Friday, February 27, 2009
1981 Donruss: Steve Macko
Steve Macko is a name that would only be familiar to the most dedicated of Cubs fans. He played in a mere 25 games in 1979 and 1980 and had a very ordinary .250 batting average. There may have been more to his career if fate had not dealt Steve a cruel blow.
Steve Macko came from a baseball family. His father Joe spent years in the minor leagues. He was a "head coach" for a Cubs minor league team in 1964. He later spent years as the clubhouse manager for the Texas Rangers.
Joe Macko's bio from the Cubs 1964 Media Guide
Young Steve grew up around baseball. He spent some time as the Rangers batboy. The Cubs selected him in the 5th round of the 1977 draft. In a little more than two years, he was playing at Wrigley Field. He opened the 1980 season in AAA, but was recalled to the Cubs on July 22. He played in 6 games and was hitting .300 when he suffered a severe thigh bruise from a collision with Bill Madlock. That sidelined him for the rest of the season.
While being treated for his bruise, doctors made another, more serious discovery. Steve Macko had testicular cancer. Suddenly, a thigh bruise or even a baseball career didn't seem all that important. Treatment, recovery, and survival did.
Sadly, it was not to be. Just 14 months after the discovery of his cancer, Steve Macko was gone. He died on November 15, 1981 at the young age of 27.
While he was receiving treatment for his cancer, Macko was able to stay with the team during part of the 1981 season. This was one of the last of many generous moves by the Wrigley ownership. Remember, though, the team was sold during the 1981 season. His passing was hardly mentioned by the new regime. The 1982 Media Guide makes no mention of his death. The only place you find his name in the guide is in the transaction section, which shows him placed on the emergency 60 day disabled list in April and then being outrighted to AAA Iowa after the season in October, just 5 weeks before his death. Baseball can be a cold hearted business. The team did not wear any sort of arm band during the '82 season, either. It's like they just forgot about him and moved on.
The Steve Macko Scholarship Fund was established in his memory. The scholarship site has other pictures of Steve. He doesn't look very happy in the Donruss card or the 1980 Topps rookie cards. Its like some weird foreshadowing of his fated future. But the pictures on the website show a much happier looking Macko, as does the 1981 Rookie card.
Topps 1980 card with the same sad look as on the Donruss card
In the Topps 1981 card he is almost smiling
The smiling Macko from the scholarship site is how I'd like to remember him, instead of the sad Donruss card. It was a life cut too short, but a life that touched many and still does today.