Archive for July, 2005

The Sandberg Game

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

On Saturday July 30th, Comcast Sports Chicago replayed NBC’s broadcast of “The Sandberg Game”. Having been 9 at the time the game was played, I decided to sit down and watch the game again. The following are some of my observations from the viewing. Special thanks to my wife, who never once made fun of me for spending 3.5 hours watching a 21 year old baseball game.

The announcers are Bob Costas and Tony Kubek. Man, I wish Costas was doing baseball again.

The first thing I noticed is that it’s the small changes that have happened over the last 20 years that make watching this game so jarring. For instance:

Everybody appears to be wearing their pants in the Kyle Farnsworth style of “so tight you can’t breath”.

Almost nobody wears a batting helmet with an earflap, which really highlights the mullets.

The brick wall behind home plate at Wrigley looks like it’s set extremely far back, and also seems a lot taller.

Cardinals catcher Terry Porter is wearing eyeglasses under his mask, and does not wear a helmet in the field.

The jerseys are all pullovers, as opposed to the button down style worn now.

Only one player, Cards 2nd baseman Tommy Herr, wears a protective shin guard while batting.

Don Zimmer actually looks slim and trim.

There are people on the rooftops, but none of the buildings in the Wrigley area has yet been converted for the specific purpose of watching the games. It makes the Wrigley seem more like a part of the neighborhood, rather than the focal point of it.

1st inning – I’m not sure how many people will get this, but Jim Frey is a dead ringer for Irv Kupcinet. Steve Trout is 3rd in the NL in ERA at this point, and Costas refers to him as the Cubs’ ace. All the players look very slim, but Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee in particular look emaciated. This is Cards’ pitcher Ralph Citarella’s first major league start. He’d make only one more. Dernier singles, steals 2nd and scores on Sandberg’s single. Man, what I wouldn’t give to have the Daily Double back.

2nd inning – Some things never change, as Costas and Kubek spend a couple of minutes talking about the pitcher’s accusations that the baseball is wound tighter this year, making it easier to hit home runs. Trout is knocked out of the game after giving up 6 runs. Ozzie Smith reminds me of what a terrific fielder he was, stealing at least 2 hits. Most of the men in the crowd are shirtless and wearing short shorts. Yuck.

4th inning – You know, I thought that Corey Patterson had it tough last year playing between Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa, but I’m surprised that Bob Dernier didn’t pass out from exhaustion, running down flyballs between Garry Matthews and Keith Moreland. Even with his bad knees, I think Sarge has Zonk beat in the range department. Does anybody else miss all the nicknames?

5th inning – With the Cubs behind 7-1, Costas and Kubek spend about half the inning making comparisons between Cards 4th year first baseman David Green and Roberto Clemente. They may want to edit that tape, as Green would last two more years in the league. Jay Johnstone pinch hits for the Cubs, and he looks a lot like Gary Gaetti.

6th inning – the Cubs make their big push, scoring 5 runs to pull within one run of St. Louis. Sandberg drives in two of these, and a closeup of him in the dugout reveals that he’s got braces on his teeth.

7th inning – The difference between relief pitching now and then? Cardinals closer Bruce Sutter enters the game with two outs in the 7th, and pitches through the 10th.

9th inning – Wrigley goes bananas as Sandberg ties the game with his first homer. Garry Matthews then singles, and steals 2nd. Actually, he was out by a mile at second, but he reaches in with his hand and knocks the ball out of Tommy Herr’s glove. You gotta love the Sarge.

10th inning – A Bartmanesqe moment in the top of the 10th inning. Ozzie Smith hits a foul ball down the left field line, and Garry Matthews races over and leaps to make the catch, but has the ball tipped away from him by a 400 lb. fan who is standing at the railing (at full speed, it looks like Matthews actually bounces off the guy). Garry even throws a small fit(not as bad as Alou’s though). Smith singles on the next pitch, steals second and scores on McGee’s double(which gives Willie the cycle). It didn’t end up making too much difference, other than Sandberg’s homer in the bottom of the 10th would have won the game instead of tying it. As the Cubs half of the 10th begins, Costas says: “unless things should change dramatically in the last of the 10th, Willie McGee will be our player of the game”. Dernier draws a two out walk, Sandberg hits his 2nd homer off Sutter, and suddenly, things have changed dramatically.

11th inning – Leon Durham singles, and steals second. His headfirst slide is ugly, but it takes out Herr’s legs, and the throw goes into center allowing The Bull to take third. Leon is one of the few players in this game who’s size would be considered normal in the current era. Herzog walks Moreland and Davis to load the bases, and Dave Owen singles through a drawn in infield to win it.

Still an incredible game to watch. Despite the early blowout, the crowd stayed into it, in part because of the large number of Cardinal fans in attendance. Sutter really only got two pitches up during his 3.1 IP, and Sandberg hit both of them into the bleachers. By the way, both homer were bombs, coming nowhere near landing in the basket. If CSN Chicago rebroadcasts it, I’d recommend watching it to any Cub fan.

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Thru Cub Eyes: Ryne Sandberg (part 3)

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

Well, Ryno, today is the big day. Cooperstown. Congratulations. Thank you for doing it well and doing it with class. We end this miniseries, an excerpt from Carrie Muskatís compilation Banks to Sandberg to Grace with thoughts of his later years with the Cubs and the philosophy which made all the difference.


After I retired the first time, we made a couple trips to Wrigley Field in í95. I think it was the last series of the season against Houston, and it came down to the last weekend of the season whether the Cubs were going to make the playoffs or not. It was just fun watching. I was going on 36 years old at the time and thought maybe itíd be nice to go back and play a couple more years.

At one point we were watching the game and Margaret says, ìYou want to go back and play, donít you?î I donít know if I was thinking that. I think I wouldíve been thinking that a day or two, or maybe a week later. She caught it early. I said, ìYeah, I think I do.î

It wasnít long after that that we called the Cubs and worked things out, and before I knew it, I was telling everybody I was coming back.

We were coming back as a blended family and let Margaret experience that, and have all the kids experience that together, and do the whole thing for a couple years. It was very worthwhile. She loved it. She still loves it. I used to go to the family room after the games, and they had had a great time at the game.

Thatís what itís all about. Winning isnít everything. Itís pretty big as a player for the team, but for the fans and the families, they just had a great time coming to the games. They were entertained and they had fun. I think that kind of rubbed off on me ñ this is a fun game. I think players sometimes forget that.

If there was one thing that I would express to players now itís to have fun. It is a game, and they need to remember that every now and then. It is tough, and the grueling schedule and all that, but every now and then if they just remember youíre supposed to be having fun out here and it doesnít last forever. It is a game. Iíd like to tell them that.

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Making the Admiral Proud

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

Conor Jackson got his first rbi today, his first two hits and the one in the eighth turned out to be the game winner in his first big league start. I am sure Admiral A. J. Chegwidden would be mighty proud, but no more proud than John M. Jackson, Conorís father, who portrayed the Judge Advocate General for nine seasons on the highly acclaimed series, JAG. Nice picture of father and son, don’t you think?


Many will predictably pounce with glee on Neifi, Hollandsworth and Macias for failing to produce the heroics in the ninth but if the truth be told, the game was lost in the 6th when D. Lee killed a rally by getting thrown out attempting to steal third and when Ramirez, nursing a sore quad, couldnít score from first on a double.

Even Matt Murton proved to be human after all, looking like the rookie he is with the bases loaded and two outs. Up til now he has showed tremendous poise and a good eye at the plate.

Not this time.

The Cubs only chance is for the 3 returnees (Nomar, Williamson and Wood) to energize this club and do what Houston has done the last two years, go on an unconscious string of 15 out of 20 or something like that. Otherwise itís time to think about what free agents we want to pick up for next year.

Johnny Damon, anyone?

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Soriano In The Future?

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

As I sit here on vacation in Chicago, I think back to last year on July 31st when I heard that the Cubs had acquired Nomar for next to nothing. I was sitting on my couch watching the Yankees game end, and listening to the studio hosts break down the deals. All of a sudden, they received a breaking news note that was so unbelievable that Jenie Zalasko could not even read it. She handed it to the other guy in the studio and he read that the Cubs got Nomar in a three team deal. I leaped off the couch and immediately called Dave, who of course was not home because he has a life. Looking back, the three team deal can be broken down and evaluated in any number of ways. In the end, the trade was a huge success with the fans, especially me.

This year, the Cubs are in hot pursuit of yet another big name, this time for the outfield. For some reason though, I don’t know that i’ll be as excited this time around. This year, the Cubs have Matt Murton who, although he is a rookie, is playing out of his mind so far in limited at bats. I understand that rookies are a crap shoot, especially down the stretch. The Cubs want to get an impact bat like Alphonso Soriano or Austin Kearns. The Sun Times reported today that the Cubs had stepped up their pursuit of Soriano and that pitching would be the cost. Would Soriano help this club? Yes, of course he would. But is it worth wasting Matt Murton on the bench? I think the problem that most needs to be addressed is the same problem that needed to be addressed at the start of the season. The Cubs bullpen is still horrid and makes me nervous every time the starter leaves with the lead.

If tomorrow, I am sitting on my couch again watching the baseball game and hear that the Cubs have acquired a big name bat, I will again leap for joy. This time, it better include a top notch middle reliever as a side note though.

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Thru Cub Eyes: Ryne Sandberg (part 2)

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

In honor of Rynoís Hall of Fame induction tomorrow, we offer this special edition of Thru Cub Eyes. As all of the others, this excerpt is from Carrie Muskatís excellent compilation Banks to Sandberg to Grace.

Ryno Swing

I drove to Wrigley Field with Rick Sutcliffe a couple of years. I drove with Jody Davis and Keith Moreland. The í84 team was special for that reason. Everybody got along, and it was a good bunch of guys. Weíd sit and talk after the game and analyze the pitcher we were facing the next day, or talk about that game that day and just relax. It was a close group.

When we were driving to the ballpark, first of all weíd check to see which way the wind was blowing. We had two or three flags weíd check every time when we drove down Irving Park Road. They were on some banks. As you got closer, then you really got an idea. Weíd just check the flag and have a game plan.

Wrigley has that atmosphere. Old time baseball. Thousand of players have been on that field, great players. Thereís such a tradition there, even going back to Babe Ruth. You get that feeling when you take the field there.

Second base was home for me. Once the game started, those were the best three hours of the day for me. Sometime in the minor leagues or my early years, I was told to work equally at offense and defense. I think I did that. I think I spent my time on the field and took my ground balls, and made the plays, and turned double plays. Then it was time to go in and hit, and it was all hitting. I took hitting and extra hitting and did whatever I had to do. It was fun to do both well, to be an all-around player, be a good base runner ñ just be the full package.

Thatís kind of what I worked at.

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Thru Cub Eyes: Ryne Sandberg (part 1)

Friday, July 29th, 2005

This is such a special week-end for #23, I thought weíd offer an expanded excerpt from Carrie Muskatís compilation
Banks to Sandberg to Grace
Look for parts 2 and 3 tomorrow and Sunday and the rest of the series featuring Cub players through the years every Friday.


Nineteen-eighty-four was one of my most fun years. I was still a young player at the time. It was my third year in the major leagues and my first experience being in a pennant race and being on a winning club. That was all new to me. I just showed up at the ballpark every day, just having fun. I noticed the effect the club was having on the city of Chicago and the fans. I thought it was great. People were going crazy. It was a full house at Wrigley Field every day. It wasnít that way in í82 or í83. In í84 the fans liked the players that we had, and it worked both ways. It was just a great summer all the way around.

Right in the middle of í84, on June 23rd, we were playing the Cardinals. It was the back-up game for the NBC-TV ìGame of the Week.î The main game was rained out, so the whole country saw this game. Tony Kubek and Bob Costas were the announcers. They mention it to me every now and then when I see them that that game did a lot for them too, as announcers.

The game was just going on like any other game, a lot of hits going on. We fell behind early. Willie McGee hit for the cycle and he kind of stood out early. I just remember Bruce Sutter coming in, and Larry Bowa told me to just look down and in against this guy, thatís where his ball ends up, down and in.

Sutter was one of the best relievers at the time. He came in to get three outs and the game would be over, and then I end up hitting a home run to tie it. Then I cam up an inning later. Iíve seen a tape of the game. They had the credits going over the screen, and they named Willie McGee the player of the game. Right in the middle of the credits Bob Costas goes ìNuts, heís done it again and hit a home run again.î It was just like a fairy tale game for me. It put us in first place for the first time that year, which we didnít give up the rest of the year.

I remember walking across and doing the Cardinalsí postgame show, and I was answering these questions and in a lot of ways I was totally numb. I did that interview and then I walked back across and got a big cheer. A lot of Cub fans were still there. I thought, man, this was great. Then I went inside and I could barely get to my locker because there were so many people to talk to. That was the start of my first experience with the media.

It was pretty cool.

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Pointing out the obvious for Dusty Baker

Friday, July 29th, 2005

Just some things I’d like to point out to our fearless leader:

Jerome Williams seems to become ineffective after throwing 100 pitches. Consider taking him out before he throws 120.

I know he’s young, but I think that Matt Murton could probably handle getting 4 at-bats in one game. There’s no need to lift him for a pinch hitter at every opportunity. And feel free to bat him higher than 8th.

Down by 3 in the 6th inning is not the time to bunt a runner over and play for one run.

Gene Clines, Gary Matthews and yourself all have experience as hitting coaches in the major leagues. Between the three of you, I think somebody should be able to explain the concept of the sacrifice fly to the team.

I know Joe harped on this the other day, but if you are so anxious to bunt runners to second or third, why not take the next logical step and attempt a squeeze play?

Players sometimes do stupid things. You don’t have to publicly rip them for it, but you also don’t have to try and rationalize their stupidity to the rest of us, either.

Again with the bunting. Here’s another tip, if you keep ordering Jeromy Burnitz to bunt in front of Aramis Ramirez, opposing teams are going to keep walking Aramis.

You do not have to double switch every time you change pitchers. Really. There’s no rule that says that.

Ask your players, if it’s not too much trouble, if they could please hustle, even on what appear to be routine pop flies. Sometimes those do drop in, and this team needs to take every extra base it can.

Remember in 2003 when you buried Mark Bellhorn on the bench, essentially forcing Jim Hendry to trade him? Could you try that with Jose Macias?


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Thursday, July 28th, 2005

Last April, in the first week of the season, I implored Dusty to walk Luis Gonzales in any and all circumstances. He obliterates the Cubs and the sooner Baker realizes this the better. Would it make any difference today? Not really. That was one of the worst games in this season thus far, a 6-0 pasting by the resurging Diamondbacks. I also said way back then this club would be vastly superior to their 51 game win performance a year ago.

Luis vs the Cubs this year



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Heads up!

Thursday, July 28th, 2005

Lost in all the excitement, close games, anger, agony, and Neifi-Burnitz-inspired euphoria is the fact that somehow the bleak hopes of the Cubs winning the wildcard has turned from faint hope to reachable goal. The Cubs haven’t played like a playoff team, but as it stands, they’re 3 games back with 2 teams ahead of them. Last week they were 4.5 games out with 5 teams ahead of them.

I can’t begin to speculate on the forces behind this change. Good fortune? Regression to the mean? Good luck? Playing the Giants? Whatever it is, for me at least, stubborn faith in the face of overwhelming evidence that I should just accept a 33rd year of personal pain has changed into dim hope.

Given injuries and our manager, this is a .500 ball club that, though filled with surprises both surprising and depressing, has played like it. But even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. Maybe this team can catch fire. Maybe Neifi Perez will get some of those Brian Roberts contacts, Matt Murton will hit in the majors like he did in the minors, Dusty will play him, Hendry will bilk an impact player for Patterson and Bobby Brownlie, and the pieces will fall in place.

As always, I’ll be living and dying by what transpires between game 111 and 162.

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