Chicago Baseball History News

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
 

Veecks’ Hinsdale home preserved from the wrecking ball by history-loving family

The main Veeck home (foreground) and the coach house that contained Bill Veeck's first apartment stand on an attractive corner lot in Hinsdale.

The main Veeck family home (foreground) and the coach house that contained Bill Veeck’s first apartment stand on an attractive corner lot in Hinsdale.

Written by George Castle, CBM Historian, and Dr. David J. Fletcher, CBM President
All photos courtesy of Dr. David J. Fletcher

The white frame Colonial-style house with an attendant garage-coach house, breathing easy on a corner lot on tony Hinsdale, seems modest by the mansion-size housing in every direction.

But the two structures stand tall, above everything else in the neighborhood, with their historical value.

Chicago’s baseball timeline coursed through this home in the first four decades of the 20th century. The structures, saved from the wrecking ball recently, were the home of two generations of baseball Veecks – dynamic Cubs President William L. Veeck, Sr. and his active, tousled-haired son Bill, later the Baseball Barnum and two-time White Sox owner.

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Category Chicago Baseball History Feature, 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
 

Coaches’ purge a first for a Cubs’ post-postseason

Joe Maddon obviously had the deciding vote in the departures of three key coaches.

Joe Maddon obviously had the deciding vote in the departures of three key coaches.

The new championship era provides a platform for some unprecedented Cubbie Occurrences, of the type Sweet Lou Piniella, coiner of the latter phrase, never envisioned.

Latest is the cashiering of three of Joe Maddon’s four top coaches in the wake of a 92-victory, NLCS-worthy season.

Never in the often-tortured postseason Cubs history have the hitting, pitching and third-base coaches been given the gate in the immediate aftermath of October baseball.

Field staffs are usually swept out with manager’s firings, as the coaches are typically tied in with the skipper, moving from team to team. Similar hiring/firing patterns are seen in sports media jobs.

Rare is the coach who spans five different managers, as former Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild did in a nine-season run under Don Baylor, Bruce Kimm, Dusty Baker, Piniella and Mike Quade. Rothschild was privately uncomfortable when Baker imported Dick Pole, his favorite pitching guru, in 2003 to work under Rothschild. Interestingly, Pole was Cubs pitching coach when Greg Maddux first became a big winner in 1988-89.

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Category Chicago Baseball History Feature, 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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‘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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Jim Landis one of Chicago’s all-time center fielders for Sox

Written by Mark Liptak, CBM Contributor

Jim Landis (left) and pitcher Billy Pierce were mainstays of the "Go-Go" Sox.

Jim Landis (left) and pitcher Billy Pierce were mainstays of the “Go-Go” Sox.

The Chicago Baseball Museum is honoring the life and career of Jim Landis, one of Chicago’s greatest all-time center fielders during his service with the White Sox in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Landis died recently at 83. But his personality comes alive via his remembrances of the 1959 World Series on its 35th anniversary on the Diamond Gems radio show. A segment of that show can be accessed by clicking here…

In addition, CBM contributor Mark Liptak, one of the top Sox historians, interviewed Landis at-length in 2003. His narrative follows:

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Category Chicago Baseball History Feature, Chicago Baseball History News Tags
 

Glamour envelops Herman Sitrick, but John McDonough’s personal tribute the best honors

Herman Sitrick (second from left) is honored during the National Anthem, sung by Jim Cornelison (right), before the Blackhawks season opener Oct. 5. A retired Air Force lieutenant general (to Sitrick's left) also participated as old Army corporal Sitrick was remembered for his astounding Battle of the Bulge heroics (Photo courtesy Chicago Blackhawks).

Herman Sitrick (second from left) is honored during the National Anthem, sung by Jim Cornelison (right), before the Blackhawks season opener Oct. 5. A retired Air Force lieutenant general (to Sitrick’s left) also participated as old Army corporal Sitrick was remembered for his astounding Battle of the Bulge heroics (Photo courtesy Chicago Blackhawks).

After Jim Cornelison delivered the last note of the National Anthem and the last gesture toward the flag, after the last 90-decibel fans’ roar abated, John McDonough provided the best tribute to Herman Sitrick humanly possible to an intimate gathering in a United Center suite.

Blackhawks president McDonough, of course, was behind the largest public ceremony to date honoring stunning World War II hero Sitrick, 92, his old partner in successfully promoting the Chicago Cubs through what McDonough recalled were numerous seasons of 85 to 97 losses. Former Cubs chief adman Sitrick’s story of singlehandedly capturing 21 German prisoners during the Battle of the Bulge on the cusp of 1945 had earned him Opening Night serviceman’s honors before the Hawks’ record-breaking season opener.

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Category Chicago Baseball History Feature, 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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