My Least Favorite Cub - #3 - Joe Pepitone
Well, how the hell else should a little kid feel about the man who replaced Mr. Cub? You grow up knowing that Ernie Banks was the Bestest Cub Ever (these days, this can be debated) and one day, you turn on your teevee, and Good Old Ern isn't at first base.
THIS assclown is out there, instead!! My gawd, look at those sideburns??
Here's a nice synopsis of Pepi's Cub career. Just a riduculous, monumental pain in the keester, this one was.
Let's take a step back, though, on how we lucky Cub fans were so honored to be connected to one Joe Pepitone. Perhaps you are familiar with the story of Jim Bouton, former Yankee pitcher and author of "Ball Four", the first true "tell-all" book about major league sports. Well, soon after that, for a quick buck, Pepi went out and wrote his own, but in his own manner, mostly all he told was himself.
Several years after his stint with us, I had the "pleasure" of reading "Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud", and I daresay, much of the sexual education I have received in my entire lifetime came from Pepi. If this makes you queasy, it should.
In it, he tells the tale of his upbringing, his breaking into the majors with his hometown Yankees, and how he managed to piss away most of his God-given talent with drink, drugs, and mostly every floozy who couldn't run away from him fast enough. By the time he got to Wrigley Field in 1970, he was running on fumes, and even to the most naive 6 year old boy watching on TV, it was clear that this guy was a loser.
Hell, you could have gotten the second coming of Lou Gehrig to replace Ernie Banks at first base, and I wouldn't have cared for him very much. But to replace Mr. Cub with this dizzy Sinatra wanna-be? It was just too much.
He was always out of the lineup, and because he made his life an open book and antagonized everyone around him, whatever media there was in the early 70s Chicago beat the hell out of him. At that time, there were 3 or 4 major Chicago papers, so they competed for the best Pepi scoop. So it was that here I am, a little boy who just lost his favorite idol, and I'm figuring: well, if they got rid of Ernie Banks, then this new guy must be even BETTER, right?
Not only was this new guy not better, he was way way not better, because the guys in the newspapers said so. Pepi was out all night; Pepi is fighting with Leo Durocher; Pepi is spending too much time opening his new nightclub, or at the Playboy Club. I read newspapers in those days, and certainly my old man did, and even though he got me hooked on the Cubs during the happy days of 1969, by the time Pepi was killing us with his miserable attitude and inconsistency, the old man had jumped off the bandwagon and got his jollies teasing me about the "new guy" who came to work drunk and struck out with the bases loaded again...
Forty years later, I'm still bitter. Yeah, I now know Joe Pepitone didn't drive Ernie Banks away from baseball: it was his knees. I realize there probably wasn't anyone better out there, and not unlike Jim Hendry last year with Milton Bradley, a talented guy can come in, pledge his total commitment to the team, and in the end leave behind more damage than he was worth. Yeah, his lurid book where he graphically described every sexual encounter he ever had was profoundly creepy, but should not really have any effect on how we perceived his play. The only difference between him and 2/3rds of major leaguers today is that he had the chutzpah to actually write about it, as if we'd care.
It's just that all the parts of the Joe Pepitone story just all congealed and splashed down on me (and all Cub fans of the time) at my most impressionable moment. It wasn't fair, it wasn't right, and I don't HAVE to feel good about it.
Why ARE you still alive, Joe Pepitone? Shouldn't you have been killed by a jealous husband by now?