Hall of Famer Fred McGriff recalls Cubs stint fondly but with tinge of regret

“I was always a little disappointed because I was supposed to help the Cubbies win that first World Series, and it didn’t quite happen,” McGriff said. “So that one stings a little bit.”

SHARE Hall of Famer Fred McGriff recalls Cubs stint fondly but with tinge of regret
Fred McGriff hits a grand slam on Aug. 10, 2001, to help the Cubs beat the Giants 9-3 at Wrigley Field.

Fred McGriff hits a grand slam on Aug. 10, 2001, to help the Cubs beat the Giants 9-3 at Wrigley Field.

Stephen J. Carrera/AP

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — As his career went on, first baseman Fred McGriff became viewed as a player who could put a contender over the top. One of those contenders was supposed to be the Cubs.

On July 27, 2001, the Cubs acquired McGriff from the Devil Rays to help them pull away in the National League Central, which they led by four games after beating the Cardinals to improve to 60-42. But the Cubs went 26-31 in the final two months of the season and finished 88-74, five games back of the division-winning Astros and wild-card Cardinals.

“To this day, I was always a little disappointed because I was supposed to help the Cubbies win that first World Series, and it didn’t quite happen,” McGriff said. “So that one stings a little bit.”

But McGriff had done enough in his previous 15-plus seasons to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Contemporary Baseball Players Era Committee. He’ll join third baseman Scott Rolen, who was voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, for induction Sunday.

McGriff played 19 seasons, with the Blue Jays, Padres, Braves (won 1995 World Series), Rays, Cubs and Dodgers. He finished in the top 10 in his league in MVP voting in six consecutive seasons (1989-94). He’s one of four players to lead the American League and National League in home runs, and he was the first player to hit 30 homers in a season for five franchises.

When McGriff was with the Cubs in 2001-02, Sammy Sosa was still slugging away. He hit 64 homers in ’01 and 49 in ’02. McGriff remembers the atmosphere surrounding batting practice when he joined the team.

“I laughed all the time because me and Moises Alou would hit in the same group as Sammy,” McGriff said. “So everywhere we went, at 5 o’clock batting practice, there’s 20,000 people in the stands. Sammy’s hitting the balls like a country mile, and then me and Moises get into the box and everybody was like, Aw. It was a great experience in Chicago.”

McGriff’s last season with 30 homers was in 2002, when the Cubs finished 67-95, 30 games behind the division-winning Cardinals. He played for the Dodgers in ’03 and the Rays again in ’04. McGriff retired during spring training in ’05 when no one offered him a contract.

The Latest
The tension around taking on debt and the pension payment was the crux of a month-long delay of the school system’s budget proposal, which came out Wednesday.
Jakyla Hester, 21, of Chicago, is also charged with reckless homicide, Illinois state police said.
Starting this weekend, the elaborate speaker trellis at the Pritzker Pavilion will pipe an inventive sound installation created by artists from around the world.
Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer dismissed the case with prejudice based on the misconduct of police and prosecutors over the withholding of evidence from the defense.
“The governance model is not the problem here,” CTA President Dorval Carter defiantly told an Illinois Senate committee. The problem, he said, is funding.