The Al Montreuil Hall of Obscurity

 Al Montreuil

 Bob Hendley

One night in September, 1965, Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game against the Cubs. It would be the last time the Cubs would be no hit until this day nearly 47 years later. But the forgotten part of that story is Koufax's opponent. Journeyman pitcher Bob Hendley had almost as impressive a game against a Dodger team that would go on to win the World Series a few weeks later. Hendley only allowed one hit to LA, a single by future Cub OF Lou Johnson. Johnson would also walk and eventually scored the only run of the game, thanks to a throwing error by catcher Chris Krug. It was an incredible moment for Koufax but for Hendley too. Hendley will be forever remembered for a game he lost, but on any other day might have won. The fact that people remember the game perhaps makes you wonder how he makes the Hall of Obscurity, but I think the fact that no one remembers anything else he did still makes him obscure.

Hendley was born in Macon, Georgia and originally signed by the Milwaukee Braves right out of high school and from there made his way to the big leagues in 1961, going 5-7 with 3.90 ERA. Over the following 2 seasons he would go 20-21 with an ERA around 3.80 to go with 5 shut outs. Following the season he would be sent to the Giants in the deal that sent Felipe Alou to Milwaukee. Whats interesting about this trade is that Ed Bailey, Billy Hoeft and Bob Shaw who were all part of this deal all ended up with the Cubs at some point. With the Giants in 1964 he would go 10-11 with a 3.64 ERA and the following season after struggling to a 12.60 ERA in 8 games he would be sent to the Cubs along with Bailey and Harvey Kuenn. Considering that they gave up 2 players who would be utlity players for the remainders of their careers it wasnt a bad deal, though Hendley did struggle to 4.35 ERA after joining the Cubs, but going into the evening of September 9th, 1965 his ERA stood at 8.22. But for that one night, Hendley stood toe to toe with the best pitcher in baseball. 5 days later Hendley faced Koufax at Wrigley and BEAT him 2-1, allowing only 4 hits(including, interestingly enough an run scoring single to Don Drysdale, who was pinch hitting for Koufax!). That was probaly the high point of Hendleys career. The next season he was moved to the bullpen by Leo Durocher, probaly to make room for Fergie Jenkins, where he managed 7 saves. Respectable numbers, but when he struggled the following season, he was dealt to the Mets where he went back to starting and finished with a 3.44 ERA which was actually the lowest number of his career! From what I can figure he had arm issues that led to a premature end to his MLB career. Afterwards he returned to his hometown in Macon to become a successful high school baseball coach. Another interesting but obscure Cub player getting some love here!

 Johnny Schmitz

Our latest induction to the Hall of Obscurity is Johnny Schmitz. Johnny Schmitz was a pitcher who was one of the Cubs best starters in the immediate post war era. This native of Wausau made his first appearance with the Cubs in 1941. After serving in the Navy in World War II he returned to the Cubs he won 11 games and led the NL in strikeouts with 135 and made the All Star. Nicknamed "Bear Tracks" for the way he shuffled to the mound, he followed up a 1947 season where he lost 18 games with an 18 victory season that also saw him make another All Star team. 1948 marked the peak of his career as his numbers declined over the next couple of years and after winning 69 games with the Cubs he would be included in the 1951 trade that saw Andy Pafko sent to the Dodgers. After leaving the Cubs he became the baseball version of a nomad, although he would make kind of a comeback in 1954 with Washington, winning 11 games with another bad Senators team. He would retire from  baseball following the 1957 season. In retirement he would return to his native Wausau, becoming a groundskeeper for the American Legion Golf Course. He became an excellent golfer, enjoyed hunting, ice fishing along with wood working at his home. Schmitz has also become part of an American classic, being featured in Norman Rockwells famous painting, "The Dugout".In case you are wondering, Schmitz is the player standing on the right. 

From what I could gather, Schmitz was a very unassuming  and introverted guy who did enjoy talking about baseball. He remained a fan of the Cubs as he got older. He never liked speaking publicly, turning down paid events on a regular basis. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 90. Another worthy member of the Hall of Obscurity.

 Bill Heath/Gene Oliver

Last week marked the anniversary of Ken Holtzmans first no-hitter. On this occasion it seemed like a good time to honor the 2 catchers who caught that game. Bill Heath started that game because Randy Hundley was dealing with a sore thumb. Heath was a journeyman who also played for Houston, Detroit and the White Sox. But he suffered a broken hand and had to be replaced by Gene Oliver, another journeyman who also played with the Braves and the Cardinals. He finished the game. Both players were 69ers and pretty much that was it. Both players moved on to have successful lives following their year with the Cubs. Oliver returned to his home in Quad Cities where he became active in the community, helping out his neighbors. And he was a familar face at Randy Hundleys fantasy camp for many years. He passed away on March 3, 2007.


 Ken Holtzmans no-hitter was the last major league game that Bill Heath  ever appeared in. But it did not stop him from moving on to build a new career. Following his retirement from baseball, Heath got into financial planning and even returned to college, getting his MBA in 1981. He holds an insurance and variable annuity license, a real estate broker license, and a mortgage broker license and today works as a financial planner for Barrington Financial. He is an excellent example of someone who never let his baseball obscurity define who he was. I am very proud to add him to the Hall of Obscurity.


Bill Heath, then and now


Sal Madrid

Sal Madrid was a SS who appeared in 8 games for the Cubs in 1947, getting 3 hits in 24 ABs for a .125 average. That would be it for his major league career and a few years later would settle in Fort Wayne, Indiana where he would own an auto repair shop and become involved in local sports. So involved that years later he would have a baseball field named after him. He passed away in 1977, but his influence is still felt over there.  Once again, like Al Montreuil, he did not let the lack of success in the major leagues define who he was. He clearly made his way in the world and tried to leave it better for his having been there. There are probaly many major leaguers who have not done as much as he did. I am very proud to make him a member of this Hall of Fame.  

Sammy Drake

 Sammy Drake

Sammy and Solly Drake were the First pair of African American brothers to both play in the major leagues. And both played for the Cubs, the same team that was next to last to bring in an African American.  Drake was born in Arkanas and attended college at a time when not many baseball players did, let alone African American. After a stint in Canada, Sammy signed with the Cubs in 1955, joining his brother Solly who would play for them in 1956. After 5 years in the minors, Sammy reached the majors in 1960 and played 2 seasons, struggling with his hitting. In 1962 Drake joined the expansion Mets and became known for being a member of the worst team in modern baseball history, the 42-120 Amazin's. Drake spent 2 years in New York before a knee injury forced him to retire. 

Following his retirement, he went to work for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. He would also work for his brother Sollys church, teaching Sunday School. He would pass away on Jan.27, 2010. 

From everything Ive read about him, he sounds like he was an intelligient man with a great deal of dignity and class. I find anyone who had to go through what he did is a very heroic person.  

I think Sammy Drake is far from obscure. He is a very worthy member of the Hall.

Hope you enjoyed this look at another obscure player who is anything but obscure as a person. See you next time!

Ted Tappe 

Ted Tappe was a player who enjoyed the rare achievement of hitting a home run in his first at bat, but only hit 4 other homers for rest of this career. He was from Bremerton, Washington where he was considered a local icon.  He starred at Washington State university, from where he was signed by Cincinnati when he made his debut on September 14, 1950, hitting a home run in his first major league at bat. Despite that auspicious start, he only appeared in 11 games over 1950 and 1951, spending most of the next 4 years in the minors. He got something of a break when he was traded to the Cubs for Johnny Klippstein in what was another lousy Wid Matthews trade. Klippstein would go on to have another 10+ productive years while Tappe had only 1 year with the Cubs and Jim Willis never made it. From his numbers, Tappe had a decent year in Chicago, hitting a respectable .260 in 23 games with 4 homers and 10 RBIs. From what I am able to guess, Tappe suffered some kind of injury. He never returned to the majors and was out of baseball by 1962. I couldnt find a lot of information on him, but from what I could tell, he must have returned home and gotten into business outside of baseball. He passed away  in Wenatchee, Washington in 2004. 

An interesting side fact: during 1955, the Cubs also had Elvin Tappe on their roster, who would later gain some fame as a member of the ill fated "College of Coaches", but there is no evidence that the 2 players were related. 

Hope you enjoyed this look back at another obscure Cubs player from the past. Remember, if you have any information on any of the players that I dont have, feel free to let me know. I would love to be able to offer updates. See you next time with another fascinating player, who will it be? You will have to come back to find out. Until then........

Sterling Slaughter 

A pitcher with one of the great names in the history of the Chicago Cubs, Sterling Slaughter played only 1 season, appearing in 20 games in 1964. Slaughter was born in Rob Petries hometown of Danville, Illinois. He attended Arizona State University, playing for legendary coach Bobby Winkles. After 3 years playing Canadian ball, he signed with the Cubs and moved up the system quickly. He made the team in 1964, in which the Cubs were trying to improve on an 82 win season with 20 game winners Larry Jackson and Dick Ellsworth. It was felt that they needed another starter and it looked like Slaughter might fill that bill, especially after Slaughter pitched a 1 hit shut out over the hard hitting Milwaukee Braves in 7 innings on May 30. He followed that up with a 6 hitter over the same Braves, 5-2. At this point he had a 2-0 record with a 1.73 ERA, but somehow he couldnt keep it up. Part of the problem was his tendency towards wildness. And probaly the acquistion of Ernie Broglio left Sterling the odd man out in the rotation. Even when Broglio was injured, the Cubs chose to go with veteran ex-World Series hero Lew Burdette. In any case, Slaughter finished the year in the bullpen. After an outing on Sept. 13 where he failed to retire the 4 batters he faced, that would be the end of his major league career. I think he had arm troubles which may have kept him out of the major leagues, but he would be out of baseball by 1967. 

Still, he seemed to land on his feet. He would settle in Phoenix, Arizona, get into the real estate business and is still living there today. Even though his time in the sun was all too brief, its clear he did not let that get in the way of his living a meaningful life. I salute you Sterling Slaughter and I am glad to count you among the obscure Cubs who is anything but obscure to me! 

Until next time, no one is so obscure that they have no dignity.

 Pete Scott

This week we are featuring Pete Scott. Scott was an OF-1b who played for the Cubs in 1926 and 27. He hit .286 and .314 He looked like a valuble utility player who would be around for years to come with the Cubs. But fate had other plans for Pete. On Nov.28, 1927 in a trade that would go down as one of William Veeck, Sr.'s best trades, Scott and Sparky Adams were sent to Pittsburgh for OF Kiki Cuyler. While Cuyler would turn out to be one of the best center fielders in the history of the Cubs, Pete Scott would have only one more season in the majors despite hitting .311 for the Pirates. Not a lot of information is available as to what happened, whether it was an injury or simply a numbers game, but Scott would return to the minors for 5 more years. As far as I can see, Scotts baseball career ended when he left the minors. Actually, if anyone has any information on Pete Scott, Id be happy to publish it here. But he certainly made the most of the short time he spent in the major and there arent all that many players who finish their careers with an average of .303. 

Who will be next time?  Keep tuned!

Tony Kaufman

One of the reason I started the Hall of Obscurity was to feature players who had brief and obscure careers with the Cubs. While Kaufman actually had a few good years(indeed he was a decent pitcher for several years), I feel he is obscure enough to put in the Hall of Obscurity. I should say here that my point is not to ridicule these players, but rather celebrate them and give them a moment in the spotlight. Anyway, the reason I selected Tony Kaufman is that my sister had a friend who happened to be Tony Kaufmans granddaughter and even though I never met the gentleman, I was told that he was still living in the Chicago area when my sister knew the granddaughter. So I have taken the time to look him up and from what I can see, he had an interesting career. He played for the Cubs from 1921 to 1927, basically the early period of the 2 Williams, Wrigley and Veeck, so he played for some mediocre Cubs teams and mediocre to bad manangers(including the notorious tenure of Rabbit Maraville, lucky guy!) He had 4 seasons that could be considered solid, though in 1925 he did have a high ERA. 1923 and 1924 were his best seasons, winning 14 and 16 respectively, including 5 shutouts in those 2 years! Im not sure what happened after that, if there was an injury, but his numbers began declining in 1925. In 1926 he rebounded with a respectable ERA of 3, but won only 9 games. In 1927 he got off to a terrible start and ended up being traded in June for Hal Carlson, who would be a good pitcher for the Cubs but would die tragically. He wound up in St.Louis for one game. Not sure exactly what all happened after that, but he was drafted by the Giants in 1928, spent 28 in the minors where he actually started playing the OF, came back in 1930 and 31 for brief stints, back to the minors before one last 3 game stint in 1935, where he actually pitched pretty well, but that marked the end of his major league career. He went back to the minors where he spent 3 years as a player, then 2 more years as a manager. He seems to have had some success as a manager, but became a scout in 1942. He was a coach on the Cardinals from 1947-1950 and scouted 1942-1946 and 1950-1961. So he had an interesting career and I would be curious to know what players he might have scouted.  Hope you enjoyed this look at another obscure Cub career.

 Tune in for more next time! 

Al Montreuil was a 2nd Baseman who played for the Cubs in 1972, replacing my favorite player, Glenn Beckert, while he was injured. He had 1 hit in 11 at bats over 5 games. When Beckert returns, Montreuil would be returned to the minors and never appeared in another major league game. He would play 3 more years in the Cubs farm system before calling it a career. He went into business for himself including a stint as a realtor. During Hurricane Katrina, he volunteered his time at a local medical center. He passed away on Jan. 18, 2008. Although his baseball career may not seemed to have gone as far as he might have liked, its clear that he did not let that define who he was as a human being. For that,  the name of Al Montreuil  can stand for all of the Cub players whose careers in a Cub uniform may have been brief, but they have not been totally forgotten. So welcome to the Al Montreuil Hall of Obscurity!

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