CHICAGO - In 1975, Donald Knowles and Oscar Zamora had an idea that would solidify their place in Chicago Cubs history.
After combining for 25 saves and yielding a combined ERA of 5.47, Zamora and Knowles founded the CCHOF (The Crappy Cubs Closer Hall of Fame).
"I was coming off three straight world championships in Oakland," stated Knowles. "After crapping the bed in '75, I thought 'hey...why not just have some fun with this?' So, I looked down the bench for another crappy closer and I saw Zamora sitting there. I asked him if he wanted to create something that we'd remember forever. So, we got our busts done, did a tribute etched below it, and created a room below the bullpen."
That room below the bullpen is a little known 20' x 20' room containing the worst closers in Cubs history...and after Carlos Marmol's blown save yesterday in Cincinnati, it looks like the big eared reliever is headed to the halls of glory.
"We talked about this quite a bit," stated former crappy Cubs closer Goose Gossage. "I was like him...I had a great career, I was once unhittable...but when I got here I just crapped the bed in '88. I was pretty much the main reason we didn't finish over .500. If I'm in after a great career, then he can come in. We have some room...well, just a little."
The select group is a 'who's who' of crappy Cubs relievers. Knowles stressed the individuals are inducted based on terrible seasons, not their whole career as a Cub.
"Dick Tidrow wasn't horrible as a Cubs pitcher...but he sucked as a closer in '81. And that was during a strike-shortened season. It was upsetting for us...we wanted to see just how much more he could suck. His potential for suckiness will never be realized...it's sad really," said Knowles.
Other examples are Mitch Williams, Rod Beck, and Joe Borowski. While many remember Williams' '89 season, Beck's '98 campaign, and Borowski's in '03...their terrible performances in '90, '99, and '04 gave them a special spot. Both do not have a bust/plaque...but a special card notifying visitors of their terrible follow-up seasons.
"We're not here to just embarrass people...but people need to know the truth about those two. History is history. And while we might remember the good times, we can't ignore the really bad times. Or, in Beck's early '99 example...the really, really bad times.
Some plaques are in what is known as 'Gold Territory'. This special wall features Dave Smith, Mel Rojas, Rick Aguilera, LaTroy Hawkins, Antonio Alfonseca, and Kevin Gregg.
"These are a special kind of bad...the type of bad that Oscar and I had in mind when we started this whole deal."
Dave Smith was signed from Houston as a 'fly ball' pitcher from the cavernous Astrodome in Houston. Oddly enough, fly ball pitchers don't do well in Wrigley. Mel Rojas kept informing Cubs fans that he'd get better as the weather got warmer...unfortunately he sucked so bad the Cubs didn't let him get to June. Antonio Alfonseca had six fingers...and it seemed like the extra finger permitted teams to rally in the 9th.
Each has their special place at Wrigley...and now...so does Marmol.
"We don't really have induction ceremonies," said Knowles. "We just went to the trophy store and ordered the bust yesterday. It should be up by Saturday. He'll have the biggest ears of any of our statues. He should be proud...it's a great club."
Knowles is projecting the installation of the bust will take place on Sunday or Monday.