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Steve Macko

Burlington native Steven Joseph “Steve” Macko’s 25-game major league career was cut short by cancer at age 27 in 1981.

Macko, the son of former professional baseball player Joe Macko, reached the Texas state baseball championship in 1971 with his Bishop Dunne High School team. He attended Panola Junior College in Carthage, Texas, for two years after graduating from high school. Eventually, he attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, received All-American honors, and tied a Southwest Conference record for most doubles in a season.

He batted .417 as a senior at Baylor and helped the Bears advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. He signed with the Chicago Cubs after being drafted in the fifth round of the June 1977 Amateur Draft.

Macko was called up to the Cubs after hitting .244 for Triple-A Wichita in 1979. He made his major league debut as a defensive replacement in the Cubs’ game against the San Diego Padres on August 18 at Wrigley Field. He lined out to first in his only at-bat.

He hit .252 in 89 games for Wichita the next season before being recalled for the second time. After only two weeks of action, he was injured in the right thigh in a collision with Pittsburgh’s Bill Madlock (a former Cub) on August 5. Doctors detected cancer of the lymph nodes when they examined him in September. “I remember I really took a whack, but that’s part of the game,” Macko told UPI sports writer Randy Minkoff. “I don’t hold anything against anyone for anything.”

He started taking extensive chemotherapy treatments in Dallas, Texas, in November 1980 and reported to spring training in 1981 only two weeks late but 17 pounds lighter. “I don’t think he played in any games but he went through some of the spring training conditioning programs,” his father, Joe, told the Associated Press.

He started the regular season on the 60-day disabled list, which allowed him to create his own rehab schedule and remain eligible for MLB’s insurance program. Each time the Cubs played a different team in a series, they had to get permission from the opposing team so Macko could sit on the bench.

He passed away on November 15, 1981, in Arlington, Texas, and is buried in Moore Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Arlington. More than 400 people attended his funeral service in Arlington on November 18, 1981. At the time of his death, he was survived by his parents, Joe and Dorothy Macko; two sisters, Karen and Linda; and an 11-year-old brother, Michael.

In 25 games with the Cubs, he hit .250 with 15 hits including three doubles, five RBIs, four walks and 11 strikeouts. He handled 79 chances flawlessly at second, third, and short during his brief major league career.

His father served as business manager, home clubhouse and visiting clubhouse manager, and goodwill ambassador for the Texas Rangers for 40 years. Joe Macko hit 306 home runs in nearly 2,000 minor league games and was part of the Cubs’ infamous College of Coaches in the early 1960s. Steve was the Rangers’ first bat boy.

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