Monday, March 9, 2009

#61 -- Cubs Rookies (Burt Hooton, Gene Hiser, Earl Stephenson)

The Cubbies in this set were in the beginning stages of going through a change. Ernie Banks had retired and had no card in this set. Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, Glenn Beckert and Don Kessinger would largely be gone by 1975. We've already seen Bill Bonham's rookie card and he would be in the rotation through the mid-70's. Rick Reuschel would make his debut in 1972. Jose Cardenal came to the Cubbies for the 1972 season.

Burt Hooton is another one of those changes. He was an accomplished college pitcher at Texas and was the Cubs #1 draft choice in 1971. They threw him right in with a start against the Cardinals, but he only lasted 3 1/3 innings and gave up 3 runs, including a solo homer to Joe Torre. He got a couple of more September starts and shined, striking out 15 Mets in a 3-2 complete game win and shutting out the Mets a week later on 2 hits in Wrigley. His next start was on April 16, 1972 when he no-hit the Phillies. Pretty darn good stretch. He ended up 11-14, 2.80 in 1972 and was a big part of the rotation.

Hooton had good stuff, including the "knuckle-curve," but couldn't get over the hump in Chicago. His record and ERA did not improve and he was traded to the Dodgers in 1975 for Geoff Zahn and Eddie (also known as "Buddy" in the 1978 set) Solomon. That didn't work out for the Cubs. "Happy" Hooton went on be a regular part of the rotation for the Dodgers through 1981. He finished 2nd in the Cy Young in 1978, was an All-Star in 1981 and won World Series games in 1977, 1978 and 1981.

Burt is now the pitching coach for the Round Rock Express, the Astros' AAA affiliate. Unfortunately, he hasn't had much to work with lately. On a sad note, his cousin used steroids to try to get an edge in high school and committed suicide because of depression after he went off steroids. The Hooton family now runs the Taylor Hooton Foundation to raise awareness of the dangers of steroids and focused on keeping kids away from drugs.

Gene Hiser was the Cubs' #1 draft choice in 1970 and made a quick jump to the big leagues. Gene was an outfielder from the University of Maryland, but didn't have the success Hooton did. He was a pinch-hitter/defensive replacement in the outfield and never got to play much. In 1973 he appeared in 100 games, but only got 109 at bats. He hit his only homer that year, off Buzz Capra, tying a game in the 9th that the Cubs went on to win.

After his career, he founded the investment firm of Barrett & Hiser, which has now become GCG Financial. So, if anyone's interested in some investments, here's his business bio.

Earl Stephenson played his college baseball for the mighty Campbell Camels of Buies Creek, North Carolina. When I was in law school in the late 80's, Campbell was just going Division I in basketball, so we'd hear about them. I decided one day to drive by their campus. Let me just say that in the late 80's that if you got a haircut in Buies Creek, it might have been from a guy named Floyd, and you'd better watch your step or a deputy named Barney might get in your business. The best former Camel ever in the big leagues? Jim Perry.

Earl was not with the Cubs in 1972. He was part of the Jose Cardenal trade. He got his most career action for the Brewers in 1972, doing reasonably well as a spot-starter/middle reliever, going 3-5, 3.25 (league ERA was 3.01). After the season, he was sent to Philadelphia with Ken Brett and Jim Lonborg for Don Money and a couple of others. It's not Earl's fault, but he was a throw-in on a couple of trades that didn't work out for the team acquiring him......

He gave up 7 homers in his career and not a one was to a slap hitter: Dick Allen (351 homers), Lance Parrish (324 homers), Bobby Murcer (252 homers), Bobby Darwin (83 homers, but seasons of 22, 18, 25 & 13 from 1972-1975), Reggie Smith (314 homers), Willie McCovey (521 homers) & Reggie Jackson (563 homers).

Earl then bounced around the minors and got into 3 games for the Orioles in 1977 and 1978.


  1. I met Hiser at AU Sports in Skokie. He was awesome. He was happy to be there and happy to be remembered. Too bad his career didn't develop.
    Buzz Capra is another player with Chicago ties (born around here). I am supposed to interview him soon.

  2. I learn more reading this blog than I do anywhere else, I swear! Great job, day in and day out!

  3. Earl Stepheson play in Venezuela with the Tigres de Aragua team and was very important for the 1972 Championship title of the Tigers

    1. Earl is my father and I would greatly love to hear any stories that you may have of that year in Venezuela!