Guest Post: The Top Chicago Cubs Surprises and Scandals (Part One)

1908-chicago-cubs[Ed. - This is a guest post from BN'er Myles Phelps, a swell guy who writes about the Cubs from time to time (and you can find him on Twitter here). Myles wanted to share this idea with us, and it looked pretty fun/funny to me, so enjoy. Or else.]

Everyone likes a good surprise.  And everyone loves a good scandal.  Lucky for us, the Chicago Cubs have had both over their many victorious years.  I’m here to bring you the best ones – the best 12 to be exact.  Why 12 and not 10 you ask?  The simple answer is that I started with 10 and found two more that I really liked (the complicated answer is the same).

You’ll most likely disagree on the order.  You may even disagree with a couple on the list.  But I’ll do my best to lay out the reasoning behind each.

Lets go with Part One.

12. The Mike Quade Hiring

You may say, “Come on, Myles.  There’s no scandal or surprise in this.”  But alas!  You’re wrong on both accounts.  Let me explain.

In 2006, Ryne Sandberg was hired by the Cubs to manage the Peoria Chiefs, the Cubs Single-A team.  In the three years that followed, Sandberg was promoted twice within the organization: first to manage in Double-A and then to Triple-A.  His success within the minors made him a likely front-runner to take over Sweet Lou’s sweet gig after his retirement in 2010.  But that never happened.  Instead GM Jim Hendry tapped 3rd base coach Mike Quade to take the reigns.  This caused Cubs fans everywhere to exclaim, “Yay!” “What?!”

There are two reasons why this move was awful not only for Sandberg, but Cubs Nation as a whole:  1. Jim Hendry was in a lame duck year.  Anyone who wasn’t named Sandberg was going to be fired by the new GM preceding Hendry.  Quade instead was set up for failure from the beginning.  2. Sandberg is no longer with the organization and was a great ambassador for the game and the Cubs organization.  That’s not to say that you should always hire former players who are popular.  But if the popular former player is also a good manager, then the choice is clear.

11. Sandberg’s Retirement

Let’s rewind to the time before Ryno was screwed over.

On June 13th, 1994 Ryne Sandberg retired from baseball (the first time).  He was 35.  Two years before his retirement, Sandberg had signed – what was at that time – the largest contract in MLB history.  He was, in essence, The Cubs and as such, his retirement came as a huge surprise to the baseball world.

Sandberg said he had “lost the desire to play,”  which is easy to do when your team doesn’t win.  The Cubs had finished the 1993 season 13 games back in the East and were doing no better when Sandberg called it quits.  You can’t blame him for wanting to hang it up, but it certainly caught everyone off-guard.

10. Blago Bribe Attempt

Oh man, everyone loves a good bribe attempt.  Especially when an Illinois Governor is involved.  Actually a little known fact: 99% of all bribes in Illinois have involved the Governor’s office in some way, according to a statistic I just made up.  In a story first published by Deadspin 2008, we found out that our old buddy, Rod Blagojevich became another one of those fantasy statistics.

But seriously, he tried to solicit a bribe from the Tribune.

Before the Ricketts era, the Cubs were owned by The Tribune Company, better known for their small, mom and pop newspaper called The Chicago Tribune.  In 2008, the Tribune wasn’t (and still isn’t) doing so hot financially and needed cash.  Their idea was to obtain said cash from the state to assist with the burden.  Blagojevich’s response was to tell Tribune owner, Sam Zell, he’d totally give him the money (and would help get Wrigley Field renovations financed).  All he had to do was fire an editor with whom Blagojevich disagreed.

Seems fair, right?  Nothing illegal there.  Looks like Zell got that the last laugh though, as Blago currently has a great view of an 8×8 cell somewhere in Colorado.

9. 1908 Bribe Attempt

Ahh, another bribe story.  These are great, aren’t they?  This one, however, happened in one of the most significant years in Cubs history.

In October 1908, the Cubs were facing the New York Giants in a playoff game.  Before the game, the Giants’ team physician, Joseph Creamer, allegedly tried to bribe home plate umpire, Bill Klem, with $2,500 to call the game in favor of the Giants.  It didn’t work.  Klem refused, and the physician was later banned for life from baseball.  The Cubs went on to win the World Series.  The Giants went on to suck it.

Thanks, Mr. Klem.  Without you I may be rooting for a team with an even longer World Series drought.

8. The Harding Scandal

The 34th President of the United States, Warren G. Harding, was not what you could call a “role model.”  He had many mistresses and had at least one illegitimate child.  You may say, “So?  What’s this have to do with sports and the Cubs, dummy?”  To that I would tell you to “hold your horses” and that I’m “getting to it.”

In 1920, Harry Sinclair was a minority Cubs owner and had helped Harding gain support in Chicago.  Harding loved baseball and even invited several of the Cubs’ players to the White House to visit once he was elected.  In 1923 it was found that Sinclair had bribed Harding’s U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Albert B. Fall, in order to receive a contract to drill for oil in Teapot Dome, Wyoming.  The problem with this was that there was no open bidding and Sinclair stood to make a ton of money because there was no competition.  This is otherwise known as, “The Teapot Dome Scandal.”  I just laid some history on you.

Sinclair ended up being fined (not jailed somehow) for his role.  Albert Fall went to jail for a year.  And Harding died in 1923, while still in office, from being a corrupt president or a heart attack or something.

7. Joe Ricketts and President Obama

If you hate history, let’s move to a more current event: the presidential election of 2012 (which I guess now is technically history).

For those of you sleeping throughout the past couple of years, the 2012 election was important to both sides of the aisle.  Democrats wanted President Obama, a Democrat, to stay.  Republicans wanted the opposite of that.  You now understand elections.

In May 2012, during the height of the campaign, a report came out from the New York Times that the Ricketts family – specifically Joe Ricketts – were planning on giving a Super PAC with republican ties a large amount of money to help defeat Obama.  When it came to light that some of the tactics of the ad campaign were going to be somewhat controversial, the Romney campaign distanced itself and the plans eventually fell through.

The mandatory question: is it a coincidence that Obama is a Sox fan?

Yes.  Yes, it’s pure coincidence.  Sorry, conspiracy theorists!

That’s it for Part 1, folks.  Stay tuned next time.  On tap will be GM miscues, sexual advances, and maybe a bribe or two!

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

34 responses to “Guest Post: The Top Chicago Cubs Surprises and Scandals (Part One)”

  1. Jp3

    So part 2 will be on GM miscues? A whole section dedicated to Jim Hendry eh?

    In all seriousness great work, very entertaining.

  2. pete

    The best line in any article that I have read in awhile:

    “The Giants went on to suck it.”

  3. DarthHater

    Okay, setting aside minor technicalities like the law, I’m now really annoyed that Zell didn’t fire that stupid editor and get the state money for Wrigley. :-P

    1. Rich H

      Only Blago would be silly enough to try and manipulate the one paper in Chicago that was trying to stay above the fray in his corruption scandal. Every other paper seemed to expand the story everyday yet he tried to bribe the Tribune. Smart real smart.

  4. TSB

    What I find strange is that the Cubs would hire a on-paper clone of Mike Quade as manager. Both Mike Quade and Dale Sveum had little managerial experience, so you would think after Quade’s disastrous season they would have gone with a usual suspect veteran manager.

    1. BABIP (MichCubFan)

      This is really oversimplifying things. How are they any way similar besides their lack of managerial experience. How has that worked for the Cardinals or White Sox.

  5. DarthHater

    In 1908, the Cubs beat the Giants in the last game of the season and won the national league pennant by a margin of one game, but I think it was just the last regular season game, not a playoff game. To my knowledge, playoffs didn’t exist until 1969.

    1. pete

      If it was a regular season tie-breaker, it could be a playoff (see Bobby Thomson/Ralph Branca Giant/Dodger homer).

      1. DarthHater

        Yea, but I don’t think it was a tie-breaker, because both teams ended up with 154 games, which was the regular season total.

        1. pete

          Game 154 was the Merkle’s boner game, which was deemed a tie, so the game the next day was either a replay or it was game 155. No idea which. That sort of stuff is why baseball is by far the most interesting sport ever invented.

          1. DarthHater

            Okay, that makes sense. On closer examination, Baseball-Reference shows 158 games for the Cubs that season, including 4 ties that don’t show up in the won-loss totals. The Merkle’s Boner game was one of the ties. Thanks for the clarification.

          2. DarthHater

            But it appears not to have been the next day. Looks to me like the Merkle’s boner game was on Sept. 23 and the tie-breaker game was on Oct. 8.

  6. Myles

    It was technically a “makeup” game from the debacle earlier in the season (Fred Merkle’s base running “boner”).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Baseball_scandals#1908_bribery_attempt

  7. BABIP (MichCubFan)

    Didn’t Sandberg’s first retirement have something to do with problems with his first wife?

    Then the whole “before he got screwed over” thing was pretty well written.

    I could be wrong though…i was pretty young at that time.

    1. Myles

      Kind of. He wanted to spend more time with his children. But publicly, he said he just didn’t have the desire to play anymore. Here’s a good article about it written by SI in 1996: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1007823/2/index.htm

      1. db kyle

        It was pretty much an open secret that Sandberg was going through an ugly divorce because his wife had slept with several of his teammates. There’s no way to prove that’s why he retired, but it makes more sense than the generic “more time with his kids” excuse.

  8. db kyle

    “You can’t blame him for wanting to hang it up, but it certainly caught everyone off-guard.”

    And yet the pitchforks were out for Carlos Zambrano doing the exact same thing. I wonder what’s different between them …

    (yes, we’re having that argument today too :) )

    1. King Jeff

      Broken water coolers, broken bats, teammates thrown under the bus during interviews.

      1. db kyle

        Santo, Santo, a lot of guys.

        1. King Jeff

          I can’t speak for Santo I wasn’t alive then. You asked the difference between Zambrano and Sandberg. Zambrano was brash, outspoken, and quit on the team during the social media era. Sandberg was quiet, unassuming, and always spoke positively about his team during his career, there was also no internet around then for instant reactions and news didn’t spread like wildfire amongst fans. There are a lot of differences to their situations, and a lot of factors for why the fans reacted to each differently.

  9. Jp3

    Umm because zambrano was a knucklehead that couldn’t even get along with his own teammates, Barrett and DLee. Also he was called mentally weak by Soriano… That’s the main difference, other than Sandburg was a hall of gamer and not a flash in the pan

    1. db kyle

      Sandberg didn’t always get along with his teammates, either. Heck, he classlessly used his HOF speech as a platform for ripping them.

      And while Zambrano wasn’t as good, he was an All-Star level pitcher for quite a long time. He was much more than a flash in the pan.

      1. Jp3

        I never said Sandberg always got along with all his teammates but at least he destroy umpteen coolers, bats and water coolers like a high school kid. You’re right I’m exaggerating a bit about the flash in the pan but he never won 20 games in a season and only had a sub 3.00 era once.

  10. Jp3

    Ugh Sandberg dang spell correct

    1. pete

      Thanks. For a minute, there, I thought you meant Carl Sandburg. :)

  11. Idaho Razorback

    Two things. If memory serves me correct, Ryno retired the same day OJ killed his ex. I was at Candlestick Park watching the Cubs play the Giants when the Al Cowlings freeway chase was going on during pregame. It was on the bigscreen. Second, now I know what the Tea Pot dome scandel was.

  12. scorecardpaul

    I thought we had some adults on this site?
    Sanberg retired, because he was having wife prblems. This was nothing new, but he had just grown tired of it. The reason Rafael Palmeiro was originaly taded was because he was sleeping with Rynos wife.

    1. scorecardpaul

      sorry about the misspelled words above, this site jacks with my computer, Ryne Sandberg should always be spelled correctly. He deserves that. he was, and still is a Chicago Cub legend! and as far as I know taded isn’t even a word,should be traded

  13. clark addison

    Another major factor in Sandberg’s retirement was that he couldn’t stand Larry Himes. Read his ghost written autobio, “Second to Home.” After Himes was fired (and he divorced Cindy), Sandberg unretired.

  14. fromthemitten

    wow had no idea the Teapot Dome Scandal guy was a minority Cubs owner. this is great I can’t wait to see the next post

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    [...] [Ed. - This is a guest post from BN'er Myles Phelps, a swell guy who writes about the Cubs from time to time (and you can find him on Twitter here). Myles wanted to share this idea with us, and it looked pretty fun/funny to me. This is the second part of his list, so drink in the first part if you haven't already.] [...]

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