On May 7, 1922, Walter Mueller became the first player to record five RBIs in his major league debut. Mueller’s offensive statistics included a double and a home run, leading the Pirates to an 11-5 victory over the Cubs in Chicago.
The Chicago White Stockings, in their fifth season as a franchise, made their National League debut on April 25, 1876, winning 4-0 over the Grays at the Louisville Baseball Park in Kentucky. The White Stockings won the NL’s first championship during this season with a record of 52–14. The franchise would be also known as the Colts and the Orphans before becoming the Cubs in 1903.
The Pittsburgh Pirates made their debut at Exposition Park in Pittsburg on April 22, 1891, losing to the Cubs, 7-6. Exposition Park had opened the previous year as the home of the Pittsburgh Burghers of the short-lived Players’ League. The Bucs would call Exposition Park home until 1909, when they moved to Forbes Field.
Add this one to the list of movies that I watched multiple times as a kid. I didn’t watch it as many times as I watched Angels in the Outfield, mostly because we didn’t own a copy, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy Rookie of the Year enough to give it more than one viewing.
Rookie of the Year revolves around twelve-year-old Henry Rowengartner, who, while he is a big fan of the Chicago Cubs, lacks the talent to be much more than a benchwarmer on his little league baseball team. However, one day, Henry steps on a baseball while at a dead run, causing his to trip and break his arm. After spending much of the summer in a cast, Henry discovers that his tendons have healed a little too tightly, turning his arm into a sort of biological catapult that allows him to throw a speeds around a hundred miles per hour.
Before long, Henry finds himself signed by the struggling Cubs, and he almost-single-handedly saves the Chicago team from its financial struggles by drawing sellout crowds to Wrigley Field for the rest of the season. He gets to learn from his hero, Chet “Rocket” Steadman, gets signed to sponsorship deals, and experiences the highs and lows that come with overnight fame. Henry’s mother’s boyfriend, Jack, serves as Henry’s manager, but it quickly becomes apparent that he merely wishes to use Henry as means through which to pad his own bank account.
The Cubs make it all the way to the Division Championship game (which, in this flick, is apparently just the one game). Chet Steadman starts and puts in some solid work before throwing out his arm and opening the opportunity for Henry to pitch. Leading by one going into the final inning, the Cubs run out to take the field, and Henry once again steps on a baseball, causing him to trip. He falls on his arm in the same manner as when he first broke it, but rather than breaking the arm again, Henry finds that his ability to catapult a 100-mph fastball has vanished. The Cubs as a team then have to get creative on how they will manage the final three outs of the game.
Watching this film again last night, for the first time since my childhood, I was able to catch on to some things that were totally over my head when I was younger. For example, the movie plays off the Cubs’ long World Series drought, which was still ongoing at the time of the movie’s release. As a kid, the biggest thing I got out of this movie was a twisted desire to somehow break my arm in hopes that I, too, would develop a slingshot that would turn me into a star ballplayer. As an adult, I just had to marvel at the willingness of some of the adults to exploit a child all in the name of making a buck.
Technically a couple days late, but I would argue it’s still early enough for this to count. I stumbled across this piece last night. It’s full of baseball metaphors being applied to business. Apparently in 2014, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle shared this poem with Pirates staff on Opening Day that year. That day, the Pirates won 1-0 in ten innings over the Cubs.
Today you’ll dig in the closet for your glove and snap a ball into it while sipping your morning coffee.
Today you’ll drive to work and admonish yourself to “keep your head down” and your eye on the road.
Today your team will be in first and planning to stay there. Today you’ll wonder about developing and selling tobacco-flavored toothpaste, as you spit into the sink.
Today you’ll still be able to turn the double play.
Today you’ll end your contract holdout.
Today you won’t lose a business deal in the sun. Today you’ll find yourself rotating your arm around your head to stretch the shoulder and keep it loose.
Today sunflower seeds strangely find their way into your back pocket.
Today you’ll think of wearing a black suit to match the eye black.
Today you’ll have the steal sign.
Today you slip up in a meeting and mention “our sales team vs. lefties.”
Today as the toast comes out of the toaster, you’ll still remember how to execute a perfect “pop-up” slide.
Today a hot dog and peanuts for lunch will sound about right.
Today you tell a co-worker to “get loose.”
Today the only strike you’ll know about is above the knees and below the armpits.
Today you’ll wear your jacket only on your pitching arm.
Today you’ll buy two packs of gum and stuff them in the side of your mouth to look like a player.
Today, during lunch, you’ll wonder why Coke doesn’t come in a wood can.
Today you’ll scratch yourself and spit for no apparent reason.
Today you’ll wonder why stirrup socks never caught on as a fashion rage.
Today you’ll be the rookie looking to make it big.
Today you’ll be the wily vet with just a little something left.
Today you’ll look for the AM dial on your radio.
Today mom’s watching.
Today dad’s in the backyard with his glove.
Today will be hopeful.
Today it’ll still be a kids’ game.
Today you’ll be a kid.
Today is Opening Day!
I stumbled across this video while browsing YouTube. The song, which debuted in 1984, finally made it onto the Billboard charts a week after the Cubs won the 2016 World Series.
Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub,” was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. I love the fact that he starts this speech with his signature, “Let’s play two.”