When did Mark Grace become Mark "Amazing" Grace? A good answer would be his rookie season with the Cubs. Mark showed he could play with the major leaguers as soon as he was given the chance. Within a few weeks of being called up, the team's coaching staff knew they were looking at the Cubs' firstbaseman of the future. The team traded then starting firstbaseman Leon Durham, a Wrigley favorite, to the Cincinnati Reds. Thus, Mark was promoted to the Cubs everyday starter at the position within three weeks of joining the team.

Mark's rookie season treated the Wrigley faithful to a preview of things to come. Grace batted .296 and played outstanding defense for the northsiders. He finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting to Chris Sabo, although he was voted Rookie of the Year by "The Sporting News." The Cubs finished in fourth place with a 77-85 record, but with a team nucleus that now featured Grace, Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux, Andre Dawson, Rafeal Palmeiro and Rick Sutcliffe, things were looking up on the corners of Sheffield and Addison.

In 1989, Mark and the Cubs created a stir of excitement in Chicago. The team's emerging stars and veteran leadership combined to form a winning chemistry. Mark played a key role in the team's drive to the NL East pennant. He hit .314, the first of his many .300 seasons, and committed only 6 errors (and that with Shawon Dunston throwing to him!). As Cubs hysteria grew throughout the city, the "Boys of Zimmer" ran away from the New York Mets to win their division with a 93-69 record. A playoff matchup was thus set with the San Francisco Giants, a series that would become a showcase for Grace's talents.

The 1989 NLCS will always be remembered for the epic battle waged on the diamond between two players: Mark Grace and Will Clark. Mark was brilliant in the series, going 11 for 17 (.647 average) with 5 extra base hits and 8 RBIs. It was one of the greatest performances in post-season play, yet it was eclipsed in part to the play of Will Clark. Will the Thrill batted 13 for 20 (.650 average) with 6 extra base hits and 8 RBIs. Despite Mark's heroics, the Giants behind Clark's inspired play held off the Cubs for a 4-1 series victory. Although Mark failed to capture the NL crown, he captured the hearts of Cubbie fans everywhere.

Starting in 1990, the Cubs started an eight year run of never finishing above 3rd place in their division. Many of the team's stars from the late eighties were traded away (giving rise to the Ex-Cub Factor and many great careers). Mark remained faithful to the team that had drafted him, and throughout this eight year period teamed with Sammy Sosa, who joined the team in 1992, to be the two bright spots on otherwise forgettable Cubs teams. In 6 of these 8 seasons, Mark batted over .300. He represented the NL in the 1993, 1995 and 1997 All-Star games. He earned Rawling's Gold Glove Awards for his graceful play in the field during the 1992, 1993, 1995 and 1996 campaigns. Mark had perhaps his finest season statistically in 1996, when he lead the NL with 51 doubles, batted .326, hit 16 home runs and drove in 92 RBIs. He finished 13th in NL MVP balloting that year.

1998 proved to be a magical season for the Cubs. Entering the season, sportswriters predicted the team would once again finish near the bottom of the NL Central Division. Yet the team came together behind the veteran leadership of Mark Grace, Sammy Sosa and Kevin Tapani. Mark did his part to help the Cubs reach the postseason, batting .309 on the season and setting a career high with 17 homeruns. Although the Houston Astros ran away with the NL Central pennant, the Cubs battled the San Franscisco Giants over the season's final two months for the NL wild card. The teams ended the regular season with identical 89-73 records, which set the stage for a dramatic one game playoff for the right to play the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. The Cubs prevailed in the playoff game, with Mark getting 2 hits and a walk in the contest. Unfortunately, the Cubs had a dismal performance against the Braves, losing in three straight games.

Mark continued to put up consistent numbers in 1999 and 2000, and it appeared he would become one of those rare players that would play his entire career with one team. Not since Ernie Banks had the Bleacher Bums embraced a player with as much admiration as they had Mark. And for his part, Mark made it known that he looked forward to playing out his career with the team and the city that he had come to know and love. Yet injuries in 2000 that limited his playing time and prospects on the farm team led general manager Andy McPhail to not even negotiate with Grace after the 2000 season. As the signing deadline came and went without so much as a phone call or meeting with McPhail, Mark's career suddenly faced an unknown future . The way in which Mark was treated by management during this process infuriated many longtime Cubs fans, and still leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many fans. Despite the unceremonious way in which Mark was forced to leave the team, he will always be identified with the Chicago Cubs for his 13 glorious seasons in pinstripes.

For much of the 1990s, Grace and Sosa were the lone bright spots on mediocre Cubs teams

 

 

 

 

 

As a Cub, Grace led the majors in hits and doubles during the decade of
the 1990's.

 

 

 

 

 

The joy of winning didn't come often to Mark in Chicago, but the 1998 Wild Card Playoff Game was one of the highlights of his days in the Windy City

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