Seven weeks ago, a Cubs team featuring Kris Bryant, Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo claimed Frank Schwindel off waivers from the A’s.
Saturday, the 30,020 fans at Wrigley Field were chanting Schwindel’s name as he put the ribbon on an epic ninth-inning Cubs rally in a walk-off win over the Pirates.
“Today was unbelievable,” Schwindel said.
Schwindel has quickly become a fan-favorite in the aftermath of the Cubs’ trade deadline selloff, and Saturday marked the latest chapter in his growing cult-hero status.
Schwindel stepped to the plate in the ninth after the Cubs rallied for two runs with two outs to tie the game. The winning run was on third, and Schwindel was already 2-for-3 with a home run on the day.
He hit a groundball into the shortstop hole, hustling down the line before selling out with a dive into first base. He evaded Colin Moran’s tag and was ruled save, allowing the winning run to score and send Wrigley into a frenzy.
“He’s fun to watch, isn’t he? What a blast,” interim manager Andy Green said. “You don't see a lot of first basemen going head-first into first base, avoiding the tag.
“That was crazy close. He was fired up and confident he did not get tagged and didn't feel anything. It's fun to watch the guys walk one off like that.”
So close that it necessitated a replay review. The safe call stood and Cubs fans returned to their frenzy. “Go Cubs Go” even played for a second time.
“That was awesome,” Schwindel said. “That was the loudest I've heard it here.”
Imagine if he actually played a game there when they filled out the place. Wrigley’s attendance has been above 40,000 once since he made his Cubs debut. It’s been under 30,000 in 10 of 13 games since the North Side crosstown series in August.
The Cubs have obviously struggled in that span — they went 7-20 in August, in the aftermath of trading Bryant, Báez and Rizzo, among others. Schwindel acknowledged it hasn’t been easy replacing such iconic Cubs players.
“It was a tough spot coming in here with those guys being so loved,” Schwindel said. “It had to be tough for fans losing their favorite players, and really a bunch of guys they haven't really heard of [coming in] to help fill out.”
But Schwindel has been a consistent bright spot, and fans have noticed. He’s earned a few nicknames — ‘Frank the Tank’ and ‘The Schwindy City' — for his play.
In 31 games with the Cubs, he’s hitting .357/.403/.678 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs. The 29-year-old won NL Rookie of the Month for August.
“He's been great,” Green said. “There’s really no other way to slice it. He's done everything you could possibly want a baseball player to do. Now we just want to see it on repeat for a long time.
“It's the type of guy that shows up with a smile on his face intent on winning a baseball game, has confidence in his teammates, and plays hard out there every single day.
“He’s happy to get an opportunity, but he's running with the opportunity and when you run with opportunity, you get more opportunity. I know [David Ross] is really fond of the way he's played baseball, and it would be hard not to be right now.”
It might be easy for some fans to look ahead to 2022 and picture Schwindel, who had 14 games of big league experience before joining the Cubs, as the starting first baseman.
Even he isn’t thinking that far ahead.
“Oh, that's the last thing that's crossed my mind,” he said.
But he is enjoying the opportunity with the Cubs — and making the most of it.
“I'm playing first base for the Chicago Cubs. You can't beat it," Schwindel said. "I'm just having as much fun as I can, try and put some good at-bats together.
“It is what it is, and whatever happens, happens. But we're going to work hard and enjoy every single day here.”