The best, of course, was still to come. Alter a brief decline in 1970 and 71, the Cubs came roaring back. From 72 to 74 Chicago swept the Oakland Athletics in three consecutive World Series, living up to their slogan, "Straight A's." (Oakland manager Dick Williams, who had copyrighted that phrase. made a small fortune on the Cubs' feat.) It had been 21 years since a baseball team had won three titles in a row, and now it had happened in, of all places, Chicago.
If the Cubs could win it all again in 1975, they would join the New York Yankees as the only team to win four consecutive World Series. "Quad Squad, Quad Squad" rose the chant at Wrigley Field. And, indeed, Chicago beat the Boston Red Sox in six thrilling games in the 75 Series. (Life is indeed a game of inches: Imagine how different history might have been had Boston's Carlton Fisk been successful in waving his loud foul ball fair that night.) The Big Blue Machine now had their place in the record books, and that was enough for Ken Hubbs, who announced his retirement. Although only 33, he had played 14 years and acquired five championship rings.
With Hubbs's retirement, Chicago's reign was over. Though the Hubbs Cubs joined the Yankees, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Celtics as teams synonymous with the word champions. Hubbs cast a long shadow over future Cub second basemen: Since 76, 81 men have filled the position. As journeyman Ryne Sandberg, now of the St. Petersburg White Sox, says, "No matter what I did, it was never enough."
Pearl Zane Grey of Zanesville, Ohio, embarked on a minor league baseball career in 1895, playing as Pearl Zone to protect his eligibility at the University of Pennsylvania, where he roamed the outfield as Zane Grey. After four years in the bushes, when he was on the threshold of making the big leagues, Grey left Newark of the Atlantic League to become an author. At his death in 1939, he had written 89 books under the name Zane Grey. Most of his works were Western novels, though he did write three books about baseball. One of them, The Redheaded Outfield, was inspired by his younger brother. Romer (Reddy) Grey, who played two games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1903. If only Zane, not Romer, had made it to the majors....
The clackety-clack of the train on its tracks served as camouflage for the clackety-clack of his typewriter. While the rest of the 1901 Brooklyn Dodgers slept, rightfielder Zane Grey tapped out another lurid chapter of Oui, Willie Keeler.
It was sport's first tell-all tome, and Grey was a natural to write it. Long drawn to the rogues of the game, Grey wrote about the men behind the mustache wax. Baseball at the turn of the century was a dusty game of "gunslingers" throwing "horsehide" in the "bullpen," of law-and-order managers like Connie Mack and John McGraw, of men in black hats facing men in white hats—and Grey captured the flavor of it all.
He surreptitiously turned to his teammates for rollicking tales and revelations. Until Oui was published in 1902, who knew that Keeler had once telegraphed the press box to complain about an official scorer's ruling? (Outrageous!) The book caused a furor. Such was the backlash in the Brooklyn clubhouse that newspapermen continued for the next several decades to sanitize the image of ballplayers. The players, in turn, betrayed no more clubhouse confidences until 1970, when Jim Bouton of the Seattle Pilots wrote his derivative but devastating Ball Pour.
Grey, for his part, was forced by his ball-playing brethren to give up his Dodger cap and wear a green eyeshade full-time. He spent the rest of his years banging out his "Grey Matters" column for the sports sections of the Hearst newspaper chain.
Righthanded pitcher Fidel Castro once tried out for the Washington Senators and later turned down a $4,000 signing bonus from the New York Giants. Instead, he led the Cuban revolution and became that nation's communist dictator. Still. Castro pitched in an occasional exhibition game for the Cuban army team. In 1959, while hurling for Los Barbudos (the Bearded Ones), he fanned two hatters in one inning. "When the arbiter called /one/ batter out on a high, inside pitch," reported The Sporting News, "Castro dashed to the plate and shook hands with the ump." Kind of makes you wonder: What might have been had Castro signed with the Giants?
By the time he turned 22, in 1948, Castro had lost the curveball that had served him so well at his Jesuit prep school (where he was named outstanding athlete) and at the University of Havana (where he first attracted scouts). And as former Washington Senator owner Calvin Griffith has said, Castro "didn't have a fastball." So the New York Giants dealt him, even though they loved the fact that he regularly denounced "Yankee imperialism" in the New York papers.