The 2016 World Series carries an abundance of historical significance with the Chicago Cubs playing the Cleveland Indians. With all the amazing storylines and statistics in this fall classic, its significance is personal for Victoria HarbourCats head coach Brian McRae, who was named head coach of the HarbourCats in August.
The HarbourCats are pleased to announce that McRae, who now lives in Kansas City, will be in Victoria on November 5 as a special guest of the HarbourCats Hotstove event at Yates St. Taphouse, with speakers Gregg Zaun and Sid Seixeiro (778-265-0327 for ticket purchases, $50/person).
McRae was selected 17th overall in the 1985 Major League Baseball draft by the Kansas City Royals and made his major league debut with Kansas City in 1990 at the age of 22.
A switch-hitting outfielder who was born in Bradenton, FL and attended Blue Springs High School in Missouri, McRae enjoyed great success in parts of five seasons with the Royals, bringing speed to the top of the lineup and in the outfield at Kauffman Stadium.
Shortly before the 1995 season, the Royals traded McRae to the Cubs. Brian immediately excelled in Chicago, taking on a similar role as he had with the Royals, and posting some of the best numbers of his career.
During the strike-shortened 1995 season in which the Cubs went 73-71 finishing third in the NL Central, McRae led the team in at-bats with 580 while stroking a career-high 38 doubles and posting a .288 batting average, which was the highest of his career.
The following season, McRae played in 157 games with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs, both second-most in his career, and stole 37 bases, his career-high. Brian’s .360 on-base percentage that year would also tie the best mark of his career.
McRae played in 108 games for the Cubs in 1997 before being traded on August 8 of that season to the New York Mets. Chicago was in the midst of a 68-94 season, finishing last in the NL Central. Going with Brian to New York in the deal were pitchers Mel Rojas and Turk Wendell, who between them pitched in 1,077 major league games.
Rojas recorded 126 career saves with his best years coming in Montreal with the Expos where he saved 30 games in 1995 and 36 in 1996.
Lance Johnson, an all-star outfielder in 1996 who went on to play 14 seasons in the majors, went to the Cubs in the deal.
McRae’s Cubs tenure finished with 402 games played from 1995-97 with 35 home runs, 142 RBIs and 78 stolen bases. During his time in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, McRae played with many of the most notable names in the Cubs modern era.
Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg was a teammate of McRae’s in 1996-97. Sandberg returned after not playing in 1995 for the final two years of his illustrious 16-year career, 15 of them with the Cubs.
In 2005, Sandberg was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. In his post-playing days, the veteran of 2,164 games who amassed 2,386 hits, 282 home runs and 344 stolen bases began his managerial career that began in the Cubs minor league organization in 2007 and led to his tenure as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies from 2013-15.
A young slugging outfielder by the name of Sammy Sosa was entering the prime of his career during McRae’s time in Chicago. The two patrolled the Wrigley outfield together for three years while Sosa slammed 112 home runs with 338 RBIs.
In 1998, the year McRae was traded to the Mets; Sosa went swing for swing with the Cardinals’ Mark McGwire on their famous home run chase. McGwire famously finished with 70 home runs, the most ever in a single season at that time, while Sosa finished just back with 66, which is now third all-time for one season.
The 1998 season was Sosa’s first of four straight seasons with 50 or more home runs including three with more than 60.
The 1995 season also saw McRae play with 16-year major leaguer and career .300 hitter, Mark Grace as well as 11-year big league catcher Scott Servais. Servais is now the manager of the Seattle Mariners.
Brian played parts of three seasons with the Mets, slugging career highs in home runs with 21 and RBIs with 79 in 1998. He retired following brief stays in Colorado and Toronto in 1999.
In all, McRae played in 1,354 major league games across 10 seasons, compiling 1,336 hits, 103 home runs and 196 stolen bases.
Though he may be best known for his time in Kansas City, where he resides today, McRae still has strong loyalty to the Cubs.
In his first Victoria radio appearance on Tuesday, he discussed his time with the ‘north-siders’ on CFAX 1070 with Al Ferraby: http://www.iheartradio.ca/
Brian plans to be at Wrigley Field when the World Series shifts back to Chicago this weekend.