The Chicago Cubs are known for futility. How feeble have the Cubbies been over the decades? They’ve not only gone more than a century without winning a World Series, there is no longer anyone alive who participated in a World Series as a member of the Cubs.
Lennie Merullo, the last living individual to play for the Cubs in the World Series, died Saturday at age 98.
Merullo, a shortstop who played for Chicago from 1941 to 1947, took part in three games during the 1945 World Series against the Detroit Tigers.
Merullo recalled not too long ago that after the 1945 Series, the Cubs imagined they’d make it back soon enough.
“Yeah, sure,” he said. “We never gave up hope.”
Merullo’s career stats are hardly impressive: playing largely during World War II when many standout players had been drafted into the military, he compiled a career batting average of .240, with six homers, 152 runs batted in, and 191 runs scored.
He did manage to set at least one Major League record, however, committing four errors in one inning.
In mid-September 1942, following a game in New York, Merullo took a bus to Boston where his wife was expecting their first child. His son was born at 5 a.m. and, despite not having slept, Merullo went over to Braves Field in Boston, where the Cubs were scheduled to play a doubleheader that day.
By the second game, exhaustion caught up with Merullo, he told Ed Attanasio of the website thisgreatgame.com last year.
“I had no business being out there,” he recalled. “Almost immediately, I made an error at shortstop. I kicked the ball, and then threw it over the first baseman’s head. Then, they hit me another grounder, and I did the same thing again. If they hit me another ball, I would have booted that one, too.”
Although the record has been tied, it’s never been broken.
Despite Merullo’s limited success with the Cubs, he spent 22 years as a scout for Chicago, then another 30 with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau before retiring in 2003 at age 85.
(Top: Lennie Merullo as a member of the Chicago Cubs.)