Every Monday throughout the season, Tribune baseball writers will provide an update on what happened — and what’s ahead — for the Cubs and Sox.
Memorable day for Grace and Dunston
Shawon Dunston and Mark Grace, as they so often did during nine seasons as teammates, walked through the Cubs dugout Sunday afternoon, stopping before they reached the steps.
They were fittingly honored before the series finale, earning blue blazers with their enshrinement in the Cubs Hall of Fame. Dunston, 60, spent 12 seasons (1985-95, ‘97) on the Cubs, while Grace, 59, was a staple at first base for 13 years (1988-2000).
Dunston said he likes to tell people, “I live good and my house is paid off because of Grace.”
Before Sunday, Grace thought the distinction of having the most hits in the major leagues in the 1990s was “probably the biggest feather in my cap.”
“Today that’s no longer the case,” Grace said. “Today is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my professional career. … To say it’s an honor doesn’t do it justice.”
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, president of business operations Crane Kenney and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson congratulated Dunston and Grace as they joined other members of the team’s Hall of Fame on the field: Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Fergie Jenkins, Andre Dawson, Billy Williams, Randy Hundley and Pat Hughes.
Dunston and Grace recalled the shortstop’s first throw that Grace picked, though their perspective on the play differs. Grace thinks Dunston threw it in the dirt, testing his glove, but Dunston pointed out the 14 errors he committed the year before Grace’s call-up.
“When he did catch it, I said, ‘I think we have something,’” Dunston said, smiling.
Colson Montgomery’s progress continues
Colson Montgomery doubled in his final at-bat Saturday against Biloxi. The White Sox’s first-round pick in 2021 went 1-for-3 with a walk for Double-A Birmingham in a 4-3 loss.
Sox general manager Chris Getz likes the progress Montgomery continues to make in his third professional season. The 21-year-old shortstop is the top prospect in the organization according to MLB.com.
“Colson has been very good,” Getz said Saturday in Detroit. “He’s controlled the zone. He’s very selective offensively. Defensively, he’s becoming more consistent. He showed off his range. He’s got a solid arm. Overall, it’s been a really good year for Colson.
“He’s going to go to the Arizona Fall League and he can look back and he’ll be proud of the body of work he was able to accomplish considering he got a late start.”
Montgomery was slowed by a midback strain at the start of the season. He’s slashing .282/.462/.482 with 12 doubles, seven homers and 33 RBIs in 57 games between the Arizona Complex League (10 games), Class A Winston-Salem (17) and Birmingham (30). He’s slashing .223/.398/.408 with the Barons.
Getz wants players throughout the organization, such as Montgomery, to come into camp next spring thinking big.
“Beyond just Colson, coming into spring training next year the message is going to be the expectation here is to make this ballclub,” Getz said. “That goes beyond whether you are on our major-league roster right now or minor-league guys in spring training.
“That’s the competitiveness we need here with the White Sox. I certainly want to ingrain that mindset in all our players.”
What we’re reading this morning
Week ahead: Cubs
The Cubs have nearly made it through a stretch of 27 games in 27 days that included only one day off Sept. 1 followed by a doubleheader in Cincinnati. The tough stretch ends with a three-game series at Coors Field before a day off Thursday, one of three the Cubs get before the regular season ends Oct. 1.
Sunday’s series finale against the Diamondbacks capped 14 consecutive games against postseason contenders. The Cubs have a chance in the next two weeks to beat up on the Colorado Rockies (six games) and Pittsburgh Pirates (three games) leading into the final week.
An important tiebreaker will be on the line when the Cubs travel to Arizona for the final three games of the trip. The Cubs must sweep the series to hold the tiebreaker over the Diamondbacks. Major League Baseball no longer plays a Game 163 if teams are tied for a playoff spot. Instead, a head-to-head tiebreaker would determine the outcome.
Monday: at Rockies, 7:40 p.m., Marquee
Tuesday: at Rockies, 7:40 p.m., Marquee
Wednesday: at Rockies, 2:10 p.m., Marquee
Friday: at Diamondbacks, 8:40 p.m., Marquee
Saturday: at Diamondbacks, 7:10 p.m., Marquee
Sunday: at Diamondbacks, 6:10 p.m., ESPN
Week ahead: White Sox
The Sox are 2-7 during this stretch, which included losing two of three against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium last week.
The series against the Twins will be the final division games this season. The Sox are 21-24 against the AL Central.
Expected to contend for a division title at the start of the season, the Sox find themselves in fourth place and fielding questions on whether it’s important to avoid 100 losses.
“I don’t know the answer to that.” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said Saturday. “Ninety-nine, 100, is that a big difference? I don’t know. I just want to win as many games as possible. I’m not focusing so much on the losses, I’m focusing on the wins.
“It’s like .299 and .300. It’s a big deal for hitters but it’s .299. I’ve seen guys come out of the game when they get a hit for .300 and I’m like, .299 is really good too.”
Monday: vs. Royals, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH
Tuesday: vs. Royals, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH
Wednesday: vs. Royals, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH
Thursday: vs. Twins, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH
Friday: vs. Twins, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH
Saturday: vs. Twins, 6:10 p.m., NBCSCH
Sunday: vs. Twins, 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH
This week in Chicago baseball
Sept. 11, 2008: Albert Pujols drives in his 100th run in the Cardinals’ 3-2 loss to the Cubs, becoming only the third major-league player to reach the milestone in his first eight seasons.
The sixth-inning double ended a scoreless game for starter Rich Harden, who thew 55 of his 86 pitches for strikes and had only one walk to go with his three strikeouts.
Pujols extended his major-league-record streak of reaching 30 homers and 100 RBIs in his first eight seasons, two more than any player in history.
Sept. 13, 1998: Sammy Sosa hits home runs No. 61 and 62, passing Roger Maris’ record.
The largest crowd of the season at Wrigley Field joyously celebrated Sosa and an improbable 11-10 victory against the Brewers. But outside reaction to Sosa matching Mark McGwire was considerably more subdued.
Sosa grasped the magnitude of what he had done: “Unbelievable. It was something that I can’t even believe I was doing.”
Sosa took hold of an Eric Plunk fastball in the ninth inning and sent it screaming onto Waveland Avenue for No. 62, knotting the greatest home run chase the game had seen.
“I said to McGwire, ‘Wait for me,’ ” Sosa said. “He listened to me. Now we’re together. We’ll see where we go.”
Only five days earlier, Sosa was hugging McGwire on the field at Busch Stadium in St. Louis after Big Mac broke Maris’ record which had stood for 37 years. But in less than a week’s time, Sosa hit four home runs to catch McGwire and send the race into overdrive with only two weeks left in the season.
When McGwire broke Maris’ record Tuesday night in St. Louis, the game was stopped for 15 minutes as he hugged teammates and addressed Cardinals fans. When Sosa hit his 62nd on Sunday, the only reason he was able to take three curtain calls was because the game was briefly halted after celebrating fans littered the outfield with trash.
No one from Major League Baseball or the Maris family was on hand for Sosa’s moment, and Fox didn’t rearrange its TV schedule to capture it. McGwire drove around the field in a 1962 red Corvette — a present from the St. Louis organization — on his historic night. After his big day, Sosa simply packed his bags and got ready for the team flight for Monday night’s game in San Diego.
“Isn’t it amazing?” Cubs first basebam Mark Grace said. “Who would have thought two people would do it in the same year? It’s unfortunate that the Maris family wasn’t here to be involved. McGwire got so much more because he was the first to do it. And well-deserved. But I hate that it’s ‘Oh, yeah, by the way, Sammy hit 62 today.’ Maybe Sammy will get a blue Corvette.”
Sosa thanked everyone from former White Sox and Cubs general manager Larry Himes to Tribune Co. executive vice president Jim Dowdle but saved his most emotional thank you for his adopted hometown.
“Chicago, I love you,” he said.
Sept. 15, 1902: Cubs infielders Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance, later immortalized in verse, turn their first double play together.
Sept. 17, 1953: Ernie Banks makes his debut with the Cubs.
He starts at shortstop and bats seventh, becoming the first Black player in team history. He went hitless in three at-bats.
His final hit of his career came on Sept. 26, 1971 — an RBI single in the first inning off the Phillies’ Ken Reynolds for the Cubs’ only run that day.
Sept. 17, 1983: White Sox clinch the AL West
The White Sox won “ugly” and often, breezing into the playoffs with 99 wins — a figure exceeded in club history only by the 1917 team, which won 100 games.
“I remember the day after we clinched the division championship that year we had another full house and everybody was introduced on the field — the players, coaches, Eddie Einhorn and me,” said Jerry Reinsdorf in 2000, who, with then co-owner Einhorn, was in only his third season in baseball.
“Jerry Koosman (a 40-year-old pitcher at the time) was standing next to me and he turned and said, `Enjoy the moment because they’re few and far between.’ Little did I know then how right he was.”
The White Sox won the American League West by an unheard-of, record-setting 20 games that summer and captured important honors such as Manager of the Year (Tony La Russa), Rookie of the Year (Ron Kittle) and Cy Young Award (LaMarr Hoyt). Future Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk finished third in Most Valuable Player balloting.
“Absolutely, that summer was as much fun as I’ve had in baseball,” Reinsdorf said.
It made the first-round playoff loss to the Baltimore Orioles that much more excruciating. The Sox’s bats suddenly turned cold, baserunning gaffes prevailed, Greg Luzinski and Kittle were injured by pitches and the team dropped three straight after winning the opener in the best-of-five series.
The Orioles went on to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
“That’s baseball,” La Russa said. “I’ve been on teams that didn’t win in the playoffs because we didn’t play to our capabilities. In this case, Baltimore was a very good team and history proved that.”