Thru Cub Eyes: Steve Stone
If it’s Friday it must be time for another first person account of life in a Cub uniform. This excerpt is from Carrie Muskat’s fine compilation Banks to Sandberg to Grace. Look for it wherever fine Cub literature is sold. Sorry, I could not find a picture of Steve in a Cub uniform after an exhaustive search.
A lot of people don’t realize when they talk about the Cubs’ 20 game winners that I won 20 games for the Cubs. But it took me three years. I was 23-20 in three years, and the fact is ’74, ’75 and ’76, we didn’t make anybody forget about the ’27 Yankees. The fact that I was over .500 was a major accomplishment.
I had some very good times in 1975. The Cubbies were actually in the race. I started out 5-0. The Cubs were in the race from the middle of June. We had a real interesting collection of guys. George Mitterwald hit three home runs and it was the highlight of his life because I think he ended up hitting ten for the year, maybe even less than that. We had Carmen Fanzone who was a terrific guy and, unfortunately for Carmen, a better trumpet player than a baseball player. We had Oscar Zamora as our closer, who told our pitching coach Marv Grissom that if he came to the park with his eyes swollen – because he never really had come in at night – that it was the ozone. It wasn’t that he was partying all night, it was the ozone. He’d come in with his eyes looking like the old fighter Carmen Basilio. Marv assumed it wasn’t the ozone. I think Oscar led our staff with 13, 14 saves. We weren’t particularly good, like so many teams I was on, but we had a good time.
I was the Cubs’ first free agent. I was the first guy ever to go without a contract. So the Cubs didn’t want to pitch me the second part of the year when I was healthy. They did pitch me in one game. Fortunately, Roland Hemond was in the seats. I threw five innings, gave up two hits and one run, and threw the ball great, and Roland Hemond and Bill Veek drafted me in that first free-agent draft. And I won 15 games for them in 1977.
I spent 15 years with Harry and we never rehearsed an opening. Not one. Ever. Harry wanted one microphone, took the mike, and Arne (Harris) would go in our ears “OK.” No countdown, just go get ’em. … I had no idea what he was going to say. I’m not sure if he knew what he was going to say, but I do know sometimes he would say exactly what I was going to say.
I thought it was up to me to analyze pitchers, A couple times Harry would go and analyze the pitchers first thing out of the box and then hand the mike to me. I had no idea where he was going and maybe the spontaneity of the thing is what made us.