January is the start of a new year, deals being made, Spring Training is around the corner. We’ll look back at January in Chicago Cubs Auld Lang Syne style.
I’ll start with Cubs fun first. The Cubs Convention, postponed in 2021 due to the pandemic, began in January 1986. Here are some memorable convention events recalled by Chicago Tribune beat writer Paul Sullivan. Hopefully, it’ll be back in 2022.
Many former North Siders celebrate birthdays in January. Bill Madlock, who won two batting titles, Alfonso Soriano, Ivan DeJesus, Tommy La Stella and former NL Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto.
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A bevy of pitchers, Ted Lilly who was a part of the 2007-2008 Cubs playoff teams, Jon Lester, Bruce Sutter, Dontrelle Willis, Mike Krukow, Dave Smith, Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana, all also celebrate birthdays in January.
Former managers Herman Franks and Don Zimmer share January birthdays as do two greats, Ernie Banks, and long-time announcer Jack Brickhouse. And one current player, Kris Bryant, celebrated his 29th on January 4.
Wrapping up the birthday celebrations is one particular old-timer, Riggs Stephenson. Okay, who? Stephenson, primarily an outfielder, played nine seasons for Cubs, from 1926 to 1934. He batted .336/.408/.469 with a .877 OPS. In two World Series, he slashed a combined .378/.410/.432 with a .843 OPS. Hey, sign him up, those numbers would play today.
Some notable boys in blue were inducted into the Hall of Fame in January, including Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Goose Gossage, Bruce Suter, Andre Dawson and Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks.
We’ll conclude with some notable, and some infamous, January transactions. Most significant, in 1916 then-owner Charles Murphy sold the team to Charles Weeghman and minority owner William Wrigley, Jr. The team moved into what would eventually become Wrigley Field.
In trades, Carlos Zambrano went to the Marlins for Chris Volstad, Andrew Cashner went to the Padres for Anthony Rizzo, Rick Monday went to the Dodgers for Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus, in another Dodgers deal, Dan Cataline and Vance Lovelace were traded for Ron Cey, and the (in)famous Matt Garza from Tampa Bay for four guys and Chris Archer deal was done in 2011.
Signings in January include pitchers Paul Maholm, Rod Beck, and most infamously Milton Bradley. So for those who think January was an “off-month” it’s actually been a busy time for fans and the team.