I was just about in junior high when I get way too into sports, circa 1993-1994. My exposure to Da Bears was probably first, as my first Bears memory was watching the fog bowl on TV. Unfortunately, by then they were a waning version of the near 80’s dynasty that I was too young to recall, but still led by Coach Ditka. I knew the first three peat Bulls well, but I wasn’t obsessed at that point, like memorizing stats and watching every game, you know because I’m 9, but we’re getting close to that. The Blackhawks were pretty dope, wrapping up their final season or two at the Chicago Stadium (the last of the real old barns with some damn personality) with an AK-47 on skates in the form of Jeremy Roenick, and Eddie Belfour, who hadn’t decided to get guys out of goal crease by hitting them in the nuts with his stick just yet.
“Omg……I need my phone”
But guess what. I didn’t have cable until the 5th grade, so how I ever survived, who the hell knows. The first thing I started watching were late 1980’s SNL reruns on Comedy Central, and off that train went for the rest of my life. But with that amazing cable box with the red light for the numbers, I was introduced to channel 51, otherwise known as “SportsChannel”. I was like White Sox, is this where they live? An aging Carlton Fisk as the inevitable team mascot had been supplanted by a giant tight end looking monster who hit .330, and had an .OPS every year that was basically incomparable. Not to mention a starting rotation of young arms that were arguably the best in the league, before they succumbed to injuries in the post-strike era.
The Cubs were on WGN, and much like the boring as hell announcers for the Braves games on TBS, they too were broadcast across the country. I remember such luminaries as Derrick Mays, Rick Wilkins, and Steve Buechelle. The Cubs were also not very…good. Not Detroit Tigers bad, just, not good. Like say, 70 wins a year. Apparently they had won the NL East a few years before, but damn you wouldn’t be able to tell by 1993. Sammy Sosa hadn’t yet turned into an NFL free safety yet, Ryne Sandberg was on the way out Greg Maddux would continue his HOF career in Atlanta.
“A Maddux describes a start in which a pitcher tosses a complete-game shutout on fewer than 100 pitches. Since 1988, the first year accurate pitch-count data is available, Greg Maddux ranks first in the Majors with 13 such starts during the regular season. Nobody else has thrown more than seven.“
Not to sound like a rambling grandpa Simpson, but I went to see a Cubs Braves game summer after my freshmen year in 1997, and sat in the hot Wrigley bleachers, which only cost 15 dollars at the time, and had the pleasure of watching Greg Maddux twirl a 78 pitch complete game shutout as a member of the Atlanta Braves. That was in fact one of his 13 recorded Maddux’s, and to see it in 78 pitches, not 88, or 98, but 78, was unreal. The Cubs again, we’re not good in 1997, go figure….in fact they were baaaaad, very bad. Many people had said this at the time, and they we’re all great people by the way.
Three Homer Wonder
Which brings us to the main event, Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes. There was an article on ESPN.com a couple weeks ago pertaining to his exploits on, and later that day, that very game on opening day 1994 versus the New York Mets was on NBC Sports replay. For their opening day starter 25 years ago, the Cubs sent out Mike Morgan, (you read that correctly), and surprisingly enough, he got knocked around early. The game then turned into high scoring affair, you know, because the wind was blowing out, which probably had a lot to do with it, and so did the fact the Cubs started Mike Morgan. It would be at this point that St. Louis Cardinal fans would tell us in their most old New York money condescending fashion, that “OF COURSE, there will be more home runs, the wind makes the ball go farther. Hahaaaaa. More hors d’oeuvre’s?” Thanks guys! Best fans in baseball!
Meanwhile, new Cubs acquisition Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes, who up to that point had played maybe 100 games and hit around .230 for the Houston Astros, started hitting straight bombs that day off of Doc Gooden. (Now bear in mind, this isn’t 1984 alien Doc Gooden, this is well….watch the Doc ‘n’ Darryl 30for30. You’ll figure it out.) In fact, he hit three home runs on opening day, and those would be the only ones he would hit all year, as he got sent down after about 60 more at bats. The 90’s were known for their one hit wonders like Vanilla Ice, Chumbawumba, and Nada Surf. Congratulations Karl, you’ve made it. I look forward to purchasing your greatest hits on “Now that’s what I call random players Vol. 14.”