The fall guys

"Dallas [Green] almost fired me that night. But he kept me on, and I have to say, the team moved up in the standings after that. Not enough to save my job, though. I actually loved Chicago -- played there for Leo, or rather sat there for Leo since I backed up [Glenn] Beckert, [Don] Kessinger and Santo. If I had to live that day over again, I never would have said it. But a couple of years ago, we came out with a cleaned-up version of the tape that we sold with autographed balls for charity, so some good came out of it.

"My advice to Rick, who's a good man, is to take advantage of that cooling-off period they have now."

Jim Frey (1984-86): 196-182

No, Frey was not run out of town after the '84 NLCS. In fact, he wasn't fired as manager until '86, replaced temporarily by John Vukovich (two games) and then Gene Michael. After that, he became the Cubs' color commentator on the radio, then the general manager, replacing Dallas Green, who had resigned. Frey brought back his high school buddy from Cincinnati, Don Zimmer, to manage, and together they forged a 1989 team that won the NL East, only to lose to the Giants in the NLCS. Now retired, enjoying his family and playing a little golf in north Florida, Frey remains as feisty as ever.

His story:

"To be honest with you, that whole trip to San Diego in '84 is a blur. I do know I'm still second-guessed about not using Sutcliffe on Saturday, but that's part of the job, and you can't go back and change things. You can only do what you feel in your heart is right at the time. That's what I would tell Rick Renteria or any new manager.

"What people forget is the way we finished that season. We lose to [Dwight] Gooden and the Mets 2-1 in late July, and they're ready to bury us. But then we win 12 of the next 14 games to move into first place for good. We raised the attendance by what -- half a million? -- over the year before, and by the end of the decade, we're up another half million.

"No, it's not impossible for the Cubs to win. Just takes a little luck, that's all. I would've thought they'd have done it by now. I wish they would so I wouldn't have to answer any more questions about '84."

Gene Michael (1986-87): 114-124

Let's just say that Michael and Dallas Green had a personality conflict that often played itself out in the newspapers. Now 75 and an adviser for the Yankees, "Stick" stopped to talk in the press box at Legends Field in Tampa.

His story:

"I had 'em when it was still all day games at home, and you couldn't get extra work in. Then we'd go on the road and play night games. No wonder the players were tired all the time. No wonder they got hurt. I lost Sandberg for eight to 10 weeks, then Dunston for eight to 10 weeks. Now they've got day games and night games, but they also still have the cold and the heat, the wind blowing in and the wind blowing out. I would suggest they get more than 25 players, but they don't allow that."

Don Zimmer (1988-91): 265-258

They called the '89 Cubs that won the NL Central "The Boys of Zimmer," and he called the clinching night the highlight of his long career. But the Giants, managed by his old Dodgers and Mets teammate Roger Craig, made quick work of the Cubs in the NLCS, winning in five games.

Two years later, Zimmer and Frey ran afoul of Tribune Company management and were let go.

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