Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Baseball Candle Flickered Out Too Quickly

TRIVIA QUESTION:  In 1961 the Chicago Cubs employed a round robin system of managing which featured four different managers. If you can name just two you are really, really good.

The 1963 Rookie of the Year in the National League was of course, Pete Rose. Two others who played in the game discussed in the most recent column were Dick Allen (1964) and Frank Robinson (1956).

 September 10, 1961 was not a special day by any means for two teams playing out the schedule, but the 7628 faithful who showed up at Wrigley Field in Ch-Town that day were given a special treat. A bright candle appeared on the scene but went out long before it ever should have.

It was the major league debut of Cubs second sacker, Ken Hubbs. Hubbs was only 19 years old when the Riverside, California native heard his name announced batting second in the order against future Hall of Fame pitcher, Robin Roberts

The Cubs were 59-79 while the hapless Phillies were 41-97 a third of the way through the final month of the season. Roberts was in the midst of his worst season ever. He would finish 1-10 with an ERA of 5.85. On the mound for the Cubbies was veteran Don Cardwell who had pitched a no-hitter in his Cubs debut. Cardwell was solid this season with a 15-14 record and leading the league in starts with 38 on his way to pitching 260 innings. It would be the former Phillies winningest season and could be considered his best.

The game started quietly enough and Hubbs faced Roberts in his first at bat ever in the big leagues in the bottom of the first. After Lou Brock led off with a single, Hubbs hit a shot which shortstop Ruben Amaro snared and fired back to first baseman Don Demeter to double up Brock. An inauspicious debut for Hubbs but at least he hit the ball hard.

In the fourth with the Cubs trailing 1-0 on a Johnny Callison home run, Hubbs led off the inning with sharp double to left. It was his first major league hit and it went for extra bases. Roberts got Ernie Banks and George Altman but Billy Williams hit a triple and Hubbs scored to tie the game. Hubbs achieved three things this inning; his first hit, his first extra base hit, and his first run scored.

In the fifth the Cubbies opened it up and Hubbs was in the middle of it. He drove home Brock with a single and later scored on a single by Altman. When the dust cleared, the Cubs led 6-1.  In the seventh inning however the Phillies reached Cardwell and reliever Barney Schultz for seven runs including a grand slam by Demeter.  The Phils now led 8-6.

In the seventh with the right handed pitching Frank Sullivan taking the mound, Hubbs was lifted for left handed hitting Richie Ashburn. Sullivan was pitching in one of the final games of his career and the USC Graduate got the aging Ashburn to ground out. 

That was it for Hubbs. His big league debut showed and impressive line, 3 at bats, 2 hits, 2 runs scored, an RBI and a double. Even though his Cubs would go on to lose 14-6, it was a strong showing for the rookie. He would appear in nine more games as the Cubs played out the string and while a new fan favorite, the rest of the season mirrored the Cubs. He had only two more hits although triple and a home run were among them. He finished the short season batting .179 but did not commit an error in 28 chances.

It was the following year where he really shined, batting .260, playing in 160 games and despite leading the league in strikeouts with 129 and grounding into double plays with 20, he won a Gold Glove and was honored as Rookie of the Year in 1962. However, 1963 was a bit of an off year and his final. Ken Hubbs was killed in a plane crash in the off season and the bright light which shown back on September 10th, 1961, was gone forever. 

Ken Hubbs was 22 years old.

Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon.

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