Sports World Nostalgia: Rick Wilkins

>> Wednesday

For those Cubs fans who came of baseball age in our time, perhaps one of the first memories you have of the game is the "home run chase, but not the one between Sammy and Mac. I'm talking about the one between Sammy and Wilk. In 1993, the race to lead the 84-78 Cubs in homers. This was important to young fans of a team who finished in 4th place in the old NL East, and needed something to salvage an otherwise broken season.

Today we look back on that magical summer, when the Cubs finished 13 games out of first place, (but under today's 6-division format, would still have been in contention for a Division Title untill the middle of the last week of the season.)

1993 was also the greatest year of Rick Wilkins' life. He hit .303, which might have sounded impressive were it not for his OBP of .376. At the tender age of 26, and in his third season behind the plate for the Northsiders, things were looking up for the young Wilkins, who untill today I did not know that his Baseball Reference page is in fact sponsored by....us. In 1993, while the rest of the world was paying attention to the Brady Bill and the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, little 8 and 9 year olds were questioning who would lead the Cubs in home runs.

It seemed a storyline fit for a future baseball historical biopic. Perhaps someday it will be considered to be ranked alongside "Pride of the Yankees," or at least "Major League III." Two of the Cubs young talents battled it out for slugging supremacy in front of...I guess some fans (the Cubs finished 7th of 14 NL teams in attendance). The scrappy Wilkins and the charistmatic Sosa wowed the crowds mildly en route to hitting 30 and 33 home runs respectively. After realizing that he only beat Wilkins by three homers, Sosa immediately began a strict regime of strenuous exercise, healthy diet, and Flintstones vitamins, and not "illegal drugs" or "corked bats."

After that magical season, Wilkins was never able to recapture his prior form. He left the Cubs in 1995 for the artificially greener pastures of the Houston Astrodome. He ended up with a career batting average of .244 and an OPS of .742 during stints with the Cubs, Astros, Giants, Mariners, Mets, Dodgers, Cardinals and Padres. He retired amid no fanfare in 2001, a shadow of his former, flukish self.

He may no longer have his pride, or the health of his knees, or the money, or the women that undoubtedly questioned who he was in 1993 when he introduced himself, only to be bedded by him after he told them he was tied with Sammy Sosa for the team lead in homers.

But he'll always have 1993.

4 comments:

Gavin 10:46 AM  

"Read the finest sportswriting in the world at Yellow Chair Sports. "

- Baseballreference.com

Wow, now that some serious respect right there!!

Matt 10:55 AM  

Respect written by Vinnie.

Vinnie 12:43 PM  

You bet. I figured putting YCS as the sponsor was more worthwhile than what I'd originally had there (which was something like, "Vinnie sponsors this page. Can you say 'fluke season'?")

By the way, .376 OBP isn't bad by any means, especially for a catcher. I guess that wasn't the point of the post, but I'm still bitching about it.

Vinnie 12:47 PM  

Oh wait, the "fluke season" remark is still there. I must've left it.

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