Glenn Beckert

This article was written by Mark Sternman

Glenn Beckert had a good-but-not-great career for the good-but-not-great Chicago Cubs teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Those teams starred a quartet of baseball immortals in Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams. Steadily and sometimes spectacularly manning the keystone sack and batting second, Beckert made four All-Star teams, received MVP votes three different times, and won one Gold Glove. Batting right, he consistently made contact while rarely striking out, a combination that led to three long hitting streaks in baseball’s offensively-challenged late 1960s. For nearly a decade, Beckert formed a productive middle-infield partnership with shortstop Don Kessinger.

Of German descent, Beckert graduated in 1958 from Perry High School in Pittsburgh,1 where he made All-City teams in basketball and baseball (He also played football in high school).2 He graduated from Allegheny College in 1962 with a degree in political science and played for Bob Garbark, who from 1934-1945 saw time with four teams in the majors, including two with which Beckert would be associated, the Cubs and Red Sox. In his BioProject profile of Garbark, Bill Nowlin writes, “Bob is credited with seeing [Beckert] signed to the Boston Red Sox,”3 although Caleb McCarey4 signed him for Boston.

Beckert almost ended up with the arch-rival of the Sox. According to a Chicago Tribune Magazine profile, while at Allegheny Beckert had “accepted an invitation to work out at Yankee [S]tadium … all expenses paid. He … went thru the workout, then turned down the Yankees’ offer of a bonus because ‘I promised my dad I’d finish college.’ When he got back to college … he got a shock: He’d been declared ineligible. Technically, accepting the expenses from the Yankees made him a professional.”5

Since he did take the Boston offer, Beckert might have played for the 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox: According to Doug Gilbert in Chicago’s American, “Beckert and Rico Petrocelli were signed in the same year … and at the end of the 1962 season Boston decided to keep Rico.”6 Chicago plucked Beckert from the Sox in the 1962 Minor League Draft. The Cubs had seemed set at second base with the young star Ken Hubbs until he tragically perished in a 1964 plane crash. Although he played almost exclusively at second base in the National League, Beckert had bounced around the infield early in his career, playing third base for Alleghany College; shortstop and third base in the Boston system; and second base, shortstop, and third base for Chicago minor-league teams. John Holland, Chicago vice president, “pointed out that the Cubs made 35 fewer double plays in 1964 than last year. ‘Doubtless a weaker infield defense contributed to the jump in our earned run average,’ suggested Holland. He added that the Cubs may have their second baseman under contract. He’s Glenn Beckert, an agile youngster who played shortstop for Salt Lake City.”7

Saying, “I’m satisfied I’m making good progress … but I know I’m in fast competition,”8 Beckert spoke confidently of his ability to make the positional transition during spring training in 1965. Santo, his future roommate and longtime pal, agreed, praising Beckert as “a whiz”9 at the new position.

In exhibition games, Beckert, “compared in some quarters with … Hubbs as a possible great at second base,”10 initially earned favorable notice for his ability to master the pivot on double-play balls, but then had to miss time due to an ankle injury. He recovered in time to make the team and debut on opening day against the Cubs’ arch-rivals, the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals. Batting leadoff, Beckert struck out against Bob Gibson in each of the first two innings before reaching on an infield single off Ron Taylor in the fourth in a wild Wrigley game called due to darkness after eleven innings with the teams tied at 10.

Beckert quickly earned the respect of his opponents and his teammates. Five days later, versus the Braves, he “rapped out three hits and reached base four times. Felipe Alou, the Milwaukee first baseman said to him: ‘Hey, kid, we’re never going to get you out.’”11 In May, Beckert earned favorable reviews from Banks, the most credentialed Cub: “He’s got the kind of desire you love to see in a boy coming up…. He doesn’t seem to be worried about who’s pitching against him.”12

On May 9, Beckert bashed his first homer, “deep into the left center bleachers,”13 off Houston’s Bob Bruce. Beckert’s second and third home runs came on July 1 in what would turn out to be the only multi-homer game of his career in a 6-3 win over the Dodgers. “I’ve got a small home run area,” said Beckert modestly. “The pitches just happened to be in the right spot. The first one was a [Johnny Podres] fastball inside, the second one a [Ron Perranoski] slider. My folks will never believe it.”14 More self-aware than modest, Beckert would go more than one year until his next homer, which he would hit on July 9, 1966. “Two of our coaches, Alvin Dark and Pete Reiser, once told me, ‘Glenn, you do not have the swing to hit home runs or be a longball hitter. But you’d make a good No. 2 hitter if you can put the ball in play under all circumstances,’ Beckert said.”15

The Dodgers got revenge for Beckert’s rare power outburst on September 9, when Sandy Koufax threw a perfect game against the Cubs. “Nothing resembled a hit, altho in the very first inning … Beckert hit a sharp line drive over third base only inches foul before becoming Sandy’s first strikeout victim.”16 While failing on this day, in 1968 Beckert would have the only hits in games pitched by Steve Carlton and Gaylord Perry, two hurlers who would join Koufax in Cooperstown.17

Koufax pitched against Chicago again four days later. After striking out the leadoff hitter, Koufax confronted Beckert, who “lobbed a soft line-drive behind first base into right field for a double—and gone was any chance that Koufax would become the first man in baseball history to pitch five no-hit games or the first since Johnny Van Der {SIC} Meer to pitch consecutive no-hitters.”18

In 1965, Beckert (.239/.275/.298) and the Cubs (72-90) both struggled but laid a strong foundation for a more promising future. After Bob Kennedy and Lou Klein helmed Chicago in 1965, a boldfaced name replaced them. New skipper Leo Durocher called Beckert “‘my kind of player,’ explaining he has speed and can do many things.”19

“I like everything about that kid Beckert,” said Durocher. “He’s got a fine chance to be one of the front-line stars in the game. He has good hands, a strong arm, and he gives the pitcher a real battle ... Defensively, he’s a good second baseman … and he’ll improve with experience…. If he can master punching that ball to right field, he could be another Billy Herman.”20

The hard-nosed Beckert likewise came to admire the no-nonsense Durocher. “When Leo came in, we were all a bit tight,” [said] Beckert ... “We didn’t know what to expect…. So it took a little time for us to get to know him…. ‘Do the job for me,’ he says, ‘and I’ll see you get the money you think you deserve.’ He does it, too.”21

Touted by Santo as the game’s most improved player,22 Beckert had the first long hitting streak of his career in 1966. In the nineteenth game of a streak that would last twenty contests, he had three hits and drove in five runs as the Cubs pounded Gaylord Perry and the Giants 12-3 on September 10 in San Francisco. Beckert put up better numbers in his sophomore season (.287/.317/.348) albeit for a weaker team: the Cubs slumped to a 59-103 last place finish in the National League. The 103 losses equaled the Chicago mark for defeats set in 1962, the year the Cubs drafted Beckert.

Beckert started 1967 with a home run on Opening Day, which matched his total from the prior year and presaged a power surge of sorts—he would hit a career-high five (to go along with a career-high 32 doubles) on the season. Beckert also stole home on the front end of a double steal as Chicago beat Philadelphia 4-2. Poking fun at his lack of power, Beckert explained, “I hit a ball in last year’s opener against Juan Marichal that hit on top of the wall. It fell back instead of going over … When we take batting practice, myself, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, and Don Kessinger hit as a team. If anyone hits a home run, he gets another swing. With Kessinger and me if a ball bounces and hits the wall it’s considered a homer.”23

Off the field, Beckert got engaged and then married (on November 4, 1967) to Mary Eileen Marshall, an American Airlines flight attendant. He joined teammate Moe Drabowsky in finding a wife among the flying set.24 He also missed two weeks during the season to attend to his military commitments as a reservist serving “a six-year hitch”25 during the Vietnam War. He argued after the season that this break had hurt his play: “I really was hitting well for those first two months,” said Beckert. “In fact, I had an average of .306 on June 15. But then I had to leave for my two weeks of military service. That not only killed my momentum, but also upset all my coordination. When I came back, I dropped 40 points in my average almost faster than you could figure it with a pencil.”26

Despite missing Beckert for a fortnight, Durocher turned the Cubs around in 1967. Chicago went 87-74 and soared from tenth to third place in the standings. The team’s double-play combination garnered national notice. Radio broadcaster Lou Boudreau, three years away from entering the Hall of Fame thanks to his career as a Cleveland shortstop, compared the defensive abilities of “the jelling … Don Kessinger-Glenn Beckert keystone combination [to] the same impossible game-saving plays and double plays made by … Joe Gordon, Ken Keltner and”27 Boudreau himself.

Chicago executive Holland, who had touted Beckett before his 1965 rookie season, praised him even more highly28 after the conclusion of his third campaign: “We’re definitely not trading Beckert. He’s one of our key men…. For years, we tried to find a second baseman. When we found one in Ken Hubbs, he was taken away from us in a tragic accident. Now we’ve got another one in Beckert, who is one of the top two or three in the league.”29

Holland had accurately assessed his keystone sacker. Although Bill Mazeroski of Pittsburgh and Tommy Helms of Cincinnati had represented the National League in the 1967 All Star Game, by the end of the season Beckert trailed only Joe Morgan of Houston in Wins Above Replacement by NL second basemen. Both Beckert and the Cubs seemed on the verge of stardom following the 1967 season, a promise that they partially but did not wholly realize.

Chicago treaded water in 1968, winning 84 games and once again finishing in third place behind the NL champion Cardinals. But in the Year of the Pitcher,30 Beckert made major strides, setting career highs in games (155), runs (a league-leading 98), hits (189), and total bases (237). “He’s some kind of player,” says Durocher. “He’s the best second baseman in the league.”31 Beckert did lead NL second basemen with a 5.6 WAR in 1968.

Beckert batted .294, finished ninth in the NL MVP race, and won his lone Gold Glove for repeatedly flashing the leather. In a June game against Houston, one observer noted, “Beckert’s defensive play remained a highlight … He made three more fine stops today, topped by an all-but-unbelievable interception and off-balanced throw on a bounder by [Jimmy] Wynn in the fifth.”32 In a July game against New York, “Art Shamsky … ripped a ball toward right which Beckert stopped with a tremendous diving grab and threw him out, saving a run”33 in a game Chicago would eventually win 2-1. In an August game against St. Louis, Curt Flood “hammered a ball toward right which Beckert stabbed with a leaping catch and converted into a double play.”34

In its postseason profile of Gold Glove winners, The Sporting News observed, “Beckert has superb range in both directions, and is an expert at making the play on the slowly-hit ball. He moves in fast, and his excellent balance enables him to get something on every throw.”35

Baseball’s paucity of offense in 1968 did not prevent another long Beckert hitting steak, one that he extended to 19 games with a ninth-inning with a ninth-inning bunt single on July 14 against Pittsburgh. “You just have to be lucky with a batting streak,” Beckert said. “I decided to bunt because [Pittsburgh pitcher Bill] Henry is an old man, not a good fielder and the grass is high in the infield…. I did a lot of bunting in batting practice today.”36

The streak hit 21 games on July 16 during a 4-3 win over Philadelphia in twelve innings. Beckert’s double drove in the winning run. “It just seems like everything I hit finds a hole,” Beckert said modestly. “My goal is to hit .280. I’m considered a .280 hitter and if I consistently hit that, I’ll be helping the team.”37

An admittedly biased teammate disagreed. “There’s no question that he’s capable of being a .300 hitter,” said Ron Santo ... “He’s an aggressive hitter and he … always gets a piece of the ball…. You always have a chance the ball will drop in … especially a hitter like Glenn is who can punch the ball to right field.”38

The streak reached 26 games on July 21, and Beckert was supposedly “living up to Leo Durocher’s billing for him as the best player at his position since Jackie Robinson,”39 a clearly exaggerated claim that Durocher would soon top by proclaiming, “He may be even better.”40

Beckert’s run of good luck brought him personal as well as professional joy when his wife gave birth to daughter Tracy Lynn between games 26 and 27 of his streak. “You should have seen my roomie,” Ron Santo said of Beckert. “He got the call and he was so excited he bounced out of bed, stepped on his suitcase and cut his foot. He kept me up almost all night.”41

Beckert failed to extend his streak to 28 games on a controversial play against San Francisco. In his game story, George Langford of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “Hal Lanier, the Giants’ shortstop who fielded Beckert’s grounder in the 10th inning … said … he thought Beckert beat his throw to first base and should have been given a hit. Umpire Ken Burkhart called Beckert out thus ending Glenn’s hitting streak at 27 games, one short of the club record.”42 During the streak, Beckert batted .362 (42-116) with eight doubles, one triple, and 21 runs scored.43

In an ominous sign of what would befall the ill-fated Cubs in 1969, Beckert played nearly every day and wore down over the course of the 1968 campaign. According to the Chicago Tribune, Beckert’s weight dropped from 190 pounds at the beginning of the season to 173 by September.44

Beckert had the best year of his career to date in 1968, but after the season he had a bigger goal in mind. “I want to play on a pennant winner and play in a Series. Too many guys go through their entire career and never play in one.”45 The 1969 Chicago Cubs would represent Beckert’s best chance at postseason glory.

Beckert took a beating in 1969, suffering through a quartet of maladies over the first two months of the campaign. In April, he “was knocked dizzy and carried from the field on a stretcher when he was bowled over by the Cardinals’ Mike Shannon… Beckert was taken … for X-rays of his nose and jaw, which revealed no broken bones. He was kept overnight, however, by doctors who said he was suffering from ‘a little amnesia’ about the collision.”46 After returning from this injury, he kept “playing despite the lingering effects of a bout with the flu”47 that hampered him during a doubleheader against the Mets.

In May, Beckert “was clipped on the chin … by a fast ball from [San Diego’s Gary] Ross and had to leave the game. Beckert suffered a gash on the left side of his chin that required 15 stitches to close and the force of the blow caused fluid to develop in the right side of the jaw near the ear.”48

But the big blow occurred during a June 6 game against Cincinnati. “The injury occurred … when Beckert charged Pete Rose’s grounder, grabbed it, and tagged Tony Cloninger. He then threw to first to complete the double play. Cloninger was running at full speed and, when the two made contact, Beckert’s thumb was jammed up into his palm.”49 Beckert headed to the disabled list with the expectation that he would not play for three weeks to one month.

Beckert returned on July 1. Reflecting on the injury the following year, Beckert thought that he had returned too quickly: “My thumb wasn’t healed yet when I returned to the lineup, but that was nobody’s fault but my own. I’m the type of guy who can’t sit on the bench. I kept wanting to get back in there. Now, of course, I realize it was foolish of me because I just wasn’t 100 percent right.”50 In spite of his ailments, Beckert made the All-Star team in 1969 for the first time. “This is a real honor,” Beckert said. “There’s only one honor greater and I plan to get that one this year too – playing in a World Series.”51

After breaking up two no-hitters in 1968, Beckert preserved one in 1969 by Ken Holtzman in an August 19 game against the Braves at Wrigley Field. “In the Braves’ first, Beckert had ranged to his left for a nifty play on Felipe Alou. In the third the Cub second baseman pulled off a bigger robbery against the same man, throwing grotesquely off-balance, almost from behind first base, to nip the runner. These were the big plays, but Beckert said later that the toughest of all was a grounder that seemed almost routine on which he went two steps to his right and ended the game by throwing out Henry Aaron, the mightiest Brave of them all.”52 With forty games left in the Chicago 1969 schedule, the Cubs had a seemingly comfortable 7.5-game lead on the Mets after the Holtzman gem.

The lead shrunk quickly. New York beat Chicago 3-2 on September 8 to close to within 1.5 games and set the stage for another entry in the annals of negative animal lore that afflicted the cursed Cubs. The 1945 Chicagoans lost the World Series, if one believes the legend, due to the Curse of the Billy Goat. The 1969 counterparts, with Beckert playing a major role, had to deal with the Hex of the Black Cat.

On September 9, the Mets crushed the Cubs 7-1. The caption of a United Press International photo accompanying the game story conveyed the feline connection: “CAT HEXES THE CUBS—Glenn Beckert, on deck, watches black cat stalk toward Cubs dugout at Shea Stadium. Beckert had one of the errors as the Cubs lost again to the Mets.”53 By September 10, Chicago had dropped to second place.

Beckert and the Cubs played as if hexed. On September 13, Chicago led St. Louis 4-3 going into the bottom of the eighth inning. With two outs, the bases loaded, and the game now knotted at 4, Joe Torre hit a squib to the reigning Gold Glove second baseman. “I should have had it,” [Beckert] said, speaking almost inaudibly. “I should have gotten that ball. If I had back-handed it, I could have gotten the runner at second base. I thought I was going to get it.”54 Two runs scored on the hit, and the Cubs ended up dropping the contest to the Cardinals 7-4.

One week later, Chicago again led St. Louis by one run going into the eighth inning, this time by a 1-0 score at Wrigley. With one out, men on first and second, and the game now knotted at one, Vada Pinson hit a grounder to the reigning Gold Glove second baseman. Running from first, Curt Flood “hesitated in Beckert’s line of vision, and Glenn fumbled for a[n] … error.”55 The flub loaded the bases for Torre, who again delivered a two-run single in a game the Cubs again lost by three runs (4-1).

The Cubs remained in second place for the duration of the exciting but ultimately heartbreaking 1969 season. The 1970 team bounced back in the beginning and held first place as late as June 23. Two weeks later, Beckert learned that he had made the All-Star game for the second straight season and would start for the first time. But once again, the injury bug bit Beckert, who before the midsummer classic suffered from both an impacted wisdom tooth and a sore ankle.56 He recovered in time to play. Batting eighth, Beckert went 0-2. He had gone 0-1 as a reserve in 1969, and would end up hitless in his mid-summer classic career after going 0-3 in 1971 and 0-1 in 1972.

In spite of the honor, Beckert rightly recognized that his play had fallen off in 1970. “I just don’t think I had that good a season. Frankly, it was frustrating. The idea is to win and we didn’t…. I wasn’t doing the basic things, like getting on base and advancing the runners.”57 While setting career highs in runs (99) and walks (32, a remarkably low personal best for a player who had more than 600 plate appearances five times), Beckert and the Cubs both fell off the pace in 1970. Defensively, for instance, Beckert made fewer plays than his National League counterparts, falling from second to fourth in assists and third to fifth in range factor, while tying for the senior circuit lead in errors by a second baseman. Chicago remained in second place in the NL East, but won only 84 games in 1970 after taking 92 in 1969.

In 1971, Beckert bounced back with one of his best years at the plate,58 but the Cubs again regressed a bit, falling to third place with 83 wins. Beckert got “off to an excellent start. He has been keeping his average in the .340s and in late May was the only Cub among the National League’s leading hitters.”59 Beckert maintained his hot start with the most consistent offensive effort of his career. He batted between .301 and .389 every month of the 1971 season through August, finishing the year with a career-best .342 mark. By going 7-for-9 in an August 8 doubleheader against the Giants, Beckert boosted his average to a league-leading .357. His comments following the twin-bill echoed themes he had talked about throughout his career. “I just want to win a pennant; not a batting title,” Beckert said afterwards. “I don’t have superstar ability. My job is to get hits and to win games. I got to the big leagues as a team player and that’s the way I play.”60

Beckert’s splendid season with the stick ended in early September when, according to Richard Dozer of the Chicago Tribune, Beckert “suffered a ruptured tendon in his right thumb while tumbling after Ted Simmons’ bouncing single near second base… Beckert … had no mobility in his thumb joint…”61 His .342 batting average placed him third behind Joe Torre and Ralph Garr, and just ahead of Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron.

Beckert remained optimistic for the 1972 campaign. “I’ve been assured that I’ll be physically sound for next season. That was the only thing I was worried about when I was injured – whether the ruptured tendon would leave a permanent handicap.”62

In 1972, Beckert hit the 22nd and final home run of his career, a Wrigley round-tripper that “barely reached the basket-like fence extension that juts out obliquely above the left field vines.”63 Durocher also concluded his tenure in Chicago during the 1972 season as the Cubs only played two games above .500 under his leadership through July 23. Whitey Lockman, who had played under Durocher for the New York Giants, replaced his old boss as skipper. “I know players who played for him [Lockman] in the minors and they said he is a good man to play for,” Beckert said. “I guess Mr. Wrigley thought that it was time for a change, and he made it,” Beckert added.64

On August 21, Beckert hurt his knee in a collision with San Diego’s Derrel Thomas, who slid into Beckert in an attempt to break up a double play. The team feared that Beckert would miss the rest of the season,65 but he returned on September 9. On September 16, the Cubs beat the Mets 18-5 although Beckert went hitless in six at-bats and became the first player in history to strand one dozen runners in a game.66 Beckert could not explain why his batting average had fallen to .270 in 1972, his lowest since his rookie year in 1965. Speaking in 1973 spring training, Beckert admitted, “I guess my stock really went down last year…. But don’t ask me why. I really don’t know.”67

Both Beckert and the Cubs had worse marks in 1973 than in 1972, but the season had its memorable moments for both the second sacker and his squad. Beckert had the final long hitting streak of his career, and Chicago finished just five games out of first place. The highlight of the campaign took place on May 15 at Wrigley, in game 23 of Beckert’s hit streak. The Cubs had won six straight games and taken a 4-2 lead into the ninth against the Mets. New York began the inning with three straight singles to make the score 4-3. After a force play and an error, the Mets had the bases loaded with one out and Bud Harrelson at the plate. Harrelson hit a shot in the hole near Beckert that appeared likely to put the Mets at least even if not ahead. “Three fast steps to his right, a lunging backhand stab of the bullet-like grounder, a spinning, mid-air throw home, and Glenn Beckert had done the improbable … to nip the Mets’ Ed Kranepool by six inches…. ‘It was maybe the greatest play I’ve ever seen,’ said Jack Aker, who has been in the Major Leagues 10 seasons…”68

Beckert would hit .358 during the hit streak,69 which would reach 26 games. When the streak ended, his batting average for the season stood at .323. Chicago’s lead would extend to 8.5 games on June 29.

But Beckert yet again had physical problems that prevented him from completing the campaign. This time, his left heel first forced him out July 6-1070 and then limited his playing time after August 6. Beckert did play second base on August 7, but could only pinch-hit after that date. By the conclusion of the 1973 campaign, Beckert’s batting average had fallen to .255, and the Cubs had toppled to fifth place in the NL East. The changes coming to Chicago that had cost Durocher his job in 1972 would soon affect Beckert.

“The removal of a bone spur from Beckert’s left heel was reported to be successful”71 in an operation that occurred on October 31, 1973. A week later, Chicago traded Beckert and Bobby Fenwick to San Diego for Jerry Morales. Beckert reacted to the big news like a professional, saying, “The toughest part of the whole thing will be missing the friendships I’ve made here. But I still plan to make my home in Chicago.”72

After finishing 60-102 and ranking last in attendance in the 1973 NL, San Diego sought to improve on both fronts by spending to bring in some brand names with “high salaries as those [received] by [Willie] McCovey ($100,000), Beckert ($70,000), [Matty] Alou ($60,000) and [Bobby] Tolan ($45,000).”73 The changes worked at the box office as attendance went from 611,826 to 1,075,399 in 1974, a figure that placed the Padres up four notches to eighth in the National League. But the moves failed on the field.

Beckert’s play proved part of the problem rather than a step toward a solution to San Diego’s baseball woes. Beckert, “hindered by a sore ankle and a bruised hand, had eight hits in his first five games, but was charged with four errors and had limited range afield.”74 He “was discovered to have traumatic arthritis in his right ankle”75 and missed large chunks of the season. Beckert did not play for nearly one month from mid-April to mid-May. He went out again from late May until mid-July. Hitting .310 as late as August 19, Beckert staggered down the stretch to finish with a .256 batting average, nearly an identical mark to his 1973 figure. Likewise, the Padres finished 60-102 for the second straight season.

For his first time in the majors, Beckert played third base for one game in 1974. He played exclusively at the hot corner in 1975, “but injured his arm in his third game,”76 the second-to-last start of his career. San Diego released Beckert on April 28. He “indicated he would accept a position with the McDonald hamburger chain of Ray Kroc, owner of the San Diego club. ‘Arthritis made me pack it in,’ said Beckert. ‘The doctors told me I just couldn’t keep exerting myself with the condition as it is.’”77

No sentimental businessman, Kroc had other ideas about Beckert’s future after the latter sought to receive his salary for the full year following his early-season release. “Kroc said: ‘I lost a lot of respect for Glenn.’ Kroc left the definite impression that Beckert has spoiled his chances of being allowed to purchase a McDonald’s franchise, one for which he had trained.”78

Beckert won $35,000 in back pay in an arbitration case announced after the end of the regular season. Arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled that the Padres had released Beckert when he could not play due to injury.79

Beckert did not have fond memories of his time with the San Diego organization, recounting, “The Padres had the world’s ugliest uniforms, puke yellow and brown, and it was a bad experience, going from … Scottsdale in spring training to Yuma, Arizona…. It was like where they filmed Lawrence of Arabia. The sand and the wind. It was like Stalag 17…”80

Although the McDonald’s deal fell through, Beckert pursued a business career beginning in 1975, “trading grain futures on the Chicago Board of Trade.”81 On September 6, 2001, he injured himself in a fall at his aunt’s house, but managed to recover from the blood clots and fracture that he endured.82 Beckert also received a diagnosis of lung cancer in 2006,83 but he continued to live for more than a decade after this second health scare.

In 2001, Bill James rated Beckert as the 64th best second baseman of all-time. James groups Beckert with hitters “who were not as productive as their batting average[s] would suggest,”84 a judgment that seems tough but fair, especially since Beckert benefitted by playing his home games in a batter-friendly ballpark like Wrigley, where he enjoyed a .292 average (outside Wrigley, Beckert had a lifetime .274 batting average). In addition to his relatively high batting averages Beckert played most of his career in a major media market, had multiple long hitting streaks, and five times led the National League as the toughest hitter to strikeout. Accordingly, he got a great deal of attention, albeit less than his more accomplished teammates. During the most productive part of his career (1966-1971), Beckert ranked annually among the top twelve most valuable Cubs in terms of Wins Above Replacement, topping out at third in 1968.

The Chicago Cubs have had three Hall of Fame second baseman who spent the peaks of their careers with the team: Johnny Evers, Billy Herman, and Ryne Sandberg. While hardly in their class, Glenn Beckert ranks as the fourth best second baseman in franchise history.

 

Notes

1 Of Beckert’s hometown, Leo Durocher wrote that Art Rooney, then the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers “told me something I didn’t know about Beckert, that he was from the north side of Pittsburgh where they hit you first and ask questions later.” Leo Durocher, “Beckert Deserves Recognition -- Leo,” Chicago’s American, May 15, 1966. Beckert could exhibit signs of hot-temperedness. After a game against the Reds, he “feared that he might be getting a bill from Cincinnati for damages which he inflicted on the connection to the water cooler in the visitors’ dugout… Angered at [umpire] Stan Landes’ call on a third strike, Beckert kicked the thing, and a geyser erupted temporarily.” Richard Dozer, “Cub Pitching Staff Tries to Keep Shackling L.A.,” Chicago Tribune, June 7, 1966: C4.

2 The information in this sentence comes from an unidentified clipping in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s file on Beckert. Thanks to Reference Librarian Cassidy Lent of the Hall for scanning the Beckert file.

3 Bill Nowlin, “Bob Garbark,” SABR BioProject, sabr.org/bioproj/person/bc7e7719 (accessed December 29, 2016).

4 A Pittsburgh clubhouse attendant, McCarey knew the Beckert family. Robert Markus, “Glenn’s No Swinger, but He Gets Around,” Chicago Tribune, May 12, 1967: D3.

5 William Barry Furlong, “What Is This Man Thinking?” Chicago Tribune Magazine, January 12, 1969: 40.

6 Doug Gilbert, “Beckert Makes a Pitch for Soft-Swinging Set,” Chicago’s American, September 5, 1968.

7 Edward Prell, “Cubs Seek 2d Base, Relief Pitching Help,” Chicago Tribune, November 24, 1964: B2.

8 Edward Prell, “Favorite to open at 2d Base,” Chicago Tribune, March 8, 1965: C2.

9 Jerome Holtzman, “Arrival of Kid Pena Throws Switch on Santo Shift to Short,” The Sporting News, March 13, 1965: 24.

10 Edward Prell, “Indians Snap Cubs’ 5-Game Victory String, 7-2,” Chicago Tribune, March 30, 1965: C3.

11 Jerome Holtzman, “Rookie Beckert Closes Cub Gap; Slick Keystoner,” Chicago Sun-Times, May 22, 1965.

12 Cooper Rollow, “In the Wake of the News,” Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1965: E1.

13 Edward Prell, “Cubs Split with Astros,” Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1965: E2.

14 Edward Prell, “4-Run Cub 7th Beats Dodgers,” Chicago Tribune, July 2, 1965: C2.

15 Al Hamnik, “Still No. 1 in fans’ hearts,” Northwest Times, January 21, 2003.

16 Richard Dozer, “Koufax Pitches Perfect Game!” Chicago Tribune, September 10, 1965: 1.

17 Richard Dozer, “Cubs Get One Hit, Sox Three - - Both Lose,” Chicago Tribune, June 20, 1968: C1. Edward Prell, “Perry Yields One Hit as Giants, Mays Top Cubs,” Chicago Tribune, August 27, 1968: C1.

18 Joseph Durso, “Chicago Hurler Yields Four Hits,” The New York Times, September 15, 1965.

19 Edward Prell, “Leo Vows to Lead Cubs to 1st Division,” Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1965: C3.

20 Edgar Munzel, “Hustling Kid Beckert Just Leo’s Type,” Chicago Sun-Times, December 25, 1965.

21 Jim Brosnan, “Bonehead Baseball is Out! Out!” Chicago Tribune, April 14, 1968: 19.

22 Jerome Holtzman, “Soph Star Beckert Earns Cub Consensus as Most Improved,” The Sporting News, September 24, 1966.

23 Robert Markus, “Cubs Live It Up – for a Day at Least,” Chicago Tribune, April 12, 1967: E3.

24 Jim Enright, “Beckert to Wed Airline Hostess,” The Sporting News, May 6, 1967: 31. Santo described Mary as not “your typical Hollywood image of the baseball wife; she didn’t take any crap from anybody.” Ron Santo, Ron Santo: For Love of Ivy (Chicago: Bonus Books, 1993), 74. Mary died on April 3, 2010. Two daughters survived her. She and Glenn had divorced.

25 Richard Dozer, “Surprise at Cub Camp: Beckert,” Chicago Tribune, March 6, 1968: C1. Beckert received support from his fellow servicemen: “Home-made banners are flying all over Wrigley … ‘Go Cubs, Go Beckert’ read one of them and it was held aloft by some among the 14 of Glenn’s 734th artillery group from Camp McCoy, Wis.” Edward Prell, “Flag Chart: Sox 5 ½ up, Cubs ½ down,” Chicago Tribune, July 2, 1967.

26 Edgar Munzel, “Beckert Swings A Booming Bat; Bruins Respond,” The Sporting News, October 7, 1967: 35.

27 Lou Boudreau As Told to I.C. Haag, “‘Cubs Mirror My ’48 Injuns’ -- Boudreau,” The Sporting News, August 5, 1967: 10.

28 Holland’s verbal praise for Beckert did not necessarily mean more money for him. Holland’s obituary included some incisive observations by Beckert. “I remember every year when I went in for contract talks he would say, ‘This is as far as I can go. I can’t pay any more and if you don’t believe me, call Mr. Wrigley.’ Well, after three or four years, I said, ‘What’s Mr. Wrigley’s number?’ And Holland replied, ‘Let’s talk some more.’” “Obituaries,” The Sporting News, August 4, 1979: 53.

29 Edgar Munzel, “Cubs Search Swap Marts For Flyhawk,” The Sporting News, October 21, 1967: 20.

30 Chicago suffered shutouts in four straight games from June 16-20 and set the record for the longest scoreless streak in NL history, formerly held by the 1931 Cincinnati Reds. Richard Dozer, “Cards Win; Cubs--46 Innings, No Score,” Chicago Tribune, June 21, 1968: C1.

31 Jerome Holtzman, “Beckert Modern Star With Old-Time Style,” The Sporting News, August 10, 1968: 3.

32 Richard Dozer, “Cubs Win in 12; Sox Beat Twins Twice,” Chicago Tribune, June 3, 1968: C2.

33 George Langford, “Cubs Defeat Mets, 2-1, in 11th Inning,” Chicago Tribune, July 14, 1968: B8.

34 George Langford, “Gibson and Cards Cool off Cubs, 3 to 1,” Chicago Tribune, August 15, 1968: D2.

35 Ben Henkey, “Top N.L. Defensemen Include 3 Newcomers,” The Sporting News, November 16, 1968: 30.

36 George Langford, “Williams Hits a Grand Slam,” Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1968: C2.

37 George Langford, “Beckert Hits Double to Nip Phillies,” Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1968: C2.

38 Edgar Munzel, “Beckert Earns Lip’s Applause,” The Sporting News, July 20, 1968: 7.

39 George Langford, “Streaking Beckert Gets 4 Hits to Top Dodgers, 7-2,” Chicago Tribune, July 22, 1968: C6.

40 George Langford, “Cubs Rate Beckett Best in the Business,” Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1968.

41 George Langford, “Cubs’ 17 Hits High for Year,” Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1968: C2.

42 George Langford, “Santo’s 9th Inning Homer Beats Giants,” Chicago Tribune, July 25, 1968: G2.

43 Chris Roewe, “Beckert’s 27-Game Bat Streak Longest Of 1968 Campaign,” The Sporting News, November 9, 1968: 50.

44 George Langford, “Santo’s 9th Inning Homer Saves Cubs,” Chicago Tribune, September 26, 1968: C3.

45 Jerry Holtzman, “Cubs’ Beckert Rough on Whiff-Minded Hurlers,” The Sporting News, October 26, 1968: 19.

46 George Langford, “Beckert Bowled Over, but Cubs Defeat Cardinals, 1-0” Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1969: C1.

47 George Langford, “Cubs Split with Mets,” Chicago Tribune, April 28, 1969: C5.

48 George Langford, “Jenkins and Cubs Defeat Padres, 2-0,” Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1969: B2.

49 George Langford, “Cubs Win, 14 to 8, but Lose Beckert,” Chicago Tribune, June 7, 1969: 1.

50 Edgar Munzel, “Beckert Aiming to Lick Injury Hex,” The Sporting News, January 24, 1970: 42.

51 George Langford, “Entire Cub Infield on Star Team,” Chicago Tribune, July 19, 1969: 3.

52 Richard Dozer, “41,033 See Holtzman Hurl No-Hitter,” Chicago Tribune, August 20, 1969: C1.

53 Bob Sales, “Mets Wallop Chicago, 7-1,” Boston Globe, September 10, 1969: 31. In fact, Beckert had the only fielding error in the game.

54 George Langford, “Ball Rebounds Wrong for Cubs,” Chicago Tribune, September 14, 1969: C1.

55 Richard Dozer, “Cubs Fumble Again, 4-1,” Chicago Tribune, September 21, 1969: B4.

56 Richard Dozer, “Glenn, Don All-Stars,” Chicago Tribune, July 7, 1970: C5.

57 Jerome Holtzman, “‘Don’t Bust Up Cubs,’ Beckert Asks Bosses,” The Sporting News, October 31, 1970: 51.

58 “That was just a freak year for me,” Beckert explained. “Everything I hit just seemed to go through for base hits. But really, I’m only a .280 to .290 hitter. That’s about as high as I can expect to hit.” Jerome Holtzman, “72-Point Bat Drop Fails to Alarm Beckert,” The Sporting News, November 11, 1972: 41.

59 Jerome Holtzman, “Beckert Races on as Cubs Spin Wheels,” The Sporting News, June 5, 1971: 16.

60 Richard Dozer, “43,066 Watch Cubs, Giants Divide,” Chicago Tribune, August 9, 1971: C1. “Beckert’s shortstop sidekick, Don Kessinger, is as bug-eyed as the most ardent fan over Beckert’s sky-high batting average. ‘The only thing Glenn’s worried about is President Nixon’s wage-price freeze,’ chuckled Don.” Edgar Munzel, “Beckert Puts Victory Above Shot at Swat Title,” The Sporting News, September 4, 1971: 21.

61 Richard Dozer, “Chastised Cubs Get Spanked Again by Cards 6-1,” Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1971: B1.

62 Edgar Munzel, “Bad Luck Bars Beckert’s Path; Injury Ends Bid for Batting Crown,” The Sporting News, September 25, 1971: 17.

63 Richard Dozer, “Reds Top Cubs 6-1,” Chicago Tribune, July 20, 1972: C1.

64 “Don, Glenn Back Whitey,” Chicago Tribune, July 25, 1972: B1.

65 George Langford, “Cubs’ Beckert May Be Lost for Rest of Year,” Chicago Tribune, August 23, 1972: C1.

66 “Mets Routed, 18-5, for Worst Loss Ever,” The New York Times, September 17, 1972.

67 Jerome Holtzman, “Midwest Market Tip – Keep an Eye on Beckert,” The Sporting News, March 17, 1973: 35.

68 George Langford, “Beckert Cub-saver ‘improbable’ play,” Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1973: F1.

69 Jerome Holtzman, “Rest Periods Help Beckert Log a Torrid Hit Streak,” The Sporting News, June 2, 1973: 20.

70 George Langford, “Heel doesn’t heal, Beckert sees doctor,” Chicago Tribune, July 10, 1973: C1.

71 “Beckert, Cardenal in surgery,” Chicago Tribune, November 1, 1973: C2.

72 Richard Dozer, “Beckert goes to San Diego,” Chicago Tribune, November 13, 1973: C1.

73 Phil Collier, “Beckert Warbles Hymns of Praise Over Padre Move,” The Sporting News, December 1, 1973: 39.

74 Phil Collier, “McNamara’s Band Plays Funeral March,” The Sporting News, April 27, 1974: 25.

75 Phil Collier, “Padres Perk Up After a Dismal Start,” The Sporting News, May 25, 1974: 19.

76 Phil Collier, “Padres Gloating: When Bell Rings, Siebert Is Ready,” The Sporting News, May 3, 1975: 19.

77 “N.L. Flashes,” The Sporting News, May 31, 1975: 18.

78 Phil Collier, “Kubiak Plugs Big Hole At Padres’ Hot Corner,” The Sporting News, June 14, 1975: 24.

79 “Beckert strikes it rich,” Chicago Tribune, October 9, 1975: C5.

80 Peter Golenbock, Wrigleyville (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), 428.

81 Bruce Schoenfeld, “Once, there was no offseason training,” The Sporting News, February 14, 1994: 21.

82 “Ex-Cub Beckert in critical condition,” USA Today Baseball Weekly, September 12-18, 2001: 52.

83 Bruce Markusen, “Card Corner: Glenn ‘Bruno’ Beckert,” The Hardball Times, www.hardballtimes.com/card-corner-glenn-bruno-beckert/ (accessed February 13, 2017).

84 Bill James, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (New York: The Free Press, 2001), 539.