Sunday, October 30, 2011

1977 Chicago Cubs

Those lovable Cubbies finished dead even with an 81-81 record and 20 games behind the Phils during the 1977 season, which guaranteed them sole possession of 4th place in the NL East.  In 1977, the franchise experienced one of its biggest collapses ever. The Cubs hit a high-water mark on June 28 at 47-22 with an 8½-game lead in the National League East.  As late as August 6th the Cubs were tied for the divisional lead, but they were now deeply in the midst of one of their classic late season swoons going 20-40 down the stretch, while the Phillies were heading in the opposite direction.  This Cubs team only had 1 guy with 20 or more homers.  Bobby Murcer, who was resurrected from the dead out in San Francisco rebounded with 27 round trippers and 89 RBI's.  Nobody else had more than a dozen, which normally wouldn't bode well for a team that played in a hitter's ballpark like the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field.  For the first time since Beckert and Kessinger they actually had a keystone combo that could really pick it.  Ivan DeJesus and Manny Trillo could really flash the leather.  Billy Bucks could pick it at first.  Steve Ontiveros hit well (.299), but he was no Bill Madlock, who was sent to the Giants for Murcer.  Big Daddy, Rick Reuschel, emerged as the team's ace by winning 20 games and losing only 10.  His 2.79 ERA at Wrigley was definitely impressive.  The rest of the rotation gave up runs at an alarming clip, but with Bruce Sutter being virtually un-hittable (69 hits in 107 IP) the pen was rock solid.  Get to the 7th and Sutter could pitch the final 3, which he did on more than 1 occasion.  Setting up for Sutter would be a young Willie (not Guillermo yet) Hernandez who threw 110 innings in relief.  Paul Reuschel, Rick's brother, chipped in 107 innings himself.  Basically the formula was ride Reuschel every 4th day and get 6 ok innings from the rest and hand the ball to Sutter and company.

It took 18 new cards to finish off the 1977 Topps set for the Cubbies.

Professional sports can be so cruel.  How else can you explain the fact that a man who collected 2,715 hits during a 22 year career winds up being remembered for one bad play in a World Series.  Well that's the way the legend of Bill Buckner is going to be written.  That slow roller down the first base line in game 6 of the 1986 World Series has become his defining moment in baseball.  I choose to remember Buckner as a guy who hustled his butt off and hit scorching line drive into right center 3 out of 10 times that he strolled to the plate.  Seven times during his illustrious career Buckner eclipsed the .300 plateau in a season.  1977 was his first year in Chicago.  It was also the first time he reached double digits in homers.  He hit .284 in 457 plate appearances and for the next 7 seasons would become a fixture at first base in the Northside of Chicago.  The picture from this card came from the obscure 1978 SSPC set, which I believe was the final set issued by that company.

 Hard to believe Darwin made his debut for the LA Angels as a 19 year old in 1962.  He got 1 AB that season then disappeared into the minors until he resurfaced 7 years later with the Dodgers.  Once again he bounced back to the minors and came back 2 years later and hit .250 in 11 games at the advanced age of 28.  Things looked very bleak until he was liberated in a change of scenery trade to the Twins.  As Minnesota's starting left fielder for the next 3 years he would hit 22, 18 & 25 homers respectively, but he also had a huge hole in his swing.  During those three season Darwin led the league in strikeouts.  Midway through he '75 season the Twins grew tired of his lack of contact and his .219 batting average, so he was shipped out to Milwaukee.  Then he was sent to Boston in '76, and on May 28, 1977 he wound up in Chicago as a broken down 34 year old veteran attempting to hand on to his major league career.  Darwin got into 11 games and in 12 AB's hit just .167.  The Cubs sent him to their Triple A affiliate in Wichita, where he hit .266 with 7 homers in 79 AB's.  That stink in Wichita would be his swan song. Little known fact to most is that Darwin spent most of the 1960's as a pitcher in the minors before being converted into an every day ball player.  This autographed photo was found while doing a Google search.

By 1977 Bobby Murcer was a superstar in search of his power.  Some said he lost it when he left Yankee Stadium, others just thought he was washed up.  Murcer proved them all wrong by leading the Cubs with 27 homers and 89 RBI's.  Sadly Murcer's revival in the "Second City" was short lived.  In 1978 his homer total dropped to 9 in 146 games.  Midway through the 1979 season he was sent back home to the Bronx where tragedy struck nearly 2 months later when his close friend Thurman Munson died in an airplane crash.  Bobby would be entrusted with delivering the eulogy, then delivering a come from behind game winning hit that very day.  Murcer, who was known mostly for his bat led the league in outfield assists many times and had the most in MLB during the decade of the 70's.  He was a 5 time All-Star and a gold glove winner in 1972.  This dugout shot was taken at Wrigley and used in the '78 SSPC set.

On August 5, 1977 the Cubs purchased the contract of the 37 year old reliever from the Oakland A's.  Giusti, known for his heavy sinking palm ball spent the first 7 years of his career languishing as a middle of the road starter.  Then in 1970 he arrived in Pittsburgh as a 30 year old on his last legs, until Danny Murtaugh converted him into a reliever.  Giusit didn't just become a reliever, for the next 6 years he was the premier reliever in the National League.  His 30 saves in 1971 led the league and also paced the Bucs to their first World Championship in 11 seasons.  By 1976 his key stats began to tell the tale of a star in decline.  The Bucs shipped him to Oakland, where he started the '77 season and did fairly well.  Since the A's were in a rebuilding mode he was expendable.  After finishing 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA in 20 games for the Cubs in '77 he retired from baseball.  I found this autographed photo via a Google search.

The "other" Dave Roberts had some good years with the Padres and Astros in the early/mid 70's.  By 1977 he was hanging on as a major leaguer.  After starting the season in Detroit and going 4-10 (5.25) Roberts' contract was sold to the Cubs where he went 1-1 with a 3.23 ERA in 17 games, six as a starter.  Roberts would bottom out the following season by going 6-8 with a 5.25 ERA in 35 games (20 starts) for the Cubs.  He bounced over to the Giants, Pirates, Mariner and finally the Mets in 1981 where he posted a 0-3, 9.39 record to end his career.  His lifetime 103-125 (3.78) record indicates that he didn't exactly get a lot of run support when he toed the rubber.  Even during his best season (1971), he was unable to best the .500 mark.  His 14-17 record with a 2.10 ERA helped place him 6th in the NL Cy Young Award voting.  This photo came from the '78 SSPC set.

The Cubs called up a 24 year old Dennis Lamp in hopes of stopping their free fall in the standings.  Lamp was not up to helping out the varsity as evidenced by his 0-2, 6.30 record in 30 innings of work.  The following 3 seasons he was a 200+ inning workhorse for the Cubs.  He moved over to the crosstown White Sox in 1981 and spent 3 seasons there as a swingman. After 3 years in the South side Lamp moved over to Toronto and had himself a season for the ages in 1985.  In 53 games (52 out of the pen) he posted an 11-0 record with a 3.32 ERA in 105 innings.  The expansion Blue Jays also made the post season for the first time in franchise history.  Lamp made the most season in '83 with the Chisox as well.  He would then move on to Oakland for 1 season and Boston for 4 season before finishing up in 1992 at the age of 39 in Pittsburgh.  His career mark would be an even 96-96 with a 3.93 ERA.  This photo came from the '78 SSPC set.

Never was there more a tragic figure than Donnie Moore.  A man who while at the apex of his career gives up a series changing hit and never recovers both professionally and personally.  With 1 out away from clinching the pennant for the Angels in 1986 Moore had a 2-2 count on Dave Henderson and gave up a 2 run gopher ball.  The Angels never recovered and lost the final 2 games of the series.  Moore's career began to spiral down due to injures and drugs.  Eventually it led to him being cut by the Royals 3 years later.  As a result of deep depression he shot his wife and then took his own life at the age of 35.  It's a tragic story about a man who had struggled for so long and finally made it as an elite closer only to see it all come crashing down.  In 1977 he was a 23 year old rookie for the Cubs.  In 27 games he went 4-2 with a 4.07 ERA in 48 innings of relief.  His 3 seasons in Chicago were nothing to write home about.  His next two seasons in Milwaukee and St. Louis weren't good either. At the age of 28 in 1982 in Atlanta he began to "right" the ship.  By the time he arrived in California for the '85 season he was a top notch reliever in the making.  I chose this '78 SSPC photo because Moore was a smiling 23 year old when it was taken.  No traces of the problems that would occur years later.  Just a young guy happy to be in the biggs.

Clines spent the better part of his 10 year major league career as a platoon player / 4th outfielder.  He never appeared in more than 116 games in any given season.  He had good speed and played great defense in all 3 outfield positions.  His lack of power (5 homers in 2,328 AB's) kept him from being an everyday player.  After arriving from Texas in an offseason trade Clines appeared in 101 games for the Cubs in 1977 and hit .293.  He even posted 3 of his 5 career homers that season.  He would slacken off 1978 with a .258 average and go belly up in 1979 by hitting .200 in just 10 at bats.  Clines retired during that season and immediately became a coach for the Cubs.  He spent the next 30 years coaching and instructing minor leaguers.  His best season was 1972, where he hit .334 for the Pirates.  This photo came from his '78 SSPC card.

After tooling around the Dodger chain for a few years DeJesus was liberated in a trade that sent him and Buckner to the Cubs for Mike Garman and Rick Monday.  Upon arrival he was immediately installed as the Cubs starting shortstop.  He hit .266 in 155 games that season, but his real value was with his leather.  He led all MLB shorstops in assists and finished in the top 5 in baseball history for a single season.  For the next 5 seasons he was a fixture at short for the Cubs.  In 1981 he bottomed out with a .194 average.  In 1982, the Cubs dealth him to the Phillies, who needed to find a replacement for Larry Bowa.  In return they got Ryne Sandberg, which turned out to be a pretty good deal for the North Siders.  This photo was a spring training shot taken for the '78 SSPC set.  He hit for the cycle in 1980.

Adams was that classic 6th outfielder on a team that only carried 5.  After hitting .212 in 55 games during the 1973 season for the Twins he was sent back down to the farm for the next 3 seasons.  The Cubs called him up in '76 and he hit .138 in 38 plate appearances.  He went 0 for 2 for the Cubs in '77 and wound up with Oakland in '78, where he hit an even .200 in 15 AB's.  The A's sent him down to Vancouver (Triple A affiliate) where he hit .293, but was cut at season's end.  Understandably there weren't many good photos to use for Adams' updated card.  I took his 1974 Topps card and removed the Twins cap, built up some more sky background, then pasted Jack Aker's cap from the 1974 Topps set on top of Adam's head.  I changed the Twins colors to Cubs colors and even pasted the  CHICAGO letters on his jersey.

Gordon saw limited action with the Cubs over two seasons (1977-78).  In 26 plate appearances during the '77 season he hit .043 for Chicago.  In '78 he went 1-5.  His numbers in the minors were not much better (.216 career avg), which leads me to believe that he was probably an excellent defensive catcher.  I was shocked to find that SSPC actually issued a card for him in their '78 set, considering his limited action with the Cubs during that season and his lack of status as a prospect.

The "Polish Prince" was just a mere 25 year old rookie for the Cubbies in 1977.  His 8-14 (4.44) record reflects the complete collapse the team had over the final half of the season.  Krukow started out 7-4, then went 1-10 the rest of the way.  This is not an indictment on Krukow's skills, but merely pointing out how the team just lost it during the second half of the season.  Krukow had 5 respectable seasons in Chicago before moving over to Philly for 1 season.  He spent the final 7 seasons of his 14 year career in San Fran.  His 20-9 (3.05) 1986 season was his  best year in the majors.  It earned him an All-Star selection and 3rd place in the Cy Young balloting.  A rotator cuff injury in 1989 ended his career.  He is now known as "Krook" to Giants fans, whom he has been broadcasting games to for over 20 years.  This spring training shot wound up being used as his '78 SSPC card.

A solid third baseman with an average arm, Ontiveros was named Minor League player of the Year by The Sporting News in 1973. He reached the majors with the San Francisco Giants late in the season, spending four years with them before moving to the Chicago Cubs. His most productive season came in 1977 for the Cubs, when he posted career-highs in games played (156), batting average (.299), home runs (10), RBI (68), hits (162), and on-base percentage (.390).  After the 1980 season he would leave the Cubs and head to Japan to play for a few more years.  This shot is is his 1978 SSPC Card.

As a 22 year old rookie reliever in 1977 Hernandez fared quite well.  His 8-7 (3.03) record in 110 innings should have at least gotten him a top 10 finish in the Rookie of the Year voting, but nobody seemed to notice.  In fact nobody seemed to notice him at all during his 6 1/2 years in Chicago.  Midway through the 1983 season he was traded to the Phillies and became a key contributor for the "Wheeze Kids" as they won the NL Pennant.  Before the '84 season he was dealt to the Tigers and that's where he put together 3 back to back All-Star seasons, including his Cy Young/MVP year of 1984.  During that season he went 9-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 32 saves in 140 innings.  In total he would have a fine 13 year career (70-63, 3.38, 147 saves).  I found this autographed 8x10 glossy on ebay.  It looks like it was colorized.  If it was, its a great job !

Sember appeared in just 3 games and hit .250 (1-4) for the Cubs in 1977.  He played second base.  In '78 he appeared in 9 games and hit .333 (1-3).  He was a career .237 hitter in the minors and did not appear in another major league game after the 1978 season.  This card was created by pasting a Cubs cap on his Syracuse minor league card photo.

Gross spent 17 seasons in a major league uniform with 2 of them spent as a Cub.  In 1977 he would play all 3 outfield spots and be the first left handed bat off the bench.  His .322 average and .397 OBP were flat out awesome.  He also hit 5 of his 7 career homers that season.  He actually had more triples (46) than homers (7) during his long career.  He signed with the Phillies as a free agent after the '78 season and settled into the roll of 4th outfielder / pinch hitter.  In 1989 he returned to Houston, where his career started for one final season.  In 1974 he came in second in the Rookie of the Year balloting as a member of the Astros.  His lack of power prevented him from being an everyday player.  When interviewed, Gross explains his predicament:  "The cycle that baseball was in back then, with the AstroTurf and everything, centered on the stolen base or the home run, and I did neither of those."  Gross' 1978 SSPC card was used for this updated '77 card.

Jim Todd's second stint in Chcago lasted just 20 games.  In 1977 his 1-1 record hid his 9.10 ERA, which was spread out over 30 innings of work.  I used his 1975 Topps card photo for this updated '77 card.

Broberg had a live fastball, but not much else.  He broke into baseball in 1971 straight from the Dartmouth campus.  He acquitted himself quite well in 1971 pitching for the Washington Senators in their final season in our nation's capital.  He moved with the franchise to Texas, but over the next 3 seasons his numbers steadily got worse.  He rebounded with a decent season in Milwaukee in 1975, but then lost his control again and bottomed back out.  He would get into 22 games for the Cubs in '77 and go 1-2 (4.75)  He moved on to Oakland the following season and started 26 games.  The A's, who originally drafted him in 1968, realized he was never going to achieve his potential so they traded him to the Dodgers.  Broberg decided to go to law school instead.  For this picture I used his airbrushed 1978 Topps card.  Pretty pathetic that Topps had to resort to the airbrush when Broberg spent the '77 season in Chicago.  I did do a little touch up work on the airbrush to make it look a bit more realistic.

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