Eschewing political correctness, I opted to label the early matchups in our quest to find the all-time greatest Chicago Cubs exactly what they really are: play-ins. But just like in the NCAA tourney, there were some intriguing battles in this opening set. If you need a refresher, or if you just didn't get a chance to see the initial post, you can read it here.
And if you'd like to download your own bracket to complete and send in to me, you can do so here. But let's get to the early results, shall we?
PK Wrigley Region
16 Steve Buechele vs.
In a matchup of sacrificial goats, the former 3B who once lamented the fact that he was not very "fleet of feet" managed to outrun his diminutive counterpart. Up next: a battle with the #1 seed, Ryne Sandberg.
Chet Steadman vs. Henry Rowengartner
No surprise here, as the only player to win games with both a blazing fastball (you can see him gassing Bobby Bonilla and a skinny Barry Bonds below) and an eephus pitch in the same season moves on. I mean, he fired a ball on a line from the leftfield bleachers to home plate. Plus, Steadman was played by Gary Busey, so he was too whacked out on coke and mescaline to put up much of a fight. Charlie Root is up next for the Rookie of the Year.
Albert Spalding Region
16 Domingo Ramos vs.
In a matchup between two dudes whose careers are easily forgettable, Ramos somehow comes out on top here. Vance Law had some sweet spectacles, but no one's name come up more than Ramos's when the topic turns to ironic throwback jerseys that you'd love to have. He'll need more than irony to have a chance at the sweet-swingin' lefty, Billy Williams.
11 Jerome Walton vs.
They finished 1-2 in the '89 ROY voting, after which they pulled a Thelma & Louise and drove their careers right over a cliff. Walton gets the honor of facing fellow ROY Kerry Wood in the 1st round of the real tourney.
Charles Weeghman Region
Jeff Pico vs. Mark Prior
While Pico became the 1st Cubs pitcher to throw a shutout in his debut (a 4-0 win over the Reds), that isn't quite enough to get him past Calfzilla. Had Mark Prior's "perfect" mechanics not failed him so badly, he'd likely be in line for a better seeding. But alas, he was snakebit, a fate that probably won't improve as he heads on to face Mr. Cub.
11 Elwood "Woody" English vs.
Bill "Not Spaceman" Lee
It's just not a good time to be a Cubs pitcher who threw a shutout in his MLB debut, I guess. Yes, Lee was Pico's predecessor in that little-known category and now he is able to rejoin Jeff in obscurity. Heck, he's not even the most famous Bill Lee in baseball. Woody squares off with Kiki Cuyler next.
Tribune Co. Region
Rick Wilkins vs. Rick Wrona
Wrona doesn't really belong anywhere near a list of all-time great Cubs, but then again, neither do most of the rest of these play-in participants. But he was once my neighbor's favorite player. Because it would be embarrassing to be tied to such an odd choice for a favorite, I'll not divulge said neighbor's real name, but he often answered to Boner or Ham Bone. You know, I think being tied to an affinity for Rick Wrona isn't that bad after all. Ron Santo is next.
Lon Warneke vs. Leon Durham
Speaking of coked out...ooh, did I just type that out loud? Seriously, though, Bull was an integral piece of the Cubs' NL East Title in '84 and also of their collapse in the pennant vs. the Padres. After a nice little baseball career, he was able to kick his drug and alcohol issues and is currently the hitting coach for the Toledo Mud Hens, AAA affiliate for the Detroit Tigers and wearers of Ghostbusters-themed jerseys. That fact alone was enough to push Durham into the next round, where he'll face Bill Buckner.
Well, that's it for the play-in matchups, but we've got several rounds yet to go. I'll be updating the results as they happen, so, basically, along with the NCAA tourney. You can send me your picks via tweet or comment, or fill out the whole thing and email it to me. Or you can just laugh at me.
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