While the specifics of the 1962 season are best forgotten, including Metro's tenure as head coach (43-69 from June 3 on), several products of the Cub farm system eased the sting of failure as did Banks' permanent and succcessful shift to first base after knee problems reduced his range at shortstop.
"Those ground balls aren't much different and now I've got a bigger glove," Banks said of his new position. He made himself comfortable with 37 home runs and 104 RBI.
For the second successive year the Cubs paraded a Rookie of the Year in second baseman Ken Hubbs, who was the first rookie to also win a Gold Glove award. Less impressive at this point was outfielder Lou Brock, who batted only .263 with nine home runs, but was destined for the Hall of Fame. Because of the most reviled trade in the team's history, Brock didn't enter in a Cub uniform.
Not even veteran Bob Buhl, acquired in an April trade from the Milwaukee Braves, could lift Cub pitching over-all. He led with 12 wins, but the most notable record was Ellsworth's 9-20.
Wrigley surrendered for 1963, abolishing the College of Coaches. He hired Bob Kennedy as "permanent head coach" but told the press "you can call him manager." Nonetheless, he developed a new quirk, appointing Robert Whitlow, a retired Air Force colonel, as athletic director in command of the entire organization, even over general manager Holland and Kennedy.
Despite the circus atmosphere and frequent, if ineffective, interference by Whitlow, the Cubs finished 82-80 in 1963, topping .500 for the first time since 1946 though seventh in the now 10-team league. They might have done even better if eye troubles, mumps and other problems hadn't hampered Banks, who slipped to .227 with just 18 home runs and 64 RBI. Not even fine seasons by Santo (.295, 25 home runs, 99 RBI) and Williams (.286, 25 home runs, 95 RBI) could make up the deficit. Brock stole 24 bases, the most since Kiki Cuyler's 37 in 1930.
Most surprising was the pitching turnabout, especially that of Ellsworth, who went 22-10. Larry Jackson (14-8) and Lindy McDaniel (13-7, 22 saves), obtained in a trade from the Cardinals, were also outstanding.
The promise of 1963 was blighted early in 1964, the first blow being tragic, the death of Hubbs in an airplane accident on February 13. Yet the Cubs got off to a good start and on June 14 Holland completed a six-player trade with the Cardinals to enhance their chances. "We're taking a shot at the pennant," Holland proclaimed. "The race is wide open.'"
It was, but to the Cardinals not the Cubs, and it was the trade that helped them slam it shut. The key players of the six-man deal were Cub outfielder Brock and Cardinal pitcher Ernie Broglio. While Broglio finished the season 4-7, Brock hit .348 in 105 games for St. Louis to spark his new team to a pennant.
Even Jackson's record of 24-11, best in the major leagues, couldn't lift the Cubs higher than eighth. Nor did a partial recovery by Banks, with 23 home runs and 95 RBI, and great showings by Santo (.313, 30 home runs, 114 RBI) and Williams (.312, 33 home runs, 98 RBI).
Kennedy lost his job after 56 games (24-32) in 1965, and was replaced by Klein, the former head coach, but the end result was no better, eighth again with a 72-90 record. Banks (.265, 28 HR, 108 RBI), Santo (.285, 33 home runs, 101 RBI) and Williams (.315, 34 home runs and 108 RBI) continued to pound, giving the Cubs three 100 RBI men for the first time in 35 years. Jackson (14-21), Ellsworth (14-15) and Buhl (13-11) paced an erratic rotation.
In the long run, more memorable was the advent of two rookies, second baseman Glenn Beckert and shortstop Don Kessinger who were to form an outstanding combination for nine seasons. And a feat by journeyman left-hander Bob Hendley (4-4), who on September 9 pitched a one-hitter at Los Angeles against Dodger Sandy Koufax' perfect game, almost matching the famous double no-hitter of 1917.
With Kennedy gone—as well as Whitlow, who resigned before the 1965 season started finally having figured out he was superfluous—and having little confidence in Klein, Wrigley pondered his next move. It was to be as unexpected as the earlier ones.
From Baseball, Chicago Style: A Tale of Two Teams, One City by Jerome Holtzman and George Vass.
Copyright © 2001 by Bonus Books, Inc.. Excerpted with permission.