So today is my birthday, as some of you may have gathered from our twitter and or facebook. I have had a special interest in the number 29 due to that, and it is interesting the number of connections to 29 the Cubs have.
The biggest one is the famous Lee Elia rant that occurred on my first birthday. Many, many things have been written in the thirty years since that rant, and since I clearly don’t have any memory from the time I will not add more to that list.
The Cubs have had a number of players wear the number 29. My favorite player for the team right now is currently wearing the number, and happens to be pitching tonight. The game is an important swing game in terms of the season. The Cubs failed to get the sweep, but they could reach 10 wins 5 days earlier than last year, though only one less game played. More importantly the Cubs would take advantage of an opponent that can help them get healthy. Samardzija needs to continue to establish himself as that true front of the rotation starter tonight.
There have been quite a few players to wear 29 in Cubs history, but not many have been impact level players. The highest WAR career player to ever wear 29 was Fred McGriff. McGriff, of course, only played a couple of seasons at the very end of his career for the Cubs. After a lengthy delay before accepting the deal to the Cubs, he was part of the team that failed to make it to the postseason in 2001. Crime Dog was solid in his season and a half with the Cubs hitting 42 home runs, but the teams he was on failed to make it to the postseason.
In 2003, Josh Paul and Lenny Harris both wore the number 29 at different points of the season. Neither played effectively for the Cubs, but Lenny Harris had a great effect on the Cubs season. Lenny Harris was released in the middle of the 2003 season, but would become a member of the Marlins. He was part of the postseason roster that faced the Cubs in the NLCS. In the eleventh inning, Dusty Baker allowed Mark Guthrie to face Mike Lowell. Lowell broke the tie by hitting a homerun. The reason why Dusty Baker decided to let Mark Guthrie face Mike Lowell was because he was afraid of Lenny Harris being called to pinch hit against a righty.
2004, saw three players of little note for the Cubs wear 29. Andy Pratt, Ben Grieve, and Rey Ordonez were the wearers of 29. Rey Ordonez is famous for being one of the worst hitters of all time, yes even worse than Cesar Izturis. Ben Grieve for cutting his face running into the wall at Wrigley. And Andy Pratt was one of many forgettable rule 5, notice not V, draft pick. His father was a long time pitching coach in the minor leagues that unfortunately passed away this past December.
The last two players to wear 29 before Samardzija was Mike Fontenot and Angel Pagan. The second half of the Cajun Connection was a useful player for the Cubs during 2008, but sadly had switched to number 17 by that time. Angel Pagan did not become Angel Pagan until after he left the Cubs. That leaves Jeff Samardzija to be my favorite 29 from the Cubs.