Baseball Under Glass Blog

Chicagoan ‘Stelly’ honored as lifelong Twins coach, but will always be a one-time Cub

Photos and baseball card courtesy of John Wroblewski.

John Wroblewski (left) chatw with old South Chicago neighbor Rick Stelmaszek (right) during a visit to Minneapolis' Target Field.

John Wroblewski (left) chatw with old South Chicago neighbor Rick Stelmaszek (right) during a visit to Minneapolis’ Target Field.

Rick Stelmaszek garnered deserved respect at the longest tenured Minnesota Twins employee and the third-longest serving coach, at 32 years, in big-league history.

But it was then-catcher Stelmaszek’s cup-of-coffee as a Chicago Cub that I brought up whenever I’d say hello to “Stelly,” his nickname known to all in his innumerable visits back home to Guaranteed Rate Field, nee U.S. Cellular Field, and built in 1989-90 as new Comiskey Park. And he had 10 seasons coming through the original Comiskey Park across the street.

I witnessed Stelly’s sole big-league homer off Hall of Famer Don Sutton in a lost-cause game on Aug. 20, 1974 at Wrigley Field. The last of four catchers the Cubs employed in that 96-loss, last-place season, Stelly’s blast reached the catwalk with a man on in the sixth inning. Over the decades, other accounts no doubt have the blast lengthening ‘til it banged off a building on the other side of Sheffield Avenue.

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Category Baseball Under Glass Blog, Chicago Baseball History News Tags
 

The eighth try is the charm in Davey Martinez’s managerial quest

Davey Martinez was a three-time Cub before he was named Nationals manager. Photo used with permission of Jeff Briscoe at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffbriscoe/.

Davey Martinez was a three-time Cub before he was named Nationals manager. Photo used with permission of Jeff Briscoe.

If any of us had the number of job rejections Davey Martinez experienced, we’d likely have gone nuts.

The brand-new Washington Nationals manager and three-time Cub (twice a player and for the last three years Joe Maddon’s bench coach) has been qualified for years to move up to run his own team. Maybe, as Jim Riggleman once experienced in a long dry spell, he was not politically in with the GM to get the managing job. Maybe it just wasn’t his time.

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Category Baseball Under Glass Blog, Chicago Baseball History News Tags
 

Mad managers throw postseason pitching up for grabs

Dave Roberts showed the long and short of odd pitching moves in Game 2 of the World Series.

Dave Roberts showed the long and short of odd pitching moves in Game 2 of the World Series.

Mad managers.

Not Mad Men. This is not a throwback.

Did you like the 11:30 p.m. Central wrapup of Game 2 of the World Series? Maybe the memorable 7-6 Astros victory is shortened by a half hour if Dodgers manager Dave Roberts does not pull an effective Rich Hill after four innings of one-run ball. In turn, Roberts does not automatically call on Kenley Jansen to attempt a six-out save to start the eighth. And, finally, Roberts doesn’t run out of relief pitchers by the time ex-White Sox Brandon McCarthy allowed the final Astros comeback in the 11th inning.

Craziness is running rampant in the managers’ handling of pitchers the past two postseasons. Shutdown starters are being pulled short of qualifying for a win. Closers are being inserted in mid-game, or are being called on to double their accustomed workload in the eighth.

We are witnessing the downside of sabermetrics.

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Category Baseball Under Glass Blog, Chicago Baseball History News Tags
 

Theo’s first ‘re-tooling’ job at hand for off-season

Theo Epstein's off-season work can be classified as "re-tooling."

Theo Epstein’s off-season work can be classified as “re-tooling.”

Part 3 of Theo Epstein’s regime begins now.

First was tear-down and rebuilding, revenue and attendance and broadcast ratings and 56-year moorings on WGN-Radio be damned.

Then came a kind of playoff buildup and climax, completed via a fortuitous rain delay and rah-rah Jason Heyward speech.

Now comes a necessary re-tooling and internal organizational examination.

The Cubs know how to step on the gas without exhaustion and collapses in the second half of seasons. Although now a questionable post-season in-game manager, Joe Maddon has proved to be the unlocker of secrets of how to finish strong in Wrigley Field – simply by lightening the traditional pre-game workload.

But some aspects of the Cubs roster have an expiration date after a somewhat shaky postseason, when often-stumblebum play by the otherwise gilded Washington Nationals handed the Cubs an NLCS berth against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They were not up to the task.

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Category Baseball Under Glass Blog, Chicago Baseball History News Tags
 

‘Deep depth’ cuts several ways for postseason Chicago Cubs

Ian Happ's early arrival gave the Cubs too much depth where Albert Almora was concerned.

Ian Happ’s early arrival gave the Cubs too much depth where Albert Almora was concerned.

Wherever Jerry Krause is now, he’d say the Cubs possess “deep depth.”

The double three-peat Bulls GM was also a crafty baseball scout. Krause would smile ear-to-ear at the position-player options – some say too many – that Joe Maddon possesses as the Cubs once again advance deep into the postseason.

Going into their second straight National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs faced the usual matchup-and-rest questions.

How much will their grueling five-game Division Series against the Washington Nationals, followed by their cross-country flight taking up part of the off-day, take away from their edge? Then the usual opponent vs. opponent scenarios: rested lefties Clayton Kershaw and ex-Cub Rich Hill along with lights-out closer Kenley Jansen against the Cubs lineup, compared with getting Cubs closer Wade Davis back on track after his longest – and somewhat shaky – outing of the year to close out Game 5 vs. the Nats.

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Category Baseball Under Glass Blog, Chicago Baseball History News Tags
 

Kyle Hendricks has out-Madduxed Greg Maddux as a Chicago Cub

Kyle Hendricks came into the NLDS with an excellent postseason statistical line.

Kyle Hendricks came into the NLDS with an excellent postseason statistical line.

Since the well-struck Will Clark baseball disappeared far over Sheffield Avenue into the dark of night, we all lost sight of it. The ball seemed to keep going, so it could be past Neptune by now.

Few have tagged Greg Maddux as enthusiastically as Will The Thrill did in Game 1 of the National League Championships Series on the night of Oct. 4, 1989 at Wrigley Field. The in-orbit fourth-inning grand slam, second Clark homer in as many innings off Maddux and powering the Giants to an 11-3 victory, displayed the one little chink in master craftsman’s armor in his 355-win Hall of Fame career.

He was susceptible to good left-handed hitters early and late in his career. Frankly, in his second Cubs tenure in 2004-06, the aging Maddux was relatively easy meat for southpaw-swinging power men. And before he mastered the string-pulling fastball that headed toward a lefty hitter’s body before darting over the inside corner, Tony Gwynn was Maddux’s “daddy.”

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Category Baseball Under Glass Blog, Chicago Baseball History News Tags
 

Dusty rehash unneeded Cubs-Nats distraction in NLDS

Dusty Baker would not be human without time-tripping to his Cubs days during the NLDS. Photo credit Keith Allison, https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/

Dusty Baker would not be human without time-tripping to his Cubs days during the NLDS. Photo credit Keith Allison.

The upcoming National League Division Series between the Cubs and the Washington Nationals should be the crown jewel of the postseason.

Young stars like Las Vegas natives and youth-baseball contemporaries Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper will duel each other as former MVPs. Will a Madduxian craftsman like Kyle Hendricks be able to outpitch super-stuff practitioners like Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg? Wade Davis was 98 percent automatic in the regular season, and needs to continue that mojo without interruption.

And all must be done quickly, as the five-game series is the playoffs’ cruelest round with its abrupt elimination factor.

Too bad some unfinished Cubs business from 2003-04 will provide a sideshow: the Nationals’ Dusty Baker managing against the team he elevated, and then supposedly allowed to disintegrate.

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Category Baseball Under Glass Blog, Chicago Baseball History News Tags
 

Fool’s gold for Sox, any team to tank season to snare No. 1 draft pick

Harold Baines (right), MLB's No. 1 draft choice in 1977 who is now a White Sox ambassador, lets longtime Sox season ticket-holder Archie Fletcher try on his 2005 World Series ring.

Harold Baines (right), MLB’s No. 1 draft choice in 1977 who is now a White Sox ambassador, lets longtime Sox season ticket-holder Archie Fletcher try on his 2005 World Series ring.

Rick Renteria would be the last man who’d drive the White Sox in a march toward the rear – baseball’s worst record and the No. 1 pick in the upcoming June 2018 amateur draft.

Although the Sox came into September in contention for the reward for ignominy in their ongoing rebuilding program, manager Renteria knows anything promoting inept play is fool’s gold.

First and foremost, any hint of tanking creates a bad attitude on the field. And Renteria has been all about hustle and playing the game correctly, reflected in the Sox’s on-field efforts despite a shortage of talent. He also is breaking in Yoan Moncada into the lineup and Lucas Giolito and Reynoldo Lopez into the rotation. The latter two pitchers in particular have shown their expected promise. Renteria wants to develop a winning attitude from the get-go.

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’67 Near Miss Sox – under-loved by South-Side fans

The '67 Sox had plenty of hype to appeal to fans via fiery manager Eddie Stanky.

The ’67 Sox had plenty of hype to appeal to fans via fiery manager Eddie Stanky.

The dilemma is never adequately explained or nailed down.

Why don’t the White Sox draw more fans?

Or, more specifically, why didn’t Sox rooters — who supposedly demand winners to spin the turnstiles — turn out in greater numbers when the team was in contention, if not entrenched in first place by large margins?

The issue without an answer carried through my coverage of the Sox in this millennium. Sox management exhibited all kinds of mental gyrations to explain why the 2000 team, cruising to an easy divisional title, had plenty of seats to sell over the Labor Day weekend. Five years later, as the World Series-bound Sox zoomed to a 15-game lead, the ballpark was not bursting with near-sellouts every night.

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Eight-track player among the period pieces in Disco Demolition exhibit at Elmhurst History Museum

Steve Dahl in all his glory revving up the crowd on Disco Demolition Night. Photo by Paul Natkin.

Steve Dahl in all his glory revving up the crowd on Disco Demolition Night. Photo by Paul Natkin.

Maybe it’s just me, but my top highlight touring the Elmhurst History Museum’s ode to Disco Demolition Night 38 years ago was not the treasure trove of period-piece items that included stuff pulled from protagonist Steve Dahl’s storage locker.

Nor did they include White Sox catcher Mike Colbern’s No. 19 uniform he wore for the evening of July 12, 1979 at Old Comiskey Park or the priceless Paul Natkin black and white photos taken during the wildest promotion in baseball history.

What toots my whistle are the vintage radios and TVs which help convey the Disco Demolition story step-by-step. Millennials mesmerized by Star Trek communicators-turned-all-purpose IPhones won’t believe Baby Boomers had to consume much of their information via broadcast signals and recordings conveyed through the AM-FM radios, a retrofitted Seventies TV and an actual eight-track player complete with sample tape.

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