Archive for September, 2009

Great Contact Hitters Since 1990

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Ok, my last trivia question lasted all of about an hour. Here’s a tougher one for you.

Q: Since 1990, ten Cubs who qualified for the batting title have had 50 or less strikeouts in a season. Name them.

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Afternoon Cubs Trivia

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Since 2000 (including 2009), the Cubs have seen a player that qualifies for the batting title hit at least .300 on 10 occasions. Can you name the players?

Hint: It’s been done by a total of five players.

Answer will be revealed as they’re guessed in the comment section.

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My gosh my golly

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

The Cubs have won eight of their last ten, they’re playing good ball. Tonight’s game was yet another in which the team looked like we expected them to look. So what’s happening and what ain’t?

Lee has really won me over, I felt at the beginning of the season as though he still had a couple of good years left and that the time was right to trade him for value. Now I’m not so sure, perhaps he’s a keeper (despite the fact that he’s getting older.) Is now the right time to trade him to a team that needs a quality first baseman? Probably true…but will it help the team? I doubt that. IMO a two year extension for D Lee is the way to go.

People say all kinds of disparaging things about Theriot but I think he’s the best SS we’ve had since Dunston (all things considered.) Is this an area that needs to be considered in the offseason? I doubt it. I’d rather see something done about Soriano or Bradley. Fukudome isn’t a problem but he’s not a solution either, I remember how thrilled I was when we signed him – Kosuke hasn’t put up numbers that his salary warrants. He’s been adequate but not outstanding.

So I really hope that guys step it up in the outfield, it’s perplexing to me as to why Piniella is not giving Hoffpaiur and Fox more chances to play in the outfield. These guys are on the bubble as was Casey McGehee last year…

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Sherm Made Paul Sullivan’s Mailbag

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

This reminded me of Sherm, so it must be him.

Q. Like I said earlier this year: What is Hendry thinking about when signing Bradley? He paid this nut what? Neither can field for beans, but Adam Dunn has 34 homers and Bradley has given us at least 34 headaches! Could be the worst signing in Cubs history? Milan, Lilly Lake, Wis.

Answer: Hey, it’s only $30 million, or $10 million more than Dunn got for two-years, and  $25 more than Bobby Abreu got for one-year. Considering the number of available free agent outfielders who wanted to play for the Cubs, including Raul Ibanez, not to mention the option of keeping Mark DeRosa and sticking him in right field full-time, it will assuredly likely go down as one of the worst signings in Cubs history. But he still has two years to redeem himself, if the Cubs can’t trade him without eating most of the rest of his contract. – (source)

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Wrigleyworld

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

The book is titled “Wrigleyworld – A Season in Baseball’s Best Neighborhood”. It was written during the 2005 Cubs season, and was published in 2006. The author is Kevin Kaduk, who was 26 years old when he lived his dream.

And I can relate. For a few years, in my late twenties, I lived a dream which included time well spent on the periphery of Wrigleyville. But that’s another story for another time.

A testimonial on the back cover tells us what we are in for:
- “Most baseball books – especially most baseball books about the Chicago Cubs – are written by old men, waxing poetic about a boring, pastoral America that never really was. Now, finally, a young man has written a young man’s baseball book….Kaduk celebrates the real reasons we love the game: beer, broads, and a scalped seat in the bleachers.” – Chris Jones, Esquire

The last paragraph of the inside back jacket cover adds:
- “So crack open a cold one, and get ready to experience the true adventures of Kevin Kaduk – a man who took himself out to the ball game, bought himself some peanuts and Cracker Jack…and never came back.”

I think it would be fair to describe this book as “Go Cubs Go” meets “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell”. I mean that in a good way.

The opening pages include a map of Wrigley Field and the immediate surrounding area. My attention was drawn to the triangular “Players’ parking lot/proposed site for parking garage/Cubs museum” between Clark St. and Wrigley. I’m no expert but it occurs to me that perhaps a transportation center for buses, taxis, limos, neighborhood shuttles, bikes, rickshaws and even horsies might be a better use for that space.

Couldn’t a “players’ parking lot” be better located a few blocks away? I mean we are talking summertime here.

I’m all for a Cubs museum if the tourists want it, but wouldn’t a remote location like the Field Museum Campus, for instance, be a better choice? Or under the “L” tracks? On Michigan Avenue? Up at Lake Geneva? Online maybe? Just askin’.

It occurred to me that Kevin is describing the lifestyle of precisely the type of Cub fans that Barack Obama has spoken about derisively. Of course, it must be noted that Mr. Obama is the self proclaimed Southsider who referred to Sox Park as “Kaminsky Field” – forever labeling himself as “NOT FROM HERE”! !

The author does include, woven throughout the book, lessons in “How to Scalp the Scalpers”, which is nice.

Our twenty something tour guide displays wisdom beyond his years as he describes the phenomenon whereby Cub fans feel they have personally “jinxed” the outcome of a game just by tuning in, or by going to the game.

Mr. Kaduk provides a bevy of Illinois/Wisconsin stories and jokes, all funny and all true. He also clarifies the love/hate relationship between Chicagoans and Cheeseheads.

Speaking of which, the author seems to have an affinity for (or maybe it’s just a familiarity with) folks whose history includes time spent at U.W. Madison or Southern Illinois (SIU). There is a common denominator there.

Let me share a Charles Bukowski quote from the book:
- “That’s the problem with drinking…, if something bad happens, you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens, you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens, you drink to make something happen.”

The author describes a summer road trip, a whirlwind research tour encompassing six ballparks (and six ball games) in seven days. His research produced the following opinion about Yankee Stadium:
- “There’s no frat party in the stands like at Wrigley….These people aren’t here for the stadium, they’re not here for the bars, and they’re not here to have a good time. They’re here to watch baseball.”

Mr. Kaduk characterizes Wrigley Field as “home of a team that established the market on style over substance.”

I enjoyed reading “Wrigleyworld” and I recommend it highly. I have to say that while reading, I was continually reminded of the axiom: “Youth is wasted on the young.” And I mean that in a good way.

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Random Decade Leaderboards

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Had some free time. I wanted to have a little fun and take a look at the decade leaderboards for a few categories. Here is what I found.

Strikeout Leaders

Stolen Base Leaders

Homerun Leaders

Hit Leaders

Anything stand out to you? Surprise you?

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A true fan he was

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time planning an upcoming trip to San Francisco with my father. On tap for two of the four nights we are spending in the Golden Gate city are Cubs/Giants games. Recently I’ve been thinking about selling one night’s tickets as it might be several years before I can visit the city again.

Then today I saw this article on CNN. It’s about a fan who kept his chin up despite the bad hand of cards he had been dealt and did the best he could. All during his life his zeal for his team never wavered – he attended his games until he could no more.

This year has not been a very fun year for Cubs fans, there has been a tendency for us all to become frustrated with a team that we hoped would achieve great things. Pretty soon I’ll be immersed in football, then hockey and college basketball, then in February pitchers and catchers will report. And I will think of Bill Sauer when the Cubs trot on to the field in Ho Ho Kam next spring to give me yet another season to remember.

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Trivia Time

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Got my new edition of Baseball America the other day and I thought I’d share the trivia question with you. Please don’t cheat and google search. Just answer it with a guess.

Q: Name the five active players who have hit at least 25 leadoff homeruns.

Answer will come as they’re guessed in the comment section.

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Bleachers

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

I remember some pretty good quotes attributed to “Lonnie Wheeler” a while back, so when I saw that name listed as the author of this book, I jumped at it.

The full title is “Bleachers – A Summer In Wrigley Field”. It was published in 1988. The subject is the Cubs season of 1987. Each month of the season is a separate chapter.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with this book, since it’s so good and it’s been around for so long. But is was new to me and I enjoyed it a lot.

Of course the 1987 team was one which Dallas Green loaded up with what the author refers to as “pre-owned Cubs”: Ryne Sandberg, Keith Moreland, Gary Matthews, Larry Bowa, Ron Cey, Dennis Eckersley, Steve Trout, Scott Sanderson, Dick Ruthven, Bob Dernier, Rick Sutcliffe, Jody Davis, Leon Durham, Lee Smith, Rafael Palmeiro, Chico Walker, Brian Dayett, Dave Martinez, Jamie Moyer, Gregg Maddux, Drew Hall, and Andre Dawson.

As I’ve said before, 1987 was the first year of my residency, so the Spring was spent preparing, June was spent moving and settling in, and from July 1st onward I didn’t come up for air, or see the sunlight, for over two years.

So I’ve heard of these names, but that’s about it.

I have to say that the characters and experiences depicted in this book are the exact ones I’m familiar with from the neighborhood, from the tavern, and from Wrigley Field itself. Mr. Wheeler nailed it. This is my Chicago.

Speaking of opening day at Wrigley, 1987, the author observes:
- “It was an interesting coincidence, though, that the election and the first game fell on the same day. It meant, if nothing else, that Chicago was guaranteed at least one winner on April seventh.”

Mr. Wheeler says that the Cubs starting pitcher that day, Rick Sutcliffe, “soon developed an acute disinclination to throw the ball over the plate.”

A Bill Veeck quote imparts the following bleacher wisdom: “I have discovered, in twenty years of moving around a ballpark, that the knowledge of the game is usually in inverse proportion to the price of the seats.”

A gentleman seated in the right-field bleachers is characterized as “a baseball fan of the highest order.” And that fan, remarking about a day at Wrigley with just over five thousand people in attendance, expresses a sentiment to which I can relate: “There are too few days like this. The crowds ruined it.”

- “A guy explained Wrigley Field’s universal appeal to his girlfriend. “Even if the Cubs are bad,” he said, “the weather’s usually good.”

The author goes over the differences between “Cubs fans” and “baseball fans”.

He also describes the generational nature of Cub fandom:
- “Like so many who were hopeless Cub fans, his dad had been one. His dad told him that the Cubs would win a pennant in his lifetime. ‘He died in ‘83,’ Terry said. ‘At the end, I’d tell him the Cubs were winning, and that would perk him up’.”

Another generational Cub fan, Jerry Pritikin, talked about his father:
- “The last thirty days of his life he didn’t say anything, except for one time, when he woke up and said, ‘We gotta get rid of Kingman.’ That was the only thing he said the last thirty days of his life.”

- “They say that because of the way the shadows fall, the team ahead at five o’clock always wins at Wrigley Field.”

- “There was no wanton racism in the bleachers of Wrigley Field, but a subtle bigotry still asserted itself randomly. One of the bleacher ethics held that nothing was off limits in the harassment of an opposing player, and race being a handy subject, occasionally there were overtly distasteful remarks such as the one concerning Strawberry. The same applied to Chicago’s black players. If one batted or pitched his way into disfavor with the fans – as Lee Smith had done in 1987, despite his fine numbers – it was not uncommon for the criticism to take on racial overtones. On the other hand, black Cub heroes such as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins, Gary Matthews, and now Andre Dawson, were among the best-loved men ever to wear the uniform.”

- “The coldest and most successful of the gamblers had said, ‘Never bet on the Cubs after the Fourth of July’.”

Once again, describing the feeling of enjoying a game at Wrigley when it wasn’t crowded:
- “But nonetheless, as I sat alone in center field watching the Cubs beat the Mets 6-1 in a mid-August game of only moderate consequence, I decided it was a shame that the ballpark wasn’t like this more often. Other parks still were. Wrigley Field, make no mistake, was still the best of the ballparks, and the bleachers were the best of Wrigley Field, but the rare privacy on August fourteenth was so quieting as to be almost cathartic.”

On that same subject: “The bleachers had gotten to the point of miniature golf, and for those to whom watching baseball was not unlike watching a heron fish the water’s edge at dawn, it was unfortunate.”

- “…as they walked to their door, one of the guys on the steps said, ‘How ‘bout them Cubs?’ One of the other guys said, ‘They’re making their move.’
They were ten and a half out, in fifth place.”

In August of 1987, the Cubs were seventh in the league in runs scored. Explanation? “Somehow – the grand jury of the bleachers was ready to indict a ring of conspirators that included untimely hitting, reluctant running, and invisible strategy….”

In an interesting side note (interesting only in retrospect, perhaps,) one of the frequent occupants of the bleachers put forward his personal nominee for 1987 National League MVP: San Francisco Giants’ catcher Bob Brenly.

- To the weekday September crowd, last place was no reason to give up on baseball. “I hope they finish last,” said Leonard Becker. “It would be a distinction.”

The New York Mets are described as a team “whom the Cardinal fans feared on a competitive level and the Cub people loathed on general principle.”

The Ex-Cub Factor is discussed in the postlude chapter. In the 1987 postseason championships, it held true.

- “In the same way that a baseball season never really begins, it never really ends either.”

- “All through September, as the Cubs blundered and backtracked, people said to me what a shame it was that the summer I picked to sit in the bleachers had turned out, in the end, to be such an ordinary one. But I thought it had been a perfectly fine summer. I thought it was a quintessential Cub summer….”

Sometimes, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

“Bleachers – A Summer In Wrigley Field” by Lonnie Wheeler. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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