25, the same age as Jenkins, and younger than Bill Hands.
Signed FA OF Al Spangler (three days after he was released by CAL).
COMMENT: Spangler had been a left-handed hitting "4th OF" for several years, with the Braves, Colt .45s, and Angels. He had little power, but did the "little things" it took to win (Leo's kinda guy!). Spanky turned out be a valuable player for the Cubs, platooning in RF 1967-69 and getting some big PHs.
Traded LHP Fred Norman to LA for RHP Dick Calmus.
COMMENT: Not that the Dodgers knew any better, either, but Norman would become one of the top lefty starters in th National League in the 1970's, first with SD, and later with the "Big Red Machine" in Cincinnati.
Traded OF Don Young to STL for OF Ted Savage.
COMMENT: Yes, THAT Don Young. (The Cubs reacquired him in a cash deal a couple of months later).
Young was on an I-55 milk run, going back and forth between the Cubs and Cardinals twice each in the years 1964-67.
Savage was a veteran right-handed hitting platoon OF (he platooned with Wes Covington on the star-crossed '64 Phillies club).
Claimed RHP Pete Mikkelsen off waivers from PIT.
COMMENT: An ex-Yankees reliever the Cubs had for a short time, Mikkelsen would have been a good addition to the Cubs bullpen 1969-72. Except he got traded.
Sold RHP Cal Koonce to the NYM
COMMENT: The Cubs finally got tired of waiting for Koonce to develop consistency, so they sold the 26-year old right-hander to the Mets for "cash." Koonce was an integral member of the 1969 World Series Champion Mets' bullpen. Cubs could have used HIM, too.
WINTER MEETINGS 1967:
1. Traded RHP Ray Culp to BOS for RHP Rudy Schelesinger.
2. Traded INF Paul Popovich and OF Jim Williams to LA for OF Lou Johnson.
COMMENT: John Holland should have stayed home.
Culp was a solid, young (26 years old at the time of this trade) rotation starter for the Red Sox for several years (64 wins 1968-71), and would have been the 4th member of the Cubs starting rotation throughout the Durocher Years, except he got traded.
Rudy Schlesinger was returned to Boston in 1968, so the Cubs ended up with nothing to show for Culp.
"Sweet Lou" Johnson was an ex-Cub. He was one of several ex-Kansas City Monarchs (NAL) acquired by the Cubs (thanks to Wrigley's friendship with Monarchs manager Buck O'Neill) in the 1950's, but had been traded away several years previous (to the Angels). In the meantime, he developed into an everyday LF with the Dodgers, playing with a hyper-enthusiasm (Ernie Banks on amphetamines) in the field and on the bases that made him a darling with Dodger fans. He also had a weird habit of compulsively clapping his hands as he ran around the bases.
Lou suffered a broken leg in 1966 or 1967, and by the time the Cubs got him, he had difficulty driving the ball and playing defense in RF. After a horrible couple of months to start the '68 season, the Cubs sent Sweet Lou to Cleveland for Willie Smith, which WAS a good trade. Except RF was still a problem.
Popovich was a good back-up middle INF, and was reacquired by the Cubs in 1969.
Traded RHP Pete Mikkelsen to STL for RJP Jack Lamabe.
COMMENT: A seemingly pedestrian deal that was a very bad trade, as it turned out. Lamabe pitched OK out of the bullpen for the Cubs in 1968, but Mikkelsen was still going strong (for the Dodgers) years after Lamabe was out of baseball.
The day after the Cubs traded Mikkelsen to the Cards, they traded OF Ted Savage and LHP Jim Ellis to LA for RHP Phil Regan and OF Jim Hickman.
COMMENT: This was a good deal that saved Holland and Durocher from having NOBODY left in the bullpen.
Regan was known as "The Vulture" because he went 14-1 for the Dodgers in 1966 while pitching out of the bullpen, winning a lot of those games as a result of relieving Koufax or Drysdale after one of them had pitched a gem, coming into a 0-0 or 1-1 game in the 9th, pitching one inning, and getting the win after the Dodgers pushed across a run in the bottom of the 9th. Regan also was believed to throw a "vaseline" ball, which he supposedly "loaded" by touching his neck after each pitch. ( I say "supposedly" only because it was never actually proven in a court of law).
Hickman had been an everyday OF with the Mets 1962-65, but by 1968 he was back in AAA. (Only players with ten or more years of MLB service time could refuse a minor league assignment in these times). So the Cubs resurrected his career. Hickman had some fine years with the Cubs 1969-72 (playing at various times RF-CF-1B), including an appearance in the 1970 All-Star Game.
KEY CUBS AMATEUR DRAFT (RULE 4 DRAFT) PICKS 1965-68
x - denotes did not sign with Cubs
Joe Decker, RHP (HS - IOWA)
x - Darrell Evans, 3B (HS - California)
Ken Holtzman, LHP (Illinois)
x - Tom House, LHP (USC)
Garry Jestadt, INF (HS - Illinois)
Ken Rudolph, C (HS - Illionois)
COMMENT: Durocher tabbed Holtzman to be a member of the Cubs starting rotation out of Spring Training 1966, less than a year after Holtzman was signed off the campus of the University of Illinois. Holtzman had a lengthy career as a starting pitcher in the big leagues (Cubs, A's, Orioles, and Yankees).
Decker was traded (with Bill Hands) to the Twins in 1972 in an ill-advised trade for lefty reliever Dave LaRoche.
Joe Niekro, RHP (West Liberty)
Rich Nye, LHP (California)
Bill Stoneman, RHP (Idaho)
Archie Reynolds, RHP (HS - California)
COMMENT: So you think players and pitchers today don't spend enough time in the minors? Like Holtzman the year before, Niekro, Nye, and Stoneman were pitching in the major leagues less than a year after they signed with the Cubs off their respective college campuses.
Niekro (brother of Braves Hall of Famer Phil Niekro and father of Giants 1B Lance Niekro) was included in the deal for Dick Selma in 1969, and won 221 games in 22 big league seasons (mostly with the Houston Astros) AFTER the Cubs traded him.
Stoneman was left unprotected and was chosen by Montreal in the 1968 expansion draft, and had some success as a starting pitcher for the Expos in the early 1970's.
Archie Reynolds was traded to the Angels for veteran LHP Juan Pizarro in 1970.
Randy Bobb, C (Arizona State)
x - Ken Forsch, RHP (Oregon State)
Gary Ross, RHP (Grand View)
COMMENT: 1967 1st Round pick Randy Bobb was traded to the Mets at the end of Spring Training 1970 (after Leo had announced that Bobb had made the 25-man roster as Randy Hundley's back-up) for veteran C-1B J. C. Martin. Durocher said Bobb's emotional reaction to the trade (the Mets sent him to AAA) was heart-wrenching.
Ross was part of the Selma deal with the Padres in 1969.
Signing Ken Forsch would have been nice.
Oscar Gamble, OF (HS - Alabama)
Francisco Libran, SS (FA - PUERTO RICO)
Paul Reuschel, RHP (Western Illinois)
COMMENT: Oscar Gamble was signed by Buck O'Neill (who went back to scouting for the Cubs after the College of Coaches was dissolved) and was 19 years old and the Cubs top prospect in November 1969 when he and his afro were traded to the Phillies (along with RHP Dick Selma) for veteran RF Johnny Callison. (The deal for Callison was probably the worst deal executed by the Cubs during the Durocher years).
Francisco Libran was the best amateur player the Cubs signed out of Puerto Rico in the 1960's, a defensive whiz who was the third player sent to San Diego in the deal for Dick Selma in 1969, but he never could hit big league pitching.
Rick Reuschel's older brother, the younger-than-he-looks P. Reuschel pitched out of the bullpen for the Cubs (and Indians) in the years 1975-79. Paul had short hair and wore horn-rimmed glasses, so WGN-TV director Arne Harris put up one of those side-by-side "separated at birth" photographs comparing Paul Reuschel to Jack Brickhouse (who was about 60 at the time), and DANG IT, they DID look a lot alike!