I have always wondered that if someone could make a minor change here and there to the timeline, how different being a Cub fan might be. Cub history is littered with so many momentary adverse events that with an occasional tweak, the one hundred year World Series drought would never have been an issue. With just a little help from Mr. Peabody and the Wayback Machine--voilà: Lee Smith throws a different pitch to Garvey, Leon Durham bends just a little lower to field that grounder or Alex Gonzalez actually turns that 8th inning double play.
Here’s a time-warped tale of modern day Orthopedics coming to the Cubs rescue! In order to tell the story of the World Series Shuffle, I went to one of my favorite TV programs of the 1990’s and discovered there were missing episodes in the archives.
QUANTUM LEAP – The Chicago Cubs Episode
SHOW PREMISE: Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula, yes he’s also Captain Archer on Star Trek: Enterprise) leads a team of elite scientists to develop the top-secret project known as Quantum Leap. Pressured to prove his theories or lose government funding (some things never change), Dr. Beckett prematurely stepped into the quantum project accelerator... and disappeared. He finds himself in the past, looking in the mirror and seeing an image that was not his own. In each episode, he has to figure out who and where he is before he tries to straighten out whatever mess he’s in. Fortunately he gets some help and contact with his own time through brainwave transmissions with Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), the project military observer, who can communicate in the form of a hologram and aid our hero with historical facts. Naturally, only Sam can see and hear his sidekick. Trapped in the past, Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap would be the leap home.
THIS EPISODE'S LEAP: Dr. Sam Beckett finds himself as young budding star orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Frank Jobe. The time is October 1964. In Dr. Jobe’s clinic to be examined is recently traded Chicago Cub pitcher Ernie Broglio, with a sore elbow.
Before he was traded, Broglio had pitched 5 seasons with St. Louis ranging from 180-250 innings. His success included seasons of 21-9 and 18-8. He was acquired to bolster the top of a rotation that included such workhorse pitchers as ace Larry Jackson, lefty Dick Ellsworth and veteran Bob Buhl. The offense included 1958-59 season’s MVP Ernie Banks and young offensive stars, sweet swinging Billy Williams and slugging third baseman, Ron Santo. All it cost to get this stud pitcher was a 25 year old inconsistent hitter (.251 in 1964, .258 in 1963) and error prone outfielder named Lou.
Now back in 1964 a pitcher with a sore elbow (there was no MRI imaging to diagnose this yet) was dead meat. Common advice from the treating doc was “Sorry fella, you might start thinking about working for the Wrigley Company selling gum”. Cortisone shots were all there was to offer and they were of no help (actually they make the problem worse, weakening the ligament tissue).
From a Greg Couch article in the Sun-Times (circa, May 2000) comes this info on Broglio and his medical treatment:
Broglio said he took 21 cortisone shots in 1962 for his sore shoulder. Who knows what the problem was? By the time he came to the Cubs in 1964, he was taking more regular cortisone in his elbow. Back then, he said, teams didn't make trades contingent on players passing physicals. And one morning, he said, he woke up and couldn't move his arm at all.
Broglio’s career at that point dwindled to 50 innings pitched in 1965 and 62 innings in 1966. That was it. After 1966, they put a fork in his pitching career (no knife would help back then). That was the natural history of a pitcher with a torn ulnar collateral ligament on the inside/medial aspect of the elbow back in the 60’s.
In fact, the prognosis for such a pitching injury wouldn’t change until 1975, ten years later. In the 1974 season, Dodger pitcher Tommy John had some elbow soreness that limited him to 22 starts (he’d averaged 33 starts the previous 5 season). This was before MRI’s were available, so it wasn’t the technology that helped make the earliest diagnosis, let alone figure out a treatment. It was just inspired knowledge and understanding of the anatomy by a pioneer surgeon. When TJ’s elbow went south in 1975, Dr. Jobe was told by the Dodgers to do something surgical, anything he could think up that would help. The subsequent technology advances such as arthroscopy and MRI imaging have made the diagnosis much easier to make but in 1975 they were not at his disposal.
Tommy John missed the 1975 season recovering from a surgery that borrowed a “spare” tendon (the palmaris longus) from the forearm and Dr. Jobe replaced the damaged ligament with this spare part, stabilizing the pitchers elbow and allowing him to once again pitch effectively at the major league level. John in 1976 had 31 starts (207 Innings). The next two years he pitched in the post-season including two World Series games.
Dr. Sam Beckett (being a die-hard Cubs fan) realized that pitcher Broglio was a focal point in time. He would become known for being on one end of the most lopsided trades in all of baseball history. Lou Brock, had he stayed a Cub would have been the leadoff hitter, base stealer and centerfielder that the Cubs infamous 1969 team was lacking.
Unfortunately, Dr. Beckett didn’t Quantum Shift into the body of Cub GM John Holland on June 15th, 1964. If he had, the episode would have had him put a halt to that trade and... Well maybe that’s another lost archive episode, albeit without the orthopedics.
We all know what happened to the 1969 Cubs without Lou Brock, but what if the 1969 Cubs had a healthy Ernie Broglio?
Beckett knowledge of the future allows Dr. Jobe to reconstruct Broglio’s elbow that fall of 1965 and invent the operation ten years ahead of schedule. Being a leading TV show actor, Bakula naturally gets scenes with lovely OR nurses to flirt with him while he sweats out the operation on Broglio. Sidekick Al reads directions on how—to—do—surgery, Bob Vila and "This Old House" style, which on TV seems plausible considering his doctor degree was in Physics (not Orthopedics).
The pitcher misses the 1966 season while rehabbing, which wasn’t such a bad thing. The Cubs in 1965, after seeing their acquisition from St. Louis go up in smoke finished in 8th place (ahead of expansion Astro and Met teams). So 1966 was the year, new Cub manager, Leo Durocher is quoted as saying “this is not an 8th place team”…so they promptly finished the ‘66 season in 10th place.
Per the Quantum Leap formula, Bakula expects to shortly move on to the next episode (…muttering something about having to dress up as a Miss Deep South Beauty Pageant contestant). To wrap the Cub episode, his timeline impact needed to be spelled out (the show is only 40 minutes without commercials). As his time being Dr. Jobe/Beckett is counting down, Sidekick Al reads to Dr. Beckett from the timeline altered Baseball Encyclopedia, quoting stats from the 1969 season.
What we remember is that the Cubs fortunes were improving in the late 60’s due to a few shrewd trades including ace pitcher Ferguson Jenkins (who arrived in a 1966 trade involving Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl), catcher Randy Hundley and unsung starting pitcher "Froggy" Bill Hands (for reliever Lindy McDaniel and outfielder Don Landrum), draft/signing acquisitions of a solid middle infield combo of Glenn Beckert and Don Kessinger.
We also know Broglio didn’t have any stats for the 1969 season. When Al reads Broglio’s 1969 line of 205 Innings, 32 starts and a 20-9 record, they stick out like a sore elbow. Fergie Jenkins won 21 that year. Bill Hands went 20-14 and Ken Holtzman went 17-13. Instead of 92 wins, Al says the Cubs with Broglio won 103 games and didn’t fold in September (take that Black Cat).
OUTTRO: Ron Santo clicking his heels after a game saving diving stop to throw out Brooks Robinson, winning the 1969 World Series in 5 games.
…Fading exit, cut to Santo’s introduction Hall of Fame speech in Cooperstown in 1980. Ah, that’s what I call timeline change collateral impact.
…Followed by the credits, with a background of Tribune sports page headlines from 1999. Kerry Wood HAS ELBOW SURGERY. Whoa, his operation was the Ernie Broglio elbow ligament reconstruction ("EB elbow surgery").
POSTSCRIPT: Apparently, according to sidekick Al, it’s only been 38 seasons since the Cubs have won a World Series but nobody’s counting anymore.