Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Two Cubs, One At-Bat and Jim West swears

There are two 'departments' of baseball history.  World Series champions, home run totals, consecutive games played and the numbers of the game which are so important to comparing eras and weaving the fabric of the game of baseball over nearly a century and a half make up one side of the sport's history.  The other, that which gives us the narrative we pass down to our children in hopes of making them, too, fall in love with the annual marathon we endure is that of moments.  These moments help us illustrate the greatness of a player, the importance of an event and sometimes to show that no matter how many games you watch, you are bound to come across something you've never seen before.  Today's post is one of those moments.


By pure happenstance I was watching some WGN clips someone had given me a long time ago and found a video I apparently gave no thought to.  Expanding the scope of this blog to include more mid-1970's content, I ignored a video about the 1974 Cubs.  This, apparently, was a huge mistake on my part because in it we get to see the height of the 'Mad Hungarian' persona and the Cubs being, well...the Cubs.

The date is September 22, 1974.  The Cardinals, who had spent most of the season chasing first the Philadelphia Phillies and then the Pittsburgh Pirates, found themselves a half game up on the Pirates with 9 games left to play.  The Cubs, on the other hand, were headed for dead last in the league.  The day before, the two had squared off at Busch and the Cubs pounded the Cardinals.  On this day, the two teams had battled to a 5-5 tie on a pitching matchup of Steve Stone and Bob Gibson.  The aging Gibson gave the Cardinals 7 innings of middling results, then turning the game over to their young relieving ace Al Hrabosky. 

Hrabosky, with his flamboyant on-field persona as 'The Mad Hungarian', certainly rubbed many a opponent (and even umpire) the wrong way with his routine.  Behind the mound to 'hulk up', Hungo would pound his mitt and head to the rubber ready to pitch.  For one Cub, in particular, he had seen enough.

Before our video clip begins, Bill Madlock refused to get into the batter's box to start the 9th inning until after Hrabosky had finished his routine.  What transpired is described here by Mike DiGiovanna of the LA times in an 1992 article:
Bill Madlock was up, and just as Hrabosky was set to pitch, Madlock returned to the on-deck circle to put pine tar on his bat. He came back to the plate smiling, thinking he had upset Hrabosky's concentration.  When Madlock was ready, Hrabosky walked behind the mound to do his routine again. But when Hrabosky went back to the rubber, Madlock returned to the on-deck circle, bent on winning the battle of wills.
The two went back and forth stepping out of the box, stepping off the mound until finally Cubs manager Jim Marshall and homeplate umpire Shag Crawford get into it.  This is where our video picks up.

With Jim Marshall chasing Crawford back to behind the plate, the on-deck batter Cardenal begins to bark in the face of the umpire.  Shag, having seen enough, gets down in his crouch and orders Hrabosky to begin to pitch.   There is no batter, however, in the box.  The Cubs would rectify that quickly, be sending two Cubs up at the same time.

Pleading with him to hurry, Cardenal stands in the box and calls over the actual scheduled hitter Bill Madlock.  Madlock sprints over and in the confusion, both Cubs get in the batter's box with Jim Marshall hurrying out of the way.  Being the tempest that he is, Hrabosky takes this opportunity to remind both Cubs that he is still out there and buzzes them with a high and tight fastball. 

Madlock takes offense to this and tells a young Simba (Ted Simmons) about it.  Simmons, unsympathetic to whatever Madlock was saying, drills Madlock in the face and the fuse is now fully lit. 

Both benches empty, with Simmons throwing haymakers and Madlock and Cardenal.  Hrabosky, confused as to who he wants to hit, first goes after a Cubs coach. Realizing that's not the guy he wanted, he starts to go in the direction of Cardenal and Madlock.  Both of them are too busy taking punches from Simba to be concerned with Hrabosky so he just runs around like a bee trying to pollinate, unable to find someone to hit.

Eventually, you have over 60 men in uniform on the field for the clubs and everything is centered around pulling the pile of Simmons and various Cubs apart.  Interestingly enough, none of the four men involved in this fracas were ejected from the game.  In fact, in the bottom of the 9th, Simmons would drive home Lou Brock to give the Cardinals a walkoff win.

The truly amazing part of this clip doesn't involve anyone on the field.  It centers around Jim West.  West was often criticized by Cubs fans as being boring and dry, however, in this instance he was far from it.   As Jim Marshall, Shag Crawford and Jose Cardenal all make their way back towards the plate, West exclaims (as if no one else was listening):
"...now we've got Jose Cardenal into it with Shag Crawford and Jim Marshall out to chat with him.  Pretty, uh...wild sh*t!"
West then returns to calling the action (in a bit more animated tone) of what is going on like he hadn't made a pretty obvious gaffe. 

The totality of this clip runs only 1:06 and is obviously WGN footage.  It comes from a WGN produced special on the 1975 Cubs Spring Training and includes highlights (and lo-lights) like this of the 1974 season.  You'll never find it on an official DVD release for either club nor is there much of a chance 90% of either of the current fanbases have even seen it. 

On one final note, we get two quick cameos by a young Keith Hernandez and an old Joe Torre, one guy finishing his days as the Cardinals first basemen and another just beginning his.

If you look at the boxscore of this game, the inning simply reads as 2 strikeouts and a foul out. However, that doesn't even begin to tell the story of what happened that day. Moments like this are at the heart of the Cardinals/Cubs rivalry and give an idea why, for an older generation (Hrabosky included), Cardinals/Cubs games mattered as more than just a great place to go drink. 

Author's Note: This post originally attributed the on-air announcing to Jack Brickhouse instead of his broadcasting partner Jim West.


  1. Fantastic stuff!
    Thanks for posting.

  2. Where can i find this footage online?

  3. http://mediaburn.org/video/a-look-at-the-cubs-1975/

    That sounds like Jim West on the Cubs/Cards brawl, not Jack Brickhouse.

    1. You may actually be right, comparing it now to clips of Jim West although I'm still not 100% convinced. I had a hard time determining who it was when listening to the clip the first time.

      If anyone is certain, I'll change the post.

  4. I love this blog. What a great baseball fight. Love how Ted Simmons just starts throwing punches. Samba !

  5. twib77 sez: Yep, it's West. Sorry.

    1. Thank you for that link, by the way. A veritable autumn harvest of clips. A post-715 Aaron homer! Stretch McCovey as a Padre! TOM LUNDSTEDT!

  6. The post has been updated to reflect the announcer identification.

    I really appreciate all the kind words. This site is a labor of love and anytime I hear that others enjoy it, it makes the work that goes into it worthwhile.

    1. I was in Busch Stadium that day. It was great, being a big Simmons fan. I was yelling, "hit him again Ted"!

  7. I've just watched the clip and to be honest, I don't think West made a gaffe. If you listen carefully I think what he really says is "pretty wild CHAT". He had just used the word "chat" a second earlier when he said Marshall had come out to "chat" with Crawford and I think he was just repeating that word.

    1. eric,
      I watched the clip trying to make my mind think he is saying 'chat', as you say and it just doesn't work. West may have intended to use that word, but it is a pretty distinct 'sh' sound as opposed to the 'ch'. It sounds more like it did with "Shag" Crawford that the previous "chat".

      In West's mind, he may have intended to used that word but instead it came out at "sh*t"

  8. We'll have to agree to disagree on this point. It sounded more like chat to me, maybe not enunciated clearly but clearly meant to be chat given his train of thought.

    The website where that program is available incidentally also has the full pregame show for 6/17/75 White Sox-Rangers with a Roland Hemond interview and we see the starting pitchers warming up and the lineups given but no game action alas. However the end credits of the previous program, a sports review show gives us video of a play from 6/15/75 White Sox-Yankees at Shea Stadium and we see Rom Bloomberg hitting a triple off Stan Bahnsen. This is the first pristine color tape footage of game action of a Yankees game at Shea Stadium in the renovation period I've ever seen.

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