The Summer of '77: My first year of love and heartbreak with the Cubs

The Summer of '77:  My first year of love and heartbreak with the Cubs

A while back in the comments section, a few of us became a little nostalgic about some old Cubs teams.  I thought it was a lot of fun, so the four writers here at Cubs Den have decided to collaborate.  Each of us will write  about that first year  when we really became diehard Cubs fans.  Sometimes it's hard to say if there is a specific point or even a year when it happened.  Becoming a Cubs fan just sort of sneaks up on you and then holds on to you like grim death, but the point is to try and remember that first special year, even if it wasn't necessarily the best one.

I've been a fan since 1975.  I had just missed the Santo/Williams/Jenkins era.  Back then,  I remember really liking Jose Cardenal and Bill Madlock -- a lot.  If I had to pin down a first favorite memory, it was when Madlock went 4 for 4 on the final day to wrest the batting title from Ken Griffey, Sr. in 1976.  But other than that, many of the memories are hazy.

But then came 1977.

I was 7 years old back then and I was just finishing up the 3rd grade. It was the year when I met my friend Bill, who is still a good friend to this day.  Bill was a big piece of the puzzle in my journey as a Cubs fan.  Until then, my dad and a couple of my cousins were the only real big Cubs fan I knew. Bill was the first of my friends to love the Cubs as passionately and irrationally as I did.  We did what a lot of kids did back then.  We would sneak a radio into class as the end of the school year and the start of the baseball season overlapped.  With the weather beginning to warm, time stood still inside the classroom until about 1:20 P.M. From there we eagerly awaited updates and opportunities to listen to snippets of the game.  It helped pass the time for awhile, but once the school day approached it's end, the focus turned to the clock.  We watched the minutes tick by as the sound of the teacher's voice faded to an unintelligible drone.  And then the 3:30 bell would ring loudly, snapping us out of near catatonia.  We bolted from the school like race horses bursting from the gate.  We raced home to catch the last couple of innings of each home game.  I lived just a block from the school, so Bill and I would watch the games there.

1977 was the year I really fell in love with the Cubs. It didn't start off that way. The Cubs traded off Bill Madlock days before spring training was to begin and I was livid. I guess you could say that was the moment when I knew I was passionate about this team (why did I care that much?!).

I vowed never to watch them again for doing something so completely ridiculous as trading their best hitter for average (Madlock) and their best power hitter (Rick Monday). I would never warm up to Madlock's replacement, Steve Ontiveros. Never. I blamed him for everything that went wrong that year. Looking back today, the blame was misplaced. As has been their history, the Cubs were once again victimized by bad ownership, a century long trend that I sincerely trust will end with the Ricketts era.

It didn't take me long to go back on my vow of Cubs abstinence. Who was I trying to kid? The charade only lasted the few days until spring training started again.

The team wasn't expected to do much.  They'd won just 75 games the year before, but the Cubs made a couple of moves that helped soothe the pain of losing my favorite player.  In fact, they did a few things right,  The best move turned out to be the trade of 31 year old Rick Monday, who was coming off a career season, for a 27 year old 1B named Bill Buckner and 24 year old SS Ivan DeJesus.

(What? The Cubs traded a player on the wrong side of 30 for an in-prime age hitter and a young shortstop?  Theo Epstein was only 3 years old, he could not possibly have engineered that deal, right?)

The team wasn't exactly loaded with stars, but they had a team stocked with players in their prime years.  Slick fielding Manny Trillo was 26,  basket-catching Jerry Morales was 28, and even the much reviled Steve Ontiveros was just 25.

And the pitching staff featured more of the same.  Rick Reuschel was 28, Ray Burris was 26, Bill Bonham was 28, and Mike Krukow was 25.  The bullpen was anchored by 24 year old Bruce Sutter and 22 year lefty set-up man Willie Hernandez, whom the Cubs acquired that year in the Rule 5 draft.

The team also had interesting bench players such as veteran Larry "Hawkeye" Biittner, the 24 year old Greg Gross, and the recently acquired Gene Clines.  They would all help fill the OF void as fan favorite Jose Cardenal began a steady decline that year.

Then there was the new manager; the volatile but oddly entertaining Herman Franks.  As a kid I was amused by his body language during his frequent arguments.  He had this way of shaking his head back from side to side so violently that his cap would inevitably come flying off his head.  That image is still ingrained in me, in no small part because another friend, Jeff, made an outstanding impression of Franks.  It made me laugh every time, even after a Cubs loss.

The '77 team was a group patched together with spare parts.  They weren't expected to do much, but it was a young group with many players in that prime range or younger.  Sometimes when you have that sort of roster, funny things can happen.

And funny things did indeed happen.

Eventually Opening Day rolled around, just one day before a band called "The Clash" debuted with their first album.   The spring of 77 was destined to get off to a good start.  And it did....well, not right away.

After two losses to start the season, Rick Reuschel (yes, he was the 3rd starter that year) won the first game for the Cubs, but the team would be streaky early on.  They were 7-9 by the end of April, including a 21-3 loss to the hapless New York Mets.

There was no question in my mind that this was all Steve Ontiveros' fault.

And then things changed.

It would become one of the most exciting times of my childhood. I had just seen what I then officially declared to be the best movie in the history of celluloid: Star Wars.  Everyone at school was buzzing about it.

But there was a lot of buzz in Wrigleyville too.

The Cubs had won 21 out of their next 26 games and took over first place on May 28th.  The newly acquired tandem of Buckner and DeJesus helped lead the way.  Buckner was hitting .348 while DeJesus was hitting .301 and providing a spark with his speed at the top of the lineup.  The defensively oriented Trillo was  hitting a surprising .361 with 4 HRs and a .991 OPS.  Even the bane of my now 8 year existence, Steve Ontiveros, was hitting .317 with an .874 OPS.  The player that came with him from the Giants, Bobby Murcer, had hit 7 HRs to help replace the power void left by Rick Monday's departure.  The young closer Sutter was beginning to make quite a name for himself.  He picked up his 13th save (with a 0.88 ERA) on the day the Cubs took over first place.

Something magical was happening on the north side.  The Cubs continued to rack up wins.  Thirty days later, on June 28th, the Cubs won their 8th straight game, an extra inning affair over the Expos that put them 8.5 games ahead in first place.  Rick Reuschel moved to 11-2 with a 2.37 ERA while Sutter picked up his 21st save and had actually lowered his ERA to 0.68.  Things couldn't be better.  I was 8 years old, it was summer,  the Cubs had the best record in baseball at 47-22, and by then I'd seen Star Wars about 4 times.

But you know how this story is going to end, right?

Things slowly began crashing down to earth.  The Cubs continued to play exciting, albeit less than championship level baseball.  If there is a single game that stands out in my mind, it was July 28th, when the Cubs and Reds took batting practice with the wind blowing out.  The game was tied 10-10 -- by the end of the 4th inning.  By the time the carnage was over, the Cubs had hit 6 HRs and had triumphed over the defending champion Cincinnati Reds 16-15 in 13 innings.

All in all, the Cubs managed to win enough games to keep 1st place for the entire month of July, but the lead had shrunk to just two games by July 31st.  Both the Mike Schmidt/Greg Luzinski/Steve Carlton led Phillies and the Dave Parker/John Candelaria led Pirates were charging hard.

Meanwhile, the Cubs wilted in their usual heart-wrenching fashion.  They went 20-40 from that point forward and officially fell out of first place for good on August 7th.  The last highlight of the season was Rick Reuschel winning his 20th game on September 22nd.  The Cubs would lose 8 of their next 9 games, including their last 5 of the season, to finish 81-81 -- 20 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

Such was my first true experience with the love and hearbreak that has defined my life as a Cubs fan.

Epilogue

As for Steve Ontiveros, I have forgiven him.  I still deplore the idea that ownership traded Madlock because he was "insolent" enough to ask for a modest raise, but that wasn't Ontiveros' fault.  And besides, he actually outperformed the two-time batting champion that year.  Madlock hit .302/.360/.426 (.343 wOBA, 111 RC+, 1.2 WAR) while Ontiveros hit .299/.390/.423 (.365 wOBA, 114 RC+, 3.2 WAR).

Filed under: Cubs History

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  • I'm sure you meant Ken Griffey Sr. in 1976

  • In reply to Holy Cattle:

    I did. It's been changed. Thanks.

  • Excellent John!
    My first game was 9-7-80 when I was 8, so I was pre-conditioned to bad Cubs baseball.

    My dad & brother took me & I thought: "Well, you automatically get autographs when you stand by the field." When the usher sent me back to my seat I cried. My dad told me to run back & keep crying. Bill Caudill saw me bawling my eyes out & ran over & signed my scorecard. I still have it. I still bawl my eyes out at Cubs games.

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    Haha! Thanks. You came in during a dark time in Cubs baseball -- and baseball in general, really, but that Bill Caudill story is great. Thanks for sharing.

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    You made me laugh today.

  • Beautiful piece John. You've set the bar high for the other 3 writers.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    Thank you Ratmoss. I think of us all here at Cubs Den as writers as well as baseball fans, so I thought this would be a fun way to show that side of ourselves. We all have our own styles so I'm really looking forward to reading everyone else's version.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I concur John, THIS is why your blog is the best.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Thanks Steve.

  • Ahhhh,... yes,... 1977. Remember that season well. Wasn't my first season really watching the Cubs,.... that was probably 1974 or 1975. However that probably was my first season where I even considered the possibility that the Cubs could actually BE a winning team.

    Was also just late enough to miss the peak Santo/Williams/Kessinger/Jenkins teams,... and never saw Ernie Banks play,.... so some of that era's potential almost 'glory' is lost on me.

    I remember that first real dashing of the hopes,..... Thanks for the recap John. Jose Cardenal, Bill Madlock, Rick Monday,... Loved those guys, and the ultimate out of shape-seeming, rubber-armed pitcher Rick Reuschel. But that 1977 team was more interesting in a lot of ways than those of the couple of years before,... and DeJesus and Buckner almost made me NOT miss Madlock & Monday.

    Loved watching Sutter close out games with that amazing split-finger pitch of his getting chased by just about everybody. Watched the close of many of those games with my brothers and Dad.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I had to get most of the stories from that era from my father, which is part of what helped shape me as a Cubs fan. That split by Sutter was brutal and was helped in part because it was such a rare pitch back then. He made hitters look ridiculous.

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    The Jerry Morales basket catch used to drive me crazy.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    It drove my little league coach crazy too because I used to imitate it whenever he put me in the OF.

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    The 77 season was pretty strange, even by Cub standards. In late June, I was vacationing in Canada. I saw two games against the Expos. The Cubs won both in thrilling fashion. They were then 27 games over .500.
    Lou Boudreau commented that the Cubs would never see .500 again that season.
    He was right until the final day of the season. Final record 81-81.
    ps...one highlight of the trip was running into Mick Kelleher at a deli in downtown Montreal.

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    In reply to Howard Moore:

    I miss Lou Boudreau.

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    In reply to Michael Canter:

    I saw an old-timers game once with Boudreau at SS. He must've been at least 70. There was a ground ball up the middle and Boudreau went behind the bag to snag it and did a glove flip to start a 6-4-3 DP. That was a long time ago and I've never forgotten it.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    Miss Jack Brickhouse too,.... I mean,... Harry Carrey was OK,... but paled in comparison.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Harry was the greatest of all time IMO to do Cubs baseball broadcasts , I remember Him being so hammered Steve Stone had to hold him by the belt to keep him from falling out of the booth singing the stretch err slurring the stretch , Stone must have had arms like Hulk Hogan after working with Harry all those years, and beers.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Ahhhh,... yes,.... Harry on a drunken day,.... he could be a bit of a handful for Steve.

    I remember a couple of days where the guy was so sloshed sounding by the 6th inning that he almost shut up by the 9th. My theory,... he was napping coming down from his beer buzz so Steve got to play color and play-by-play.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I REALLY didn't like Harry. He drove me nuts, mumbling on and on about the folks who were at the bar last night while total ignoring events on the field. I think a lot of folks who grew up with Jack Brickhouse probably feel the same way.

  • In reply to Howard Moore:

    Sweet! Thanks for sharing. Lou Boudreau was a great announcer. Those of us who grew up in that era were given a great gift. He really knew the game and a young, eager mind like mine was all too happy to absorb it all.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    How right you are, John. Many were the nights I went to sleep with a $4 transistor radio under my pillow, listening to Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau call a night road game. I well remember Lou's color commentary, "Kids, in this situation, watch how...."

  • In reply to Howard Moore:

    Great stuff. I have to admit that I remember that team playing well, but I don't remember it being that good -- nor do I remember the collapse being that bad. It surprised me a bit to look back on it.

  • My first taste of baseball was the 1984 team when I was 11 and first introduced to baseball and the Chicago Cubs by my step dad. I watched every game on WGN to see Leon Durham, Ryne Sandberg, Larry Bowa, Ron Cey, Sarge, Keith Moreland, Sut, Dernier. I still remember Harry singing "Jody, Jody Davis" every time he came to bat LOL

  • In reply to UPCubsFan:

    Jody, Jody Davis, Catcher of the Year, Jody, Jody Davis, Catcher without a fear!

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    Great work, John. As we've discussed before, we're basically the same age and grew up in the same Cub era. Monday was my favorite player and I once told Ivan Dejesus that's it's a good thing he and Buckner bother turned out to be pretty good because they traded my favorite player to get them. Dejesus is a nice guy and he laughed at my comment.
    As for the Herman Franks impersonation, from what I understand, all you'd have to do is go sit butt nekked in your office and conduct interviews.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Thanks. Great story on DeJesus. Franks was one strange dude. I also remember how much he hated Mike Vail.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Franks also had a ongoing bet with Tommy LaSorda, first one to get tossed by an umpire buys dinner. Tommy never lost that one. Remember the old Vitalis commercial where Herman came out and yelled 'greaseball" at Don Drysdale, and Drysdale would go to the dugout and get his bottle of Vitalis and show it to the crowd?

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Ha! I did not know that.

  • I first became a Cub fan sometime in 1958-1960, it's a little fuzzy as to exactly when. My family lived in eastern Iowa, Dad admired and cheered for Ernie Banks, so I did too because I was only 7 years old in 1958, and Dad was (still is) my hero. 58 & 59 were Ernie's back-to-back MVP years with a gosh awful team. The Milwaukee Braves offered to trade nearly half their team for Ernie, but the Cubs turned them down. Ernie was king! And in my heart he still is! Dad and Ernie then both became my heroes in life. I think Dad chose to cheer for Ernie because he knew that I would do what he would do, and Ernie has such a wonderful outlook on life and appreciated what he had. Dad had some bumps in the road early in his life but always looked at the bright side of what he had, which is what Ernie always does. I used to listen to the Cubs on the radio every day and cried every day that they lost, until I realized I was crying too much. So then I just got mad and went out to the backyard to practice fielding grounders by throwing a ball really hard against the garage door. The door took a beating and had to be repainted a few times but I became a pretty decent second baseman and shortstop. Then Dad would come home and hit fly balls to me. Dad and Ernie! That is what 1958-1960 has always meant to me!

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    Another great story! Thanks for sharing TEC!

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    OT. But it fits in with great Cubs disappointments:

    @BNightengale: The #Dodgers have let it be known they plan to go all-out in their efforts to sign Tanaka, saying they and certainly won't be out-bid.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I saw that tweet.

    BUT:

    Since it was Nightengale that reported it, I'd bet that really means the Dodgers are officially out of the Tanaka sweepstakes. Nightengale is rarely on point, imo

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    He actually walked that back about an hour after the initial post, so you may be on to something.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    All you need is two teams to say that and things will get crazy.

  • Thanks for the article, John. I remember that Sutter emerged out of nowhere that year and was virtually unhittable with his revolutionary split-fingered fastball. But Franks succumbed to the temptation of overusing him, and there were some heartbreaking blown games while Sutter was out with injury. As great of a later career as Sutter had, I don't think he ever would have another stretch quite as amazing as how he was in the time you describe up through July 1977. Kind of similar to how I think that Kerry Wood, despite leading the league in strikeouts in 2003, was never again quite as incredibly dominant as he was in his 1998 rookie season.

  • In reply to Jim Snowden:

    You're welcome and thanks. I like the comparison between the two pitching prodigies.

  • In reply to Jim Snowden:

    Even in 77, when Sutter came back off the DL he wasnt the same. Really struggled the last month that season.

  • One oh, two oh, Trillo! The play, Bleacher Bums, was written during that season. My heart was actually broken the decade before, during the late summer of '69. I'm still not over that.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I missed that one. That was the spring I was born, which seems appropriate in a way.

  • Madlock asked for $100,000. Phil Wrigley sealed his fate by pronouncing "I'm not sure any ballplayer is worth $100,000; we are not paying that." Of Biittner, one writer assayed "two I's, two t's, no hands."
    My book, The Game is Never Over, chronicles the Cubs from the beginning to 1981. Someone asked me "Why are you writing about the Cubs?" I replied "Because I love them...and I root for Sisyphus too in the futile hope he'll get the rock to the top of the mountain."

  • In reply to HankSauer rules:

    Ha! Great stuff. Love that last line. I've often compared being a Cubs fan to the fate of Sisyphus. But if you are a Camus' fan, then you would argue that Sisyphus was actually happy. So hurrah for Camus. I think he understood us Cubs fans pretty well.

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    In reply to HankSauer rules:

    Wait, you wrote that book? I got that book as a kid -still have it in my library and treasure it- thanks for writing that! Great recollections of my childhood being obsessed with my Cubbies!

  • In reply to HankSauer rules:

    I also have your book in my Library. I think I got it for Christmas in 1980 or 1981. I've read it a couple times over the years and it is one of my favorite Cubs related book. Thanks for the great read!!! One of the funniest things I remember is that you wrote about how you learned something from all of the Cubs announcers. What you learned from Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau was how easy it was to mispronounce names. Very funny and very true!!! Lou could never pronounce Mike Schmidt. It always came out Mike Smitt.

  • In reply to DecaturCubFan:

    Lou used to always call the Met centerfielder "Lee Mat-zilli".

  • I like to hear stories about how fans started rooting for their teams. I'm going to quickly tell mine. In the fall of 1983 my family moved into a house that had cable for the 1st time. I always loved playing baseball, but didn't have much opportunities to watch it. My grandpa was always a huge Cubs fan and I finally had cable and WGN so in 1984 I was a full fledged Cubs fan. At age 10 I quickly began to live and die with the daily game results. On July 12th I went to my first baseball game ever, and at Wrigley Field. Steve Trout made the start against the Dodgers. Ryne Sandberg hit the game winning homer in the bottom of the 10th. I was beyond hooked at that point. At the end of the series against the Padres, I went out for a bike ride in a cold and overcast day in South Dakota, and I cried. A fact that one buddy of mine still likes to rib me about on occasion. I got to go through all the high's and low's that season and it conditioned me to be a life long Cubs fan.

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    In reply to brightfuture14:

    When they choked away game 6 in 2003, I leaned over the railing on the deck and hurled into the bushes, a fact my wife still like to rib me about on occasion.

  • I believe that 1977 was the year that the Cubs were 25 games over 500, and Lou took great pains to explain that "25 over 500" was a major achievement because it meant that you would never see 500 for the rest of the year.

    So much for expertise.

  • I became an avid Cubs fan during the summer of 1969.And I had my heart broken that first year.

    I had just graduated from college, returned home to Chicago, and had time to kill as I was waiting for my orders for boot camp in the Army. I was in the army reserves, and had signed up for a six-year hitch. As I'm sure most of the readers will recall, 1969 was that infamous year in which the Cubs were battling the Mets for the National league pennant. I was one of the Bleacher Bums.

    I must have seen twenty games from the bleachers that summer when I got my orders to report to Ft. Ord, California, on September 1 for active duty. When I left Chicago, the Cubs were in first place by seven or eight games. I was really excited (and also fearful as I headed to basic training).

    Ft. Ord had an outbreak of spinal meningitis that year and all the basic training troops had to take special precautions to avoid transmission of the disease, which included being restricted to our Company areas during all off hours. As part of the training, we were also restricted from listening to radios, tv's, and couldn't go to the PX to buy anything, including newspapers. It was like we were in a prison.

    Finally, one of the other recruits received a copy of his local newspaper from his parents in late September and I got my hands on it, immediately opened the sports section to see if the Cubs had clinched the pennant. To my shock and heartbreak, they were seven games out of first place, and the Mets went on to win it all. What a bummer! That's when I was locked in as a Cubs fan, and sadly, I'm still waiting (as we all are) for The Big One.

    But with the new owners and management team, I can smell our World Series victory. It's coming soon!
    .

  • In reply to toboyle9:

    Me too, toboyle! By the time 1977 came around, my heart was so scarred up that I didn't feel the hurt nearly as bad. I remember having a ton of hope that they'd make up for '69 in '70, or '71.... but, it wasn't to be.

  • 77 was the year I got hooked, too. One of the more overlooked Cubs collapses. It was pretty monumental.

  • In reply to Vinny:

    One of my first years as a fan, too. I had forgotten just how big a swoon that was. Thanks for reminding us, John!!

  • In reply to TokyoCraig:

    Ha! It's a painful one. It prepared us well for being lifelong Cubs fans.

  • In reply to Vinny:

    77 Cubs were in 1st place up until Sutter went on the DL in early August. His loss more than anything(his ERA at the end of the year was 3.02, so his ERA after his return was unsightly), along with the fact that Trillos BA dropped off hugely in the 2nd half.

  • This is great, many of us are nearly the same age. My first year I have spotty memories of the Cubs is 72. I definitely recall coming home from school in September, turning on WGN and seeing the last couple innings of Pappas' should-have-been perfect game. Beginning in 73, I remember everything. Which probably is not a good thing....

    On Jerry Morales' quirks, I never did the basket catch, but in Little League I emulated his batting style with the high bat stance. Did nothing for me and my pop-gun swing, but my best friend thought it looked cool. :-) When I pitched, I tried to emulate Krukow's delivery for some reason.

  • Thanks for the great article. 77 was also my first year, the year i turned five. I can remember getting baseball cards of guys like Pete LaCock and Joe Wallis, being excited about the fact that they were cubs but having no idea whether they were any good. I also remember going to games and thinking that Jose was the first word of the National Anthem (in honor of Cardenal) because they sung the song at Cub games.

    I also decided that year that i liked the blue jays and mariners because their first season was also my first as a fan. Rooting for the Cubs plus two expansion teams was probably good preparation for being a lifelong Cub fan.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    Thanks Svaz. That actually sounds a lot like my '75 experience when I was 5 to start the season. It was mostly about baseball cards and individual players then, but I didn't really get into the team and the game until '77.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    Oh Pete LaCock. More famous for being Pete Marshall(host of the "Hollywood Squares") son-in-law than for any baseball accomplishments.

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    Pete LaCock was a really cool, nice guy, and I got to know him later that decade when he was traded to the Royals, he used to leave us free tickets when they'd come to town to play the WhiteSox. I also got to know Jose Cardinal when I visited my Grandparents in Clw. Florida after he was traded to the Phils. I interviewed him for my newspaper I made up and sold to my relatives. Another great, friendly guy. I even have a pic of him sitting on my couch in Florida! With the huge afro!

  • In reply to JoseCardinal II:

    Jose made one of the greatest throws I ever saw against Montreal, from the edge of the warning track in RF , throwing a perfect one-hop throw to the plate to nail Ellis Valentine. I beleive that was either in 76 0r 77 also.

  • Boy, I sure remember Cub's baseball in 1977 like it was yesterday.

    Living in Indiana at the time and only getting WGN games on Sunday (on our local station) the biggest thrill for me was listening on the WGN radio to Vince and Lou call those exciting games in June and July and ringing the "cow bell" whenever a Cub hit a home run. I still get chills thinking of how dominant Sutter was that summer coming in for a typical 2-inning save, and usually striking out the last batter in the ninth with a filthy pitch that "dropped off the table" as Vince and Lou described it!

    Buckner 's hitting was just insane that summer and he seemed to always get a clutch hit when they needed it.

    That was a really fun team to listen to until September when the bottom dropped out.

    Thanks for the memories John!

  • Excellent write-up and idea for a mini series.

    Living in small town Iowa in the late 70's early 80's we were just starting to get cable television and lucky enough WGN was one of the available stations. About that same time our local AAA team switched affiliations to the Cubs and I was hooked.

    Saw the big league team for the first time when they came to Des Moines to play an exhibition game against the Iowa Cubs. I remember meeting Fergie Jenkins and Ron Cey during one of these games. I have much respect for those guys who came to Iowa on an off day to play an exhibition game.

    First big league game was 1984 on a family trip to Montreal to see the Cubs win 2-1. Saw them play the Giants in July of 1987 before I made it to Wrigley for a game.

    All these stories about baseball in general and Cubs specifically, remind me why I think baseball is the best sport in the world. Thanks, John.

  • Ah, 1977. I made my first ever visit to Wrigley Field on my 16th birthday, June 9, 1977 -- when I drove myself up there with 3 buddies after getting my license earlier that morning. We took 41 north from Whiting. Got there just before game time and literally parked the car on the street on the north side of Addison just east of Clark. As we were getting into the car after the game, a big old German-looking cop came and stood right in front of the car. He said, "You kids from Indiana think you can park anywhere! I got a tow truck coming for this car." I think he saw the look of terror on my face as I said my old man is gonna kill me and he said, "Go on. Get the f*&% out of here."

    And what a day. Cubs were in 1st place. But those were the days when you could just walk up to window and buy a decent ticket for 6 bucks.

    I'll never forget how beautiful and amazingly green it was as I first walked up the flight of stairs on the 1st base side. Bonham and the Cubs dueled the Giants to a 0-0 score after nine, Sutter shut them down for I'm sure it was two innings and Jose Cardenal won it on a squeeze play with Mick Kelleher running for G. Mitterwald who had doubled to lead off the bottom of the 11th.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    I remember doing that too, just walking up to the window and pretty much sitting wherever you want, which for us was usually the cheap seats. But every so often when you saved enough allowance, you could splurge for the box seats even minutes before game time.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    We have the same birthday but I turned 20 on June 9, 1977.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    I probably only got to go to a game about every other Summer when I was a kid, gowing up in a little town about half-way between Gary & South Bend. I don't remember the Cubs winning many of those games.

    My 'best' memory of a game I was at (seated somewhere along the 3rd Base side cheap seats) was watching (I think it was him anyway) Dave Parker get a beer dumped on him in LF as he stood on the warning track watching a HR go into the basket.

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    Little factoid on Pete LaCock...his father is Peter "Marshall", host of Hollywood squares. Monday's wife was a contestant on the show once. she lost.

  • 2003 was this year for me, i was in junior high at the time. Sammy Sosa drew me to the cubs (98 HR race), but 2003 was the year I knew it was something more, I was a lifer.

    I remember in the playoffs I would come to school after a win and no one watched or cared about the cubs. Then Bartman happened and i wish everyone would stop talking about it.

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    Patrick Mooney on Tanaka: "The Cubs are prepared to make a nine-figure investment in Tanaka, according to a source familiar with the team’s thinking. A 25-year-old Japanese ace would fit into the long-range business/baseball plans at a renovated Wrigley Field and a future TV network. But multiple officials have predicted the money is going to get 'silly' and another desperate, free-spending team will blow them away with more years and dollars. "

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's pretty much what I'm afraid of. Good for the Cubs, though, that they're willing to go that far.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I kinda wish they'd get "silly." As much value as we're building up with guys like Castro/Rizzo/Bryant/Baez/Johnson/Whatever-We-Get-For-Samardzija, going overboard to bring in a legit #2 seems like a good idea.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It still depends on how silly, though -- there are different shades of silliness. I honestly haven't heard any comparisons to Daisuke, but I wonder if there's more or less risk here with Tanaka, and if we're going to be honest, a $25M / year contract for a Daisuke 2.0 would hurt the Cubs a lot more than it would hurt the Yankees or Dodgers.

    We've all been predicting a contract of about $20M a year for a little while, which makes me think that if a bunch of fans can figure $20M then the real contract will be closer to $30M. I hope I'm wrong, and I hope the Cubs get the guy at a palatable contract, but let's be real here -- Tanaka is not a sure thing and it's a lot of money no matter what.

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    In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    I've thought for a while it will go up to $30 million AAV. I also think that's the price of poker and we should buy in. Yeah, he could flop, but if we really believe in our development system, it won't be devastating, especially if new revenues from the renovations and TV contract are coming in.

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    In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    Sorry if this double-posts:
    I’ve thought for a while it will go up to $30 million AAV. I also think that’s the price of poker and we should buy in. Yeah, he could flop, but if we really believe in our development system, it won’t be devastating, especially if new revenues from the renovations and TV contract are coming in.

  • Was '77 the year Franks had Cookie Rojas as 1B coach and Peanuts Lowery as 3B coach, and he and Bobby Murcer did the dosey doe move as Murcer was rounding third to avoid getting thrown out at the plate, but then he was called out anyway because it was obviously, but unfortunately against the rules. That play sticks in my memory for some reason, even though I've forgotten virtually the last 20 years. Perhaps undue memory retention is part of the Cub fan disease.

  • In reply to Cleme:

    Franks, Cookie, and Peanuts. I'm getting hungry.

    In all seriousness, that sounds about right. I know they were right around that era.

  • 1996 for me. I already watched the Cubs on TV at that point and had been to other games, but that was the year I fell deeply in love and I can pinpoint the moment it all happened. I was 12 years old and coming back from my first summer at sleep away summer camp. My parents picked me up and my Dad told me just the two of us were going to a ballgame that afternoon. I couldn't tell you where we sat, who the Cubs played, who pitched, but I can remember the ballpark and the field and I was so tired I fell asleep in the later innings. My dad half carried me out of the ballpark to the Red Line. I've been a fan ever since.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Nice story...those were some tough years, but not a bad time to hop aboard. Started getting a little better under McPhail and the early, more financially responsible version of Hendry.

  • I love those rare moments when the rational measured baseball writer vanishes and total Cubbie homer John shows up - great story!

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    Haha! Thanks. It's really fun to let go once in awhile and just be a somewhat irrational, but very passionate fan -- which is pretty much what I am whenever I watch a game.

  • My story goes back to the late 60s when I was catching in little league for the Derby Cubs while the Chicago Cubs had a darn good catcher (defensively anyway) who shared my surname. Loved rooting for Randy Hundley and the Cubs ever since.

  • I was 11 in 1977. I cried when Madlock was traded. I imitated Morales' basket catch and high bat start. That is when I wasn't using the Biittner high leg kick. Who didn't try throwing the Sutter splitter. We all wanted to make our buddy look as helpless as George Mitterwald trying to catch that crazy downward action.

    It was a glorious summer to be a young baseball fan. During the afternoons the Cubs were playing great baseball until just after the All-Star break. In the evening, you rotated the rabbit ears and tuned in channel 44 to watch the South Side Hitmen with Gamble, Zisk, Garr, and Chet Lemon. Next to the 82 Brewers, the best collection of no glove bashers I can remember.

    As a kid, you could not ask for better teachers of the game than Lou Boudreau and Jimmy Piersall at his best.

  • In reply to Cubs77tonow:

    Ha! That pretty much sounds like my group of friends. Only one of them was a Sox fan, though. The rest of us were indifferent to the South Siders.

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    John-you're awesome-great stuff!

    My best bud was a sox fan. He was supposed to spend the night one time but started laughing when the Cubs blew a big lead one night in Houston. I threw him out and told him he had to go home! We still laugh about it.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Thanks. One of my good friends was a Sox fan too. We had quite a few quarrels, though he's also the guy who did the great Herman Franks' impression, so that definitely redeemed him to some degree.

  • Nice piece. I always remind people of Bill Madlock when they'd say Aramis Ramirez was the Cubs first quality 3B since Santo.

    Also, if you want to realize just how bad the Cubs minor leagues were then, just consider all the good to great players the Cubs were able to trade for (and then usually let go). They got Madlock in the Jenkins deal. For Billy Williams they got a package that included future regular All-Star Manny Trillo. They got Steve Stone and Steve Swisher for Ron Santo. They got Rick Monday for Holtzman. You'd think they should have been stacked for the future, except they had very little in the minors, and quickly traded off the young players for downgrades (Madlock for Bobby Murcer; Trillo for essentially Ted Sizemore and Barry Foote), and of course home-grown Andre Thornton for Larry Biittner.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Thanks. Good memory on that Andre Thornton deal. That was another horrible trade. I remember he was a guy that my cousins and I were excited about. He was never a star, but he was a good power hitter for a long time. Meanwhile the Cubs got a solid role player in Biittner at a time when they needed a lot more than short term role players to be good. Still don't understand the move.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And the background on the Andre Thornton deal was allegedly he got into a fight in spring training with Jerry Morales, which precipitated the trade. I'd like to say "only in Cub-dom," but the Indians allegedly shipped out Dennis Eckersly after his wife started having an affair with Eck's best friend and teammate Rick Manning.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    I did not know that. Was too young to have known. I loved me some Jerry Morales basket catches but they should have traded him instead.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Andre Thornton hit 16 hr after the all-star break his rookie year. I never once understood why the Cubs gave up on him.

  • I must add that in addition to the Jerry Morales basket catch, I also played 2B. So I would imitate how Manny Trillo would snatch a grounder, calmly eye the ball as he was gripping it, and then snapping a quick side-arm throw to first base.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The Trillo buggy whip. Of course you had to wait for the runner to get 80% to first before throwing it. It drove my coach crazy. But it was cool.

  • In reply to Cubs77tonow:

    Ha! Very true on letting the runner get close. It was very cool, in every sense of the word.

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    John shae, SF chronicle :

    I hear Masahiro Tanaka's three preferred spots going in are LA, NY and Boston, so five teams. #dodgers #angels #yankees #mets #redsox

  • Thanks for the awesome memories for us experienced (i.e. old duffer) Cubs fans. I forgot that they started that year out so well. I remember the 81-81 ending, however, I think Franks was fired after that year, too.

    The thing I remember the most from that era (probably just before '77), was the "M squad". This was a phrase coined by Jack Brickhouse, I believe, to describe the 3-4-5 hitters in the Cubs lineup back then, which were Madlock, Monday, and Morales, of course. That was a pretty feared lineup at the time. I couldn't wait for the "M squad" to come to the plate, to shred the opposing pitcher in so many body pieces ;-)

    Billy Buck occasionally throwing his bat in the stands on swing-and-miss strikes has always stuck in my mind, too. Probably because I used to do the same thing in HS, without the good hitting. I can say I never struck out in 1 year of HS ball, never walked either. Scrappy, yet still sucky, pretty much summed up my contributions to the team ;-)

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    In reply to HefCA:

    Speaking of the M-M-M squad, they were featured on a cover of Baseball Digest I got in the mail sometime in the early part of the summer of 77' if my old memory serves me correctly. That team won a bunch of late games in such an exciting fashion I used to think Jack Brickhouse (superior to Harry Carey in so many ways- least of which is that Harry was a die hard Cards announcer as well as a Sox announcer, 2 of my least fav teams) would fall out of the booth or scream out a lung. I can still do his home run call where his voice would pitch up a few octaves.

  • In reply to JoseCardinal II:

    Wow, I never knew that about the cover. Way cool! That would be an awesome collector's item for an old-timer Cubs fan.

    I agree on Jack's signature "Hey Hey!"s. Awesome to hear it, because it only meant one thing. And it was a subtle statement meant to enhance the excitement of the home run, not try to steal the spotlight from it. He was a class act, in and out of the booth, from what I've read of him.

  • UPDATE:

    Reader Marc sent me a link for the highlights of that 16-15 game, so I went ahead and added it to the article. Check it out.

    Didn't think you'd get an update on a 1977 article, did you?

  • I was 10 years old in '77 and my fondest memory of the Cubs was when my dad took me to a double-header with the Houston Astros. It was sweltering hot and the only thing I remember was eating hot dogs and that he was happy. We didn't stay for both games but that was the last time I went anywhere with him! Maybe I'll buy him season tickets to say thanks!

  • In reply to Sabrina Nixon:

    I'm sure he'd appreciate that!

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    the Lee Elia rant was one of my first
    memories - what a ay to be indoctrinated

    still awesome to listen to

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S0CDtEz_Bo

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    Please thank Marc for downloading those highlites from that game that I haven't seen since I was 12, that brought tears to my eyes! What a summer!

  • Wow! This is almost exactly the same year I became a Chicago Cubs fan. I was also around 8 years old at the time. The only difference is that I grew up in west central Illinois in an area that did not yet get basic cable (or my parents could not afford it) so my only opportunity to watch the Cubs where on Sunday afternoons when the ABC affiliate broadcast the games or listening to WGN radio with Jack Brickhouse.
    Of course I know all of those great names you mention John because although I couldn't watch the games, I did religiously follow the box scores in the paper every day.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    Very cool. I never realized how popular this team was until today.

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    77 was probably the first year I got into the Cubs, too. Your piece brought back some good memories. The ultimate in 1970s Cubs was also on that team, Tarzan Joe Wallis. His playing time peaked in 1976, by 77 he was a fill-in, and in 78 he was traded to the A's. But he's the embodiment of the Cubs in the 70s for me.

  • In reply to Rob Harris:

    Thanks. I should have figured out a way to work Tarzan into the article!

  • Got to say how envious I am of you that grew up in and around Chicago and being able to enjoy Brickhouse and Boudreau. Growing up here in southcentral Kansas during the 60s and 70s all we had was the game of the week(usually the Yankees) or the dirtybirds on the radio. Was so happy when we got cable and WGN.

  • In reply to kansascub:

    That was great. Brickhouse is still my favorite old time, though Len Kasper is great and Harry was fun.

    But I really liked Boudreau because he would teach you about the game. He was Stone before Stone -- and without that twinge of arrogance.

  • In the summer of 77, the Trib ran a daily series of 7x10 Cub player headshot next to a Sox player headshot with the cutout lines for all of us kids to clip and save. I still have my set. And yes, I know exactly where it is.

  • In reply to Cubs77tonow:

    I remember those. I cut out the Cubs ones only, though. And I have no idea where they are now. Also remember the Kellogg's 3-D cards and also the cards you cut out of the bottom of Twinkie and Ho-Ho boxes.

  • wow great video. watching the big red machine botch those plays is why i love wrigley.

    also, was i the only one a little taken back by the crowd. that thing was packed! i cant wait to see it like that again.

  • Good point. They were a first place team at the time of that video. But it wasn't always like that back then.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    True, i burst out laughing when the manager got kicked out, it was exactly like you described.

  • Wow. Awesome footage! Love the afro fueled triple by Donnie Moore. Man, does Trillo have skinny legs. Nice to see the swings of those guys that I barely remember. Also Reuschel's winning run. I remember him being a good hitter for a pitcher and can remember watching him hit a triple when I was a kit--don't remember what year that was.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    I actually remember that triple by Donnie Moore because it was so shocking. Reuschel was actually a lot faster than he looked and the Cubs did occasionally use him as a pinch-runner. He got from first to third easily on that single.

    And I was especially happy to see Herman Franks get in an argument and, as usual, his hat came off. Good to see that one more time. It made me laugh the way it always did.

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    1977 was the first year I started to catch full time. I was 10 years old and my hero suddenly became George Mitterwald.... LOL

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I played 2B and OF, so it was always Trillo and Morales for me, though as mentioned, I would have settled for a Davey Rosello career.

  • I had to like the Cubs at Busch Stadium. It was Fergie vs. Gibby which the good guys lost but my favorite player, Billy Williams hit a home run. My father took my brother and I years later and I walked up the stairs and saw the ivy. Wow......this is the place to be. Jerry Martin knocked in all 3 runs in a 3-2 win that day. True baseball.

  • In reply to edubbs:

    My dad used to rave about the Jenkins-Gibson pitching duels. Both pitchers worked quickly and threw strikes. He is as big a fan as efficiency as he is the Cubs.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I once sat through a 2:10 rain delay only to watch Greg Maddux throw a 2:02 GC. The Cubs lost 2-0.

  • In reply to edubbs:

    First Cubs game was in 1969-Jenkins V Gibby. Cubs win 3-1, getting all 3 in the 7th inning on a Banks single(scorin g Billy Williams) and a PH 2 run HR by Willie Smith, putting Cubs up 3-0 at the time. Jenkins gave up a solo HR in the 8th, but ended up with the complete game win.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I've really been enjoying reading everyone's post and I was going to wait till I read them all until I posted my comment on when I became a Cub fan. I had almost read them all, but the mention of Willie Smith and I just couldn't hold out any longer. My all time favorite highlight in Cubs history is Jack Brickhouse's call of Willie Smith's 1969 10th inning Opening Day HR vs the Phillies. "Hey Hey! Willie Smith just homered! The ball game is over." Too bad 1969 had to have such a sad ending. I remember when the Cubs won their division in 1984 WGN had a Cubs special that opened showing that hr, but now I can't seem to find it.

    I didn't start out as a Cub fan. I lived in a suburb on the far south side and my family were Sox fans. My Dad was a mailman and this guy on his route was a scout for the Sox, so he would always get us tickets to see the Sox vs the Yankees. My dad's friend, who was a Cubs fan, threatened to never let me in his house if I didn't become a Cubs fan. As a 7 yr old I was gullible enough to believe him so I made the switch to the Cubs.

  • I still think to this day that we would have won in 1984 had we kept Reuschel and dropped Campbell.

  • John, This article motivated me to create an account and post a comment. I want to thank you, the other writers and posters for such and informative and entertaining blog. It has been a must read for me for 14 months or so. The origins of my Cubs Fandom are very similar to a lot of the posters commenting today. My first memories of following the Cubs are of the 1972 season, so I remember a lot of the 1967-1972 6 straight years over .500 team. Billy Williams was still great and Santo, Beckert, Kessinger, Hundley and Jenkins still had their moments. The first year I really became addicted was 1975. That was the first season that our Cable company had WGN for the whole season. Jose Cardenal was my favorite player and Bill Madlock, who came from Decatur, was a very close second. The Cubs got off to a good start in '75. I think they lost their first game, but then won their next 7. Then they lost one or two and won another 4 or 5. I was young, so I thought they actually had a chance to finish in first place. 1977 was also a very memorable year for me. I remember watching that crazy game against the Reds. It was the most exciting game I ever saw until the famous Cubs vs. Phils 23-22 game in '79. I also remember watching that game where Lou made the comment about reaching 25 game over .500 meant they didn't have to worry about .500 for the rest of the year. If Sutter had stayed healthy all year, that would have been true.

  • In reply to DecaturCubFan:

    Thanks DecaturCubFan. Appreciate the stories. 1975 was my first team but I was so young that I don't think I really was old enough to appreciate the game yet. It was more about favorite players and baseball cards then. Back then I'd wait for Madlock and Cardenal to come to bat to really pay attention, but that's basically where it started for me.

  • The lasting obsessions with ancient trades remind me of how I became a Cubs fan. I grew up a Sox fan on the South Side. I barely knew the Cubs existed. One of my first very clear memories was the 1959 White Sox (and I still hate the Dodgers for beating them). And then the Sox traded Aparicio, exposed Fox, traded Norm Cash and Johnny Callison, and on and on…

    My father and my older brother kept saying things like “I will never watch them again” (we must be careful what we say in from of the youngsters) and I took them seriously. For a couple years I think I rooted for Milwaukee Braves more than anyone else – they had star power. Then I went to Wrigley Field with a friend and saw the red bricks and the ivy, and I was hooked – it was probably about 1963.

    Years later in New Mexico I had a friend from the North Side who was a Sox fan – we gave each other endless s*#t over it.

  • If you really want to feel both passion and pain for our beloved CUBS, treat yourself to "An Incurable Disease: Memories, Observations and Ravings from a Baby Boomer Cub Fan" by Frank Mucci. It's available on Amazon. It describes everything a die hard Cub fan has gone through regardless of age or era. The guy is hilarious and is must read for all of us who continue to wait for the ultimate day that might never happen.

  • In reply to kevie:

    Thanks for the tip on the book. I read the reviews on Amazon and although there were only 3, they were all great. I got a laugh just from the cover and I had some Amazon points, so I purchased the book. Thanks again.

  • '69 was where it all started for me. Almost every year since, has been another wait 'til next year. I do believe next year is on the horizon. We will see that championship, and know this has all been worth it.

  • In reply to finish84:

    Agreed. I think "next year" is finally just about 3 years away. But the thing that I like is that I believe that when they become good, they'll stay good for awhile this time. No more one and done.

  • Thanks John, and everyone else for sharing your personal stories about growing up as a Cub fan. I happened upon a Cub game on WGN one afternoon in the early seventies and was quickly hooked. I used to turn the TV on as soon as I got home from school and catch as much as I could. My brother and I had an afternoon newspaper route which often "interrupted" my daily Cub games. Fortunately it was a short route which began just three blocks from home. We would wait for a commercial and then pedal our bikes like crazy so we could complete the route and return home within about ten or fifteen minutes and miss as little of the games as possible. This was just before the dawn of the VHS tape players so viewing games later wasn't an option.

    I have so many great memories of classic games as a youngster, and then the tears of joy in 1984 when I finally got to see the Cubs make the post season.....soon to be followed by heartbreak of course. How that team lost to the Padres, I still can't figure that one out. But my most painful Cubs memory had to be in 2003. My wife and I were watching game six with Mark Prior and the Cubs just five outs away from the WS. Eight runs later, with me on the floor in sheer agony and disbelief, my wife tried to console me by reminding me that they still had Wood going in game seven. I remember shaking my head and telling her she just didn't understand, that it was the Cubs, and their fate was as good as sealed. We had only been married for ten years and she wasn't a "seasoned" Cub fan like I was.

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    Only ten years, I love it. My kids were 10 and 6 in 2003. They still tell me they weren't sure if I was going to blow up or give up: suicide, murder-suicide, or just walk out into the night never to be seen again. I couldn't bring myself to watch Game 7.

  • In reply to bruno14:

    Five minutes. It all came crashing down in five freaking minutes. I remember just a few minutes before that, I was delirious with the thought of the upcoming pennant celebration a mere 30 minutes away. Good gawd that was bad times.....

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    I'm still not quite over 2003. I had my beer in hand, I was ready to celebrate. It was one of the worst feelings I ever had as a Cubs fan to see that lead slip away.

  • Listening to Lou reminded me of something I always liked about him:

    He would do a pre-game interview with someone before each game, and would always refer to the player or coach as "fine gentleman", as in "Our Lead-Off Man guest today is Willie Stargell, left fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates and fine gentleman".

    It was a humanizing, softening touch in an often coarse, harsh business.

  • In reply to Jim Hickman:

    You remembered him better than I did.

  • I'm one of the cousins referenced in this article. It's true, John was very passionate about the cubs back then as was I. I hope he won't mind me disclosing that we were so passionate that when Willie Hernandez would come into a game ( the pre-trade to the Tigers, pre-Cy Young version who sometimes made Marmol looks like Trevor Hoffman) he would get so upset he would shed some tears. We teased him about it for years, but truth be told I think I shed some too. Thanks John and all contributors for raking up some painful but beautiful memories of an era. Oh, one last note. John was a Davey Rosello guy bit he always had a soft spot for all the cubs little guys. John I remember both of us going crazy when Mick Kelleher went after Dave Kingman.

  • In reply to JerryMartin28:

    Haha! I don't remember that but I'll take your word for it since I know I shed quite a few tears as a Cubs fan. The Bill Madlock trade being one of those times.

    That Kelleher fight was great. If I remember correctly, he had Kingman down for awhile until he got hurt in the ensuing pile-up. Kelleher was the ultimate scrappy player and he gave Kingman all he could handle -- maybe a little more.

    Also remember us rooting for Kelleher to get that one HR for his career and we were all screaming for the 3B coach to send him home on what wound up being a stand-up triple on which he rounded the bag. He would never get that close again.

  • John, how can we have a story about 1977 without a mention of George Mitterwald? It took poster Nondorf to bring up his name! Great article, I was a little older than you and unfortunately remember the last two months all too well. I recall The Cubs getting their doors blown off in a four game series late in the year against the Phillies at Wrigley. After the last game the fans were booing and Brickhouse said he would be doing the same if he was in the stands. I don't think you should've ever let Ontiveros off the hook.

  • In reply to Dave S:

    My bad! I left out the Baron. Always seemed to hit those memorable HRs.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Mitterwald and Steve (1976 All-Star) Swisher. What a catching tandem that was. If that doesn't make you appreciate Castillo/Navarro, nothing will.

    On that subject, why was Swisher the 1976 All_star representative? I think Monday was hurt during the break, but the team also had Reuschel, Cardinal and of course Madlock. Why Swisher? how bad were the other NL catchers that year?

  • Off Topic on Tanaka - Earlier reports of the NPB Posting Fee payment schedule were incorrect, the posting fee will be paid to Tanaka (and all NPB players) in 4 separate installments over 18 months upon contract submission.

    Kiley McDaniels of Scout.com has the details:

    Payment One: 50% of the posting fee is due within 14 days of submission of the contact. For Tanaka, that would be $10 million due by February 7th, 2014.

    Payment Two: 17% of the posting fee is due within 6 months of submission of the contract. For Tanaka, that would be $3.4 million due by July 24th, 2014.

    Payment Three: 17% of the posting fee is due within 12 months of submission of the contract. For Tanaka, that would be $3.4 million due by January 24th, 2015.

    Payment Four: 16% of the posting fee is due within 18 months of submission of the contract. For Tanaka, that would be $3.2 million due by July 24th, 2015.

    http://sbb.scout.com/2/1364381.html

    Also here come the Dodgers (but we knew that already):

    1) Bob Nightengale @BNightengale
    The #Dodgers have let it be known they plan to go all-out in their efforts to sign Tanaka, saying they and certainly won't be out-bid.
    12:46 PM - 10 Jan 14

    2) Bob Nightengale ‏@BNightengale
    The #Dodgers, while confirming their interest in Tanaka, say they won't spend wildly on him, particularly with Kershaw about to hit FA
    2:39 PM - 10 Jan 14

    3) Bob Nightengale ‏@BNightengale
    The #Dodgers say they want Tanaka but they also want to make it clear they won't do something crazy in their offer.
    2:52 PM - 10 Jan 14

  • I have to ask... is the picture at the top of the article from a 1977 Topps Baseball card? If so, you can tell they are not very thorough when putting those together. You could probably have a competition to find the mistakes. I see quite a few players (Rick Monday, Bill Madlock, Pete LaCock, Darold Knowles, Ken Frailing, Champ Summers) that did not play for the Cubs in '77. There is also a picture of the previous manager, Jim Marshall, above the picture of Herman Franks. LOL... I suppose having incorrect players is understandable since the cards are made up well in advance of the season. But keeping a picture of the previous manager should have been caught by someone before printing.

  • In reply to DecaturCubFan:

    It is, but it may depend on when they printed the card too. Madlock was traded in mid February and I'm thinking a lot of those guys may have still been under contract...but yeah, I'm thinking they probably didn't have the same kind of standards they do now.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    What a great idea to jump into the way-back machine and clear our heads of Tanaka for a minute!
    How strange it is see OPS and other modern stats on the guys from the 60's/70's! You never heard anyone mention walks to SO ratios or even slugging % that much.
    My day: DH sweep of Braves w/ Adolpho Phillips hitting 4 HR and 7 RBI.

  • In reply to DecaturCubFan:

    Cards were printed up WAY before the season began and one can finds tons of examples, especially in team photo cards. Doubt most kids paid little attention.

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    Tanaka has returned home to Japan.

  • Wow, I didn't realize how much older everyone is on here. Alot of heartbreak. There is nothing i like more than hearing stories about old cubbies, especially 60's-70's. My mom was a fan of the 80's cubs, and her favorite player was the Hawk; so i heard my share of those teams.

  • Thanks for the trip down memory lane John. Your Madlock/Ontiveros story reminds me of my first season as a Cubs fan -- 1960. I remember being pissed when my favorite team traded my favorite player (Tony Taylor) so some 19-year-old punk (Ron Santo) could take over at 3rd. It took me years to warm to Santo.

  • Thanks so much for this article and to all the readers sharing memories of seasons gone by. Like the rest of you, the most "memorable" or "forgettable", whichever one chooses to call them, are '69, '84, and '03. I've especially not gotten over '69 and have absolutely despised the Mets ever since, even more than the Cardinals. I've never seen a team have so much go their way, including the WS. But '69 and '84 made me angry, while '03 absolutely broke my heart. I don't mind admitting to all of you that I was in tears, near sobbing - not when the roof fell in and we lost, but before that when I said to myself, "We're going to the World Series at long last." My near lifelong, diehard love for my Cubs was actually going to summit. As someone mentioned above, I somehow knew it was over after that game. My wife told me it wasn't, but I still knew that we had given the Marlins new life. I was devastated.

    So I won't go into details about any given season, rather I will sort of summarize my memories of being a fan this long. I grew up on a farm near Streator, Illinois and probably started really paying attention to the Cubs at about age 10 or so. I was also a big Yankee fan and Mantle was my hero and whom I tried to emulate on the playing field. But then I started listening to the Cubs on GN radio and watching on GN TV with our antenna able to show mostly snow, but still worth watching to me. I remember becoming a big fan of the Walt Moryns, Lee Walls, George Altmans, and of course Ernie. That's probably when I first became a diehard. Then I guess my favorite Cub ever was Billy Williams, with Ernie a close second.

    Some of my fondest memories are of Jack Quinlan, Lou of course, Vince and Jack Brickhouse. Lou would come on with "The Leadoff Man" to the instrumental version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", followed by "It's a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame" and Jack Quinlan, then Vince Lloyd (holy mackerel!) with the broadcast. The video shown here was especially pleasing in that I got to hear Brickhouse and Lou again. Does anyone remember how Lou would be so exasperated when someone didn't come through in a clutch situation? "There's a swing and a.....POPUP!!" I still laugh when I think about that.

    A couple distinct memories:

    - Most of you are likely too young to remember this, but I was listening to the Cubs vs. (can't remember who) and they were down something like 10 - 0 in the 3rd, but kept chipping away and ended up winning in the 9th (IIRC). That was somewhere in the early 60s. I think Quinlan and Lou were on then and they went ballistic, as did I.

    - I was at a game against the Pirates when Williams hit one of his patented line drives over Clemente's head in right and off the wall. Williams, no slouch on the basepaths, went for two, but Clemente gunned him down at 2nd - impressed because of how hard that ball was hit and because of Clemente's arm.

    - Sandberg's homers to twice save the game vs. Cardinals.

    - Dunston's walk-off homer on a cold, April first game of a double header I attended with friends.

    - DeRosa's grand slam at a game I attended in San Francisco (against Zito, I think) that put the game out of reach.

    It's been a long, weary journey with these Cubs and I pray that I will live long enough to see the day that we finally at LEAST win the pennant. Hope springs eternal and we have all suffered together, something comforting in that - we're like a special family where no one but us knows what it's been like. Thanks to all of you.

  • Thank you for this article John. I really enjoyed your story, along with the many stories in the comments that it inspired.

    Though I don't comment often, I read your blog religiously. I want to say that, not only is it the best Cubs blog out there, I believe it is clearly the best blog for any baseball team that I have encountered.

    Here's to a chance at Tanaka, and non-linear improvement in 2014!

  • Thank You John for posting your article. It was a special season for me and my brother.

    The article brought back memories of the 1977-78 seasons. I was 10 years old and that summer we moved from city (Jefferson Park) to Mt. Prospect which seemed like we moved out of state. The Cubs that summer helped me and my brother cope with the move. What made it really special for me and my brother was the fact we heard rumors that some of the Cub players lived in the same apt. complex (Forest Cove apt. on Busse rd. just south of Alqonquin rd) as we did. We went to every building in our complex and checked the names on the mail boxes and buzzers in each building. Low and behold we did find some Cub & White Sox players living there - Mike Krukow, Bruce Sutter, George Mitterwald, Steve Ontiveros, Ray Burris, Steve Stone and Donnie Moore. Some of the players were nice when we knocked on their door asking for an autograph and some not so nice. We would see the players & their families at the complex pool and played with some of their kids (most of the kids were much younger than us). We even made some money that summer by walking Mike Krukow's dog while he was out of town (one time as payment he gave us a bat that he cracked batting against Tom Seaver). Having the knowledge that some of the Cub players lived at our apt. complex made it easier for us to make friends that new school year. We still are close friends with many of the friends we made that new school year, just proving again there is a mystique about the Cubs and the bonds that are made following that team.

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