Barry Foote Day at Wrigley Field

Weird things happen at Wrigley Field. It’s baseball’s version of a box of chocolate; you never know what you’ll find. Tub slides in urinals, goats being denied admission, Barry Foote driving in eight; it’s a bizarre place.

On April 22nd, 1980 the bizarre occurrences began with the weather. Ask anyone who has attended April games in Wrigley Field and they’ll tell you to bundle up. Few places on earth can be colder than Wrigley Field at the beginning of the season. But the temperature on this day was a record-setting 92. That temperature also came with a slight wind to keep patrons comfortable at the Friendly Confines. That breeze was measured at 22 MPH blowing out to right field. Warm temps and high winds at Wrigley means lots of runs, and the Cubs and Cardinals didn’t disappoint.

The First Three

Things began innocently enough. The Cardinals scored two in the top of the 1st off Cubs starter Dennis Lamp on a hit by Bobby Bonds and an error by 3rd baseman Steve Ontiveros. Chicago got one back in the bottom of the frame when Ivan de Jesus homered off Cardinals starter Bob Forsch.

Each team added a run in the 2nd, and the Cardinals added three more in the top of the 3rd on homers by Bobby Bonds and Ken Reitz, but the Cubs ties it at 6 in the bottom of the frame on back-to-back hits by Jerry Martin and Barry Foote.

The Middle Three

Lamp’s afternoon was mercifully over after three innings and had he said he never wanted to pitch in Wrigley Field ever again no one could have blamed him. On this day, he surrendered seven runs on six hits and it wasn’t even his worst home start. Less than a year earlier he drew the start in another game with the wind blowing out. In that contest, Lamp faced the Philadelphia Phillies, who won the game 23-22. Lamp was the Cubs starter and gave up six runs in a third of an inning.

Lynn McLauglin followed Lamp and didn’t fare any better, giving up five runs on four hits and a walk in two-third of an inning. St. Louis added another run in the top of the fourth to grab a 12-6 lead, but the Cubs came storming back.

Four hits in the bottom of the 5th, including an RBI triple from Ivan DeJesus, gave Chicago three runs and chased Forsch from the game. Getting 12 runs through five innings is a pitcher’s dream. Not being able to last long enough to get the win is the stuff nightmares are made of.

The Final Three

The Man of the Hour

The Cubs loaded the bases in the bottom of the 7th, prompting St. Louis manager Ken Boyer to call on lefty Don Hood to face the left-handed batting Bill Buckner. Billy Buck was on his way to a batting title in 1980, so a lefty/lefty matchup didn’t bother him and his opposite-field single plated Mike Tyson to pull the Cubs a bit closer.

The Cardinals loaded the bases in the top of the 8th, but Bruce Sutter, in relief of Dick Tidrow, struck out Tony Scott to end the threat. In the bottom of the frame, Foote came through again with a solo home run off Roy Thomas to tie the game at 12. Sutter retired the Cardinals without incident in the top of the 9th to set up a dramatic finish.

A Dave Kingman single followed by walks to Buckner and Jerry Martin brought Foote up again in the bottom of the 9th inning against Mark Littell. With two outs, Littell hung a slider and Foote jumped on it, sending it into the basket in right-center field for a walk-off grand slam. Foote’s linescore looked pretty good at the end of the day: Four hits in six at-bats, with 2 homers, a double and 8 RBI.

Chicago manager Preston Gomez summed it up well. “Wrigley Field, that’s what you expect when you see the flag blowing out.”

 

 

Baseball Nivrana

I’ve been a collector for my entire life. You never know when you may need a 37-year-old pocket schedule and I don’t want to be unprepared. So I packed up my sons and headed to Chicago for the Fanatics Authentic Sports Spectacular.

The autograph section was busy all day
The autograph section was busy all day

One of the big draws of shows like this is the autograph pavilion. There are always lots of big names with big price tags attached.

Since I spent some time working in baseball I’m pretty spoiled and I don’t like to pay for autographs but there were obviously plenty of people who were there specifically for that. Some of the bigger names on hand included Hall of Famers Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Cal Ripken, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams. There were also plenty of members of the 2016 Cubs.

But I had two things on my mind: Soak in as much atmosphere and cool stuff as I possibly could and work on my 1972 Topps set.

1972 Topps Baseball
My White Whale

Baseball cards form the bulk of my collection and my latest project is completing the 1972 set. It’s tough and expensive but I’m in no hurry. Had I been so inclined, I could have easily finished the set. There were multiple dealers there with binders of cards from 1972. The only thing stopping me was the expense of purchasing the cards and the expense of the subsequent divorce when I returned home.

 

Aside from filling want lists, one of the big attractions for me  was just taking in all the show had to offer. Going to a card show is like visiting a museum where everything is for sale. Click To Tweet

Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Hank Aaron & Roberto Clemente
Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Hank Aaron & Roberto Clemente

The ’80s were well represented, too.

Steve Garvey, Leon Durham, Willie Stargell
Steve Garvey, Leon Durham, Willie Stargell

Fans of Olde Tyme Baseball had something to see.

1935 Goudey Lou Gehrig & Babe Ruth
Lou Gehrig & Babe Ruth

But my favorite part of shows like this is all the oddball stuff you can find.

Mickey Mantle & Willie Mays baseballs
Mickey Mantle & Willie Mays baseballs
1957 Milwaukee Braves Ashtray
1957 Milwaukee Braves Ashtray
1976 Phillies Phantom World Series Press Pin, 1970 Reds World Series Press Pin, 1980 All-Star Game Press Pin
1976 Phillies Phantom World Series Press Pin, 1970 Reds World Series Press Pin, 1980 All-Star Game Press Pin

It was an outstanding afternoon with my kids and a few of their buddies. My youngest son bought his first T206 card and my older son picked up some relic cards. I got a bit closer to finishing my ’72 set and picked up a signed Bill Madlock photo.

 

As we were preparing to leave, I spotted one last item, a signed Dickie Noles warm up jacket.

Dickie Noles warm up jacket
Dickie Noles warm up jacket

Noles holds a special place in my heart as it was his pitch up and in to George Brett in the 1980 World Series that signaled the beginning of the end of the Royals in the series. Kansas City fans probably have different feelings on Mr. Noles.

If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend attending a similar show near you. You never know what you’ll find.

1984 Topps Cello Packs
What I wouldn’t give to tear into these

Missed it by that much: The Karl Pagel story

If there was a Futures Game in 1980 he would have been a headliner.

Karl Pagel was a can’t miss star. He was a high draft pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1976 and absolutely tore up the minor leagues.  He hit .344 in AA in 1977 with 28 homers and 104 RBI and was named the MVP of the Texas League. He followed that up by hitting another 23 homers in AAA in 1978 and earning a cup of coffee with the Cubs where he went hitless in two at-bats.

Karl Pagel
Pagel owned the American Association in 1979

Despite playing on a last-place team, Pagel led the American Association in homers (39) and RBI (123) in 1979, besting future big leaguers like Kevin Bass, Keith Moreland and Harold Baines. He earned minor league Player of the Year honors and a shot in the outfield for a mediocre Cubs team in 1980 seemed like a lock. The Wrigley Field faithful must have been salivating over the prospect of Pagel and Dave Kingman launching home runs out of the Friendly Confines.

But while Kingman and Pagel may have combined to hit 80 or more homers, they also would have made up one of the worst defensive outfields in the big leagues and the Cubs brass knew it.

“He’s not a good outfielder,” AAA Wichita Manager Jack Hiatt told the Chicago Tribune. “His future is at first base.”

That was a problem because Bill Buckner was locked in at first base for the Cubs and he wasn’t high on Pagel’s defense either.

“I can’t see Pagel and Kingman in the same outfield,” he said.

So despite proving he had nothing left to prove in AAA, Pagel was sent back to Wichita to begin 1980 where he struggled at the plate and then injured his shoulder and his back. He tried to stay optimistic, but it was difficult.

“This is one of the lowest times I ever had, he told the Tribune. “I was so close to making it. I said in the spring that I would rather sit on the Cubs bench than come back here (AAA) but the Cubs made the right move.”

Midway through the 1980 season, Pagel was dealt to the Cleveland Indians, which seemed like an even better fit. He could serve as a DH and send baseballs flying all over ballparks in the American League. Pencil Pagel and Charboneau into the middle of the Cleveland lineup for the rest of the decade.

But 1980 came and went and Pagel never made an appearance with the Indians. He hit .272 with 20 homers for AAA Charleston in 1981 and earned a September callup with the Indians.

On September 15th, Pagel pinch hit for Mike Fishlin with two outs in the bottom of the 9th against Dennis Martinez and hit his first big league homer. Unfortunately it was also his only homer. He finished his major league career in 1983 with Cleveland after playing in a total of 48 games.

Was he the perfect example of a AAAA player? One too good for AAA but not good enough for the big leagues? Possibly. It’s also possible he never got a shot to prove himself. He had a total of just 56 at-bats over five seasons and most of those were as a pinch-hitter or late-inning replacement.

Pagel isn’t unique. There are lots of guys who had great minor league careers and couldn’t put it together at the big league level and those stories always fascinate me. It just goes to show how difficult the game really is.