Didnt You Used to be Famous?

Cubs who passed their primes in Cubs uniform

Welcome to a new feature here at Cubs_an_appreciation. When Phil Wrigley was owner of the Cubs he loved to find ways to put fans in the ballpark. One of the most typical was to acquire future HOFers or former World Series heroes or All Stars, now sadly past their prime. So there have been so many of these players I can feature a different player in that category each week and not run out for a while. I hope you enjoy this fun new feature and suggestions are always welcome!

 Dizzy Dean

Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean was one of the most colorful and talented players in the history of baseball. He is still the last National League pitcher to win 30 games and his antics are still well remembered. He reached the pinnacle of fame in 1934 when he and his Gashouse Gang teammates defeated the Tigers in an exciting and controversial World Series, though he was still in top form in 1937 when he appeared in the All Star game. However, when he got hit on the toe by a line drive it would forever change the course of his career. The toe itself wasnt the problem. The problem was that Diz tried coming back too soon, because of discomfort in the toe he changed his motion and proceeded to blow his arm out. Suddenly the Cardinals found themselves saddled with a useless pitcher. Meanwhile, PK Wrigley, barely 4 years into his tenure as owner and having just 2 years earlier named himself Club President, saw this as an opportunity to make a big splash with the fans. So he worked out a deal in which the Cubs would acquire the dead armed pitcher for a young healthy Curt Davis. Despite the protests of GM Boots Weber, the deal went through. Somehow it actually seemed to work out at first. Pitching every so often, Dean won 7 games with a 1.73 ERA. And he would help win the pennant for the Cubs. Then in the Series, even though it seemed like the sore armed pitcher would be outmatched by the Yankees, somehow Diz managed to show one last glimpse of the brilliance that once brought 31 victories in 1934. He held the Bronx Bombers scoreless for 7 innings before Joe Dimaggio slugged a home run to win the game. The game, both emotionally and physically would take its toll on ol Diz, as he would spend most of the next 4 years on the DL. He would never be an effective pitcher again. After leaving the Cubs, Dean made one final appearance with the Browns retiring to become an announcer where he enjoyed continuing popularity through the 70s. He would be inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1953.  I was lucky enough to see ol Diz in person in 1972 when he appeared to throw out the first ball at a White Sox game. Not long after wards, in 1974 Dean would pass away at the age of 64. He was really the first, but certainly not the last past their prime star to join the Cubs. 

We will see more future HOFers pass through Wrigley before too long.........

 Jimmie Foxx

"Theres no crying in baseball"

That quote from the movie "A League of Their Own" was attributed to a character that was loosely based on Jimmie Foxx, though theres no proof that Foxx ever uttered those words. But other elements of the character played by Tom Hanks are close to real life. And one was that he once played for the Cubs past his prime. 

Jimmie Foxx already had 524 home runs when he signed with the Cubs in 1942. He was born in Maryland and joined the Philadelphia A's in 1925 originally as a catcher, but when Mickey Cochrane emerged as their best catcher, Foxx moved to 1st base, where he began an incredible career. 3 MVP awards, 9 All Star Game appearances, 12 seasons over 30 homers including a 58, 13 over 100 RBIs including a 175, 11 seasons over 100 runs, including a 150 and a .325 BA with only 4 seasons under .300! But a sinus issue and a growing dependence on drinking began to take a toll by 1942. After hitting .300 and 19 homers in 1941, he was hitting .270 with 5 homers when the Red Sox released him. 

For the Cubs, it was all about getting people into the little ballpark at Clark and Addison and PK Wrigley had already shown a propensity for washed up stars when he acquired Dizzy Dean. Dean, at least helped get the Cubs to a World Series. There was no way Foxx would do the same with this team. Foxx would appear in 70 games for the Cubs, hitting .205 with 3 homers, then announced his retirement. After a year out of baseball, he returned in 1944 as a player coach, and also managed in the minors. He finished his career with the Phillies in 1945, a stint that also included Foxx pitching where he actually had some success with a 1.59 ERA in 22 innings. Following the season he retired for good. He would struggle to find work in his post playing career, because of an increasingly problematic drinking problem. But in 1952 he found employment with another of Wrigleys ventures, the All American Girls Professional Baseball league, whose story was told in the popular film "A League of Their Own". In the movie the manager of the Rockford Peaches was a onetime baseball superstar now washed up because of a drinking problem, played by Tom Hanks. Although the character was clearly based on Foxx, there were differences. In the movie it was suggested that the Hanks character had quit drinking and lived a long life, but in reality Foxx's drinking would only get worse and Foxx would die way too young. He did get elected to the Hall of Fame in 1951, but would continue to struggle to find consistent employment. He passed away from a heart attack in 1967. And clearly, Wrigley would not be discouraged from signing past their prime stars as several prominent former members of the New York Giants would put on Cub uniforms during the 50s as would other former All Stars and World Series heroes during the 60s. 

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