Rick Reuschel was one of the Cubs from my childhood that I remember the most. He was coming off of an 11-17 season when this card appeared in 1976, and then went on to become the Cubs’ first pitcher post-Fergie Jenkins to win 20 games in a season the following year.
The Cubs have had just two 20-game winners in the 34 seasons since, which goes a long way toward explaining why the World Series has been so elusive. And if you know who those two 20-game winners for the Cubs were since 1977, leave a comment below and I’ll send you some Cubs’ related thing in the mail. Anything for my readers.
But the reason I’m spotlighting Rick Reuschel here is because he holds possibly the most inglorious Opening Day streak in Cubs’ history. In 1978, fresh off his 20-win season, Reuschel made the Opening Day start and lost a 1-0 decision to John Candelaria. Tough luck, but get ‘em again next year, right? Well, not exactly.
Reuschel lost the Opening Day start to Craig Swan of the Mets in both 1979 and 1980, and he then lost the 1981 opener to the Mets’ Pat Zachary. That’s four Opening Day starts, and four losses all in a row. And he didn’t get the chance to open the 1982 season for the Cubs, since they traded him away to the Yankees in June of 1981. We’ll never know if he could have snapped the streak in 1982, because he apparently was out of baseball altogether that season.
Reuschel came back with the Cubs in 1983, and kept playing on into the 1990s with other teams, but he never made an Opening Day start for the Cubs again. So four losses in a row was as bad as it would get for him.
And if you’re wondering, this year’s Opening Day starter, Ryan Dempster, also made the start (and took the loss) on Opening Day last year. But my opinion is this will be his last year with the Cubs, so with a rough outing he may be able to get to the half-Reuschel, but he won’t get all the way to the full-Reuschel. But I don’t want to think about losses just yet. I’d rather see the new era of Epstein, et al. start off with a win.
It’s good to have baseball back again, that’s for sure.