Monday, December 20, 2010

Phil Cavarretta

Cubs great from the past Phil Cavarretta has died as the age of 94. He spent 20 seasons with the Cubs, a team record, from 1934 - 1953. He was a local boy too, attending Lane Tech High School, which is just a couple miles west of Wrigley Field on Addison Street. He broke in the majors as a 17-year-old and was a regular in the lineup the next season.

His best year was 1945, when he led the Cubs to their last pennant and was named NL MVP. During that season he hit a league-leading .355 and also drove in 95 runs.

He was named player/manager of the Cubs during the 1951 season and spent the next 2 1/2 seasons in that role. During spring training 1954 he told owner PK Wrigley that he didn't think the team would win, and Wrigley fired him. I believe that made him the first manager to be fired before the season began. In May, he signed with the White Sox and played with them through the 1955 season. (So we have a Cub great who finished his career with the White Sox and has recently died....why does that sound so familiar??)

On story I heard is that the Cubs were going to retire his #44 during the 1954 season, but when he was fired, those plans were shelved. The number was unofficially retired by clubhouse man Yosh Kawano. No player wore the number until Burt Hooton did in 1971.

He was probably the most popular Cubs from the late '30s until Ernie Banks arrived. But most of his fans are gone. I know that I only know him from what I read. It will be interesting to see how the Cubs handle his passing. The team will wear a patch for Ron Santo. What will they do for Cavarretta? With the passage of time since his playing days, he is generally a forgotten man.

A quick search of my collection showed that I've got ten Phil Cavarretta cards.

These two, a Bowman '53 and Topps '54 are the only cards I've got from his active days, though I do have reprints from other early Bowman and Topps sets.

Cavarretta was selected to the Cubs All Century team, commemorated by this card.

Here are a couple more:

1947 Tip Top Bread (reprint)

1989 Pacific Legends, with a bad coloring job (the piping on the uniform and the "UBS" should be blue, not red and the C on his hat should be red).

RIP Phil Cavarretta

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