The Rundown: A Walk Down Memory Lane 1977, Cubs Promote Swarmer for Spot Start, League Will Observe ‘Moment of Remembrance’ Today
“We weren’t in love, oh no, far from it. We weren’t searchin’ for some pie in the sky summit. We were just young and restless and bored livin’ by the sword.” – Bob Seger, Night Moves
It’s Memorial Day and in the Canter household that always meant the first big cookout of the year at my mom’s house in Worth, Illinois. In the earlier years, my dad hosted the event, and then starting in 1977 my stepfather took the reigns. My father was a Cubs fan, and you are probably aware, but you might not have known that my stepdad was a die-hard White Sox fan. Talk about your broken families.
No matter who was running the shindig, the event was always more Cubs-centric. We’d have a keg or two of Old Style, a horseshoes tournament pitting the Canters vs. the in-laws, burgers, dogs, ribs, and corn-in-the-husk on the barbecue, and always, Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau calling the Cubs game on WGN radio. Despite his efforts to fit in, Ray (my stepfather) was always the pariah due to his affinity for the White Sox. On top of everything else, he looked like Jim Essian.
I used to hate cutting the grass, but on Memorial Day the back lawn always served as a point of pride to me. I even used to try to layer the grass diagonally like baseball stadiums did back then, striped perfectly, no blade longer or shorter than the next. Without fail, I swept and bagged the discarded grass, because, in my mind, the success or failure of the annual gathering rested entirely on my shoulders. After all, nobody likes the green-tinged sneakers that come from shoddy landscaping.
Back in ’77, the South Side Hitmen were the rage of Chicago, which was an abomination of the highest order for Cubs fans. Old Comiskey Park, with its whitewashed bricks, carnival-like scoreboard, and not-so-faint smell of urine, was the scourge of the city. Bridgeport always seemed to me like the last place anyone would ever want to live, and though that’s changed a great deal since, I still picture it as McKinley Park’s degenerate stepbrother. On the other hand, Wrigley Field, before all of the renovations when Lake View was just a step above its South Side counterpart financially, seemed almost majestic in contrast.
I never understood why a team that had stars like Bill Buckner, Bobby Murcer, Larry Biittner, Manny Trillo, Rick Reuschel, Ray Burris, and Bruce Sutter wasn’t as good as that ’77 White Sox team that counted on Steve Stone, Richie Zisk, Oscar Gamble, Wayne Nordhagen, Bill Nahorodny, Alan Bannister, and Jorge Orta. If you held a convention for the game’s most notorious journeymen of the 1970s, there’s your team photo. It just goes to show you that baseball is unpredictable and that a group of average players who have career years at the same time can compete for a division title.
The ’77 White Sox faded down the stretch just like so many Cubs teams of the ’60s and ’70s, which brought a lot of joy to me considering my mom’s marital state at the time. On Memorial Day, with a backyard full of friends and family members, none of that really mattered. The day was all about horseshoes, poker, roasted corn, and homemade barbecue sauce. The extracurriculars included a late evening bonfire, the tire swing that hung from one of the dozen or so maple trees in my backyard, sneaking Solo cups of beer and TJ Swann Easy Nights, and making out with the girl I crushed on in junior high.
It was nice that baseball and crosstown rivalries took a backseat to camaraderie for a day. Though the world feels like it’s collapsing on itself over the last couple of years, it is my hope that today you honor those who gave their lives to protect you and your families. Yes, this country has changed a great deal in the 45 years since 1977, but that doesn’t mean we no longer owe a debt of gratitude to the fallen members of the U.S. military. Memorial Day celebrations wouldn’t exist without their sacrifices.
One last thing: Please make smart decisions today and, above all, don’t drink and drive. The world will be a much lonelier place if even one of you is not back here with us tomorrow morning.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Brewers will throw prized pitching prospect Ethan Small at the Cubs today in his major league debut. Chicago is countering with rookie Matt Swarmer, who is also making his first big league appearance.
- Small’s minor league record is quite impressive. He’s pitched to the tune of a 1.78 ERA with 177 strikeouts in 33 career starts.
- Swarmer, 28, is in his sixth season pitching for the Cubs organization after they drafted him in the 19th round in 2016. He holds a 2.08 ERA through nine appearances (five starts) so far this year and has struck out 42 batters in 39 innings
- The Cubs have also recalled Nelson Velázquez for today’s doubleheader with the Brewers. The slugger I lovingly refer to as “Baby Boomstick” finished the weekend at Iowa 0-for-14 with eight strikeouts.
- Obviously, Caleb Kilian will have to wait to make his much anticipated big league debut.
- Jed Hoyer stated that Kilian would not be an option for either of this week’s doubleheaders.
- Wade Miley is back on the IL with a shoulder strain. Mark Leiter Jr. will take his spot and may serve as an opener as David Ross tries to manage what is becoming a taxed rotation.
- If you had to name a Cubs MVP through the first one-third of the season, you wouldn’t catch a lot of flak if you chose Keegan Thompson.
- Thompson claimed he was more lucky than good in his 5-1 win over the White Sox on Saturday.
- A potential trade that would send Willson Contreras to the Astros continues to have stronger legs than I’m comfortable with. Houston has arguably the worst farm system in baseball and Hoyer might be better served to keep his catcher and try to reach a deal on an extension.
- Third baseman Cam Collier is the flavor-of-the-week as far as Cubs fans are concerned. Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline has Chicago taking the JUCO infielder in his latest first-round mock.
Odds & Sods
Next time somebody asks “How hard is it to get three outs?” show them a replay of Sunday’s Cubs-White Sox game. Also, the end to the ghost runner rule can’t come soon enough.
Climbing the Ladder
“So say, ‘Hey Willie,’ tell Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio… Don’t say it ain’t so you know the time is now.” – John Fogerty, Centerfield
Follow me here: Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, “Centerfield” is baseball’s unofficial anthem, and Fogerty turned 77 this weekend. My editor here at Cubs Insider is a big fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival, so this is me unofficially trying to score some brownie points.
- Games Played: 46
- Total Plate Appearances: 1,720
- Total Strikeouts: 411
- Strikeout Rate: 23.89%
- Team Batting Average: .233
But…Baseball is a Gentlemen’s Game
Lenny Randle was out to prove otherwise after Bob Johnson threw behind him during this 1974 game.
Today In 1974: Texas #Rangers batter Lenny Randle lays down a bunt so he can hammer Cleveland pitcher Bob Johnson, who threw behind him in his previous at-bat! #MLB #OldSchool #Baseball pic.twitter.com/hC8YXTwnQW
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) May 29, 2022
How About That!
All ballparks on Monday will pause at approximately 3pm local time to honor members of the U.S. military who lost their lives defending America.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler will protest “the direction of this country” by remaining in the dugout during the National Anthem and he has a lot of league-wide support, though not from White Sox manager Tony La Russa.
The World Champion Braves could be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Atlanta promoted its No. 1 prospect Michael Harris II before Saturday’s game against the Marlins. The outfielder recorded his first big league hit against Sandy Alcantara.
I’m still confused about the entire Joc Pederson–Tommy Pham kerfuffle, but it really is over a high-stakes fantasy football league debate. Pham was suspended by the league for three games.
MLB teams have been ordered to offer equal clubhouse accommodations for female employees.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. – The Blue Jays left fielder reached base four times and drove in five runs as Toronto squeaked by the Angels 11-10.
- Shohei Ohtani – The two-way star clubbed two home runs in the loss.
- Corbin Burnes – The National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner shut down the Cardinals with 11 strikeouts in seven shutout innings of work. Burnes allowed two hits and only walked one batter. The Brewers continue to play at a 101-win pace despite an off-year by Brandon Woodruff.
In case you are wondering when the Cubs will be the dominant National League team again, I’d say that judging by the success of Myrtle Beach, the correct answer is probably 2025. If 2016 was Theo Epstein’s crowning achievement in Chicago, Hoyer will earn his about a decade later.
Has the @Cubs future arrived? #Pelicans hitting coach Steve Pollakov thinks so. @Pelicanbaseball @mass_polly pic.twitter.com/GCW9Kb8OY0
— Candace Martino (@CandaceMartino) May 30, 2022
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- Nothing screams fine haberdashery like a label that says “Amazon.”
- If any Bears player deserves an extension (besides Roquan Smith), it’s David Montgomery. Running backs aren’t valued like they used to be, so it’s a little more complicated.
- According to this Twitter discussion, at least 50 professional athletes have had career games while playing with a broken leg (as if), something none of Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, or Jeremy Roenick can claim.
- The Simpsons creator Matt Groening may have predicted Monkey Pox in an episode entitled Home Sweet Home-Diddly-Dum-Doodily that first aired on October 1, 1995. In seven centuries he’ll be more famous than Nostradamus.
- “I’d be a vegetarian if bacon grew on trees.” – Homer Simpson
- Thanks to Stranger Things 4, Kate Bush has the number one single for the first time in her career.
They Said It
- “I don’t think [Kilian’s] development is done yet. There are more steps and there’s probably development that will happen when he gets up here. We’ve had good conversations with him about his timeline. He knows where things are and where things stand. We’re excited to have him.” – Hoyer
Monday Walk-Up Song
Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush – It was Sue’s favorite song, and it has been at the forefront of my mind all month. Then I watched ST4 and it felt surreal. Yes, I truly believe spiritual connections exist, especially since Mad Max is the same age in the series that Sue was (and also a redhead) when the song was released. The scene from “Dear Billy” was straight fire and is the Duffer Brothers’ best work to date.
Note: Today’s article is dedicated to our old friend Scott, who always wished I’d make The Rundown more of an autobiographical column. We all miss you, Mr. Crandall.