Recently in Wrigleyville
Tonight, the first Saturday night game since June 20, 1998 will be played at Wrigley Field. In that Saturday night tilt almost 13 years ago, rookie Kerry Wood struck out 11 in 7 1/3 innings and Sammy Sosa hit his 28th and 29th home runs in a 9-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Whenever announcers or writers refer to a star athlete as "a natural," I believe that they are discounting all the hard work that it takes for that player to make it to the top of his profession.
Much has been said and written about the wonderful, "sweet" swing of Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Williams, and it is often said that the Hall of Famer was blessed with that swing. It is true that Williams brought a great deal of natural ability with him when he became the Cubs everyday left fielder in 1961, but I wonder how many people realize how hard the man worked to become one of the finest hitters of his era.
This was an interesting story in the Tribune regarding the shaky financial ground of the Wrigley rooftop business.
Does Ald. Tom Tunney think the street vendors working the sidewalks around Wrigley Field are stupid?
PMc - Are you out there?
I've tried to maintain contact with professional sports journalist PMc this off-season, who has written in this space before. However, he's moved, and his e-mail addresses are no longer working. Here's hoping he swings by the site, gets in touch, and resurrects the column.
If there's anyone else who is interested in writing a bi-weekly literary-journalistic column about the Chicago Cubs this season, let me know.
I'm not normally a numbers guy but something about baseball demands that you can crunch, remember, recite and generally be conversant with some general sense of the way they all add up. It's not necessary to enjoying or even earning a living analyzing the game -- Joe Morgan the other night came out and admitted, somewhat astonishingly, that he's not much for statistics -- but it does enhance the experience, say, if you know going in that Craig Biggio is a "Cub killer,'' as is Chris Capuano and....you get the idea. I can't immediately summon whatever target Barry Bonds is aiming for in his chase of Henry Aaron's all-time home run mark this season, but I know it's within reasonable range. I remember 714 and 56--individual milestones buried deep in the memory bank. So was 61 until Sosa, McGwire and Bonds smashed it in the last decade.
I ran into a scalper acquaintance with whom I'd done previous business last week outside the bleachers. I'm aware of their tactics--buy low, sell high always--and leery. He asked if I had any tickets to sell for remaining games. I told him No, I'd given up my partial season package for a variety of reasons and was glad I did--and suspected I could get good seats for most remaining games. "You might've made a smart move,'' he said, indicating a buyer's market.
The years between the Cubs' prolonged winning if ultimately not winning it all days in the late 60s and early 70s and the Tribune Company's takeover in 1983 brought a decade of leanness -- from Whitey Lockman to George Mitterwald, Herman Franks to Dave Kingman. Sure, there were individual highlights along the way, batting titles and such, but the Cubs of that period -- my formative years as a fan -- were frustrating because for every move forward, they seemed to take two steps backward.
It's hard to explain just how a lifelong Cub fan feels about the Sox thrilling championship run: emphathetic and excited, yes, but also divided and ultimtely, unable to fully partake in the joy. Amid all the calls for citywide baseball unification, you want to jump aboard the Ozzie Express, but there are a few things holding you back. For this Cub fan, the Sox can only be savored from a chilly, envious distance.
Bittersweet would be too positive a word to describe the end of the Cubs' 05 home season. I wasn't there for the official finale but watched with one eye and ear to the fitting ending -- bases loaded in the ninth and nothing to show for it. Jose Macias, a Dusty Baker favorite, made the last out; Corey Patterson, Wrigley wipping boy, struck out to help snuff the rally. The next noises emanating from Clark and Addison will be construction on the expanded bleachers.