Congratulations to the Old Cub

December 3, 2010 was a day of many different emotions for me.  That was the day that Cub great Ron Santo passed away.  Somehow I caught sight of the news online at work.  I immediately surfed over to the website of WGN radio in Chicago to listen to their broadcast.  I knew it would be the topic of discussion that day and the only way for a Cub fan transplanted to the Rocky Mountains (like me) to get in on paying last respects to Ronnie.The first emotion that hit me was great sadness.  As a Cub fan, I can deal with the fact that they haven’t won a World Series in over 100 years, I can even deal with it if they never do it in my lifetime…but if there was anyone who ever deserved to see that moment, it was Ron Santo.  That he didn’t see it brought me to tears.

Then…anger came in.  For over 30 years this great player had been denied his rightful place in Cooperstown.  He deserved it, and he wanted it so bad.  I’ve always seen the Baseball Hall of Fame as hallowed ground in a way…but on that day it seemed more like just any other building.

People have and will debate about Santo the Hall of Famer for a long time.  Some say he has the numbers, some say he doesn’t.  You can say all you want, it don’t matter to me…I say he belongs there.  He does today and he did 30 years ago.  The thing is, while the numbers are important…this is a Hall of Fame, not a Hall of Numbers.  Numbers are boring people, I got D’s in math class.  I believe Santo had the numbers…but more important is the man he was.  What he did for the city he played in, the fans who loved him, for the children who fight the disease he fought through on the field…what he did for the game in general.

In December, a year after Santo’s death, things were made right.  He will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer!  So, a few weeks late, I say congratulations to Ron Santo and the Santo family.  I click my heals in your honor #10!

Rockies off to their best start ever…but does anyone East of the Mississippi notice?

What an amazing first two weeks of the season it’s been for Colorado Rockies fans.  We knew things were looking good, after all the Rockies ended March with the best spring training record in the majors.  Of course, what I kept hearing was, “but it doesn’t count.”  True, but I grew up a Cubs fan…that trains you to enjoy the W’s when they come.  Now, here we are two weeks in and the Rockies are 10 & 2, with a 6 game winning streak going…oh and did I mention that was on the road! 

I guess I must’ve been a little naive to expect the guys over at MLB TV to spend some time last night on the Rockies sweeping the Mets this week, with the last two victories being yesterday’s double-header.  The Rocks haven’t swept the Mets on the road in the last 17 years.  Alas, they spent more time talking about theYankees’ Nick Swisher getting a pie in the face than they did talking about the team with the best record in baseball.

Yes, it’s still early, but this Rockies team means business. There’s no denying the Eastern bias of the sports media…so when will they finally take notice?  Even the two loses the Rockies have had were both extra inning games (opening day against the D-Back & the 14 inning battle in Pittsburgh), so they have been “in” every game.  Is it wrong to get this excited only two weeks into the season…heck no!

This weekend will challenge my loyalties a bit.  The Cubs come to Coors Field.  I grew up a Cubs fan and that’s not something you can just wash off.  I will be at Coors Field on Sunday in my Cubs gear because the 103 year quest for a world championship trumps the 19 year quest of the Rockies.  However, I will be happy with either outcome and probably cheer every hit and play for each team.

Only Fun When You Win

The Denver Broncos had a rough season this year.  They went 4 & 12 this year.  I don’t really care that much, but everyone else around here was so in the dumps this year.  You’d think everyone’s dog had got run over or something.  

Things were so bad that Broncos head coach Josh McDaniel was relieved of his duties before the season even ended.  By mid January John Elway had been brought in to help rally the troops and he had named John Fox as the new head coach.  During the press conference that introduced Fox to the city, he said something that I couldn’t get out of my head, “this game is only fun when you win.”  That, my friends, is why baseball will always be a better game than football.
Harry Caray used to say, “Nothing beats fun at the old ballpark.”  Win or loose, I’ve never not had fun at a baseball game.  Win or loose, I’ve never not had fun watching a baseball game on TV.  And growing up a Cubs fan, I’ve seen plenty of loses.  The fans have fun at baseball games and maybe it’s just me, but the players seem to be having fun too.   Gotta love this game!

Keith Moreland takes over for the late Ron Santo

The news came down today that former Cub Keith Moreland would take over as color analyst for Cubs radio broadcasts, filling the seat vacated by the late Ron Santo.  Moreland was a part of the Cubs for many years, including their memorable 1984 division winning squad.  He was an interesting character and you never knew where he was going to turn up next in the field.  He usually played right field during that championship year, he was also known to play catcher and third base.  I’m certain he filled in for Leon Durham over at first base a few times as well.  Moreland seems like a good choice and I look forward to hearing him in action.  

We’re Ready

We’re enjoying unseasonably high temperatures in Denver this weekend, and with pitchers and catchers due to report for spring training on Monday…we’re ready for baseball!!  It’s in the air!  I’m not the only one feeling it.  It’s the first weekend since August with no football (and thank God)…after two weeks of sub zero temps followed by sloppy snow, we in the Rocky Mountain region want our baseball!  Just an hour ago I donned my Cubs cap for a trip to the grocery store. As I entered the potato chip aisle I spotted a young man walking toward me wearing a brand new Phillies cap.  A guy in a White Sox cap was just behind him pushing a woman in a wheelchair.  Then a woman wearing a Giants cap came into view.  Coincidence?  I think not!  Throwing on our favorite baseball headgear is a way of saying to Old Man Winter, “You’ve still got us for a few weeks, but you don’t have our souls!”  Spring Training games begin in two weeks folks!!!

The Sandberg Game

sandberg.jpg

I think the greatest baseball game I ever witnessed occurred
on June 23, 1984.  The Chicago Cubs vs.
the St. Louis Cardinals at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.  A game some refer to as “The Sandberg Game.”  It’s the game that caused many baseball fans
to realize what most Chicagoans had known for awhile, that there was an amazing
ballplayer playing 2nd base on the North side of Chicago.

I wasn’t at the game. 
I witnessed it as most did that Saturday, watching it on NBC’s game of
the week.  I hated NBC’s game of the
week!  They’re arrangement with Major
League Baseball was such that whatever game they were airing was the only ball
game you could watch on Saturday afternoons. 
If it wasn’t the Cubs game (and it usually wasn’t), that meant the
festivities in Wrigleyville were blacked out. 
And even if the Cubs were the game of the week, it just wasn’t the same
as watching it on Chicago’s Channel 9. 
There would be none of the crowd shots that WGN was famous for, no
cutaways of Cubs ballgirl Marla Collins chasing fouls, and worst of all no
Harry Caray calling the game.  Why NBC
wouldn’t even show him singing the 7th inning stretch.  Why not just tear my heart out and feed it to
the peacock.  Had I not been 13 years old
and dumb I might have come up with the solution of turning down the sound on
the TV and turning on WGN radio, but that was beyond me.  Instead we had to settle for Bob Costas. 

Actually, perhaps we need not settle for Bob Costas.  My next door neighbor, a few years younger
than me, had rigged up a way to hook a microphone up to his family’s VCR
(Google it youngsters).   He could record
a program off TV and use the mic to give it his own soundtrack.  Suddenly an idea was hatched!  We decided we would do our own play by play
for the game.  If we couldn’t have Harry
Caray and Steve Stone, we would be Harry Caray and Steve Stone.  We figured whatever the result it had to be
better than this Bob Costas guy.

Our brilliant plan to take our first steps toward receiving
the Ford C. Frick award in Cooperstown lasted into about the fifth inning when
my neighbor’s father tired of our in-depth analysis and pulled the plug.  Mr. Costas had won that round.

Our attempt at providing the play by play was not the only
thing that hadn’t gone well that day.  The
Cardinals managed to take a 7-1 lead by the time the Cubs came to bat in the
bottom of the 2nd.  Not fun,
but we were Cubs fans, we were used to this sort of thing.  But 1984 was different.  The season was still young, but the Cubs had
shown promise.  We knew they could do it!  After 3 innings of goose eggs, the cubs at
last began to come back.  By the end of
the 6th inning the Cardinals were up 9-8.  Both teams remained scoreless until the
bottom of the 9th. 

By this time, Cardinals outfielder Willie McGee had already
been named the game’s MVP by Mr. Costas and his NBC buddies.  “How can he be the MVP!?!  The game isn’t over yet!!”  we shouted at Costas.  Indeed it wasn’t.  Cue Mr. Ryne Sandberg.

sutter.jpg

On the mound was future hall of famer, Grizzly Adams
impersonator and former Cub Bruce Sutter. 
Sandberg, not known for power at this point, was the first Cub hitter
that inning and he promptly hit a solo home run to left field.  Wrigley Field went nuts.  We were 31 miles away in the suburban hamlet
of Wheaton, but we probably could’ve heard the crowd had we bothered to open
the window.  The Cubs failed to put any
more runs on the board that inning, but the score was now tied.  Time for extra innings.

The joy in Wrigleyville soon faded as the Cardinals returned
to the plate and managed to add two more runs, making the score 11-9 St.
Louis.  Bruce Sutter returned to the
mound and promptly caused short stop Larry Bowa and pinch hitter Richie Hebner
to ground out.  The Cubs were down to
their final out, but Sutter then walks Cubs leadoff man Bob Dernier.  The stage is set for Sandberg once again.

The mind of a 13 year old Cub fan is eternally
optimistic.  Deep in my heart I knew he
could do it again.  And then…Boom, he did
it again!  Another home run tied the game
once again! 

The game wasn’t decided until the 11th inning.  Cardinals pitcher Dave Rucker walked Cubs
first baseman Leon “Bull” Durham, who then stole 2nd and reached 3rd
on a bad throw by the catcher.  Rucker
then intentionally walked Keith Moreland & Jody Davis to load the
bases.  It was pinch hitter Dave Owen who
actually won the game for the Cubbies with a single that scored Durham, but
this will always be remembered as Sandberg’s game.

Beyond the fact that this was a Cubs victory over the
Cardinals (can’t get much better than that), this game is the greatest for me
because it is a perfect example of what I love about baseball…simply put: it
ain’t over till it’s over.  That Costas
and crew prematurely picked Willie McGee as the game’s MVP just accentuates
that point all the more.  It was a fun
game to watch and it was fun to relive it as wrote this.  This game will live on in the hearts of many
Cubs fans for decades to come.

Baseball on the Brain

January 1,2011 I became overwhelmed with the amount of football chatter on TV and online.  Correction: college football chatter.  To put it simply, I don’t really like football.  College football even more so.  The college I went to didn’t even have a football team.  Homecoming was in February during basketball season.  

With almost all of my Facebook pals’ status updates having something to do with college football that day, I began to really miss baseball season.  I haven’t been able to shake it, nor do I want to.  Baseball was a major source of fun a relaxation for me last year and I want it back!!
So, I decided to join the baseball blogging community as I wait.  Welcome…and hurry up April and get here already!
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