40 years since 4 for 4

Times were lean for the Chicago Cubs when I became a fan in about 1975.

About the only thing they had going for them was Bill Madlock, my first favorite player.

Madlock joined the Cubs after the 1973 season along with Vic Harris when they were acquired in a trade with the Rangers for Fergie Jenkins. As I became a fan, Madlock won the 1975 National League batting title with a .354 average.

But the real drama came 40 years ago today, the last day of the 1976 season. Madlock was dueling the Reds' Ken Griffey for the batting title. He entered the game against the Montreal Expos hitting .333 to Griffey's .338. 

Madlock went 4 for 4 to overtake Griffey, who didn't start his game against Atlanta but came off the bench and went 0 for 2. Madlock finished with an average of .339 and Griffey at .336. Reds manager Sparky Anderson took the blame for sitting Griffey at the start of the game to try to protect his average.

Of course, the Cubs being the Cubs, they got into a contract  dispute with Madlock and traded the two-time defending NL batting champ and Rob Sperring to the Giants before the 1977 season in a deal for Bobby Murcer, Steve Ontiveros and Andy Muhlstock.

And I was left casting about for a favorite player. I think I went with Manny Trillo.

Chicago Tribune coverage of Bill Madlock's 1976 batting title.

Chicago Tribune coverage of Bill Madlock's 1976 batting title.