Monday, December 11, 2017

Reminiscences of childhood, and how bad Chicago baseball once was

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s veterans committee gave its consideration Sunday to ballplayers from the 1970s-80s who deserve a second glance at membership, and hearing of the nine ballplayers under consideration brought back one depressing memory.
White Sox traded Hall of Fame possibility ...

Chicago baseball was pretty putrid back when I was a kid. I was 14 back in 1979 when the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series to the tune of Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.” It was a wonder I didn’t get turned off on the game by the mediocre-to-lousy teams that existed back in those decades.
... for the decade's best Chicago ballplayer

PARTICULARLY THE 1970s, when the Cubs had sort-of decent teams in 1970-71, while the White Sox had a near championship in 1972. Both teams were respectable enough in 1977 that I still remember the dreams that the year of “Saturday Night Fever” and “Star Wars” would be the year of an all-Chicago World Series.

Of course, it didn’t happen. It was a possibility in 2008 when both ball clubs won division titles, but then both got knocked out in the first round.
Did Garvey cost Cubs '84 championship?

Otherwise, the decade was pretty dreary -- with the year of the Bicentennial possibly being the worst. While the rest of the nation was celebrating 200 years of the United States, and the National League hit its own 100th anniversary, 1976 was dreadful in Chicago – even though future Hall of Famers Rich Gossage and Bruce Sutter played here that season.

The Cubs had a losing record of 75 wins, 87 losses, with both the St. Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos worse. While the White Sox were 64 wins, 97 losses. Dead last in their division.
Too good to play in Chicago back then?

LOOKING AT THE ballplayers who were under review Sunday for the Hall of Fame -- with two, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris of the Detroit Tigers -- explains the situation perfectly.

None of the nine had a strong connection to a Chicago ballclub. Only Tommy John pitched for the White Sox back in the 1960s, and by the early 1970s was one of the ballplayers they sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers to get Dick Allen – the American League MVP for 1972 who nearly single-handedly led the White Sox to a championship dream that year.
Thwarted White Sox '84 chances?

If anything, the other Hall of Fame considerees were ballplayers who created local memories of beating up on our ball clubs.

How many Cubs fans are still bitter about how an aging Steve Garvey, later in his ballplaying career in 1984, got some of the big hits that led the San Diego Padres to a National League championship over the Cubs in the playoffs that year.

HE MIGHT NOT be public enemy number One like Tim Flannery (who got that base hit beneath the glove of Cubs first baseman Leon Durham that was a premonition of former Cub Bill Buckner’s game-losing error against the Boston Red Sox two years later in the World Series).
One of baseball's most unique pitchers

Or the Detroit stars like shortstop Trammell and pitcher Morris – who led the 1984 Tigers team to 104 wins and a World Series title. One that squashed all over the White Sox dreams for that year.

After all, the White Sox won a division title and went to the playoffs in 1983, only to fall short to the Baltimore Orioles (remember Jerry Dybzinski?). But they thought the acquisition of future Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver would be the key to put them over the top.
Future Hall of Famers Gossage ...

Instead, they fell short of Detroit, and the South Side had to wait another 21 years before finally getting a World Series victory.

AS FOR THE rest of the considerees, Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves, Dave Parker of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Ted Simmons of the St. Louis Cardinals were among those who gave Cubs fans bad on-field memories – although many of those fans learned to take their pleasure from having all-day games and a chance to play hooky from work or school.
... and Sutter didn't rise quality of ball clubs

While Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees and Luis Tiant of the Boston Red Sox did more than their share to tick off the boo-birds throughout the years at Comiskey Park because of the way they beat up on White Sox pitchers like Britt Burns or hitters like Bill Nahorodny.

All of those players give me memories (Tiant’s herky-jerky windup when pitching was unlike any others, while I’ll never forget Parker’s throw from deep right field to home plate during the 1979 All Star Game that nailed former White Sox catcher Brian Downing) not necessarily tied to the Second City.
Which means that those of us who came of age during the 1970s and remember how bad baseball here used to be (along with first-hand memories of Disco Demolition from '79) were probably the ones who most appreciated that 2005 White Sox’ World Series win – or even the 2016 title that the Cubs managed to bring back to Chicago.


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