In early June of 1986, the Chicago Cubs were scuffling, coming off a 3-7 road trip against three teams (Cincinnati, St. Louis, & Pittsburgh) with records under .500, and when they returned to Wrigley Field, it all came down on manager Jim Frey.
In his third year with the Cubs, Frey led them to a 196-182 mark overall, earning a National League Manager of the Year award for his work with the 96-65 club in his first year on the bench two years earlier in 1984, when the franchise made its first postseason appearance since 1945.
But upon returning to Chicago that June in ‘68, they were 23-34, so Cubs’ GM Dallas Green decided to make a change.
Chicago Tribune writer Fred Mitchell reported at the time that, “[t]he players did not know about Frey’s dismissal until they reached the ballpark for [the] morning’s meeting.”
“There has been growing discontent among the Cubs’ players throughout the season,” the Chicago Tribune reporter noted, and, “... especially among veteran players who have been benched or platooned.”
And into this maelstrom walked Davey Martinez and Jamie Moyer, rookies called up by the Cubs for the first time.
Martinez was a 3rd Round pick in 1983, Moyer a 6th Round pick in 1984. They arrived at the Cubs’ home that same morning, as, unbeknownst to them, the team was being informed of the changes on the bench.
“We got called up, the day we got called up we get to Wrigley and I go downstairs with my bag to go in the clubhouse and immediately got — they told us, ‘Turn around.’” Martinez told reporters before Wednesday’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field, where the now-55-year-old, one-time Rays’ bench coach was managing the Washington Nationals.
“‘Go back upstairs and sit outside till we come and get you,’” a then-21-year-old Martinez was told outside Wrigley Field’s clubhouse in 1986. “We sat on our bags for quite a while, and the whole time in my head I really thought, I said, ‘Hey, they don’t want us here.
“‘They’re trying to get us out of here already.’ Something is going on, we didn’t know what was happening.”
“We finally got let in, go downstairs, and realize that our manager just got fired. So they didn’t want us in the meeting because we weren’t part of anything, so they just didn’t want us to be in there — but it was a very weird situation.
“The things that were going through my head were not good at the time. I thought for sure, I was telling Jamie, ‘I don’t think they want us here. They’re trying to get us out of here.’ But it just so happens our manager got fired that same day.”
Did he think it was hazing of some sort, or veterans mad they were called up to replace their teammates?
“We didn’t know what to think, honestly,” Martinez said. “Once I got down in there the guys were great. Still talk to a lot of those guys, Rick Sutcliffe, Jody Davis, Hawk [Andre Dawson, who joined the Cubs in 1987].
“Those guys all became good friends. But you don’t know. When that happens, you expect to go in the clubhouse, everybody, ‘Oh, congratulations, good to see you.’
“You’re sitting on your bag for an hour before you can get into the clubhouse.”
Gives you a lot of time to think, though oddly the champion of positive thinking let his mind wander to dark places back then.