...an occasional series wherein I raid my kids' baseball card collections or borrow an image off eBay and profile a one-time Chicago Cub.
Today’s guest Paper Cub established a Major League record by losing his first 12 decisions in 1962, a feat which, naturally, led Cub brass to think, "Somehow, some day, we have got to get our hands on that guy!"
Who: Bob Miller, pitcher, 1970-71
How The Cubs Got Him: Purchased him from the Chicago American League Ballclub on September 1, 1970. The Cubs wanted Miller enough to pay the Sox far in excess of the $20,000 waiver price. Writing in The Sporting News, Jerome Holtzman suggested the Cubs might have dropped as much as $50,000 to land the righthander, who was 31 years old and had already pitched for six other teams by the time he became a Cub.
What He Did While They Had Him: What he was supposed to do was reinforce the rickety Cub bullpen. When Miller joined the Cubs at the beginning of September, the club was in fourth place in the NL East, but just two games behind the first-place Mets, and relief pitching seemed to be the Cubs' weak spot.
Miller made his Cub debut on his first day in blue pinstripes, entering a game the Cubs were winning 17-1 in the ninth inning against the Phillies. Things didn't go smoothly. Miller allowed two walks and a home run by one-time Cub Oscar Gamble. (Owing to the ridiculous scoring rule at the same, Miller was actually credited with a save for "preserving" the 17-2 victory.)
The rest of the way, he alternately finished games, threw in middle relief, and made a start. His 1970 numbers for the Cubs: 0-0 with 2 saves; 6 hits allowed in 9 IP and a 5.00 ERA.
As for the team's fate, there was, as you probably know, no Chicago division title in 1970. Though Leo Durocher's team went 15-13 in the last month of the campaign--1 1/2 games better than the Mets over that span--the Pirates caught fire and went 18-10 in September to win the NL East by five games over the second-place Cubs.
Miller, meanwhile, broke camp with the team in 1971 and pitched in two games before becoming an ex-Cub (see below). Between the last month of the 1970 season and the first few weeks in '71, he threw in a total of nine games as a Cub, eight out of the bullpen. In 16 innings, he allowed 16 hits, had 6 K and 7 BB and a 5.06 ERA. He had no decisions.
How The Cubs Got Rid Of Him: Released him in late April, 1971, to make roster room for catching prospect Danny Breeden, the heir apparent to Randy Hundley at the time.
The fact is, the Cubs team that started to look so promising in the middle '60s, then looked unbeatable for most of '69, was, by 1971, just looking old. Still, GM John Holland was convinced the team only needed some minor tinkering (such as recalling Breeden from the minors) to remain a contender. Miller could therefore be considered a tinkering casualty.
Almost immediately after being cut loose by the Cubs, Miller signed with the Padres, and he pitched in San Diego until early August, when he was traded to the Pirates. Miller would eventually leave Pittsburgh to rejoin San Diego, then pitch in Detroit and New York (for the Mets), before leaving the game in 1974.
Sadly, the former Cardinal/Met/Dodger/Twin/Indian/White Sox/Cub/Padre/Pirate/Tiger was killed in a car accident in 1993.
Something Positive Someone Once Said About Him: "Miller, who has been effective as a starter for the White Sox, came to them in June... The veteran has also proved valuable as a long and short relief man for the Dodgers and the Twins." (Chicago Tribune, 9/2/70: "Cubs Pick Up Miller")
Box Score To Remember: MILLER 1.2 0 0 0 0 0 (Mets @ Cubs, 9/4/70)