COOPERSTOWN, NY — As his career progressed, first baseman Fred McGriff was seen as a player who could put a contender over the top. One of those contenders should have been the Cubs.
On July 27, 2001, the Cubs acquired McGriff from the Devil Rays to help them retire to 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 over the final two months of the season and finished 88-74, five games behind the division-winning Astros and wildcard Cardinals.
“To this day, I’ve always been a little disappointed that I was supposed to help the Cubbies win that first World Series, and I didn’t,” McGriff said. “So that stings a 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 will join third baseman Scott Rolen, who was voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, for the induction Sunday.
McGriff played 19 seasons, with the Blue Jays, Padres, Braves (won the 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 is one of four players to lead the American League and National League in home runs, and 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 wallowing. He hit 64 homers in ’01 and 49 in ’02. McGriff recalls the atmosphere surrounding batting practice when he joined the team.
“I laughed the whole time because Moises Alou and I were going to be in the same group as Sammy,” McGriff said. “So everywhere we went, at 5 o’clock batting practice, there are 20,000 people in the stands. Sammy hits balls like a country mile, and then Moises and I walk 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 again for the Rays in ’04. McGriff retired in spring training in ’05 when no one offered him a contract.