Greatest Moments: No. 20, Dick Drott's Career Day

By Chris Rewers on Thursday, January 6, 2011

(Editor's Note: Eleventh in a series recalling the 30 greatest moments in Cubs history.)

The 1950s were a dreadful decade for the Cubs, but the emergence of Ernie Banks as one of the game's premier players and a bumper crop of pitching prospects seemed to indicate better times ahead in the 60s.

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Dick Drott was part of a quartet of young, talented pitchers - who also included Moe Drabowsky, Glen Hobbie, and Bob Anderson - whose careers were all derailed or slowed by injuries, and unfortunately advances in sports medicine were still a long way off.

"Tommy John" surgery was a long way off. There were no specialized medical procedures for athletes and no scientific rehab programs.

Drott emerged on the scene as a flame-throwing 20-year-old right-hander in 1957. He went 15-11 while allowing just 200 hits in 229 innings while striking out 170. The right-hander led the National League in walks with 129, but control problems for a hard-throwing young pitcher are not unusual.

He is described by old-timers as resembling the likes of Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, and Kerry Wood.

Drott's career highlight came on May 26, 1957 at Wrigley Field. Drott thrilled many in a crowd of 32,127 by striking out 15 to help the Cubs complete a doubleheader sweep of the eventual world champion Milwaukee Braves. Drott had 10 strikeouts by the end of the fifth. Using a blazing fastball and sharply breaking sidearm curve, he retired the mighty Henry Aaron on called third strikes three times. Drott struck out every Braves regular at least once en route to the seven-hit, one-walk complete-game performance.

Drott endured elbow pain throughout an inconsistent 1958 campaign, going 7-11 with a 5.44 ERA and 99 walks in 167 innings, but struck out 156.

By 1959, according to Jim Langford in The Game Is Never Over (Hardwood Press, 1980), "Drott's sore arm had become chronic (six of the most painful words written in this book - oh, the splendid promise of that young man)."

In the days when the most common remedy for an ailing arm was rest, Drott appeared in just eight games in 1959 and went an awful 0-6 with a 7.16 ERA in 23 appearances in 1960. He was used primarily in long relief and mop-up duty in 1961 and was selected by the Houston Colt .45s in the 1962 expansion draft. After going 3-12 in two seasons with Houston, he was out of baseball at age 27.

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