Last living Cub to play in World Series dies at 98


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.

Chicago, going up against a Tigers team that featured such stars as Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser and Virgil Trucks, lost in seven games. The Cubs haven’t been to a Fall Classic since.

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 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.)


Remembering a day of baseball invincibility

Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Les Mueller, who died earlier this week at age 93, had an unremarkable Major League career.

He posted a 6-8 record during his two seasons with the Tigers (1941, 1945), started 18 games and had a career earned-run average of 3.78. Yet, there’s no questioning that on at least one day he was nothing short of spectacular.

On July 21, 1945, Mueller started against the then-Philadelphia Athletics and pitched the first 19-2/3 innings, giving up just a single run.

That’s the equivalent of more than two complete games, impressive when one considers that Justin Verlander of Detroit led the entire Major Leagues in complete games this past season with six.

The Tigers and Athletics ended up playing to a 1-1 tie in 24 innings on that special day in 1945. Mueller gave up 13 hits and five walks during his ironman effort, and Tigers’ standout Dizzy Trout came in for the final 4-1/3 innings.

When Tigers manager Steve O’Neill took Mueller out of the game, the pitcher said, “Gee, Steve, the game isn’t over, is it?” according to the book Baseball’s Unforgettable Games, by Joe Reichler and Ben Olan.

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Eddie Yost, baseball’s ‘Walking Man,’ dies

There’s a great deal of talk about the “home-field advantage” in sports, but much less so about the home-field disadvantage.

Eddie Yost, the former Major League third basemen who died Tuesday at age 86, was well acquainted with the latter.

While playing for the Washington Senators between 1944 and 1953, Yost hit 55 home runs; however, just three of those round-trippers came at his home park, Griffith Stadium.

That’s because Griffith was anything but hitter-friendly. The dimensions for the Senators’ park included a left field line that was 424 feet from home plate, and nearly as far to center.

In addition, while the right field line was much closer at 326 feet, it featured a 30-foot fence which served to block the view from surrounding buildings.

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Ty Cobb’s connection to Augusta, Georgia

You can’t swing a dead cat in Augusta, Ga., sports circles without hitting a reminder that the great Ty Cobb began his pro career in the Garden City.

The Georgia Peach made his pro debut as an 18-year old with the Augusta Tourists of the South Atlantic League on April 26, 1904, in a game against the Columbia (SC) Skyscrapers.

What’s conveniently forgotten is that Cobb’s first go-round with the Tourists lasted just two days, as the future Major League Hall of Famer was quickly cut.

He then signed with the Anniston (Ala.) Steelers for $50 a game and spent three months in the Tennessee-Alabama League before being recalled to Augusta in July by new owner and manager Harry Wingard.

Cobb’s first season with Augusta was less than auspicious, as he finished with a .237 batting average in 35 games.

The next year was a different story: by mid-summer Cobb was leading the Sally League in hitting and the Tourists sold him to the Detroit Tigers for $750.

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How the Detroit Tigers made me like reading

No one disputes that newspapers are in serious decline: The question that remains unanswered is how far they will fall.

A recent conversation with a local attorney offered evidence of the industry’s decline. His is a family of six: two college-educated parents and four kids who all attend private school and will almost certainly go on to college themselves.

Yet, the family no longer receives a daily newspaper.

Such would have been almost unimaginable just a decade ago. Up until as late as 2000, at least, college-educated families, and many blue-collar families, took the daily paper as the best means to keep up with what was going on both locally and statewide.

No more, as the Internet and cable television have helped fragment the media market beyond anything imaginable even into the late 1990s.

Pondering the state of newspapers – where I spent a good bit of my career – brought me back to my formative years, when the medium essentially helped shape my life.

It did so by serving as the all-important conduit between me, beginning at age 9, and the first sports team I started following religiously, the Detroit Tigers.

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