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Rookie of the Year: Henry Rowengartner and the Worst Saves in Cubs’ History

In 1993’s Rookie of the Year, 12 year old Henry Rowengartner records a save in his MLB debut for the Cubs. Is it one of the worst saves in Cubs’ history?

Rookie of the Year movie
Photo: 20th Century Studios, Inc.

Listen, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet to get that electric, fireball-tossing relief pitcher in your lineup to bring home a World Series. No, I’m not referring to the Cubs acquiring Aroldis Chapman for Gleyber Torres in 2016. While that decision worked out, I’m more so referencing 1993, when the Chicago Cubs stretched the child labor laws and baseball’s collective bargaining agreement to the max. They signed a 12-year-old boy and moved him straight to the big league team. He made his MLB debut on August 11, 1993, and he recorded his first professional save. It’s likely his first-ever save since in Little League when he played in the outfield.

Looking back at his first game, I wondered, “Was this the worst save in MLB history?” It turns out he’s got some company there, and it’s other Cubs pitchers no less. Here are some of the worst saves in Cubs’ history.

Henry Rowengartner – August 11, 1993, vs. New York Mets

Cubs pitcher Henry Rowengarter from Rookie of the Year (1993).
Cubs pitcher Henry Rowengarter from Rookie of the Year (1993). Original photo found here.

Young Henry was called into the game with two outs in the ninth inning. The flamethrower needed to record just one out to put an exclamation point at the end of his first entry in the history books. With an inherited runner on third base, Henry looked down broadway at the opposing batter, a menacing figure to say the least. Henry was greeted with the unnerving glare of Alejandro “Butch” Heddo, New York Mets slugger. Henry, completely intimidated, fires in a strike. Butch promptly deposited the ball in the left-field bleachers. It would be the only strike he would throw that day.

Henry hit the next batter and to add another baserunner. The next pitch was wild, but so wild it was good. The baserunner was out at third, trying to take two bases. Ballgame, Cubs. It remains the only game in recorded MLB history where a pitcher gave up at least one run, recorded only one out, had three or fewer pitches, and still got the save. Maybe “recorded MLB history” isn’t the most accurate terminology here, but our next two entries are legit.

Terry Adams – May 27, 1997, vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

Cubs pitcher Terry Adams.
Cubs pitcher Terry Adams. Original photo found here.

Similar to Henry above, Adams came in the game with two outs in the ninth inning and a runner on third following a triple to right. The score was 8-5 Cubs and Adams hit the first batter he faced, Adrian Brown, on a 1-2 count. Brown took second on defensive indifference with Kevin Young standing in the batter’s box. Young worked the count full and hit a deep double scoring Brown from second and also Tony Womack, who was already at third. The score was now 8-7 Cubs with Adrian Young on second in scoring position.

On an 0-2 count, Terry Adams threw a wild pitch to batter Midre Cummings and now Young was 90 feet from tying the game. Adams managed to get Cummings to swing and miss, ending the game and locking down the save. Terry Adams joins Rowengartner as the only other pitcher in Cubs’ or MLB history to record a save with only one out, a wild pitch, and a hit batter. Adams remains the only non-fictional player to carry this esteemed honor.

George Pierce – June 24, 1915, vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Cubs pitcher George Pierce.
Cubs pitcher George Pierce. Original photo found here.

We are back in the deep archives for this bad baby. There wasn’t an inning-by-inning breakdown for this game. I guess the reporter who was covering it forgot to charge their iPad or Wi-Fi hotspot. Regardless, Georgie recorded only one out, gave up two hits and three earned runs, and had no strikeouts or walks. I’m not sure how the math adds up here, TBH. How does he give up three earned runs on only two hits with no walks/HBP? The pitcher wouldn’t be charged with earned runs on errors. If only the iPad was charged so the video could have been uploaded to YouTube for us to review. This probably won’t come as a shock, but this game is the only in MLB history where a pitcher gave up three earned runs, recorded only one out, and got the save.

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Schwartzy is a DILF and (participation) trophy husband. More Splenda Daddy than Sugar. I do the twitter, hit me up! @drschwa_96

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