Sox vs. Cubs A Year of Baseball in Black and Blue
By Tom Adrahtas and Tom Tom Wendlandt
Also by Tom Adrahtas: Glenn Hall, The Man They Call Mr. Goalie A Lifetime To Get Here; Diana Ross, The American Dreamgirl
To my father: Ray Wendlandt, my Uncle Ron Kraft, my wonderful wife Lynne, my son Geoff, and my grandsons Haidyn and Caleb. You were all essential to the passion and energy that went into writing this book. -TW To my umpiring bretheren in blue. When we’re right we’re right, and when we’re wrong we’re right. -TA
INTRODUCTION The idea for this book just sort of happened. Tom W and I have known each other for nearly 15 years. I began working for Tom W at Robert Morris University 4 years ago. We get along very well, and I can honestly say in those 4 years we’ve never had a serious argument about anything, despite the fact we are polar opposites politically (I’m a Democrat and he’s wrong ) and religiously (he’s a devout Lutheran and I have conceded that I have a pew in Hell waiting ). The final area of our polar opposition comes in the form of the peculiar civil war that has been fought within the Chicago borders for the last century. It is a war without an Abraham Lincoln, a war that cannot be won definitively by either side, offers no real spoils to the victor beyond the occasional pyrrhic victory that seldom lasts longer than the 24 hours between first pitches, and only once in our lifetimes as long as the months between seasons. While we have been able to tactfully acknowledge our political and religious differences and either politely exchange thoughts about them or respectfully disagree and move on, we, like so many in the City of Big Shoulders and Few Pennants, fail miserably in hiding our disdain for the team at the opposite side of town. This disdain can take many forms and levels, from subtle jibes to open gloating, from locker room humor to physical confrontation. For Tom W and I, it took the shape of written jousting in email exchanges. At the end of the 2010 season, Tom W (who is a far more accomplished baseball fanatic than I) suggested that we collect the exchanges we would be making during the 2011 season and see if it would make for enough interesting reading to become a book. We think it has, but that’s for you to judge. So in the pages that follow, you will find the more pertinent and (we hope ) more interesting and entertaining emails that were written. We would like to think they epitomize what it is to be a Sox or Cub fan in this town, and that our thoughts are ones that the reader can identify with. We did try to keep the cheap shots to a minimum. For example, I decided not to suggest we do a coloring book version so South Siders could have a medium they are more accustomed to. I also did not suggest that South Siders could befriend a North Sider so they would have someone to read it to them. Nor did I caution South Siders to remember to not move their lips while reading. So you see, we succeeded in keeping the dialogue in a class that befits the subject. The process of constructing Black and Blue was everything you’d think it would be, and encompassed all of the emotional swings of a baseball season that was particularly maddening but that, we feel, also epitomized both the Cubs and Sox, warts and all. Well, OK, for the Cubs it was more warts and warts. Play ball! TA
Chapter One: First Pitch (or Hope Springs Eternal) Chapter One...............................................................................First Pitch (or Hope Springs Eternal) Chapter Two..........................................................................................................Incognito at Wrigley Chapter Three.....................................................................A Glimmer of Hope vs. The Slippery Slope Chapter Four.........................................................I Don’t Want to Hear It (or Ouch! That one hurt…) Chapter Five............................................................A Beautiful Morning or Premature Exclamation? Chapter Six.......................................................................Crosstown Classic Part Two….Then Bupkis Chapter Seven...............................................................................................................................Truce Chapter Eight.........................................................................A Great Big Bowl of Blue Colored Suck! Chapter Nine.....................................................................................................................Mega Bupkis Chapter Ten................................................................. “Pop” go the Sox, Big Z and the Hendry Legacy Chapter Eleven......................................................................................Butting Heads, Bitter Feelings Chapter Twelve..............................................................................................................So Long, Ozzie Chapter Thirteen................................................................The Pennant Chase Skips Chicago (Again)
SUBJECT: First Pitch Date: 3/31/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. This is going to be absolutely delicious.... as we discussed the possibility of doing this exchange I have thought over and over again how utterly satisfying this will be. Since I was a small boy I found myself destined to be surrounded by Cubs fans. Despite being born to parents who were brought up their entire lives in the Bridgeport neighborhood (home of the now defunct Stockyards, Mayor Daley # 1 and # 2 and of course the White Sox.....), I found myself brought up on the northwest side of the city and then the northwest suburbs as my family spread their wings from the old neighborhood. As a youngster, I had many friends but few who wore the “SOX” intertwined diagonally in block letters on the black hats of the Go-Go Sox of the 50s and 60s. No, sir.....most of them wore that sickening “Cubby Blue” thing with the big “C”. I learned to get even early. One of the first times I ever remember getting in trouble was when I convinced my friend next door to pitch his Cubs hat out of his mother’s car window as we sped along down the city streets. I don’t think he ever got a Sox hat to replace it and I don’t think my mother could keep herself from laughing when a furious Mrs. Newman told her the story. All my life I have wanted to track down Billy and find out if he turned out to be a Sox fan or a Cub fan, for we moved away to our first house shortly after that momentous incident. I consider myself extremely lucky to be just old enough to remember the 1959 White Sox who won the American League pennant and went to the World Series..... I know the concept of “winning” is difficult for you but try and stay with me. The night they clinched I was all of 5 years old but I was allowed to stay up late and watch the game on the black and white TV. When the final double play was turned and the Sox were the A.L. champs, our family living room nearly bubbled over with excitement. I will never forget my parents shouting for joy, dancing in the living room and then thrusting open the front door to share the joy with their neighbors. Unfortunately they picked a block in a nice northwest corner of the city where we were the only Sox fans on the block. After realizing they might get arrested for disturbing the peace if they continued the party outside, they had to settle for calling my grandmother down in Bridgeport and listening to the block party taking place a few miles away. I remember wishing we were at Grandma’s that night.
Later my mother talked about that night and said “she just wanted to go out and hug somebody”. Ever try hugging a Cubs fan with while wearing a Sox hat? If you can duck fast enough you’ll miss the punch but in most cases you’ll find yourself squeezing air because the Cubs fan would rather get hit with a spitball right between the eyes. In this case there was just the silence. Looking back, I’m sure there was also weeping, cursing and depression behind many of those closed doors on that memorable night back in ‘59. Yep, this is going to be fun. By the way, how did you enjoy your last World Series? Your friend, 7
Tom W. SUBJECT: First Pitch Date: 3/31/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. I too, am relishing the chance to engage in a dialogue about our favorite teams. I was really enthralled with your description of your youth and where your parents grew up. The South Side is such a unique place. I think there was a real symmetry between the Stockyards and Comiskey Park. They were both demolished and both emitted an ungodly stench. At least you didn’t have to pay to experience “stink” at the Stockyards. I have great childhood memories of my favorite baseball team. My grandmother (YiaYia in Greek), came over from the old country in 1919. (You know, the year the Sox threw the World Series...I cite this just to give you a historical marker, not because I’m trying to disparage the proud history of your team of course...) She spoke with a thick Greek accent and was a typical looking YiaYia. 4’11. 250 lbs. Moustache. But she was the funniest and dearest person in my life, and she became a huge sports fan. And she’s the one who etched my destiny as a Cubs fan. We’d sit together in the TV room and listen to Jack Brickhouse describe the flickering black and white images on our Zenith. While YiaYia would stir up her miraculous evgalemano soup in the kitchen, the voices of Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau would be floating in the background. On some select and very special days, we would leave our 2-flat on the Northwest side on a summer morning and take the Diversey bus to Clark, and then the Clark to Addison. She would lead me by the hand to the box office where she’d treat me to tickets (she especially loved double headers ) and we’d sit and watch Banks, Beckert, Kessinger, Hundley, Santo, Fergie, and Sweet Swingin’ Billy. My YiaYia was one sharp lady. She would explain to me why the Cubs lost so much. “Tommy, other pitchers is cheat. They make ball move this way that way so Cubs no hit. Cub pitchers is good, play fair. They throw ball straight.” And as anyone can tell, the Cubs pitchers are still throwing the ball straight. But today is a special morning, isn’t it Tom? It’s Opening Day. Hope springs eternal (if “eternal” means a mere 102 years), and I’m sure this is the year. (FYI to all readers: As a Cub fan, I am contractually obligated to make two statements a year. On Opening Day, I need to express my conviction that this is “the” year, and on the last day of the season, I must state, “Wait ‘til next year.”) Opening day signals all that might be, it means that the worst of snow and slush and winter’s hawk are gone and the lustrous days of summer are within our grasp. No, I have no magical memories (yet) of a Cubs’ pennant or World Series. A roster filled with the likes of Fukudome, Soriano and Pena do not exactly inspire fantasies that this will be the year. But then again, it might. And as long as it might, I’m in.
SUBJECT: Opening Weekend & Get Your Yia Yias Out Date: 4/4/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Opening Weekend 2011 Well, I just got back from Cleveland where the White Sox took 2 out of 3 in their opening series of the season. Saw the first two games where the Sox scored 23 runs and most of our team got off to a terrific offensive start. Carlos Quentin drove in 7 runs, newcomer Adam Dunn 4 and Gordon Beckham is hitting the ball all over the park. The only bummer performance of the weekend was from ex-Cub Will Ohman, but that figures. He hasn’t figured out how to win yet, perhaps we’ll get the Cubdom out of him, or he’ll be gone by the All Star break. Whilst I was gone, your Cubbies succumbed yet again in their home opener to the worstteam-in-baseball Pittsburgh Pirates, perennial losers of 100+ games......but since they regularly take 2 out of 3 from the Cubbies, at least they do not lose 120. What was your favorite moment of the weekend? a) Marmol blowing the save in the 9th Sunday. b) Two runs scoring on a grounder that barely reached the pitcher’s mound and your starting shortstop throwing ball instead of eating it, allowing the winning run to score.... c) Zambrano’s hand cramp d) Murphy’s made a record profit on opening day Well, if “this is the year” it sure started out with some typical “Cubbie Occurances”...... I make no predictions for the rest of the season, but the first bites of this season were again delicious. I now get to worry about how we’ll play vs. the lowly KC Royals, since they always give us fits. Get Your Yia Yias Out Gee, I always thought that smell from the Stockyards was the Cubbies getting cooked on an open grill yet another season.... I never did care for bear meat. I applaud your dear grandmother for taking you to the games.....that was a nice way to get you to not only love baseball but also to cushion you on how to handle losing later in life. In fact, you reminded me of my trip to Wrigley to watch the White Sox last year........ Sitting in the row behind me was an entire family of Cubs fans dressed in their finest Cubbie Blue. Several of them were holding signs that said “Happy Birthday to Great Grandma: 80 years old and a Cub Fan For Life!” Looking down the row I saw a smiling, elderly lady who looked the part and the thought crossed my mind that when this wrinkled senior citizen was born eight decades ago the Cubs had already not won the World Series for 22 years! A tip of the cap to YiaYia for at least making a baseball fan out of you.
SUBJECT: Opening Weekend & Get Your Yia Yias Out Date: 4/7/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Congratulations on edging those vaunted Cleveland Indians 2 games to 1. One weekend down, and you’re already creating room for error via the Kansas City Royals. See, that captures the insecurity of the typical Sox fan so well. “Boy, those Royals always give us fits...The Chicago papers always give more column space to the Cubs... The umps are out to get us...” Blah blah blah. You’re above .500 after the first weekend, enjoy it. I mean it. Give no thought to the fact that in three games, your vaunted pitching staff surrendered 20 runs. I’m sure that doesn’t bode poorly for the season. As you say, you got all those RBIs and slugging from your heroes...and you needed every last one because your pitchers threw the ball like Ozzie Guillen speaks English. And while that game winning hit by Pittsburgh that traveled less distance than a South Sider ventures from Bridgeport, I have to say it’s a bit less embarrassing than enduring the type of triple play you guys fell victim to. Coming into this season, there was certainly a big difference between hopes for our teams. What this weekend told me was that my low expectations will be met and your high expectations are already in serious trouble. Can you spell W-I-L-L O-H-M-A-N? - I love Mike Quade’s personality but thought he did a horrific job in the last game against Pittsburgh. Why wasn’t the infield in on that last dribbler? That’s not a hindsight observation...I was screaming at the TV. - We go above .500 with 2 nice wins against an admittedly weak Arizona team with 2 great pitching performances out of Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner only to learn that they BOTH go on the Disabled List for 15 games with arm trouble. - We get some timely hitting from Carlos Pena and he gets hurt. - 3 home runs in the last 3 games from Soriano and then he butchers 2 outfield plays that are the difference in a Ryan Dempster loss ( and the next time I hear him or any pitcher say that they threw and felt great, but they just made a couple of mistakes, I’ll burn my Mark Prior doll in effigy ) that leaves us back at .500.
SUBJECT: Sox Fans vs. Cubs Fans, Chapter 1 Date: 4/14/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Good morning: As we speak, the Sox are 6-3 to start the young season, best start in several years yet we have given away two ball games that could have been victories. The Cubs are 4-5 and have pretty much been what the prognosticators predicted..... a .500 ball club that will vacillate wildly from night to night. Your comment that I “captured the insecurity of the typical Sox fan so well” struck me in a spot that I felt this would be a good time to begin discussing the fundamental, primal differences between the fans of our two favorite clubs. Bill Veeck, who worked for the Cubs with his father for many years (he IS old enough to have planted the ivy, unlike yourself) and later owed the White Sox stated in his book Veeck as in Wreck: “The Cub and White Sox rooters break along social and economic and geographical lines. The Cub fan comes from the suburbs and from out of town. He will come to a Sunday game, preferably after an early morning round of golf, to relax. To the White Sox rooter there is nothing casual or relaxing about baseball. Wake him up in the middle of the night, ask him who he is and he will say “I am a carpenter and a White Sox fan.” While some things have changed since Mr. Veeck wrote these words (most notably many Sox fans also now live in the suburbs and are not strictly blue collar), the essence of his wisdom has NOT changed. Your ballpark is an ivy covered shrine where a cocktail of people from blue haired ladies & gents to “girls gone wild” with their latest beau go to worship and, while they “love their Cubbies” they would be hard pressed to name six players on the team....unless they have a cute face or wear their baseball pants tight. Many of them wouldn’t know a sacrifice bunt from a suicide squeeze. The majority of Sox fans are quite invested in the GAME....and their team. I am constantly teased by Cub fans that I know more about the Cubs than most Cub fans do..... That’s because most Sox fans are BASEBALL fans also and they know their stuff.
Those, my friend, are indeed Cubbie Occurences.
As far as insecurity goes, it runs deep. Let’s take another look at more of Mr. Veecks’ comments: “The White Sox had long ago tested the loyalty of their rooters; the weak and the faint of heart had fallen by the wayside and only the strong, the dedicated and the masochistic remained.....If there is any justice in this world, to be a White Sox fan freed a man from any other sort of penance.”
I will take some solace in your club blowing a 4 run lead late to the Royals and needing 12 innings the next day to salvage a split, and to see that Adam Dunn is a defensive upgrade from the right side of your outfield. I will also center my hope for a good road week to come (Milwaukee and Houston over the next several games) and the fact that Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin, our bullpen and (when healthy ) young starters will keep the season interesting, if not above .500.
THIS is what you call “insecurity” and we call “dedication”.... at the time those words were written the White Sox had yet to appear in the 1959 World Series, let alone win it all in 2005. I assure that most Sox fans were convinced that SOMETHING would go wrong in October 2005 with 3 games won and 2 out in the ninth. But when it didn’t go wrong and the final out was recorded, a calming sense of both euphoric joy and deep, satisfying relief set in.
Good luck in your home opener, and I hope Sox security knows where the Ligue family is.
No one will ever be able to take that away....and it was much sweeter that we did it BEFORE the Cubs and all their Tribune money could. In the meantime, we’re up two runs in the eighth but the opposing leadoff man just got on base, so I am going to back to biting my nails now.......wouldn’t have it any other way.
You just cuddle up to those Cubbies, it’ll be all right. The ivy will turn green any day now and life will be beautiful. SUBJECT: Sox Fans vs. Cubs Fans, Chapter 1 Date: 5/6/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Welcome back from a well-deserved Florida vacation. I’m sure all the sun and fun you soaked in with the grandkids in Orlando was a welcome respite from the swirl of activity that is your usual life here in the ‘oft frozen ‘burbs of the Second City. So, as your friend, and self-proclaimed chair of the Welcome-Home committee I’ve decided to bring you up to speed on how your team fared while you were gone. I want you to know that ONLY because of our friendship; I will put aside the usual enmity and rancor when thinking of the Sox and give you an objective, dispassionate description of that past week or so. As you may recall, when you were boarding the airplane, the Sox had just won 2 in a row over the hated Yankees. Looked like your team was beginning to play the way everyone expected them to, the bats were a little more responsive, the pitching was quite good. Maybe they were gearing up for that season-turning streak like they did a year ago. Then, your plane took off. The Sox, however, did not. They lost 3-1 to the Bombers...a nice effort, a close game. An acceptable loss even, leaving the next game an important one. Take a series from the Yankees, confidence grows going in to play a very average team in Baltimore. So about that next game, well, turns out Ozzie’s Boys kept it close until the game started and the Yanks hammered them 12-3. But ya have to figure giving up double digits is going to happen every so often. I mean, the Sox have such a great staff it wouldn’t happen again for quite some time, and by quite some time I mean about 24 hours as Baltimore beat your boys 10-4. OK, so that was 3 losses in a row, but Tom, I mean its Baltimore for Pete’s sake. They were bound to turn it around the next, oh wait, they didn’t. They lost Game 2 of the series 6-2. But those mighty Sox, Dunn, Konerko, Quentin, that veritable Murderer’s Row with the young phenom Gordon Beckham, Buehrle, Jackson, Jake Peavey ( RIP ), and closer extraordinaire Chris Sale were not about to lose 3 in a row to the Orioles and 5 in a row in all! Or were they? You can put it in the grave...YES! Baltimore wins 6-4. The good news (and when it comes to the Sox, as you know, I always look on the bright side) is that made twice in the same week they scored 4 runs! Impressive… What was that payroll again? Hey, chin up. The next game they actually scored 6 times and...won! That made 11 wins... not 9, not 10, but 11 entire victories for the season. Ya gotta start somewhere, right? Well, perhaps not. See Tom, and you’re not going to believe this, the Twins (who are not the Twins of old, not the old fully-powered Sox nemesis with the atrocious ballpark) the sub .500 struggling Twins were next on the schedule. Perfect opponent to give the club an emotional lift. So get this, Francisco Liriano is pitching for the Twins. Yeah, the same Liriano who never...not once...not ever has pitched a complete 9 inning game in his major 12
league career, throws...are you ready Tom? Are you sitting down? Throws a complete game no-frickin-hitter!!! Maybe the best part of the game were the late innings when he was tiring ( uncharted territory for the young man after all ) and the Sox apparently thought that you were only allowed to swing at the first pitch. A breathtaking exhibition of a well coached team. So the Sox have a team meeting before the next game, the second of the two game set with the Twinkies, and the results well, perhaps there’s a delayed reaction. See, the Boys in Black managed to lose again, 3-2. The good news (again, nothing but the bright side from this guy) is that just a couple of wins by your team and they will no longer have the worst record in baseball. Houston and San Diego are both at a .387 winning percentage, and the Sox are now 11-21 for a .344 average. (Maybe to cope, you can pretend that’s what the team’s batting average is.) I don’t want to beat a dead horse, kick a team when its down, or count any non-hatched chickens, so I won’t share with you Beckham’s batting average or Dunn’s numbers. But I will tell you this: I have it on good authority that the Sox are in the process of switching their catchphrase for the season. The ad campaign that started “ALL IN,” is now going to be “ALL DONE.” Welcome back! SUBJECT: CUBS SOX I knew this was coming…… Date: 5/11/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Ooooooooooooh, I knew this was coming. It certainly has been an unusual time for me, the rhythm of the Sox home schedule coupled with my travel schedule put me in the most alien position of not seeing a game in person for almost a month. Like most good Sox fans, I followed my team by TV, radio and Blackberry as I traveled...... and died a slow death over the past few weeks. You see, my friend, when we play like this the pain is if someone has stuck a needle in our eye....it’s not a shrug and a “I-kind-ofexpected-this” defeatist slumber like my Cub fans counterparts. As the Sox got off to their WORST APRIL IN TEAM HISTORY we Sox fans have been angry, disappointed, frustrated, amazed, shocked, depressed and just plain pissed off. You forgot to mention this was the fourth year in a row we started poorly....and then we suffer the ultimate frustration: a winning season with 86-90 victories and a tee time in October. There are a few things that make us feel better though: 1) We know that our owner and our GM are angrier and more frustrated than we are. We know they are trying to win every year. Can you say the same about your club? 2) We know from winning it all a mere six years ago that 1-2 changes can ignite a team that is solid on paper and not performing up to par....and that our GM lies awake nights seeking those missing pieces. 3) We know this year that the Tigers & Twins are also struggling..... and no one believes at this point the Indians or the Royals are serious contenders for the division. 13
4) We know that it’s only a matter of time before we at least have a better record than the Cubs, because as one local sportswriter titled his article this past week: “Cubs have just enough talent to lose” So yes, the pain is deep right now.....but we’ll fix it. Our ownership knows if we don’t fix it ticket sales will suffer quickly, unlike the lemmings of the north side who show up like the postal service: through rain, through sleet, through dead of night...through losing, through choking, through dubious player signings (see Soriano, Bradley, etc.), through manager meltdowns insulting their fans (see Elia), through player meltdowns insulting their fans (see Zambrano, Bradley, Silva), through year after year after decade after decade of losing the Cub fan will show up to the beautiful confines of Wrigley Field. Not enough for me. I want an ownership like we have....too pissed off to sleep if we lose that night. I have a surprise for you later this week, but you have to wait. Just like you have since 1908, back when two fans like us had to communicate by carrier pigeon.
Chapter Two: Incognito at Wrigley SUBJECT: Incognito at Wrigley Date: 5/13/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. And now for your surprise....... In the spirit of dispassionate research (and a chance to see a sure fire Hall of Famer in Albert Puljos) I took a friend up on his offer to join him at Wrigley last night for a Cubs/Cardinals game. What better way to make some keen observations on the phenomena known as the Cubs fan when I do not have to be emotionally wrapped up in the ballgame..... besides, I could always keep track of the real baseball game on the west coast via my new Droid (ok, I admit it, MLB game day has me hooked.....) Whenever going to see my team at your park I do not hesitate to wear White Sox on every piece of visible clothing, but it has always bothered me when people wear their team “colors” to a neutral game.....besides, I wanted to blend in...so no Cardinal red either. I chose a beat up old Chicago Blackhawks hat and clothing with no baseball motif whatsoever. I was just another baseball fan getting old waiting for the Cubs to do anything worthwhile, so I fit right in. First, we parked at Lane Tech High School and took a bus to the game. I met up with my group and there before me was a one of my friend’s guests..... dressed in an MLB Cub warm up jacket (the one with the HUGE “Cubs” logo on the left breast and a red visor hat that had a toupee of Cubbie blue hair sticking up out of the top. I knew immediately this was going to be a very different and interesting evening with the Simpsons posing as Cub fans. Holy Cow! What fun...instead of parking right next to the ball park in a well lit, paved lot with attendants I got to ride a smelly bus through city traffic while the guy standing in front me (all in Cubbie blue of course) proudly displayed his ass to my face for the mile-plus drive. I did get into the spirit of being undercover while being surrounded by that nauseating blue, so it served a purpose to prepare me for what was coming. Stepping off the bus the first sight I see is a tall man in his thirties walking in the opposite direction wearing his battered Cubbie blue t-shirt that said “Anybody Can Have a Bad Century”. I must admit THAT is something you don’t see on the other side of town......I guess if you’re born to cheer for this team self deprecation is certainly in order. Everywhere I looked outside the ball park there were people drinking, taking pictures of themselves and their friends in front of the park, drinking, crossing the street regardless of the buses that almost ran them over, drinking......and drinking. That block has more bars than Bourbon Street, but I imagine that a few hearty shots before heading into to see the team with the longest losing streak in the history of the game might be a good idea...especially if you’ve doomed yourself to do that on a regular basis by declaring yourself a fan. A smaller percentage were actually even going into the park with the first inning coming up in 10 minutes.
Your new ownership has ruined the classic front facade of the park with huge pictures of the current team.....it is now impossible to even attempt to appreciate the near century-old 15
architecture because everywhere you look a 30 foot tall picture of Carlos Zambrano looking mad as he throws a baseball is plastered on the outer wall. Sure hope he got a called strike, because if that pitch gets hit that sonofabitch might come right down off the picture and beat the hell out of a few hundred fans.......especially any dressed in water cooler orange. After having my bag checked I went through the turnstile and into the sea of blue and red.....yes, there were lots of Cardinal fans there proudly displaying their colors too. Hey, maybe things will get interesting before this night is through...a volatile mixture of alcohol and 80/20 fan base. Nice! We arrived later than we wanted to due to traffic and the bus, so we decided to forego the first pitch in person (when in Rome...) and have a bite to eat in the Sheffield Grill down in the right field corner of the park. We enjoyed a nice brisket sandwich while the Cardinals and the Cubs both went 1-2-3 in the first. I enjoyed the old black and white pictures of Wrigley on the walls of the little cavern....I got a kick out of thinking that the Cubs had already gone 22 years without winning the big one when that antiquated black and white shot of an odd looking half completed (as we know it today) Wrigley field hosted a game in 1930. How quaint. By the way, the picture quality on the flat screen TVs resembled something you might have seen in 1930, though they were in color. For all their money we were treated to fuzzy flat screen images complete with some picture snow. Must have been what it looked like in the early days of color TV. I wondered if it was technical incompetence or part of the motif. I kept looking for an aluminum wrapped antenna I could adjust, but there was none to be seen. OK, sandwich devoured and lemonade in hand we went up the stairs and into the lion’s den.....er, I mean cathedral.....er, I mean ball park. Gee, it’s dark in here, these lights don’t get very bright do they? As we walked from the right field corner to our seats behind home plate (they were great seats I will say) I tried to take it all in. First thing I noticed is that most of the ushers appear to be senior citizens who must have run out of money paying for tickets and are now working at the park hoping to still be alive (and there) if they ever win anything. They should be labeled the “Medicaid Crew”....but they were very nice, polite and helpful even if many of the ladies did have silver blue hair. Next thing I noticed is that it seemed that nearly everyone who looked at least 21 years old seemed to have a beer in their hands....or was in the process of buying one. I thought the Sox had the reputation for being the outdoor beer garden.....guess what? You’ve taken over. Congrats, the honor is all yours. I was taken aback by the large number of groups gathered right in the aisles to chat and talk while the game was going on....and nobody broke them up. I assume that must be the standard modus operandi since most of the games are not worth watching anyway. Lastly, as we headed down the aisle to our prime location it dawned on me how few youngsters I saw there....but I guess it’s not pretty (or appropriate) to see your parents dressed up like blue clowns with rhinestone Cubbies on their hats and getting sloshed. Four rows in front of us was the lowest aisle.... and in that first row of seats in the second section was a classic group of current Cubbie fans: seven girls and one guy in a row, all with tight Cubs shirts on and working very hard on their buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. They must 16
have spent a weeks’ pay with the beer vendor. They spent most of the game with at least one of them standing in the aisle, back to the game and talking to each other. Dozens of pictures from their camera phones (tounges hanging out and strange hand signals obligatory of course...) Amazingly, it appeared no one sitting right behind them ever once asked them to sit down! If that happened at our park they would have been escorted out by the fourth inning.....you see we actually watch the game! It seemed to me that this was again apparently the way many of the exuberant fans “watched” a game at the inebriated confines...... Back to the game.... the Cardinals scored a run in the top of the third. Then it started to get very strange..... deep, dark black clouds began swirling over the left field side roof, then over the entire ball park. I have lived in this area my entire life and truly this was one of the oddest, ugliest swarm of storm clouds I had ever seen.....it looked like something out of the Wizard of Oz. I knew we weren’t in Kansas but I feared we may be in for a show of a different sort. I calmly leaned over and said to my friend that I figured the baseball gods had just discovered we were there (he’s a Sox fan too) and that they were angry. We might be witnessing baseball Armageddon! No sooner did that thought pass my lips when a huge bolt of lightning light up the sky, with the veins crackling across miles of murky deep charcoal storm clouds. We got up out of our seats just as the first whip of sideways rain began pelting the ball park. We dashed for shelter before the gods struck us down for being where we didn’t belong. Fortunately my imagination had gotten the better of me and it was just a first class thunderstorm that did not have our names written all over it as the target. Even more fortunately we were in the most protected section of the ball park and we only had to climb a few rows to get out of the downpour. It was quite a sight watching the grounds crew struggle with that (yuck) Cubbie blue tarp as the winds whipped it into a frenzy. On the other hand, that sight was far more entertaining than any baseball the Cubs have played in years, so we enjoyed the show. For the next 10 minutes we were treated to a spectacular show of blustering, sideways rain coursing its way through the upper windows of the west side of the park, pelting the poor fans in the upper reserved sections....and then it dawned on me.....those lemmings up there were getting what THEY deserved for filling that damn ball park for all these years with nothing but frustration to show for it! Yeah, that’s the ticket! Filtering my thoughts back to reality, the rain was over in 20 minutes and soon the crew was preparing to remove the tarp, even as the multiple cracks of lightning continued to crack across the sky over the lake. There were lots of “ooooohs” and “ahhhhhs” from the crowd with each display. There were more “wows” uttered in that park since the great collapse of 2003. Quite entertaining! Eventually we had to settle for the game restarting..... and the Cubs were up to bat. The Cardinals decided to trot their original starting pitcher out there and suddenly the Cubs looked like they were taking batting practice. While they scored six runs I discovered a new phenomenon of the Cub fan. They MUST stand every time the team gets a hit! I sat in my seat trying to see the game, yet every single time the Cubs got a hit the four people in front of me bolted out of their 14th row chairs (along with almost everyone else in front of them) to see the play “better”. For the sake of Pete, this is the most intimate ball park on earth (perhaps save Fenway) and we had the best damn seats in the house....yet 17
over and over and over the faithful stood for every ball that cleared the infield. Of course, I may be discounting the fact that the Cubs score six runs in a inning so infrequently that this may look like the second coming of Three Finger Brown to these masses, but I really found it ridiculous. That team got more standing ovations for a six run inning than Cal Ripken did on his retirement tour....no small wonder players who never win anything say they love to play here! The interim manager for the ailing Tony La Russa (who was spared from watching this game) sent his long reliever into the game and then basically waived from the dugout as the score climbed to 10-1 Cubs. My friend wondered out loud who at his office had the Cubs in the 13 run pool. His friend with the blue toupee was ready to dance in the aisle.... but there would have been no room since the party people had taken those over innings ago. Puljos drove in two runs in the 7th to make it 10-4, but the Cubs got out of the inning with no further damage and it became apparent there would be no Cubbie occurrence tonight. Between the rain and the score, for one night the Cubs faithful had sent the red shirts home early....though I think over the last century they have had the better of the deal. We got out of there shortly before I had to listen to a drunken orgy of fans attempting to hit the high notes of “Go Cubs go”. My friend who provided the tickets commented that it was the first time in over 35 years he had gone to Wrigley to see anyone but the Sox play the Cubs....and that it was kind of like going to an out of town game between two teams you didn’t root for. I agreed on both counts, recalling it was much like when I visited Fenway and saw the Red Sox battle the Rockies.......only the fans at Fenway are highly invested in the game, not the closest beer vendor. As we headed for the bus, I pondered if our presence had somehow provided the Cubs with a subliminal message to perform tonight so we would not have the satisfaction of seeing them lose. That thought continued the next day when they got smoked by the Cardinals 9-1 and (of course) lost the series. A final thought for my friends as we took one last look at the “friendly confines” before boarding the bus: I wondered out loud if the old ball yard knew it had been 66 years since it had worn even worn the buntings of a world series on its sleeves.....and they lost that one too. I got to stand on the bus on the way back so some lucky fan got a great view of my posterior on the return trip. A fitting end to an interesting evening? Nope, there was one more memory for this adventure..... as we exited the bus and began walking to our cars, a Cub fan in his late 20s or early 30s hollered out at the top of his lungs “To the BARS to the BARS to the BARS BARS BARS!” He must have been one of those #%@!ing morons who live at only the ballpark and the bars Mr. Elia referred to in his famous speech. I resisted the temptation to interview him and continued heading to my car. Climbing back into my vehicle, I lunged to turn on the radio and hear the play by play of the Sox game on the west coast. Got back on the road just in time to hear them rally for two in the ninth and two in the tenth to win 6-4 and win the series on the road vs. the Angels. I figured that was my just reward from those same baseball gods who had to have appreciated what I just experienced. Life was good again. Sox win! 18
Chapter Three: A Glimmer of Hope vs. The Slippery Slope SUBJECT: A Glimmer of Hope vs. The Slippery Slope Date: 5/18/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Well, here we are in mid-May and neither of our teams are over .500 and both seem to searching for identity. The Sox have no excuse to be in this untenable position, as “on paper” they were one of the most improved teams in the major leagues, and everyone from Jerry Reinsdorf down to the peanut vendors felt they were properly positioned to dominate the division and take a run at another World Series.....instead we who spend a lot of time occupying U.S. Cellular Field have been subjected to more early season torture as we gyrated our way through a bullpen identity crisis (which has been solved) and a total absence of hitting (which has not been solved). It has been like attending an outdoor funeral at the ball park. The faithful who wear black are pissed off, especially in light of the poor starts in 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007 which skewed those seasons. Nothing is more irritating than to see the “warm weather” teams like the Angels and Oakland come in and kick your ass in your own ball park while our bats go colder than the NNE that chills the ball yard. A bystander who was not familiar with our plight might think we have lineup of guys named “Moose”, “Klu”, and “Youk” because the stands are filled with a sound that ends in “ooooooooooo”......but it does not take long to figure out the first syllable is a “B”. This tends to happen when your team built for the postseason is 10 games under .500 and 10 games out of first 6 weeks into the season....but hey, it’s early. Bull.......loney. Booooooooooooooo! There has been a glimmer of hope this past week though. The Sox usually head out to their west coast trip 0-2 before they even get on the plane. I would not even want to look at their record on the west side of the fault line over the past 3-5 years, I would probably throw up. Despite this historical footnote, we broke with history and went 6-3 on the trip, winning ALL THREE SERIES. This brought us up to “only” 7 games under .500 as we come home to face the first place Texas Rangers, the first place Cleveland Indians (could that be right?) and then our first taste of inter-league play vs. the Dodgers. The crowds will remain mediocre in number, skeptical and ready to boooooooooo...because we hold our team accountable. The sun don’t shine if the team is not winning. On your side of town the Cubbies have proved their new manager correct when he said that “they were not ready to beat the Reds yet”.....or the Cardinals, or just about anybody else. Their tepid home stand that saw them lose both series to their division rivals plus split a pair with the Giants (the series loss was spared when Sunday’s game was rained out) demonstrated that they are (so far) exactly as predicted: a team that will struggle to stay .500 and certainly a team that will do nothing to change the “century -plus” of futility. Mr. Quade is walking a fine line right now.... he is pleasing the press with his willingness to 19
publicly criticize his teams execution and effort, but he running the risk of alienating some players with perhaps too much public scrutiny. It’s OK to let the press know you’re aware the team is not performing up to your standards, but many of the specifics should be addressed one on one behind closed doors.
istic to repeat the facts of that failure, so I will not, but I will say that because Cub fans who were alive and aware of that year forever had their world-views shaped by the events of that summer. From that year forward, all of us simply lived by the assumption that if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.
Your fans? Many are observing that attendance is down compared to recent years, some crowd have even been under 30,000. While this may come as a shock to observers, it is perhaps the first sign that the fans are tired of admiring the ivy instead of good baseball. This scares me, since Cubs ownership may actually have to start TRYING to win if the fans start getting grumpy and fail to pony up their hard earned dough for the right to genuflect in the cathedral...... damn, if the fans start learning to speak with their wallets and their presence (or lack thereof) your chances of winning might improve. That would be bad for those who hope to still be counting the years since that last World Series.......
This philosophy was reinforced over the ensuing decades, not just by the Cubs but by a host of Chicago teams. The Blackhawks have a 2-0 lead, halfway through the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Finals. AT HOME. At the old Chicago Stadium which exuded the greatest home-ice advantage in all of hockey. Bobby Hull wouldn’t hit a crossbar in an effort to salt the game away and make it 3-0, would he? Tony Esposito, the best goalie in the league, would never give up a goal from center ice that would cut the Hawk lead in half, right? And there’s no way Henri Richard would walk around Keith Magnuson like he wasn’t there to score Montreal’s game winning goal. Surely when the Hawks got to the Finals in a rematch with the Canadiens 2 years later, they would be so laden with the revenge instinct that they would win their first Cup since 1961, right?
It is a slippery slope you stand on. I can tell you from experience that expecting to win can be a burden. Instead of shrugging off (and half expecting) losing, it morphs into something that affects your overall mood, appetite and sleep patterns. The only thing the Sox are “All In” right now is a funk. Until they come out of it, we’ll measure our crowds in whether or not we break 20,000, not 30,000....and our owners know it. Damn, I hope I haven’t given away the secret. In the meantime, be sure to pick up the latest Cubs book: Great Moments in Cubs History. It’s 12 pages and an easy read. SUBJECT: A Glimmer of Hope vs. The Slippery Slope Date: 5/19/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. .500? What is this .500 you speak of? I’ve heard tales that some teams actually win more than they lose, but the concept, frankly is foreign to me. Sort of like Fukudome hitting in May or Dunn hitting lefties. The wonderful thing about being a Cub fan...and this is something normal people and Sox fans do not grasp...is that the last century-plus has allowed us to develop a “funny-bad” callous. I did not know there was a name for it and must credit WSCR’s Dan Bernstein for crystalizing it ( although he was not just applying it to the Cubs when he coined the phrase), but I realized back in the 70’s that this is what allowed me to survive all the losing. Let me define the Funny-Bad Callous, which going forward shall be referred to as FBC. The source of FBC can be traced back to September of 1969. In the years prior (I mean the years before 1969, not the era defined by the pitcher with monstrous calves, a mean curve ball, and a permanent home on the Disabled List), very few people invested life and death emotion into the team. They had a fairly rabid following, but attendance was not robust, as evidenced by Jack Brickhouse continually imploring people to stop on in to Wrigley if they were in the neighborhood well into the 4th inning of his broadcasts. The Cubs had their share of stars and a burgeoning farm system. The one year it all seemed to come together was the fabled and oft-romanticized year of 1969. It is masoch20
A year later, the Bulls and Stormin’ Norman are en route to the NBA Finals about to upset the mighty Lakers and Kareem and after playing a great game and in control of the clock they wouldn’t allow a sloppy turnover to reverse their fortunes, right? DePaul’s stolen inbound pass, Leon Durham’s 5-hole and a blown 2-0 lead to San Diego. Jerry Dybzinski. Jack Clark in 1989, the Bulls and Detroit. I had gotten to the point that when the Bulls won the title in 1991 I refused to celebrate until 24 hours after the game to make sure it really happened. Back to 1969. The shock, the horror, the hurt from that year was so deep and scarring that Cub fans did what all humans do when they find themselves in circumstances of extreme abuse or stress. They disassociate. You can look it up. It’s a real psychological phenomenon. Some people develop separate personalities; others develop a “happy place” to go to. FBC is more of the latter. We Cub fans have learned to cope with our lot in life (and using that phrase is revealing...we’ve accepted that this is indeed our fated, pre-destined, lot in life) by both compartmentalization and gallows humor. The compartmentalization is how and why we can still out-draw the Sox when the Sox are better on paper, in the standings, and by all measurables. Sox fans (jealously) disparage the attendees at Wrigley as distracted sun worshippers as if that somehow negates the shame and embarrassment Soxites should feel at being showed up at the turnstiles on a regular basis. (What Sox fans never understand is that, whenever they draw more than 20,000, the balance above that figure are by very definition fair weather fans. You can’t have it both ways.) Cub attendance is, in fact, a tribute to the strength of the Cub fan and the adaptability of the human spirit. For the Cub fan, it is enough to be “in the moment.” The very meaning and beauty of baseball is its pace; that it is a sport that is totally in the here and now, played in a park, on sunny days with cloudless skies, a distraction from the harsh realities of the outside world that cannot intrude during the 2-3 hours of play. The possibility of the home team winning without all that pressure of “must wins” or meaningful games allows the Cub fan to simply enjoy a wonderful afternoon at the ballpark, as it was originally meant to be. When the scoreboard, as it invariably does, turns against us, FBC kicks in to save the day. If the team is funny-bad ( say, oh, I don’t know, you’ve lost 2 of your 5 starting pitchers to 21
the DL, your newly acquired ace experiences a touch of tendonitis leaving you 2 legitimate healthy starting big league pitchers, one of whom is coming off the worst start to a season of his career...and the manager risks injuring the other legitimate starter by using him to pinch-hit in a game that they already have a 6 run lead...see, funny-bad ) you would have to be psychotic ( or a member of the Ligue family ) to waste heart-felt disappointment in your team. When your team is funny-bad, you’re in on the joke, you’re not the joke itself. See? So win or lose, it’s a great day at the ballpark. For you Sox fans, it’s all about the stress. It’s the story of the guy who enjoyed getting hit in the head with a hammer. When asked why he enjoyed it so, he responded, “Because it feels so good when it stops.” For diehard Sox fans, winning isn’t joyful, it’s a relief. Until tomorrow, when you play THE MOST IMPORTANT GAME OF THE YEAR. And then comes the next day when you play a game EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE LAST!!! If you lose, the hammer keeps pounding away. If you win, the hammer stops...for 24 hours. I can tell you when I fully embraced my FBC. In the ‘89 playoffs. That was a truly likeable Cub team. A deep team, a talented team, a team that worked hard and was as entertaining as Don Zimmer, the baseball lifer who was pulling the strings that year without any seeming rhyme or reason. I allowed myself to get totally invested in that team, allowed myself to think that this was, finally, the year. As I watched Jack Clark destroy my team, I literally began suffering migraine headaches. Blinding, paralyzing migraine headaches while squinting to watch the Giants neuter Mark Grace et.al. From that point on, I was able to cope solely because I got the joke. That’s a true story.
As I am sure you are aware, your beloved Cubbies are visiting Boston for the first time since 1918 (or in other words it had only been 10 years since the Cubs had won anything the last time they were there....), so naturally the front page of our major paper ignore the Sox sweeping Cleveland in their two game set, ignore the Bulls in the conference finals and focus on this “classic” match up. In keeping with the spirit of what’s REALLY important to Cubs fans, the Daily Herald splashed their front page with this headline: “COMPARING CATHERDRALS” How perfect. In the long run, the paper understood that the attraction to the Cub fan would be the comparison of ball parks, not comparisons of the teams and their accomplishments. Since the paper did such a great job of glossing over the obvious, I offer some supplementary comparisons: World Series Appearances since World War II Boston: (6)
1946, 1967, 1975, 1986, 2004, 2007
World Championships since World War II Boston: (2)
Still waiting since 1908
I was at the Bartman game. I felt the electricity in Wrigley that night, heard the chants of “5 More Outs.” I was across the field on the first base side and never thought the foul ball was catchable so I didn’t understand the fuss. What I did understand was that our shortstop screwed up a double play ball and that Dusty Baker had left Mark Prior (he of the aforementioned calves and DL) in too long. And as we made our way out of Wrigley that night, while many around me were suffering from migraines, depression, and everything from stress-induced shingles to projectile diarrhea, I had not allowed myself to be fooled into shedding my FBC.
Playoff appearances since divisional play introduced:
The Curse of the Bambino (trading Babe Ruth), finally broken in 2004
That wonderful protection didn’t crack the next day when Kerry Wood hit a home run, nor did it when Lou Piniella arrived.
The Curse of the Goat, still bleating as of 2011
So Tom, I can tell you this with confidence. I can handle the Mike Quade regime standing on my head. Thanks for your book suggestion, but I just picked up an equally light-weight book. I’ll give it to you when I’m done in 3 minutes. It’s called “Greg Walker’s Keys to Clutch Hitting.” Adam Dunn wrote the forward. SUBJECT: Comparing Cathedrals Date: 5/22/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Funny how life often imitates sarcasm...... 22
Boston: (13) Cubs: (5)
Six eastern division titles and seven wild card appearances Three central division titles and two wild cards
Curse and status:
Most memorable games/events: Boston: 2004 winning the World Series and breaking their curse
1986 Bill Buckner boots a ground ball in the World Series
1975 Carlton Fisk’s home run, Game 6 of World Series
967 Carl Yastrzemski wins triple crown, Red Sox go to World Series
1960 Ted Williams his home run in final at bat
2003, the Bartman Game. The “Cubbie Occurance” for the ages
1988 Cubs discover electricity and install lights, turn them on 8-8-88 (game gets rained out) 23
1984, NL playoffs Ball goes through Leon Durham’s legs and the Cubs blow a 2-0 series lead
1969, the “Amazin Mets” and their black cat come from 9 1/2 games behind on August 19 to steal the National League pennant from the Bleacher Bums. Ballpark ambiance: Boston: Green monster, Pesky Pole, Manual scoreboard, Yawkey Way, Citgo Sign Cubs:
Green ivy on walls, Rooftop seats, Manual scoreboard, Murphy’s Bleachers Bar, Harry Caray’s, Cubby Bear Lounge, Casey Moran’s Bar, John Barley Corn’s Bar, Metro Chicago Bar, Merkle’s Bar & Grille, Mullen’s Bar & Grill, Moe’s Cantina, Goose Island Brewery, Dark Horse Tap & Grill, Irish Oak Pub, Vines on Clark Spots Bar, Wild Hare Bar, Risque Cafe Beer Bar, Smart Bar, “BEER” (surprise, it’s a bar!), Red Ivy Sports Bar, Rebel Bar & Grill.........
OK, I am in the spirit of things now....... hic! PLAY BALL!!!! SUBJECT: Comparing Cathedrals Date: 5/23/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. In keeping with the alliteration of “Comparing Cathedrals,” allow me to retort with “Sorting Sox.” No, not the mundane task of simply folding Sox (an activity also known as the White Flag trade...), but what could be more natural than looking to differentiate between two franchises named after clothing designed to protect ones lowest extremities. (And by “lowest extremities,” I mean “feet,” not the South Side of Chicago.) Also, in the name of historical accuracy and clarification, I hasten to remind you that the White Sox became called the White Sox so as not to be confused with the once-named White Stockings...a 19th century team that would evolve into the Chicago Cubs. So your team’s lack of originality (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and near-obsession with being compared to all things on the North Side has deep roots indeed. Also, please give credit where it is due; my Cubbies have made the Divisional Playoffs 6 times (1 more than the former White Stockings ) not 5. ‘84, ‘89, ‘98, ‘03, ‘07, ‘08. The Sox would have had 6 of course, but their owner made sure that didn’t happen in ‘94 when he engineered a lockout that ended a season that looked like it was going to see your team compete for it all. Just sayin.’ World Series Appearances Since World War II: Boston 6 Sox 2 World Championships Since World War II: Boston 2 Sox 1 Playoff Appearances Since Divisional Play Introduced: 24
Boston 13 Sox 5
Curse and Status: Boston: Curse of the Bambino broken in 2004 Chicago: Curse of the Hawk: Still bleating in 2011 Most Memorable Games/Events: Boston: Sox:
2007 Winning World Series to prove 2004 wasn’t a fluke 2004 winning the World Series and breaking their curse 1986 Bill Buckner boots a ground ball in the World Series 1975 Carlton Fisk’s home run, Game 6 of World Series 1967 Carl Yastrzemski wins triple crown, Red Sox go to World Series 1960 Ted Williams his home run in final at bat 2011 Ozzie swears at reporters, says he’ll quit soon. 2010 Ozzie swears at reporters, says he’ll quit soon. 2009 Ozzie swears at reporters, says he’ll quit soon. 2008 Ozzie swears at reporters, says he’ll quit soon. Lose to TB in Playoffs. 2007 Ozzie swears at reporters, says he’ll quit soon 2006 Ozzie Swears at reporters, says he’ll quit soon. 2005 World Series 1994 White Sox owner nearly kills baseball 1991 Sox begin play at US Cellular. Ah! Nothing says baseball like coporate branding.
1991 Comiskey Park (otherwise known as the National Museum of the Smell of Urine) is demolished.
1989 Reinsdorf threatens to move the team to St. Petersburg, FL. Chet Coppock hosts a “Save the Sox” rally to which 500 people show up. (Not kidding here, this really happened. )
1983 Carlton Fisk rejuvinates the franchise, Reinsdorf and Einhorn foist
Sportsvision on the people, following the sound judgment that you should make people pay for something they used to get free. Both men regret they didn’t think of applying this principle to drinking water.
1977 South Side hit men Zisk and Gamble capture the city’s imagination. Gamble’s Afro negotiates separate contract.
1982 Harry Caray jumps ship for the green green ivy on the North Side. 1981 Bill Veeck sells the franchise. Reinsdorf and Einhorn say they will restore a family atmosphere to the park and achieve same by adjusting prices so that families can attend; the Rockefeller family, the Daley family, the Pritzker family,
1975 Bill Veeck buys the Sox, threatens to bring entertaining baseball to the South Side. Attendance doubles, both men like what Veeck has done.
1973 Dick Allen perfects the art of smoking and stroking monstrous home runs at the same time.
1970 All the Sox players’ knees fall off.
1969 Sox install Astro Turf at Comiskey.
1965 Al Lopez resigns as manager. He had died two years previous.
1959 Sox make the World Series. Lose.
1951 Minnie Minoso and the Go-Go Sox pretty much go-go nowhere.
1931 Charles Comiskey dies. Flying monkeys are freed and Dorothy is allowed to go back to Kansas.
1919 WHITE SOX THROW THE WORLD SERIES. (My favorite!)
Ballpark ambiance: Boston: Green monster, Pesky Pole, Manual scoreboard, Yawkey Way, Citgo Sign Sox: Green seats that were formerly blue. All that concrete. The bar outside the park. The barbed wire and machine gun turrets that dot the neigborhood. And the lesson here? When we want to compare things, best to compare apples to apples, ashes to ashes, and Sox to Sox.
SUBJECT: Shouting at the TV and the 54 game curse Date: 5/29/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Good morning: I love well played baseball. I can appreciate a great pitcher’s duel, a clutch hit, a big strikeout on a great pitch, a terrific play in the field. If the game is played well and we happen to lose that day, during the course of the regular season I can handle that. In fact, I truly enjoyed the dual no hitter between the Cubs and the Sox last year and I even handled losing that game (it was easier knowing we had dominated the season series at that point.....) However.... When the Sox are playing badly at the ball park, I grumble a lot to myself. My friends who sit around me know that when lethargic hitting, sloppy defense or hanging sliders are the rule of the day I will start telling all around me “I am getting grumpy”.....this is the warning shot across the bow that a steady stream of R-rated criticism of the team I live and die with is about to come spewing from my lips. Occasionally I will simply stand up and shout some well-timed advice to a pitcher or hitter with phrase like: “It’s the white thing shaped like a house, try and throw over it!”; or “It’s called a curveball, they throw those up here in the majors!”; or “Gee, they can get a fly ball when they need one dammit, will someone take notes?” Last year when both April and May were dismal I lost it late in a game. Sitting in the club level Kenny Williams is sometimes visible in the press box and private suite area, and that night he was standing not far from our box behind some glass....but the window was open. As the Sox failed to execute any semblance of situational hitting coupled with a costly error that led to a blown lead late in the game, I blew like an over-stoked steam engine. Before I could stop myself, I started shouting out at the top of my lungs “Hey Kenny, are you watching this crap? Are you watching?? Hey Kenny, we paid to come watch this garbage, are you watching this...????” My compatriots in the box turned and stared at me in disbelief. No one was in a good mood as yet another game slipped away, but calling out the GM with a voice that probably carried out to left field was not something anyone expected. One of my friends just went “wow, I can’t believe you did that....”.....I just stood there shaking my head and said “I can’t take this anymore, if they don’t start playing better baseball I’d rather go watch a train wreck!” At home, my family knows that just about anything may come out of my mouth at any given moment, so it is a fairly regular occurrence that I watch the game alone in my man cave while the rest of them watch it upstairs. If the game is going well the grand kids will wander down first, sit in my lap and watch an inning or two. If the Sox are ahead my wife will come down for awhile and we may even wind up watching the end of the game together. If the Sox are stumbling (which they have been doing all April and May AGAIN this season), the door to the basement remains closed and I have a tendency to shout at the TV as if I was there when particularly bad things happen. In the past two days the Sox wasted another excellent pitching performance by Buehrle and lost 4-2 then followed that
up by coming from behind three times before forgetting how to hit after the 9th inning to fall 9-8 in 14 innings. As it is the end of May and we’re struggling badly I have found myself shouting at Adam Dunn (who is the poster child for our early lack of success, Alex Rios (who seems to be allergic to hitting with runners on base or hitting over .200 so far this year) and anyone else who fails to grasp the concept of moving the runner over, hitting a fly ball when needed or shortening up your stroke to make contact to give yourself a chance with two strikes. I guess I over did it Friday night, as the door to the basement opened and my son said “Hey Dad, tone it down, the kids were sleeping but your play by play just woke them up.” After he shut the door I took a deep breath and went back to grumbling..... after all, I guess it was nothing to be proud of to wake the kids up from the basement when the there are two closed doors and two floors between us. Besides, they don’t need to learn some of those words quite yet. Maybe I need to give Kenny a call on the phone and ask him if he’s watching........... Now, to the 54 game curse White Sox 2009 were picked by many to win about 90 games and have a good shot at the AL Central. Their record after 54 games was 25-29, 8 games out of first. They finished 79-83, third place and 7/12 out. White Sox 2010 added Juan Pierre to lead off, Carlos Quentin was healthy and the pitching staff looked to be loaded. They were picked by many to win the AL Central. Their record after 54 games was 23-31, 8 1/2 games out of first. They surged in June but ran out of gas and finished with an 88-74 record, 6 games behind the Twins, who dominated the Sox 5-13 straight up. They were also 8-10 vs the 3rd place Tigers and 9-9 vs the last place Indians. Gee, that’s a dismal 22-32 in 54 games in your own division. White Sox 2011 added left handed slugger Adam Dunn, resigned Paul Konerko and AJ Pierszynski, and appeared to fill in all the missing pieces. The fans were excited, the press was excited, the front office was excited....... Record after 54 games: 24-30, 8 1/2 games out of first. I know our ownership and front office wants to win, I know no one expected this. This April & May malaise is starting become a tradition that is about as much fun as chewing glass. Excuse me, but it’s time it’s time to get ready for church so we can get home in time to have a bite to eat and watch the game.... hopefully the family can join me.
Chapter Four: I Don’t Want to Hear It! (or OUCH, that one hurt….) SUBJECT: I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT! Date: 6/6/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Just when it looked like your beloved South Siders were in the midst of turning the corner of their season, Detroit happened. You go and win 3 in a row against the Red Sox, on the road no less, and return home to play the team in the standings you need to catch to help erase the dismal start to your season. You win the first game (giving you your first 4 game winning streak of the season) only to lose the last two games to put you a game farther behind the Tigers than when the series started. Let me start with some asides. Aside 1: The Cubs longest win streak of the year to-date is 2. Aside 2: The Cubs also played recently at Fenway and if they had won the two games they lost, they would have swept the Red Sox too! Aside 3: As pathetic as the Cubs have been this year, they had a chance to make up some ground on St. Louis and Cincinnati this weekend. Cincinnati’s playing poorly (I will find a way to make Dusty responsible for this) and St. Louis has some holes. Let me be clear about one thing when I say “Make up some ground.” That term, translated into normal non-Cub English, actually means “Make the year a pinch less embarrassing.” Cub fans gave up hope for any legitimate contention approximately April 30. (Which actually makes this a pretty good year. Most years it seems we concede around the 15th. Taxes are due, Cubs are eliminated.) So when the Cubs go into St. Louis against their arch-rivals (and given the disparity between the historical successes of the two clubs, this rivalry exists only because of the geographic proximity of the franchises), another benefit of Funny Bad Callous is that you can reduce the year to, “But we beat the Cardinals.” It’s the same principle used by Bears fans. If the team sucks but they beat the Packers, somehow the suck quotient is rendered moot. As you may have heard, the Cubs were in St. Louis this weekend. As you may have heard, the Cubs were swept by St. Louis this weekend. But it’s not just the sweep that makes our reliance on the FBC such a vital part of our survival mode, it’s how we got swept. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT whine to me about Miguel Cabrera’s home run with 2 out in the top of the ninth that cost you your game Saturday. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT whine to me about Jake Peavey going from perfect game to perfect goat during your loss Sunday. Here’s what happened in Old St. Loo. We were never in Game 1, as Ryan Dempster reverted to his April pitching form and we were down 4-0 before the Cardinals fans were settled in their seats. Game 2 was special. Bottom of the 12th, 2 outs, man on third, Pujols (yes, Albert Pujols, Albert Pujols Cubs killer, Albert Pujols with more walk off winners than anyone in Cardinal history, Albert Pujols the best hitter in the game even if his numbers are down this year) is up. Jeff Samardja is on the mound. The very same Jeff Samardja who has enjoyed some moderate success this year pitching mop up who is a better football player than pitcher, who should not be confused with Mariano Rivera, or for that matter Geraldo Rivera (although the latter might have a better heater). Up after Pujols is the slumping and less than 100% Lance Berkman. Up after Berkman is the pitcher’s spot and LaRussa does not have much bench left. So Mike Quade (yes, Mike
Quade aka Cub killer, Mike Quade who is destined to witness more Cardinal walk off winners than anyone in history, Mike Quade who apparently likes to watch the best hitter in the game prove that he is) opts to let Samardja pitch to Pujols. With two bases open. With two bases that mean nothing open. Can you guess what happened? Samardja made a good pitch. It was low and outside. Now if you were in Vegas, and someone put a gun to your head and said you have to bet all of your assets on the outcome of Jeff Samardja’s best against Albert Pujols best, on whom would you entrust your life’s savings? Pujols swings, Samardja walks off. It gets worse. And I just had a brainstorm. Forget the ‘wait ‘til next year’ slogan, the “Cubbie Occurances,” and all of that. The true one-size-fits-all motto for the Cubs should be, “It Gets Worse.” I’ll make a fortune selling those shirts. So Sunday, it got worse. Carols Zambrano, who has total mastery over the Cardinals in St. Louis and who really has pitched quite well this year takes a 2-1 lead into the end of his day’s work. Carlos Marmol, truly an extraordinary talent, is on the mound in the ninth. First batter gets a hit. A little worrisome as Marmol’s 6 run collapse from a week before is still fresh in our memories. Next batter, overmatched strike out. One out. Next batter, overmatched strike out. Two outs. Cubs fans who made the trip to St. Louis are on their feet, feeling giddy at being seconds away from winning the final game of the series and salvaging some good feelings for the long trip home. The next batter? Ryan Theriot. Former Cub Ryan Theriot. Former Cub Ryan Theriot who angered Cub Nation by reacting to his trade to the Cardinals by saying he was finally on the right side of the Cub-Cardinal rivalry. Now Tom I guarantee you that if this situation was reversed, if Theriot were still in Cubbie blue, man-on, bottom of the ninth against the Cardinals closer with two out, he would have done what he usually did with the Cubs, bounce the ball softly to the second baseman who would flip to first, game over. But Theriot now wears Cardinals red and plays for a real manager, and also has an 18 game hitting streak going. Which is why he hit a double and sent the game to extra innings. FBC. Now guess who’s coming to bat for the Cardinals in the bottom of the 10th. Surely even the apparently clueless Mr. Quade wouldn’t tempt fate a second time by pitching to Sir Albert. Especially since the legendary Rodrigo Lopez (another shrewd veteran in-season pick-up by Jim Hendry) is on the mound. Now here’s the twist. Lopez, who it should be noted, is no damn good, happens to have a mastery over Pujols. Pujols is 0-12 lifetime against him. 0-12! As you are aware, baseball is a game of percentages, and when I see 0-12, my Cubbie training tells me the law of averages is now totally, 100% on Pujols’ side. There is no way this never-was on the mound is going to get this guy out. Not 13 times in a row. For Christ’s sake, go no further than the fact that we’re dealing with the number 13!!! We saw 30
what happened when a black cat crossed Santo’s path in 1969. Do not tempt the fates. Add to that Mike Quade could not possibly allow Albert Pujols (see parenthetical description of Mr. Pujols above in case you’ve forgotten just how this guy destroys the Cubs like it’s his only job) to beat him two days in a row. Issue the walk, let him take a pitch on his backside. Something. BUT YOU DO NOT LET ALBERT PUJOLS BEAT YOU. Unless you’re Mike Quade with Rodrigo Lopez on the mound. So Tom, let me repeat. I know your club had a disappointing weekend. I recognize the way you guys lost was tough. BUT I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT. OK, I’m breathing deeply. FBC. FBC. FBC. SUBJECT: FBC? I think you mean FYF…. Date: 6/6/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Hi: Really enjoyed your last correspondence. I felt like I had lent you my hammer and you were trying to pretend it didn’t hurt. Nice try. Before we go any further, I must comment on your Red Sox vs. White Sox comparison. Please allow me to point out one important item you glossed over: 2005 White Sox win the World Series 2005 White Sox win the World Series oh, by the way Cubs fans...... the 2005 White Sox won the World Series I know this to be fact.....I was there! It was WONDERFUL........ We won 99 games during the regular season. We won opening day 1-0, we won the first game after the All-Star break in Cleveland 1-0 (I was there for that one too....) and we won the clinching game of the World Series......1-0. Perfect symmetry. Instead of chanting “5 more outs” and then sitting in our seats stunned and desperate, we swept the defending champion RED SOX in the first series, then we took 3-4 from the Angles in the ALCS to win the AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP and go to the WORLD SERIES. During the ALCS our starting pitchers accomplished something that had not been done in decades and may never be done again..... all 4 starting pitchers in the rotation pitched a complete game victory. Try and stay with me on that one, the concepts of “complete game” and “victory” are foreign to Cubs fans.....I think in your dialect the phrases are “complete breakdown” and “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” We opened at home. Tailgate parties around the park seemed to start the night before, the entire neighborhood was decorated with White Sox flags and signs. The resurrected battle song of the 50s “Let’s Go- Go- Go White Sox........” seemed to blare from every car. It was a contagious mixture of baseball fans, spirited Bridgeport natives and the band wagon jumpers who always follow the party. 31
Speaking of parties, I joined some friends for a tailgate party about 4 hours before game time and enjoyed a steak dinner and the greatest pre-game atmosphere I had ever experienced. Masses of fans combed the parking lot looking for any spare tickets, mostly in vain. I could have gotten $1,000 each for each our seats and there was no way I would part with them. There wasn’t a Cubs jersey or shirt to be seen anywhere....I swear it was baseball heaven. About an hour before game time a single dark threatening cloud blew in from the west. As it approached the ball park, it looked like we would get that brief pre-game shower the weatherman had predicted. As it blew over the stadium area, we took cover under the tailgate canvas roof as some small hail fell with the rain. Without hesitation, one member of our group stepped out into the rain & hail and shouted “HELL HAS FROZEN OVER...... AND THE WHITE SOX ARE IN THE WORLD SERIES!!” A moment I will never forget! An hour before game time we went in to admire the bunting and the artwork painted on the grass: “WORLD SERIES 2005”......I was not dreaming, we were in! The Sox won that night.....Joe Crede hit a home run in the bottom of the fourth and an insurance run thanks to a triple by Scott Podsednik scoring A.J. Pierzynski in the eight sewed things up. Not only had I been to my first World Series game, but the Sox had a 1-0 lead in the series. I walked on air back to the car...... Oh yeah, back to your weekend vs. the Cardinals. Your team provided me some solace during a disappointing weekend vs. the Tigers. While Sox fans had to deal with another dip in the roller coaster ride of 2011, we were entertained by the headlines in the newspapers in reference to the Cubs recent woes: “Cubs fall flat on their faces” “Another day, another loss for the Cubs” “No Cubs, No!” “More of the same from Cubs” “Debt structure from Cubs sale will prevent quick fixes” “Zambrano says ‘We’re Embarrassed’ after loss” “Pujols hits second walk off in as many Days” Knowing that you were AT the Bartman game means you were there when the smell of victory (and a World Series) was in the air. I doubt anyone was taking FBC pills that day when the perennial goats of baseball were poised to be the first team from Chicago to make it to a World Series since 1959 (the White Sox, of course...). But the goat had the last laugh. By the way, did you know that my wife Lynne works for a member of the Sianis family.....her great uncle is the guy who brought the goat to Wrigley and then cursed the team! Really, that is just too sweet to be true but truth it is...... Knowing that since the Chicago baseball fans have suffered and waited and suffered and waited for so long made it all the sweeter when our boys went all the way just a few short years ago. Nothing can ever take that championship away......nor can any Cubs fan of the post- World War two era ever be able to say “We got there first”...... so FBC finally kicks in 32
and the downtrodden try to pretend winning does not really matter. Your concept of FBC is duly noted.......but your last email gives it away that you really do own your own hammer, and it hurts just as much. You’ve just created an alternate reality that somehow convinces you that the ivy and sunshine and the rooftops can make it all go away. No wonder Sox fans have such disdain for the lemmings of the north side. Timothy Leary should be your official fan club president. Let me suggest that your concept of “FBC” is in reality “FYF”......”Fooling Yourself Forever” Sorry, knowing my ownership is angrier than I am about our under- performing thus far in 2011 is just the place I want to stake my loyalty. Hearing Mr. Ricketts tell the press that “everything will be just fine” makes me want to puke.....and the press responds in kind (see headlines listed above). In the meantime I am sure you are finished with your last book, Great Moments in Cubs History, so I thought you might be interested in picking up another of my favorites: “Let’s Go Cubs! It’s OK to Fail… Teach your child the tradition of Losing.” SUBJECT: FBC? I think you mean FYF…. Date: 6/6/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. A couple of quick corrections and notations before we move to another subject: 1. I always assumed one (if the only) thing that differentiated you from other Sox fans is your ability to read. If you go back to “Comparing Cathedrals” you will please note that your World Series Championship was noted twice in the appropriate categories. 2. Thanks very much for the walk down memory lane. Your recounting of 2005 was so good I will read it twice. The second time will be tonight right before bed when I intend to use it to treat my insomnia. 3. As to the FBC pills during the Bartman game, you are incorrect. You could tell the long-time fans from the band-wagoners that night, because the long time fans entered Wrigley that night, got to their seats, held their collective breath, were not surprised one bit by the late inning goings-on, and were able to make their way home alive because of the strength of their FBCs. Only those young or foolish enough not to have learned the history lesson that are the Chicago Cubs allowed themselves the indulgence of actually believing something good was truly going to happen. 4. FBC doesn’t mean we try to pretend winning doesn’t matter. FBC allows us to savor the joy of any given positive moment no matter how large or small. It doesn’t mean we don’t want our team to win, it doesn’t mean we don’t think winning is important. It just helps allow us to remain loyal. Your interpretation of this is more revealing of the inner workings of a Sox fan than I’m sure you intended, and goes a long way towards explaining why there are so many more true Cubs fans than there are true Sox fans. There is a difference between being a lemming and being loyal, but I’m sure such subtlety is lost to your Sox brethren who, you should excuse the pun, choose to see everything in the same black and white subtleties of the colors of 33
their team. 5. As to our new owner, again I must correct your assumption. True Cub fans were outraged that Ricketts (who smells too much like a McCaskey to me) so easily excused the particular reek of this year’s team to injuries. We have a GM who has not done the job and a manager who I’m convinced is the second coming of Bruce Kim. His team is amongst the league leaders in hitting, but the worst with runners in scoring position and dead last in fielding, both stats that go to focus, preparation, and accountability which are the purview of the manager. (And by the way, you missed the quote that proves my point about Quade that outrages me and others of my ilk. When asked about Carlos Z’s latest anti-teammate tirade, Quade said,”Lets see how the players handle it.”) Perhaps he’s not aware that THAT’S WHAT HE GETS PAID FOR. There’s not a player in the Sox clubhouse who would have thrown a teammate under the bus like that. The unfortunate distraction of the wrongness of his criticizing Marmol was that he was dead-on when he said the team was embarrassing and playing like a AAA team. The latter will get lost in the equation, and shouldn’t. The one thing; the ONLY thing I envy about the South Side is that they have caring, active management and a manager who has control of the emotional temperature of his clubhouse. Actually, he has more control over his clubhouse than he has of himself or his Twittering children. 6. I did finish reading the Greg Walker book on clutch hitting, so tomorrow I’ll tackle an even more concise leaflet. “Hawk Harrelson; the GM Years.” SUBJECT: Behind the 8 ball, Marmolade and “Leader” Z Date: 6/8/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Good morning! Woke up this morning to my grandson high-fiving me for a White Sox winner last night over last seasons’ Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez. Home runs by Konerko and Quentin with a triple by ageless Omar Vizquel yielded five runs off a pitcher who has dominated the league most of the season. (Though he also suffers from lack of run support, he and John Danks could start a group therapy called “Pitchers Without Runs to Work With”.) It really was a nice night at the ball park, 21,000+ baseball fans focused on the game (not the neighborhood bars). While cheering the suddenly surging White Sox (6-2 last 8 games), the night got a little better as I kept my eye on the scoreboard. As we watched the scores of the Twins-Indians and Tigers-Rangers, we also of course kept our eyes on the Cubs-Reds game since baseball life is always a little better when the Cubs are struggling..... As we protected our 5-1 lead, I could not help but notice that the Reds were up 4-1 but had the bases loaded. Miguel Cairo was hitting and the Cubs had inserted the mighty John Grabow on the pitcher’s mound. As the Sox Phil Humber continued to shut down the Mariners, the little lights that represent base runners cleared and the score jumped from 4-1 to 8-1. Grrrrrrand salami for Cairo! Yet another FBC moment for the season of 2011, Cubs fans! 34
Your losing streak has now hit eight, and from Cincinnati you leave for Philadelphia. I am sure that Mr. Halladay, Mr. Lee and Mr. Hammels are just what the doctor ordered for the Cubs hitters. Should be a fun weekend. I must take some time for rebuttal to some of your recent comments (surprise!!), so here goes........ * You are correct in criticizing Quade for shrugging off Zambrano’s recent comments. Good leaders don’t punch their teammates, destroy Gatorade coolers and attend anger management classes. Good leaders do not throw their teammates under the bus and make “Marmolade” of them in the press....good leaders handle it behind closed doors and take a more tempered approach in public, especially when on camera or with a microphone in front of them. The fact that Quade apparently has let that go as “Z being Z” does not bode well for his long term leadership plan. * You stated I must not be able to read because you “mentioned” the White Sox winning the World Series twice in your dissertation. Personally, I think WINNING THE WORLD SERIES is a big deal and deserved more than just “mention” when speaking in terms of Chicago baseball. I think we could agree on one thing..... when the RED Sox won their first world series in 87 years the earth shook, souls rose from their graves and the press immortalized the team across the nation. When the WHTE Sox won their first world series in 88 years it was “cute” and “significant” that they broke their curse after the RED SOX did it last year. Nauseating but typical east coast bias. I must suggest that both “Sox” victories were met with the same relief, joy and sense of shaking loose the shackles....it was no less intense in either town. It’s also a fair bet that if the Cubs ever actually won the whole ball of wax that the national press would bleed Cubbie blue for so long even you would get sick of reading about it. Sorry, I took offense to “won the world series” vs. WON THE WORLD SERIES * Finally, no team needs to “validate” winning a World Series. NO ONE. Any team who gets that done deserves the kudos. To be the last team standing after 45 days of spring training, 162 regular season games and three playoffs series has no one to answer to about “validation”. Well, I’ve got to get some work done before heading out to the park and hoping to “use my broom” tonight.....just like the Reds fans are planning to do in Cincy this afternoon. Don’t forget......(Losing)......”It’s a Way of Life” in “Year Two” of the Ricketts regime............. SUBJECT: Behind the 8 ball, Marmolade and “Leader” Z Date: 6/10/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. It’s a cool and damp Friday here in Chi-town, and by this time of day I’m sure you’re nestled into your seat at Comiskey...oops, Cellular Field. The newly managered Oakland A’s are the opponent and I bet the less-than-inspiring opponent coupled with the weather means attendance will be down tonight. I’m sure that’s the only reason you’ll have plenty of room to stretch your legs. 35
As to the status of the Boys in Blue, it does seem that the primary area of discussion on the North side of town is whether we should hope for a total, 100-loss collapse to remove any excuse for the continuation of the Hendry-Kenney regime, or if we should gamely soldier on Ricketts-like and hope a restoration to health will allow us to creep back into competitive respectability. Before you say it, allow me: competitive respectability is the literal title for being damned by low expectations.
much the game has changed over the years.
By now you know that despite your expectation of our being swept out of Cincy, based largely on 2 pitches that turned into the club’s first back-to-back homers of the season, we managed to salvage not only the last game of the series, but we opened the Philadelphia series with a dramatic come-from-behind win over the Phillies in extras. Carlos M was terrific, Sean Marshall had that enormous curve working, Starlin Castro was 2 for 4 and all was right with the world.
Let’s take a glimpse at some of the comments made during this “peek at the past” of the Cubs (all quotes are as close as I can recall, please forgive me that I was not prepared to record the episode:
Over on your side of town I excuse the Sergio Santos blown save that cost you the sweep of the Mighty Mariners. Not sure how many of them you’ve had this year, stopped counting when it was 6 in your first 12 games. Just imagine if those games had gone the other way. Well, spilt milk and all that. I saw that Adam Done hit a homer last night. For your team’s sake I hope that signals the start of a return to his career numbers. If that happens, it’s entirely possible that your club could go on a real run. And honestly, they don’t need a miraculous run like they had last year, THAT ENDED UP MEANING NOTHING. (The bold caps are inserted here because you were hurt and offended that I had not highlighted a Sox accomplishment in my last email. Consider this my addressing that oversight with the sincerest apology I can muster.) If they pick up just a game in the standings every couple of weeks, they’ll be poised for a serious run in September. And Dunn getting hot could mean that. I assume I do not have to tell you that the team that Dunn has destroyed on a yearly basis over the years is coming to Comiskey, uh, Cellular in a couple of weeks. If he doesn’t crush the ball during that series, it may very well not happen and it will be time to dust off the white flags the Sox put to such good use in the 90’s. Off to perch myself in front of the TV, will be flipping between the Cubs vs Phillies and the Bruins vs Canucks. Cubs have Big Z going, and it’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals. I’m betting that Z has more hits tonight (base hits/hit water coolers/hit teammates, take your choice) than the Sedin twins. SUBJECT: Baseball’s Golden Age…and for Cub fans there has been no change! Date: 5/25/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Good morning: Last night the Sox (who eventually defeated the defending AL champs Texas 8-6) were forced into a rain delay in the 4th inning. During the delay, Comcast was showing episodes of a terrific series called “Baseball’s Golden Age”. Don’t know if you have ever seen them, they take old 8mm home movies (many of them color from a black and white age) and they edit them together to spin yarns about major league baseball from our childhood and earlier......great stuff, especially since the films were mostly taken by the players themselves (and fans who were close to the action). They provide a real glimpse into how 36
Quite to my surprise, one of the features last night during the break happened to be about the Cubs....and Wrigley Field! I was fascinated to see how they treated the teams’ history. You’ve got to see it, you may gain some comfort in knowing that your lonely march to mediocrity is paved with thousands of souls who have gone before you.
* “Wrigley Field is the shrine to which the fans are attracted. It is the only ballpark I have been in where my cares seem to disappear while I am inside, no intrusions about the office or daily life pop into my head when I am there. It’s the only ball park I can say that about. It’s not about winning or losing when you go there.” Comment: It had better not be about winning or losing or you would need a special “suicide prevention section” somewhere in the ball park..... * “I once attended a game there where the Cubs lost something like 11-1 and afterward there were fans dancing outside the ballpark.....what kind of fans are these????” Comment: My question exactly, I am hoping to have an answer by the time we follow through with this project..... * “We never had good teams so we focused on the good players. We wanted to know everything about them and we took them in as family. We needed to know what they liked to eat, what they liked to do when the game was over...it kept us from dwelling on all the losing.” Comment: Please meet my family: Mr. & Mrs. Perennial Losers * “It seems almost impossible that a professional franchise could go over 100 years without winning a title. Some blame curses and other intangibles. I see it as bad management and bad ball players.” Comment: Oh, come on, you guys had Paul Popovich, Todd Hundley, Corey Patterson, Ronny Cedeno, Kevin Gregg, Brant Brown......oh, I see what you mean....... * “I am a Cub fan because both of my grandmothers were Cub fans and they took me when I was a little boy to Ladies Day games because they got a discount. It was ingrained into me that I would be a Cub fan before I could do anything about it.” Comment: Our Ladies Day was free admission and you even got to see an occasional victory....perhaps you could have pointed Yia-Yia south if you would have known better..... Wow.....this really has been going on for a long, long time. I have to wonder if the White Sox fans of the dismal 1930s and 1940s felt the same way. I do know this, though......during the 1950s the White Sox got a taste of winning and the fan base has been demanding ever since. Perhaps this is the essence of the differences between us: 37
* Cub fans have little expectation of their team. Sox fans dislike the fact that anyone could cheer for a team of “loveable losers”. The continued losing just builds the case. * Sox fans, while being more demanding of quality baseball, have more second place finishes than just about anyone.....our history could often be summarized in the 1964 season where the White Sox won 98 games and had no post-season thanks to (of course) the Yankees who won 99. Therefore, the absence of regular World Series appearances and titles gives the Cub fan a sense of security that, despite won-lost records (in 1964 the Cubs were a dismal 76-86), in the end we’re on the same list of also-rans. Wow, I think I just felt the earth move....... SUBJECT: More FBC, Oney and 22,144 Date: 6/13/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. I will borrow the sub-title of an old Chicago sportswriter and call this email, “Spraying to all Fields.” 1. Because it is in my nature to be generous, I’ve decided to adapt and lend FBC to you. Instead of “Callous,” the “C” will denote “Closer.” After Mr. Santos imploded for you, depriving your beloved “Men in Black” of a chance for a sweep, the following game saw Jesse Crain step into a ninth inning role. How many closers does that make for the Sox this year? I think it would be easier to list the guys who haven’t closed for them. Although in looking at the number of blown saves (6 in your first 12 games...just to remind you), the list of your closers may be identical to the list of guys who have failed to close for you. There is no doubt your team, playing with the benefit of a ridiculously weak division, is climbing back into contention (while being 3 games under .500), imagine where you’d have been if you had a real closer. It’s no stretch to assume you’d be 6 games better, above .500, and in first place. So feel free to slap the FBC label on your next blown save. You might have been able to use it yesterday had you not benefitted from the awful call in the 9th inning at first base. I wonder what Hawk Harrelson said about that? As he acts like he gets a commission for every time he blames an umpire for the Sox woes, that one must have been a shock to his system. 2. Oney Guillen. I fully recognize that he is an, um, adult, and that Ozzie has no control over his actions in general and his fingers in particular, but I think this kid has a screw loose. To spread the word that the Sox organization prevented the other brother from getting drafted is about as childish as it gets. Someone should get this kid a job and keep him out of the news. 3. A beautiful Sunday afternoon in Chicago. Temperature hovering around 70, cloudless sky. Not many outsized activities going on in town. Cubs out of town, Bulls done, no big downtown festivals or lakefront extravaganzas. The Sox are putting together a successful run that has them back in contention, and 22,144 people show up to the ballpark to see them yesterday. So let me turn the attendance question around and aim it where it should be. Instead of demeaning Cubs fans for going to games and supporting their team through thick 38
and thin, please tell me exactly why Sox attendance remains so pitiful. They are 6th to last in attendance as I write this, and while the weather’s been bad and they’ve been on the road a lot, that still does not explain 22, 144. When Sox backers whine about the perceived (and it is only perceived, as time after time it’s been factually proven that the column space devoted to the Cubs and Sox in print media is almost exactly the same) lack of coverage the Sox get or the preferential treatment the Cubs get, they should look inward. You’ve written that you appreciate the fact that you have management who want to win as much as you do, and I get that and I’m envious of that. But I bet there are more than a few days when that same management wishes their fans were as committed to their own team as they are. SUBJECT: No Need for FBC, Oney and 22,144 and a few other tidbits Date: 6/14/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Well, you beat me to the punch commenting on the past week, you caught me rather tired on a Sunday evening after going to the game and basking in what has been rare sunshine and warmth so far this season. Before I comment on your spray (a well placed phrase for your diatribe), I must point out that it did not get past me that you deftly failed to mention the Cubs stellar 2-8 road trip which came on the heels of their equally impressive 3-6 home stand vs. three sub-.500 clubs whose collective rosters could barely field a contending team. I am certain that 5-14 has all of you true blue Cubbie fans humming your FBC mantra as you contemplate whether you should start rooting for the #1 draft pick instead of breaking the shackles of yet another losing season. Proof that the curse is far from put aside, I offer the following synopsis of the past few days..... * Kerry Wood has been unavailable because he’ got blisters on his fingers that won’t go away. His lack of availability probably cost the Cubs at least 2 games in their recent free fall since the “Marshall Plan” has failed to work out for Quaalude (oops, I mean Quade). Looks like he’s headed for the DL with the rest of the team. Tell him to play the end of “Helter Skelter”, it will be like group therapy. * Quaalude (hey, considering his style of management I think it fits) was hoping to add Reed Johnson to the lineup Monday as he is supposed to come off the DL but he got hit in the head with a pitch and his return was delayed. To borrow a phrase from Dizzy Dean, the head scan showed nothing. * The Sun-Times reported that the Cubs are the only team in major league baseball yet to win three in a row this year. Your own website has an article that is titled “Happy To Be Home, Cubs Go For Two In a Row” Congratulations! Really, I can’t make this stuff up.... * Alfonso Soriano may return soon, where, according to your web site, his return will spur an “All Star Push”, because he is in the top 15 in voting. Good luck with his vaulting the other 10 or 11 he needs to pass without pulling another hamstring. Is this all your writing staff has to push?? * I am wondering if the Cubs will announce that Sammy Sosa has been hired as an “injury 39
coach” and will conduct sneezing drills........ * If Mr. Hendry is reading the papers he must have called his lawyers to see if someone legally changed his first name to “Embattled”...... OK, that’s enough. Hitting a bull’s eye from three feet isn’t much of a challenge. On to rebuttal to your spray: 1) No FBC needed (or wanted) here. Yes, Friday was genuine pain. Yes, we have given the Oakland A’s the distinction of having three ninth inning comebacks this season...all at our expense. Yes, IF we had a slam the door closer we would be at least tied for first. Nevertheless, we are still 9-4 over the last 13 and have picked up 7 games on first place in less than 4 weeks. Ozzie showed some stones sticking with Santos Sunday and it paid off, though if rookie Brent Morel would have simply run over to tag third base there would have been less stress over an umpires call. Marmol (when he is on) is one of your few bright spots and he has four blown saves all by himself.....hey, if you had those four games back you would only be two games behind Pittsburgh in the loss column. Santos is going to be a very good closer when all is said and done. 2) Oney Guillen does not deserve my attention. I don’t care how old he is, Ozzie should just tell him to shut up and act like a man. It seems on this we may actually agree.....thought the Sun-Times seems awfully eager to print almost anything he Tweets. There are far more important things to deal with (like catching the Tigers) than to pay any attention to the meanderings of a childish mind. 3) Read the press clippings carefully. The Sox management understands their clientele base. When asked about their attendance so far this year, their response was “they had not deserved” the support of the masses yet with their shaky play. Your management and fans can’t grasp that one. The empty seats at Wrigley are mostly no shows, not unsold seats at this point, though it looks like the atmosphere could be changing. I fear the fans may wake up some day and force a winning team by speaking like we do, and then ownership would be more accountable and have to listen. That would be bad for Sox fans, as the Cubs could then actually become a threat to win something. Ssssssh, don’t tell anybody. Have another beer at Murphy’s and head over to the game. Gotta go, we’ll spray again soon........ SUBJECT: Do WHAT to the Goat? Date: 6/15/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. OK, I firmly believe in the need to stare down curses. Whistling in the dark that trading the Babe or conspiring to blow the World Series breeds curses that can last for decades, as we have all witnessed. Right now the Twins are unsuccessfully trying to stare the “curse of the Yankees” down, though it is just in its infancy. It takes a stiff upper lip and a strong mental approach to play for the team that overcomes the curse, as time and time again we see how past history can weigh on current performance. It’s one of the odd things in sport that makes it so compelling. 40
The Cubs, on the other hand have taken curse beating to a new level..... Ever since the Sianis family brought down the curse of the Goat in 1945 they have been unable to break it. Indeed, I assume many a Cubs fan must have thought it was really a goat in cat’s clothing that crossed their path in 1969. They have tried bringing a goat onto the field and giving him a box seat, they have tried blessing the dugout before the playoffs. No matter what the circumstance the goat exorcism has failed, as the team (and some its most famous members) have wound up wearing the goat horns......just ask Leo Durocher, Leon Durham, Lee Smith, Alex Gonzales.....gee, that list could go on forever. This morning, though, I find the Cubs have decided to display their disdain for the curse of the goat in a new and innovative way..... light blue t-shirts and with a drawing of a goat on the front crossed off with the international “no” symbol. Cute....until you look at the back of the shirt (which no newspaper can publish), since it says “Fu** the Goat”. This was a GREAT idea for a new promotion around the ballpark, I am sure families of all ages will be flocking (no pun intended) to the park to witness the new shirts. Perhaps they can even hold a “Fu** the Goat” night....wouldn’t that be FUN at the old ballpark? It will be interesting to see if the fans embrace this new shirt just in time to come to U.S. Cellular next week to play the White Sox. I think anyone wearing a goat head to taunt the opposition should be concerned....and bring condoms. Oh yeah, congrats on beating the Brewers two in a row. The headline in the Herald reads: “Now, Can They Get Three?” I feel another FBC moment coming for you soon. Baaaaa---eye SUBJECT: Do WHAT to the Goat? Date: 6/15/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Far be it from me to correct you, but as we are riding yet another scintillating 2 game winning streak against the hated Milwaukee Brewers (a 1-0 gem and the 5-4, extra-inning, come-from-behind thriller), I am brimming with confidence. The T-shirt to which you are referring does not say “Fu** the Goat.” It says “F**k the Goat. However, it does not have either the profane or bestial connotation which you attach to it. It’s simply a tribute to an old Greek custom, not to the curse put on the Cubs by an old Greek. You see, goat and lamb are two staples of the Greek diet. Many’s the time I spent a holiday watching my aunts and uncles helping to cook and carve a lamb. Add a little spice, a little rice on the side, dolmades, evgalemano soup, some home- made bread and....OOOPAAA! You have a feast fit for a Greek king. But no Greek meal is complete without some feta cheese, and quality feta cheese starts with goat milk. On the Greek family table, there is usually a plate with feta piled high in tempting white chunks that make the mouth water. Any time someone seated at the table expressed a desire for some extra feta, a relative would bark, “Go ahead. Don’t just look at it, fork the goat.” My understanding is that Ryan Dempster and his lovely family recently ate a sumptuous dinner at a renowned Greek establishment on Halsted, and as a token of their appreciation, the staff at said restaurant gave him a customized Cubs “F**k the Goat” t-shirt that simply honored both Chicago’s favorite ball club and a treasured Greek custom at the 41
same time. So you see it’s all in the perception. And I wish to point out that the preceding story was decidedly bulls**t. If you don’t know that last word really is, let me tell you the story of a bull who went to see a tailor. Seems he was going to a wedding and wanted to be fitted with pants, a vest, and a jacket. Yes Tom, he wanted his very own bullsuit. Good luck tonight against the Twinkies! SUBJECT: My Turn: I Don’t Want to Hear it! Date: 6/16/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. @ # !!! Twins just drive me %&#@/>> crazy.....0-3 this season, 5-16 last ***#%&$ twenty one +&%#@!! games. &*%$#@*&& triple-A lineup scores four &%$#*&& runs while Carl ^%$#^&& Pavano holds us to one # ! %^**** run while we hit into four %%&*#@! double plays AND we leave runners on second and third with nobody %$#*&!@ out in the top of the ninth and the ^&*%#$ meat of our order stepping to the %$#@!*& plate. Take your “FBC” and #***#@*&@!! I am TEEED OFF. I HATE THE TWINS MORE THAN THE CUBS!!!!!! Gardenhire must %$#@*** laugh when we come into town: “Time to get well boys, the White Sox are here....” There. I feel better now. At least the Tigers lost and we lost no ground. (Indians do NOT scare me at all). In the meantime, the goat shirts didn’t work as Big Z and the boys failed again to win three in a row. In addition to the L flag flying, your owner says he has “100% confidence” in Hendry and the path the club is taking. There. I feel even better now. Icing on the cake...... the despised Canucks first showed no heart by getting clobbered 4-0 in their own building by the original six team from Boston and then their fans showed no class by rioting and starting everything in sight on fire after the game. OK, I feel even better now....almost good enough to turn the TV back on tonight and see if we can beat those %^$###$%@** .................. SUBJECT: Pure Genius Date: 6/16/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. As to the not winning 3 games in a row deal, here’s the thing. If we just go 2-1 every three games we play the rest of the year, we don’t have to ever win 3 games in a row and we will win the division!!! ITS PURE GENIUS!!! That’s not my opinion, that’s a peek inside the head of Tom Ricketts, or as I prefer to call him, Baseball McCaskey. I can only hope that the 100% vote of confidence he gave Hendry is the dreaded pre-firing vote of confidence so common in sports, but based on what I’ve seen from Ricketts I can’t imagine that to be the case. 42
The Twins do certainly seem to own your Boys in Black. And you guys thought it was the Humpdome. Well, as you say, it could have been worse. Reading your latest email reminds me of the downside of being a contender and all the accompanying angst, the living and dying with every pitch. Its 9 in the morning this Thursday, the rain cleared out the air, it’s a beautiful, sunny day and the Cubs play this afternoon at Wrigley. It’ll be in the 70s, and if we win, we take the series from the Brewers. If we lose, the series ends at 2-2 but we still had a great day at the ballpark. Bless this wonderful FBC that, as an alternative to any reality-based hope for actual success, allows us to simply settle for reveling in the beauty of the ivy-covered walls, hearing the crack of the bat, and luxuriating in a day spent away from work. With Ricketts and Hendry at the command, that’s what we’ll be settling for a long time. And as a life-long Cub fan, I know a long time when I see one. As to the hockey, we certainly have that in common. Vancouver was an embarrassment on the ice (hair pulling, biting, hits from behind). Henrik Sedin guaranteed a victory in the game which a Tribune writer pointed out gave him exactly the same number of guarantees as goals in the series. I never thought I’d detest a goalie as thoroughly as I did Patrick Roy, but at least he could be respected for his bottom line ability to lift a team to a championship. Luongo should have his Goalie Union card yanked. His whining about Tim Thomas (the best revenge is success...MVP and a Cup...how you like me now!) was Mite level non-sense. I wanted to see Thomas win because he’s a great story and a credit to simply outworking people and not listening to naysayers, but like the NBA Finals I wasn’t so much rooting for the Bruins (nor was I rooting for the Mavericks ) but I was rooting against the Canucks (and the Heat ). So we finish up with the Brewers today and then the Yankees over the weekend. Tomorrow, before the Yankees series opener I’m going shopping to prepare for Monday. Out of the kindness of your heart, you’ve invited me to go to the first game of the Cubs-Sox series with you. That means I have to make stops at Body Armor ‘R Us, Gun World, and Camouflage Mart as well as pulling out my Rosetta Stone, “Learn to Speak South Side Manglish.” (For the uninitiated, Manglish is the peculiar sort of mangled English that is the preferred tongue of denizens who have the poor fortune of residing south of Madison Street in Chicago. No sentence is complete without the F bomb, the “th” sound is shortened to a “d,” and no words comprised of more than two syllables exist. SUBJECT: A survival guide for a first timer to U.S. Cellular Field Date: 6/20/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. (and from Tom A. back to Tom W.) From Tom A: Since there are so many points that need to be addressed from your last email, I will answer them in italics below: Since you have constantly berated the Bridgeport area, the south side and all that is US Cellular Field, I felt compelled to send you this combination “survival guide” and reality check.... I am taking you to the Sox vs.Cubs game Monday so we can enjoy a baseball game together live and in person. Should be an interesting evening. 1) Bridgeport is a clean, older middle class neighborhood which has been through its “down” period and has been a recipient of very nicely done re-gentrification. You will find a friendly mixture of Polish, Irish, German and Chinese people living peaceably, 43
mostly hanging out on their front porches watching the world go by. The portrait you’re painting makes me think I’m heading into a Norman Rockwell painting. I will be sure to be on high alert for exactly what you are describing, and I’m sure the fact that this area has one of the four highest crime rates in Chicago is just a statistical anomaly.
7) The large, paved expanses surrounding the ball park are NOT examples of urban blight and abandoned property.....they are PARKING LOTS.
2) My entire family lived there from 1909 through the 1990s and I still have a few relatives who have stakes there.
Oh! I always wondered what was behind those barbed-wire-topped walls with the gun turrets.
If they’re still living there, I would describe their stakes as high.
We can actually park thousands of cars RIGHT NEXT TO THE BALL PARK and they do not cost $40-50 a spot.
3) No has ever been shot at, beaten up or sent to the hospital while walking around or driving through. Not since Reisndorf put the National Guard on retainer. 4) You may be uncomfortable at the number of White Sox flags, posters and banners though. What makes me uncomfortable is that those are actually used as curtains. 5) The Ligue family does not live here, nor do they come to the ball park anymore. I think they are sitting in jail next to the Cubs fan who stole the hats off the opposing pitchers in the bull pen and who poured beer on an opposing outfielder as he tried to make a catch. Stupidity by reckless, stupid fans happens in every ball park, including your shrine.
It will be challenging for the Sox parking lot personnel tomorrow. They’re not used to actually seeing thousands of cars on game nights. We will not need to take a bus from a remote area over a mile away, I have something called a “season ticket holders parking pass”. I’ll show it to you. Are the Sox fans allowed to display them on their Rascals? IMPORTANT NOTE: The burning smell in the parking lot is from TAILGATERS, who will be cooking their pre-game meals. The imagination runs wild conjuring up the road kill Sox tailgaters view as haute cuisine. I’m sure it’s nice and soft though, so as not to jeopardize the stability of their tooth.
It is safe to say that the number of arrests or detainings over the last few decades on the South Side far outnumber the North Side. It’s been better at Cellular, but Comiskey was often a zoo without a keeper. Remember, I have yet to reference Disco Demolition Night. Will do so in good time.
Please do not embarrass me by calling the fire department or police and tell them there’s a riot with flames in front of the ballpark again.......
6) If the visitors hit a home run, do NOT throw the ball back onto the field as they do in your vineyard.
8) If we have time, we’ll go to Grandstand, the mecca for White Sox fans, 3000 square feet of almost everything White Sox.....they even have a few Cubs trinkets (kewpie dolls, I think...). They have been in business over 20 years catering to the White Sox loyal aficionados. You’ll LOVE the place......
Point of fact: where we are sitting, they do not hit home runs. Don’t worry, I’ll use this opportunity to help you understand the rules of the game. You WILL be ejected immediately, unlike the way your team ignores the MLB rule that nothing is to be thrown onto the field by fans...of course, your team has ignored most of the other things that have made for a major league experience.....like lights until 1988, Comiskey had lights before us, unfortunately they had very little worth seeing under those lights.clubhouses that are big enough for grown men (and are rat free). You spend too much time watching the Ozzie News Channel, batting cages that do not require a ride in a cart long enough to pay tolls, washrooms that do not include troughs (do they have those in the ladies room too??) I don’t know, perhaps you should ask the Big Skirt, and of course the most important part of any major league experience....WINNING. 44
For the record, the Cubs have a better all-time winning percentage than the Sox. Just sayin.’
Um, which team set off fire alarms when they won a pennant once? Hmmmm.
If they’re catering to loyal White Sox aficionados, they must have an UNBELIEVABLE amount of repeat customers. 9) We have several great places to eat and enjoy a meal before the game...... but very few BARS. We could go to Connie’s for delicious deep dish pizza and a free shuttle to the ball park, Maxwell Polish for a genuine Chicago style polish sausage, Cork & Kerry at the Park for a burger and a brew, Rocky’s sports bar & grille (OK, we have one that has “bar” in the name), Buffalo Rings & Things for great wings and a free shuttle to the ball park, Schaller’s Pump which has great home style cooking in a converted speakeasy complete with the old hidden door to slide downstairs and imbibe back when prohibition was in vogue....... OR we could go the classy Stadium Club right in the ball park, a first class tiered restaurant with large glass to view batting practice from right field that opens two hours before game time for season ticket holders/members, or the LG Skyline Club, a private section our seats are in that has a comfortable Skyline Club to enjoy a pre-game meal or the new Bacardi Club, a ter45
rific vibrant large new restaurant built right into the ball park and open to the public. You have named the same number of eating establishments we have within 400 yards of Wrigley. And we can walk to the ballpark before or after the game to enjoy them without fear of being beaten with a table leg. Oh yeah, and Chinatown is all of five minutes away. Great place to go on a sunny Saturday for a pre-game or post game feast. You see, we can come early and enjoy a meal and a cocktail without having to get smashed...since we actually watch the game once we go in. Like most people who attend games at Wrigley, we do pay attention to the games and without needing the crutch of a giant replay screen. 10) We will NOT leave early. No matter the score, we stay to the end. Perhaps you are confusing Cub fans with Dodger fans. You’ll have to tell your buddies at Murphy’s you’ll be a no show Monday, by the time we leave they will be face down on Waveland. I’ve never been to Murphy’s. And fans close to US Cellular who are face down have been put there against their will. (See earlier reference to beating by table leg.) 11) The big bright television in center field is called a giant “video board”.... we get to see replays of great plays during the game and get detailed information on the players as they come to the plate or are called to the mound to pitch. It’s a really neat invention, you’ll like it. See reference above. 12) There will be Cub fans, plenty of them. Hopefully they will behave or you may see a few rolling down the aisles in the upper deck late in the game. Not to play into the stereotype of the Sox fan as Neanderthal or anything.... 13) You are allowed to wear your team colors if you wish, we’re in the club level where things stay more civil....usually. See previous statement. I have warned my friends you are coming, they will be polite. We promise. And the check’s in the mail. 14) Let me cut off any ivy jokes, insults, copy-cat references, etc, before you even show up. There is ivy on the centerfield deck. As the White Sox front office said, there is only one green plant that grows on walls, and if you want an outdoor look, ivy it is. A living example of the sincerest form of flattery. 15) Dare will be someguys who speak “Bridgeport”, so you may hear da count is “tree and one” or “dats a home run”!! from time to time.... go with the flow. 46
In a previous email I told you I was purchasing the Rosetta Stone version of “How to Speak South Side.” I told another Sox fan I know about that and he thought I was talking about Stoney’s wife. 16) The fans in our park speak BASEBALL. 7Talking as if you have a mitt stuffed in your mouth does not mean you can speak baseball. OK, I think that should do it. We’ll meet up early afternoon Monday and I’ll show you around a park where winning is the most important thing. We’re going to Yankee Stadium? SUBJECT: Reflections on the New York Yankees Date: 6/20/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Goooooooooood morning! So, how did you enjoy hosting the Yankees this past weekend? I’ll bet you didn’t know that they have won 27 world championships until their arrogant and boorish fans reminded you about 14,308 times during the weekend. It was said long ago by some wise person that “rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for US Steel”.....hell, in today’s economic nightmare we live in I’d MUCH rather cheer for US Steel.... I watched your weekend series to see if your fans would react to your park being taken over by a bunch of conceited, flashy, loud, stick-it-in-your-face fans the same way we do.....or if you’d roll over and play dead. On the field, you managed to scrape out one win before succumbing to the hypnotic spell of the pinstripes. Off the field and in the stands your clan was little better, as ESPN had to refrain from showing the brawl in the stands late in the game Sunday night, though they did comment on it and went out of their way to tell those watching they wouldn’t be showing it. For once I was almost sympathetic toward your fan base.... you probably had no idea what was about to invade your peaceful sunshrine.....you probably thought it couldn’t be any worse than a bunch of Cardinal fans, right? WRONG!! You see Cardinal fans come from the Midwest, so they at least have some couth. Yankee fans are a different breed altogether. They come out of the woodwork and permeate the entire experience at your park. Having observed the Yankee fan for many a long season, let me explain how they operate: * About 50% will wear their tailored dress shirts, open at the collar with $300 slacks, no socks and $400 loafers. They may wear a carefully placed Yankees hat at the perfect angle on their head unless the hat would ruin their $100 haircut. This group will have 2-4 beers during the game and usually make comments just loud enough to hear about the superior ball players on THEIR team, and how THEIR team is in/near first place, and that THEIR team might be interested in maybe one of your players...if you’re lucky. (Note the Dempster rumors that surfaced when they came to town). * This group will make subtle comments during the game......should the Yankees stake 47
themselves to a lead early in the game they will comments like “Gee, we’re on pace to win this one 12-3” or “Looks like another great day for the Yankees!” while they look around to see just how loud they have to be to make sure they irritate any home team fans in their vicinity. * The other group will start the fight. They may or may not have the Bronx “New Yawk” in their voice depending on where they live now, but THIS IS THEIR MOMENT....... They will wear t-shirts with 27 rings on them, hats emblazoned with oversize and garish “NY” symbols, and anything that has a HUGE “NY” on the chest. * This group will stand every time their team gets a hit (blocking your view), cheer overly loud just to get your goat, turn around and say something like “See? That’s how we do it in New YAWK” every time they score a run or strike some one out, etc. etc. etc. You WILL want to roll them down the aisle by the fourth inning if not sooner.... and some one will oblige them every time. I hate to say they deserve it, but in all my years I have never met a more conceited bunch of baseball “fans”. Most of them would show you any respect even after you won a World Series...... and I know this to be true: In 2006 my wife and I traveled to New York to check out the town and see the defending world champion White Sox take on the Yankees in the House that Ruth Built. I was truly looking forward to the trip, since it was going to be my first trip to old Yankee Stadium and the games would kick off the post-All Star break “second half”. As (lack of) luck would have it, we got swept.....and we found out firsthand what it was like to wear a hat of a different color in their ball park. On Sunday, we had upper deck seats high up over looking first base. We would up near a coven of young punk Yankee fans in their early 20s, just old enough to drink. Lucky us. They taunted us throughout the game as we got pummeled that day. Just when we thought the torture was over, they followed us out of the park. Once we were 10 feet outside the walls of the stadium, the vulgarities began to fly as they paced themselves 10-12 feet behind us: “Fu**ing White Sox fans think you’re hot sh** ‘cause you won one stinking World Series! You fu**ing suck!” was probably the nicest thing they said in 3-4 minutes. We did not feel unsafe, as there were many people around, but no one told them to shut up nor were we offered any assistance. I had no desire to get into a fight, and we had to leave the safety net of the immediate vicinity of the park, so I finally stopped, turned around and said: “OK, you’ve had your fun. I won’t be starting a fight with you, so perhaps you can be done now?” The little punk wearing his all-Yankee garb looked at me and said “Done?? We’re just fu**ing getting STAH-TED!” and immediately began his tirade again. Spotting a policeman across the street and a pause in the car traffic, I grabbed my wife’s arm and we quickly stepped passed the piled up garbage on the curbs (a fine New York tradition) toward the policeman. Before we were half way across the street they were running in the opposite direction. All in all, no experience I have had in any of the dozens of other ballparks, football stadiums or hockey arenas even comes close to the wonderful reception we received from the “fans” of the Yankees.....oh, did I mention that same day two Yankees fans intentionally 48
guided us on the wrong subway train, putting 20 extra minutes on our trip to the Bronx? Back to Wrigley this past weekend.......after listening to the cheers, taunts, “let’s go Yankees” and noting the fights in the stands, perhaps we share something in common with each other. Yankees go home! Whenever we go on the road now and a fan from another town heckles us, I can usually disarm him with “hey, at least we both hate the Yankees......” Some of them want to buy me a beer after saying that..... even if my hat says “Sox”. On the other hand, my moment of weakness in showing any sympathy for you ends right now..... THE CUBS ARE COMING TO THE CELL. Pick you up at 3:00, I have a lot to show you before the game since you have never been south of Addison Street for a ball game. SUBJECT: Reflections on the New York Yankees Date: 6/20/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Just a quick reply here, as the upcoming Cubs/Sox series has obviously stimulated your writing pace to a fever pitch. - We absolutely share a hatred of all things New York. There are some things more important than Cubs/Sox, and detesting New York ranks chief among them. I am sorry but not surprised by your experience in the Big Apple. I can relate a bit as I often made the trek to the venerable Chicago Stadium decked out in full St. Louis Blues regalia. I have made a few trips to New York over the last decade, mostly work related and here’s what I can say about New York without fear of contradiction: 1. It smells really bad. The combination of garbage on the side of the streets, the bad street vendor food, and the fumes from stalled traffic make for a unique aromatic offering that, if it were bottled and sold, would be called Eau de Upchuck. 2. New Yorkers talk 2-3 decibels higher than the normal person. I state this as fact, not to blame; it is a phenomenon based out of necessity because the level of ambient noise in NY is surpassed only by the need for the native New Yorker to prove his/ her point through volume as opposed to reason. 3. Its filthy. When friends come to Chicago, they always remark about how clean the city is. New York is filthy. It’s filthy. The rats that live in the city actually smile because they can’t believe their good luck. Walking through Times Square leaves a fine film of gunk that requires the intensity of a Silkwood Shower for any hope of a return to cleanliness. 4. Nowhere in the world will you have to pay so much for so little. You name it, it’s more expensive. 5. The Mets come from NY. I assume I do not need to elaborate. My Cubbies gave the Yanks a pretty good series until Mike Quade, who I believe is 49
Q-less when it comes to pitching, left Sean Marshall in for a second inning of relief and then brought in a minor league call-up in a tied game to bail him out...a minor league call-up who’s had zero success since he came to the Bigs, a minor league call-up who’s a starter, a minor league call-up who apparently the Cubs are determined to ruin, before a national ESPN audience and a packed house. Said minor league call-up promptly gave up the game winning, tie-breaking, 3 run home run to Nick Swisher (the very same Nick Swisher who bombed out on the South Side). Now since Kerry Wood is on the DL (quell surprise!) I know the bullpen is hurting, but there were alternatives. So bottom line is that loss sets us up for our trip to the asphalt jungle of Comisk-ular Park where Mr. Konerko and Mr. Dunn eagerly wait to pad their stats and Big Z contemplates whether he’s going to make headlines by actually pitching well (which he hasn’t done in the last several starts) or proving that Anger Management therapy is a fraud. See you in a few hours, looking forward to chatting about Ozzie going to Florida next year.
Chapter Five: A Beautiful Morning or Premature Exclamation? SUBJECT: Oh what a beautiful morning….oh what a beautiful day….. Date: 6/21/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Good Morning Tom! How are you? Hope you’re doing well. More than well. I hope you’re doing great! I hope the day brings you nothing but smiles and happiness and love. I mean, what could possibly be better than waking up on a summer day in this most glorious of American cities? The city of Big Shoulders. The Windy City. One of the very few cities in America that can boast of having two franchises that participate in a sport that is such a unique reflection of this great country of ours. Of course, on those rare occasions of total synchronicity when our teams meet on the playing field, only one of them can walk away victorious. But reducing last night’s game to something as mundane as what showed on the scoreboard when the contest was over would be to deny the big picture of the coming together of a city, even in intense rivalry, on a perfect evening with temperatures in the low 70’s and a light breeze gently sweeping through the south side of Chicago. So Tom, my dear friend, it would be wrong...so very wrong to reduce the majesty of these events to a simple matter of winning and losing. But I’m going to do it anyway. Cubs 6, Sox 3. Oh, you were there, so it probably wasn’t necessary to tell you that. Nor to remind you that you had a 3-0 lead after the very first inning. Or that your team once again lost the opening game of a home series. Or that Detroit and Cleveland both lost. Or that the Venezualan who had a meltdown in the game was not our Venezualan but your Venezualan. Or that Zambrano got the best of Konerko in the defining moment of the game. Or that I had as many hits as Adam Dunn, but he had 3 more strike outs than I did. Or that both you and I saw that Gavin Floyd had lost his command and were wondering why the Sox brain trust hadn’t noticed the same thing and kept the bullpen motionless until Carlos Pena was kneeling in the on-deck circle. (As an aside...and I include this only to make you feel better about the observational ability of your coaching staff...apparently they had noticed. Here’s an Ozzie quote about Floyd from this morning’s Sun-Times. “I think he seemed a little down in the 5th and losing his command.” Now see! Don’t you feel better about Ozzie and Joey et. al.? They DID see what we saw. They saw it a full inning before we did. They already knew it by the time Starlin Castro rocketed the game-tying homer into the left field seats. Their observations were further confirmed when Blake DeWitt and Aramis Ramirez reached on a single and a walk respectively, and advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. See how right they were! Oh...I hadn’t thought of..., oops. If they DID see that so early, and saw the continuing evidence of why they were 100% right, why didn’t they DO something about it? Ya know what? I bet it was because Ozzie was worried that his bullpen was tired from being used so much....wait, no, that’s right. They hadn’t been used very much during your trip to
Arizona. Oh darn it! Please accept my apology. My sincere, earnest effort to make you feel better has apparently backfired. What’s that saying? “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
detector wandings are now present to keep weapons out, at old Comiskey they were to make sure you were carrying concealed weapons. If you weren’t, you would be able to get in, but there was no guarantee you could get out.
Please do not mistake my cynicism for lack of gratitude. You were a terrific host, and I truly had a very enjoyable time. As a matter of fact, I’m so grateful I’m going to be sending Ozzie a thank-you card for allowing Floyd to entertain me for such a long time. You know, there’s an art to knowing when it’s exactly the right time to leave a party, and I consider Gavin Floyd an artist.
The amenities within US Cellular are really great. They did not miss a trick, and I am being totally sincere when I say I absolutely 100% prefer the modern amenities of The Cell to the throwback inconveniences of Wrigley. But those wonderful amenities do not, in and of themselves, trump what it feels like to be at a game on the North Side. Wrigley succeeds at something that cannot be designed by an architect. It gives you the legitimate feeling of bygone youth, of a time in your life when all that mattered was what happened in that moment on that field. Perhaps the generation of 10 year old Sox fans that lived through your 2005 season will feel that about The Cell one day. If it’s still called The Cell by then, and some other company hasn’t found a way to buy its way into ownership’s heart.
As you were so kind to share your secret trip to Wrigley with me in such wonderful detail, I want to give you some moments that proved to be the highlights of my South Side excursion. You very generously did the driving which was appreciated. Knowing that we were in your IED-proofed vehicle gave me a true sense of security. The route you took to our pre-game destination for dinner, Connie’s, was a bit circuitous, but as you say, you wanted to avoid the notorious 290 “Strangler” at all costs. (When you mentioned that, I was a bit suspicious that this was a veiled reference for my Cubbies’ history of chocking, but I let it go.) The ride itself was interesting, sort of like going back in history. We started in a leafy green suburb, and with each few blocks we passed, we seemed to be easing our way into areas that were less, um, prosperous. Upon arriving at Connie’s, a fine establishment to be sure, I felt for the first time like Stanley searching the jungle wilds for Livingston. Soon after we were seated, the restaurant began filling up with most everyone wearing some version of a Sox jersey. An admirable sign of devotion to be sure, and what a profitable afternoon for Connie’s. And it was very nice that besides offering shuttle service to the ballpark, they also offered quick refresher courses on how to use eating utensils. The folks at the table next to us were especially solicitous of their meal. “Food...good,” I heard them say. So then it was time to head to “The Cell” (it’s almost too easy to make a jail joke here so I won’t ) and wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we turn out of a side street we come face to face with 2 city blocks worth of barbed wire fencing. I asked you whether that was to keep people in or out, and you mumbled something about a trucking company I think. I felt very guilty for even pointing that out. Sorry. We had a nice leisurely drive through a neighborhood that was exactly as you described it. The upgrades and gentrification were truly impressive (and you only had to flash the proper gang signs twice) and the route we took led quickly and efficiently to the entrance of the parking lot. You were certainly right about the ample and spacious parking available at the park. Is this the right time to point out that it says something about a neighborhood when the biggest upgrade that’s been made to it is that all of the buildings have been razed and paved over? From the car we walked past numerous tailgaters, grills ablaze, beer aflowing, (how is it that Sox fans seem to think that beer being consumed in a bar pre-game is worthy of making fun of, while beer poured down gullets of people seated in lawn chairs in a parking lot who kill pre-game time playing bean-bag somehow is a sign of fan superiority?) to the entrance of the park itself. You could barely and rightfully contain your smile as you showed me around the impressive championship statue. Hats off, congratulations, I will not even joke about this representation of the ultimate accomplishment in the sport. A few more steps and it’s time to enter the park. But we cannot do so before we are successfully wanded by security. This ritual is proof of how far your team has come. Metal 52
As we continued our tour around the park, I was surprised and impressed with all of the statues. (My favorite was the one who played left field for you...insert rim shot.) I particularly like the ones of Fisk and Aparicio, who should be heroes to anyone who really loves the game. All through our pre-game time you introduced me to your friends and the park workers who couldn’t have been nicer and who couldn’t have had a healthier appreciation for the game and your team. These people were all credits to Reinsdorf’s vision of what an experience at the park should be. Then, the game started. I won’t rehash the rehash above, but let me point out these totally objective observations: 1. The post-HR fireworks are a tradition, true. But on this night, they were easily the loudest noise of the night. Sox fans spent most of the night sitting on their hands even when the stadium signage was imploring them to “Make some noise.” When you need electronic cheerleaders to cue your crowd, you totally lose any basis from which to criticize Cub fans for not being knowledgeable or focused on the game. After that first inning, I felt like I was watching the game in a library. 2. You also lose legitimacy when you criticize our post-victory “Go Cubs Go” serenade. After your first run, fans were singing (limply) about the Go-Go-White Sox. That song was penned before color TV. Let it go. 3. Attendance was 36,005. That means 4,610 empty seats in a game that was important for the Sox in the standings besides being Cubs-Sox. The game’s a sellout on the North Side. 4. I admire the fact that your center field scoreboard/replay monstrosity is placed perfectly to obscure the remaining projects that lie across the highway. 5. In your instructions for attending a game on the South Side, you distinctly included the passage, “we don’t leave early.” Something about not wanting to get a head start on ending up face-down. You’ve also referenced the lemmings on the North Side. Well, after the bottom of the sixth inning, I noticed that there was very distinct movement by a bevy of Sox “faithful” towards the exits. The 6th inning. After the 7th inning, it was more than a distinct movement, it was more like (to borrow your rodent reference) rats jumping off a sinking ship. You’d think in a game that was within 3 runs, with Carlos Marmol being so shakey of late, all of the loyal, blue collar, salt of the earth Sox-heads would have stuck around to encourage and support their team. 53
By the bottom of the ninth, when the Sox had the tying run at the plate, a third of the park had cleared out. 6. Castro stole a base on Floyd and Pierzynski...on a pitch out. This was not rehash; I forgot to mention it earlier. As they say, the great thing about baseball is that there’s always another game right around the corner. So you get another shot at us tonight with Mr. Buehrle on the mound. The good thing though is that I won’t be there. See Tom, FBC gives me plausible deniability. Last night’s game was THE game. It was the game I was at, so I have the power to deny deny deny any game I am not physically present at. So even if your team pulls even in the series tonight, it won’t matter to me. So I have no worries for the rest of the series. You HAVE to win tonight to escape the possibility of losing the series, but even if you DO win tonight you can’t guarantee you will. You HAVE to win tonight to make sure your team is not the first of the year to see the Cubs win 3 games in a row. You HAVE to win tonight because those pesky Twins are now even with you in the loss column. No pressure though. Enjoy the game! SUBJECT: Dear Ozzie… Date: 6/22/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Dear Ozzie: Before I even get started let me tell you I am a big fan of yours, I will always be thankful for the World Series victory in 2005 and I have often defended you to some of my friends who are more critical of you. Like any baseball fan, there are times I wonder what is going on the dugout, though, and last night’s events prompted me to write this letter. Please don’t write me off as another stupid fan who does not know the game.....I played base ball until I was over 30 years old. I have played in leagues that were mostly comprised of local players from Division 1 and top junior college programs and former professionals. I wanted to play this game for a living but God gave me a major league curveball with a minor league fastball (topped out about 84), he also gave me a nice line drive gap stroke but no speed (think Konerko or Molina). In any event, I have played in, coached and watched thousands of games. As a long standing season ticket holder I attend between 65-90 games a year counting spring training and the road trips. I feel fairly qualified as a “base ball” guy. Now, on to my questions..... I took my friend (who is a lifelong Cub fan) to the game with me Monday night at the Cell. We had a pleasant dinner at Sox sponsor Connie’s before the game, and then we joined the crowd to watch the first game of the Sox vs. Cubs series. I thought we had the advantage with the game being at home, plus we were coming off a series victory against the Diamondbacks while the Cubs had been getting pounded by the Yankees Saturday & Sunday. We also have a better TEAM than they do. Things felt even better when Pierre & Quentin singled and then Paulie lined a shot into the bull pen to take 54
a 3-0 lead in the first. Life was good! Gavin looked good in the first & second, but after that he was having trouble getting any of his breaking pitches over after that. He gave up a pair, but we still led 3-2 when we threatened again in the 5th.....but Big Z had his emotions under control and he retired Carlos and Paulie to end the threat. This is where I get confused. It was really obvious that Gavin had lost his command and he kind of squeaked through the fifth......you even said so to the press after the game. He looked funny throwing the ball most of the time, almost a short arm motion. I thought maybe a reliever or two might be stretching out in the pen to start the sixth, but it was snooze city out there as Castro stepped in. Anyway, Gavin served up a gopher ball (a hanging curve on a 1-2 pitch) to Starlin Castro to lead off the top of the 6th on a pitch that I would have hit hard when I was younger..... I looked at my friend and said: “Surely they will get someone up quickly in the bullpen, he’s lost it.” I looked down to the pen in left and no one was stirring....not even a mouse. So.....Blake Dewitt steps to the plate. My Cub fan friend says “You know, here’s where you know your team isn’t very deep when Blake DeWitt is your number three hitter.” I take this to mean that even he expects Gavin to retire him..... but he grooves a fastball right down the middle on an 0-2 count and DeWitt singles. SURELY the bullpen will be scrambling to get ready now, right? We’ll need a lefty (Sale) and a righty (Bruney) up in a hurry.......wait, it looks like everyone is asleep out there and the phone isn’t ringing. I say to my friend “Gee, I wish I could call the bullpen myself, I want Sale pitching to Pena and he’s up after Ramirez....” He comments that even if I had the number my pleas would fall on deaf ears because Ozzie or Coop would have to approve the move. Point taken. I anxiously continue to scan the bullpen for signs of activity, but it is quiet as Christmas morning in a synagogue out in the pen. Floyd looks like a deer in headlights as the first pitch to Ramirez is a fastball way off the plate....”Go out and talk to him Coop!” I cry.....but our dugout is simply staring out at the mound, where Gavin looks like he does not want to throw the next pitch. Ball two on another fastball that is barely in the area code of the plate, and now I am getting pissed off. “When the hell are they going to get somebody up and stall for time to out and talk to him?”....but my pleas are not heard as three pitches later (he walks Ramirez on five pitches, four of them fastballs that missed their mark by feet, not inches. Finally Coop comes out to talk to Gavin and Brian Bruney BEGINS to throw. No lefty. I am flabbergasted. “NOW we’re in deep shit,” I say to my friend.....”Am I the only person in the park who can see he’s lost it? Can you feel the momentum of this game shifting? If I am managing this team Chris Sale is ready to come in right now. I don’t care what Pena is hitting (.217 to be exact), this isn’t going to end well......of course I am NOT managing this team so I have to fidget while Gavin tries to collect himself. Gavin gathers himself and stakes out a 1-2 count. Then a fastball misses. Then a curveball misses. I am livid. “Well, he’s got to come in to him now and he has no out pitch to throw....he has no command....” 55
Well, Ozzie, you know how that ended....Pena crushed a waist high cutter deep into the right center field seats as Rios waved it good bye a good 20 feet over his head. The Cubs fans in attendance rose to their feet, you finally came out and pulled him and...... for all intents and purposes the game was over. Listen, I know you think the fans don’t know nearly as much about the game as you do but some of us have been playing, coaching and intently watching the game all of our lives. It amazes me that two highly intelligent baseball lifers could not see Gavin was serving up meatballs for dinner from the 5th inning on. Hell, I think a fight broke out at the Cubs bat rack over who got to hit next. Our bullpen HELD THEM DOWN....... three runs too late. I know they were rested as hardly anyone got used in the last two games of the Diamondback series...... so please drop me a note and let me know just what the dugout was seeing while Gavin was melting down and the bullpen was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...and I don’t mean watching Zambrano. Good luck the rest of the season. I am hoping that we do better real soon, as I will be at every game this home stand, the three games in Colorado, the three games in Wrigley and then all of the next home stand. By that time we’ll probably know if we’re going to really contend or if this latest push from 11 games out of first to 5 1/2 is a mirage. I sure hope we start playing as good as we look on paper because I love the Sox, I love coming to the park and I love WINNING..... something we’ve done way to little of so far this year considering the talent on our roster. If you want to email me the number to the bull pen I’ll be happy to help keep an eye on things.....just kidding, I know you won’t be looking to me for advice...... Thanks for taking the time to read my letter. Perhaps you’ll write me back and let me know why nobody got up until it was way too late. I now have to go listen my Cub fan friends chirp like they just won the *****ing world series. I think I’d rather stick a sharp pencil in my eye, but they just won’t go away any time we lose to those bleeping bums. Taking their calls and reading their emails / texts is like root canal without Novocain. Let’s get ‘em tonight and Wednesday and life will be good again...... Your Friend, Tom W SUBJECT: Those who dance too soon…..must be Cub fans Date: 6/23/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Well hello there..... While I was the first to admire your dissertation on Monday’s game, it struck me immediately that it was SO typical of the Cub fan..... premature exclamation. I was reminded of the time many years back when I had dinner with a Cub fan acquaintance after both of our teams won on opening day. “Wow, they can start printing the World Series tickets right now, have we got a team this year!” He exclaimed...... I countered with the notion that he JUST might want to slow down a bit as there still 161 games to play. “No, I swear, I can 56
FEEL it,” he went on...”THIS is the YEAR.” Well, that dinner was about 12 years ago (give or take a bad decade or two), so many Cubs sub .500 seasons have passed since then I can’t even remember WHICH Cub fan acquaintance it was. On the other hand, considering past history I don’t think it takes much knowledge of baseball to know how that prediction turned out. I will also compliment you on your strategic covering of possible future events with your closing paragraph about FBC and “plausible deniability”..... I guess you’re going to need that right about now since your team may have “won the battle” on Monday but (as usual) you “lost the war” as the White Sox took two out of three in a pair of 1 run, nail biting games. Once again you have given me a crystal clear glimpse into the psyche of the “fan in blue” from the “land of never ending bars” known as Wrigleyville....... WINNING ONE GAME WAS GOOD ENOUGH. Congratulations, your lack of expectation has paid off. Enjoy. I am NOT going to gloat over this one. Suffice to say I give the Cubs a tip of the hat for a pair of deliciously agonizing games that could have gone either way, but in the end the White Sox emerge up 2-1 in a SEASON SERIES THAT IS NOT OVER..... we go to your sunshrine weekend after this. There is more to be done before one can celebrate the outcome of the inter-city tug of war of 2011. Again, it’s one of the key elements that separates us......you dance with joy for one win, we breathe a sigh of relief that we pulled the series out and start to worry about the weekend series with the Nationals. One run ball games are hard on the stomach but sure do provide a unique tension that no other sport can capture. When every pitch could change the game through most of the contest it is often the little things that make the difference. Let’s just focus on last night as an example: * The White Sox could have scored a run in the first if surprise # 2 man in the lineup Brent Morel could have moved Pierre to third. When Quentin flied out to medium deep center, there was no sac fly to be had because Morel’s swinging K left Pierre on second. David escaped without being scored on. * The Sox would not have been up 3-0 if Pierzynski had not legged it into third on his two run line drive, as he scored on an exciting suicide squeeze the next play. He saw your outfielder bumbling around with the ball by the fence and took the extra base. Smart baseball and a HUGE run. * Davis extended the inning (and his pitch count) when he forgot to throw to first base on the suicide squeeze, then when he finally released the ball he plunked Lillibridge in the back. While this may have won him a stuffed animal at the carnival, it didn’t help his team out much. * The Sox missed their chance to pull away when Beckham flied out to end the 5th, stranding the bases loaded. Opportunity lost often comes back as the beast that bites you.....but not this night (thankfully). * The Cubs had their chances against Peavy. They had runners in scoring position in the 3rd, 4th and left the bases loaded in the 6th thanks to Ozzie going to the bull pen two hit57
ters too late. That fight was breaking out at the bat rack again as Peavy was very hittable during pitches 95-103. Thank you Chris Sale for putting out the fire. * The Cubs relievers really did their job also..... nine up, nine down with four Ks in the 6th, 7th and 8th. Keeping it a one run game was key. * The Cubs had the tying run on base in the 7th and 8th, even getting the lead- off man on the 8th..... but our bull pen was just as good last night, as Soriano struck out to end the 7th and both Hill and Fukudome fanned to end the nervous 8th. * Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the winning run scored when Davis plunked Lillibridge with the bases loaded. Thanks! Final thought on the series: Carlos Pena was your poster child for “all things Cubs” the past three days. While he won the game on Monday with his home run AND hit two more dingers in the ensuing contests, he also struck out to end the game both Tuesday and Wednesday. Have ever had the feeling that you’ve walked that road before? Well, the Cubs are going to Kansas City this weekend. Hope they enjoy the barbeque and I truly hope they can win at least 2 out of 3 this weekend since you’re playing a team from our division. I won’t get my hopes up too high, just like you and your brethren. In the meantime, I am still pouring over your critique of Bridgeport and the Cell and will comment on that shortly. Let’s Go Go Go White Sox, we’re with you all the way......... SUBJECT: I Can’t Even See .500 from Here Date: 6/27/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. One streak continues and one is broken. As no team in the majors can boast of the consistent level of futility as my Cubs, I am glad to be able to say that our series loss this past weekend at Kansas City continues our skein of 7 inter-league series in a row without a series win. That leaves us a season low 15 games under .500. The only team worse than us is Houston, who, as you may recall, swept us a few weeks back at Wrigley. I know your focus is primarily on the South Side, so in case you missed these: Our Q-less manager talked on Saturday about how he allowed a left-handed batter in to hit against a lefty reliever because that reliever was statistically better against righties. Fine on its face, until you think back all of two days before when he allowed Koyie Hill, the weak swinging, left handed back-up catcher to hit in a potentially game-altering, lateinning situation against right handed Jesse Crain...who is statistically better against lefties than righties...while solid-hitting, first string catcher Geo Soto sat on the bench unused. Our clueless and should-have-been Q-less GM Jim Hendry said that he has yet to determine whether we’ll be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, preferring to wait until all of our injured have returned to the line up so he can better gauge where we are really at. A rundown of who’s missing from our line-up: 58
Journeyman center fielder Marlon Byrd. A nice guy, good glove solid enough bat. Kerry Wood. Late inning relief, has done a solid job overall in his specialized role. Darwin Barney. Rookie second baseman with a knack for timely hitting, good speed, good in the field. We are not missing any of the following: Derek Jeter. Cliff Lee. Adrian Gonzales. Jose Reyes. Roy Haladay. Um, Jim. Mr. Hendry...excuse me but see that thing sitting on the table? Yeah, next to the vase. That’s a clue. Go get it. The necessity of FBC becomes more and more crucial to basic survival this year. As bad as its been for us, let me congratulate some South Side achievements that I think are noteworthy and I offer only to help take your mind off of your first inter-league series loss in many a moon. - Congratulations to Adam Dunn, whose 4 strikeouts yesterday brought his number of whiffs to the magic 100 mark. I, for one, didn’t think he’d get there for another couple of weeks. He’s well ahead of last year’s pace, so he is achieving on a record scale. That’s something to be impressed with. You’re seeing history being made. Perhaps if Ozzie was a little less focused on all the goings-on with the Florida Marlins, he’d understand that the number 5 spot in the batting order is usually reserved for productive players, not player development. I really think he cost you the game yesterday against Washington. Phil Humber was magnificent and deserved better. - Why I think yesterday’s loss was particularly sordid for you was because Saturd ay’s game should have been such a big emotional boost for your club. Danks goes down early with an injury, and Jake Peavey pitches heroically and spectacularly out of the bullpen, recovering arm and all. You get a shutout win, maybe a season-turning win and the next day not only do your hitters not show up, the fans don’t show up. Tom, after that Saturday game, how in the name of all that is baseball do only 23,000 people show up on a literally perfect Sunday afternoon? Believe me, I know that baseball is a game of consummate focus, and that outside factors matter little when it comes down to making a good at bat. But it’s hard for me to believe that your team, even subconsciously, didn’t lose a fraction of edge as they walked out onto the field and saw the total lack of support. And there’s no other way to paint it. Even if I give you that Sox fans are, as Reinsdorf contends, “hard to fool,” and that this team has not been inspiring, your “faithful” had a chance to prove to the players and ownership that they could get behind them and give them a push. The Sox have been inconsistent and maddening for sure, but going into yesterday they were 3 and 1/2 games back! 3 and 1/2 games! In June! With half a season left! That’s nothing! Wrigley would have been packed and screaming. You and yours can go on as much as you want about Cubs fans and blind loyalty, but being the exact opposite of that is just as wrong. I know how passionate you are about your team; I respect that more than I care to admit. But seeing all those empty green seats yesterday was more than an embarrassment. It was a statement. 59
SUBJECT: Feeling a mile high…. Date: 7/1/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A.
SUBJECT: Feeling a mile high…. Date: 7/2/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W.
Welcome Home! It was indeed an exciting few days for both of our teams. We had two thrillers back-to-back and put yet another 2 WHOLE GAME winning streak together.
Sitting in the airport in Denver waiting to go home following the White Sox thrilling come from behind victory over the Rockies…. A 6-4 final thanks to Juan Pierre’s sacrifice fly to tie it in the 8th and his game winning “single” off the wall 380 feet from home which drove in two runs in the 10th. Sweeeeeet! The Sox are now only 4 games out of first and have won 4 of 5 series from the national league teams….. and 18 of the last 19 series overall in interleague play. Perhaps we should move to the National League and show you how it’s done….nah, bad idea. I can’t stand watching pitchers hit. Painful. How in the hell do you watch that on a regular basis? Most of them look like demented pretzels when they are done swinging. Striking out pitchers should not count. I suppose I have now set myself up for the “purist’ lecture…..tradition blah blah blah, double switches blah blah blah, strategy blah blah blah…..hogwash. Hey, the spitball, shine ball and tobacco juice ball used to be legal too. Don’t bore me with that speech. Times change and the American League recognized the opportunity to make the game better. Try getting out a REAL hitter with the game on the line in the 5th. It might interest you to note that since the designated hitter has cemented itself as the “AL Way”, the so called junior circuit has dominated the World Series and the All-Star Game. Heck, we’ve even sent over a dozen good pitchers to the NL in the last few years and it has had barely a ripple effect. Anyway, back to the Sox and your boys in blue….. you too are coming off a nice comeback win over the defending world champs, the Giants. Congratulations for being able to put FBC on the shelf for one series. Your boys earned those victories….and all it cost you was an injury to Zambrano and the use of seven pitchers today on the heels of your series with us starting tomorrow. Cool! Between getting up early to get my work done, the flight home, the time change and all other factors, I expect I will be tired tomorrow as I take that damn bus from Lane Tech to the game. I will NOT go incognito to these games, I will proudly display my loyalty on the hat, shirt, etc. I will also be polite and cheer for my team and not make any disparaging remarks about yours. I understand the meaning of etiquette when visiting someone else’s ball yard…. Root for your team and hopefully walk out of the building with a warm fuzzy glow about you......and the glow should have nothing to do with alcohol consumption. I have to remember to bring my Ozzie rat paddle, some toilet paper and a flashlight in case the game goes late and those lights of yours need some help. I want to agree with you wholeheartedly that our ballpark is really nice but it’s “not Wrigley”….. the Cell has running water, lights that allow TV cameras to send signals that are visible, wide concourses that you can see the game from while walking to and fro, comfortable nooks to sit and be comfortable while eating great food before the game…. not to mention plenty of places to park your car right near the park that do not cost fifty bucks. Round two, Crosstown Classic coming up........ PLAY BALL! 60
That said, I have already conceded the first game of the series to you. I believe we will not mount a 3 game win streak all season, so I will approach today’s game with a bit of a yawn. And if I approach today’s game with a bit of a yawn, I am particularly fearful of Sunday when we will send a minor league pitcher to the mound. Kerry Wood is back, Carlos Zambrano is on the DL. Doug Davis (who never should have been signed) and his 1-7 record is released, and the Cubs will call up a 38 year old from AAA to take his spot in the rotation Sunday. FBC. FBC. FBC. But yesterday! Two outs, two strikes, a run down in extra innings to the defending World Champions and...magic. Soto’s home run flies into the left field stands (very near where Mr. Cub deposited his 500th home run so many years ago ) and the Cub faithful erupt in joy and song. Speaking of noise, one of the reasons I have to give your team credit for their games in Colorado is the attendance out there. I bet your guys were startled to see people in the stands. But that’s what happens when teams have a significant number of fans, as opposed to those who have a small number of devotees. Sort of like the difference between being a religion and being a cult. Just a thought. Now let’s address your other ramblings. 1. How do I watch a game where pitchers bat? - Silly me, but if it was good enough for Ruth, Gehrig, Musial, Gibson, Drysdale, Banks, and Aaron I’ll plow my way through it. I understand the need of South Siders to keep the game simple. All that silly and confusing STRATEGY. Wouldn’t want that to get in the way of watching a good game. You may not like the tradition speech, but just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. There’s a difference between legal and good. The times do indeed change. It was, after all, a National League owner who smashed the color barrier to correct a hideous wrong. Here’s what the designated hitter has actually done. It’s extended the careers of players who should no longer be playing and helped throw the salary structure even more out of whack. (Maybe your team would be less financially tied to your weak attendance figures if you were only paying a young prospect to take a roster spot than, I don’t know the obscene multi-millions you’re currently wasting on ADAM DUNN.) It’s alleviated American League managers of having to make actual in-game strategic decisions. National League managers don’t have to watch a pitcher bat in gameturning 5th inning at-bat. They HAVE A CHOICE to make. They get paid to make the right choice. Unless they work for the Cubs, but that’s different. Most American League managers think a double switch is something you turn on track lighting with. Baseball...real baseball...requires players to be able to play half a game wearing a mitt with purpose (insert Alfonso Soriano-Juan Pierre joke). American League teams pay millions to a player who’s entire day consists of batting practice, and then sitting down for 3 hours interrupted only by the 4 times he actually has to get off his rump. 61
Ah! Now that’s baseball! 2. Opposing Ballpark Etiquette - I thought you were describing my comportment when I went to US Cellular. Thank you for considering me a role model. 3. The differences between Wrigley and The Cell. - When it comes to rats, Ozzie should be an expert. Oney been doing any tweeting lately? - Our lights seem to be working just fine. Yours have to be more powerful to discourage the muggers. - The Cell has running water, yes. That certainly sets it apart from the rest of the structures on the South Side. - Why would you have to see the game from the concourses? Perhaps it’s safer if you keep moving during games on the South Side, but at Wrigley you can actually sit in a seat and watch the game. Novel approach. - If you want to eat somewhere before a game at Wrigley, we have restaurants. These restaurants don’t have to be inside the ballpark to ensure the consumer’s safety. - Of course you have plenty of parking spaces. You also have plenty of seats, plenty of room to stretch out, and no pesky crowd noise.
Chapter Six: Crosstown Classic Part Two, then…..Bupkis SUBJECT: The Crankiest Baseball Fan in Chicago Date: 7/2/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Goooooooooood morning! What a pitcher’s duel yesterday, 1-0 victory for the White Sox over the Cubs. Matt Garza was terrific, Phillip Humber was even better. As I am sure you know, the hapless home team grounded into three double plays in the first three innings to set the tone. I am sure you were well into your FBC mantra by then.... That’s 4-1 so far this season, season series clinched, series at Wrigley clinched.... and 15 of the last 20 over the Cubs overall. Not bad, not bad..... I found it ironic that after our little disagreement about pitchers hitting yesterday’s game played right into my argument: Second inning: Cubs have a runner on third with two out and the pitcher in the on deck circle. White Sox intentionally walk the eight spot to get to the pitcher, who of course makes the final out of the inning. That is bullsh** baseball but it is EXACTLY what the NL “old school rules” sets up in the early innings. Too bad for you. I felt like the White Sox were the cat with the canary feathers sticking out of his mouth.
- You won’t take as long getting into the park because we don’t have to wand you for weapons.
Sixth inning: White Sox get a lead-off walk and up comes the pitcher. The whole park knows he’s bunting, but he manages to pull off a good bunt and sets up the game winning run in a 1-0 game. Had a real hitter been in the nine-spot, the manager then has a CHOICE whether to bunt or not..... in fact, the top of the ninth that exact situation came up with Teahen pinch hitting for Humber. Ozzie chose NOT to bunt and Teahen struck out. What if Ozzie had chosen NOT to bunt with a real hitter in the sixth? We’ll never know, the pitcher hitting dictated the choice.... there WAS NONE.
- You’ll have to figure out when to cheer all by yourself. We don’t have obnoxious neon prompters telling us when to cheer and begging us to cheer louder.
Having watched tons of AL baseball over the years, I have come to appreciate the following about the DH situation:
4. Some friendly tips. - There is no jumbo screen at Wrigley. That means you actually have to pay attention to the game if you want to know what’s going on.
- It’s the 4th of July weekend. If you hear fireworks, it’s because someone is exhibiting patriotic exuberance, not an automated gimmick celebrating a home run. Enjoy the games my friend, and take in a moment to re-connect with real baseball in a real ballpark.
1) The “choice” the manager has to make more often than not is “bunt/no bunt” when the nine hitter comes up as opposed to “let the pitcher hit/ don’t let the pitcher hit”. In the late innings, the pitcher is coming out 90% of the time anyway, it’s a no brainer. 2) The vaunted “double switch” can be taught to a third grader. It does not take a genius to figure that one out. The AL managers pull the old double switch out of their hat just as easily as the NL managers do. Yawn. 3) The DH has extended the careers of many quality baseball players who had an injury that would have otherwise ended their careers early. One need look no farther than Harold Baines, who was a terrific right fielder with a cannon for an arm. Harold suffered a badly twisted knee early in his career and thanks to the DH he was able to sustain a near hall of fame career. He had to work harder than most players on con-
ditioning just to keep the knee good enough to hit. You may also remember Frank Thomas, who suffered two bad injuries while playing first base for more than half his career...he went on to hit 500 home runs without anabolic steroids as part of the mix. Two great ball players the fans would have been deprived of seeing had it not been for the DH. Oh wait, I forgot.....you would rather have a rookie making major league minimum filling that spot as someone who comes into run in the 9th. Yawn. 4) At the end of the day, more tickets get sold to watch Frank Thomas, Vlad Guerrero or Edgar Martinez hit one out as the DH than anyone who might plunk down their cash to admire that smarts of the manager because he pulled a double switch. In closing, you may have noticed I titled this correspondence “The Crankiest Baseball Fan in Chicago”..... this is in honor of the elderly lady I met at Wrigley yesterday. Here’s the scenario: My friend and I had tickets in the same section and row but did NOT have consecutive seats. I have purchased like this many a time for a “sold out” game, you can ALWAYS work out the seating arrangement with reasonable fans and wind up sitting together. Not today! First, I had a hard time figuring out which sections was which in the Terrace Reserved..... your park marks “aisles”, not sections. I asked an usher for the correct section, and she pointed to my spot, where I slid in and sat down. Five minutes later, I am ejected from that seat by another usher who tells me my ticket is for one section closer to home plate. Amazed that the ushers don’t even know where I am supposed to sit, I move over to my correct seat.....and there she was. I had seat 109. My friend had seat 114. She was in 108 and (apparently) 107. She was about 85 years old with frizzy / curly silver-blonde hair. Her eyebrows were drawn on ala the movie stars of the 1940s but she looked more like a pale version of Yoda than Greta Garbo...... she was chewing on little squares of saltines with pieces of cheese inserted as I approached. Smiling, I said “Hi!” She took one look at my Sox hat and said nothing. “Do you have seats 108 and 107?” I asked, noticing her purse was occupying seat 107. “Yes, but my friend is not here yet,” she barked at me in a tone of voice usually reserved for a dog that just pissed on the rug. “Why do you ask?” Having a bad feeling this might not go well, I smiled and politely explained that we had non-consecutive seats and if she would be willing to move ONE SEAT over to 109 that my friend and I could then sit together.
The start of the game fast approaching, a few more people slid into the aisle and it became apparent that I would either have to sit next to her or find another empty seat. I did take some solace in the fact that she was going to be flanked on her right by nearly all Sox fans. A small piece of justice had been served. As I turned up the aisle, I see my friend Dave sitting in the section across the aisle....the same section I had been tossed out of! I asked him how he wound up sitting there and he said the usher showed him this seat. Now I am REALLY confused.....but there was an empty seat right across the aisle from him and the gracious fan next to it said it was unoccupied and I was welcome to it. Turned out he was a Cardinal fan who came with some family to enjoy the atmosphere and root for the Sox. We had a good time. As the game progressed, I shared my story about why I had no desire to sit in my own seat and pointed out the “crankiest baseball fan in Chicago” to those whom I made friends with during the game. We noted that her “friend” appeared to be her purse, as no one ever came to occupy seat 107. We also noticed that the group of 4 Sox fans to her right had words with her about half way through the game, then got up and left...never to return. In a packed, sold out ball park she had managed to chase everyone near her away...she now had 1 seat to her left and five seats to her right EMPTY from the 6th inning on. She sat there and chewed her crackers until the 8th, then got up and left. Dear Lady (whoever you are)..... you win! There is no one in this city who could have possibly treated Sox fans any worse than you in Wrigley Field that day. You have provided me with a memory I will never forget......and it made winning 1-0 a little sweeter that sunny afternoon. It’s “fans” like you that feed the fire. SUBJECT: The Crankiest Baseball Fan in Chicago Date: 7/2/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Just an hour or so away from the last Cubs/Sox contest of the year, anticipating another loss as I felt yesterday’s Garza-Humber match up was the only game we had a legitimate chance of winning this weekend. Garza is just terrific, statistically among the elite in baseball despite his won-loss record. But this is Humber’s year, and it is easy to argue that the Sox are still in it becaue of his unanticipated contribution to the squad. So today we have Rodrigo Lopez on the mound, and as bad as he is it’s actually a relief. Initially, it looked like we were going to call up 38 year old AAAer Ramon Ortiz to take the slot vacated by Doug Davis. In any event, I’m prepared for my punishment.
She didn’t even hesitate before glaring at me and saying “That’s too bad for you. These are MY seats and I am not moving. Am I CLEAR?” She then ignored me standing there and turned her attention back to her cheese and saltines.
“Thank you sir, may I have another?”
With thoughts of the animal she looked like chewing on the crackers, I decided I was not going to bother asking her to get up so I could sit in 109. There was no way in hell I was sitting next to THAT for nine innings of baseball. The entire remaining row was still unoccupied so I slid over about 5 seats and thought about how to handle this. In the meantime, she would look over at me with an evil eye every 5-10 seconds while chewing on her treat. She appeared to be daring me to sit in my own seat.
Your perception of “bull****” baseball is simply baseball. Sorry if you’re used to a brand of the game that falsely amps up run production at the cost of the intent of the game. I do not blame a loss on the rules. The rules are the same for both sides. Good fundamental teams have their pitchers prepared to face situational ball successfully because their organizations demand it. Then there are the Cubs...But as to being a cat feasting on canary, the Sox happened to be in the league that has the DH, had zero to do with implementing that
As to your email this fine, hot Sunday, I have to say this one’s almost too easy.
rule, and trying to take some sort of credit for it is bandwagoning of the lamest sort.
of like the AL dumbed down the game with the DH. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
You destroy your own argument by citing the game’s sole run in the 6th inning which was helped along by good execution. (And if I thought like a typical Sox fan I would be citing my Harrelson-fueled anti-umpire paranoia blaming a terrible ball/strike call that put your lead runner on base in the first place. I would have still been seething with outrage over Beckham’s pretend out at second base in the second inning. ) Ozzie had the choice of pinch hitting in that spot. That’s strategy, that’s the manager weighing the value of a better batter versus the value of a pitcher shutting down the opponent.
B. The Crankiest Fan’s Reaction To Your Initial Approach
Quade had to make a choice later in the game with Garza due up (although there was no threat at the time, the game was still on the line) with 2 out and nobody on. Do you take a chance with a superior batter who could tie the game with one swing or do you play it safer and stick with Garza? Those were choices, there were consequences to those choices just as there are consequences to execution and lack thereof. The other issue that renders your argument moot is this; the number 9 batter in the AL has a pretty pathetic batting average. Better than your average pitcher to be sure, but weak. In those same situations, guess what most of them will do. Bunt. As to your scholarly observations of AL ball over the years: 1. I addressed your points above. Thanks for making my side so salient. 2. Are you saying the average AL manager has the mindset of a second grader?
- She bought those seats, she’s entitled to keep them. - You are describing most hard-headed senior citizens from a certain generation. Her being a Cub fan had zero to do with her reaction to you. I’m quite sure she would have done the same thing to a fan sporting Cubby blue. The terminally cranky are cranky no matter their sporting allegiance. - I’m sure you’re used to being able to pick and choose your seats at The Cell. When I went with you to the game, it was the top of the third before we actually had to sit next to each other because those die-hard Sox fans didn’t show up for the seats next to ours until then. See, at Wrigley, we actually have people show up for games so if you have a ticket with a location on it, you usually need to sit there. C. “Now I am really confused...” -Q: How do you confuse a Sox fan? A: Have him attend a baseball game with a lot of other people.
3. Again, you make my point exactly. WHO CARES if Harold Baines had his career extended falsely because he could no longer actually play baseball. He could bat, but he could not play baseball. He worked hard...wonderful. He’s supposed to work hard. They’re all supposed to work hard.
D. “4 Sox fans to her right had words with her...”
Same thing with Frank Thomas. While Thomas was closer to the end of his career with the Sox, he was savaged by your loyal fans as “The Big Skirt” and mocked nearly universally because he was so one-dimensional and such a whiner. Selective memory has now endeared him to many Sox fans and obscured the fact that they wanted to run him out of town and cheered when he did leave. As to his 500 home runs, maybe that mark is tainted as much as those who used steroids in comparison to previous eras because of his DH status. Banks, Aaron, Ruth, et. al. actually had to PLAY BASEBALL when they carved their feats. Thomas did not. I find it odd that lifelong baseball fans like yourself would rather try to reduce the sport to video game status than embrace the intricacies that make the game so special in the first place.
Tom, perception is everything. Here’s how I perceived your story:
4. A Sox fan talking about ticket sales is like a Grizzly talking about veganism. The DH doesn’t seem to have helped ticket sales or TV ratings on your side of town.
But quickly, this little planned escape from the drudgery of her life, this tropical island in the desperately lonely sea of her existence is about to be compromised because she quickly recognizes that she is about to be surrounded by Sox fans. Sox fans on both sides of her who would have been high-fiving each other across her precious little space, a space afforded only because she would subsist on cat food for the next 3 weeks. Sox fans! Sox fans who would be speaking in that indecipherable south side accent, looking to trip her if she had to excuse herself to go to the bathroom. Sox fans who would be belching and drinking their way through each inning. Oh, the mental anguish that poor woman would have been experiencing. Perhaps she should just give up and let go and allow this day to be another dream deferred.
Your portrait of “the crankiest fan in baseball” was amusing, descriptive, and I’m sure, accurate. But let me point out some things that you shared without intending to. A. “I had a hard time figuring out which section was which in the Terrace Reserve.” - That 85 year old woman could figure out where her seats were and you couldn’t? - What part of the ticket gave you the most trouble? Was it “Aisle,” or “Seat?” Wrigley management is at fault here. They really should dumb down the ticket to cater to Sox fans, sort 66
- She caught you staring at her purse. Seeing that you were wearing Sox gear, she probably assumed she was about to be mugged.
- I love the fact that you admit here that this 85 year old woman had words with 4 Sox fans, and they got up and walked away, never to return.
This lovely senior citizen has probably saved for months to treat herself to this outing. She’s even bought two seats so she could be comfortable and not have to bother the customer next to her if her arthritis would act up. In order to cobble together the money to buy two seats, she even brought her own snacks to the game so as not to dig further into her fixed income. This was probably the one thing she’s done for herself in years, after a lifetime of struggle and sacrifice to raise a family, work at an orphanage, and help see this country through WWII. So on this 4th of July weekend, all she wanted was a grand day at the ballpark to celebrate America’s past time with a chance to meet some fellow fans.
But instead of surrendering, instead of conceding defeat, she thought back to Bataan and 67
Iwo Jima, the beaches of Normandy and said to herself, “Hell No!” This is not the spirit of this great country whose birth we are taking this weekend to celebrate. She thought to herself, “I can’t outman them, but I can outwit them.” And so she did.
diculous (I had the pleasure of cranking my neck around a beam just so I could see home plate yesterday...I had my choice on every pitch: see the pitcher or see the hitter. Nice. The ticket was only $62.00 for that “view”).
Even before the first pitch, she vanquished her first enemy, the large mustachioed man sporting the well-worn Sox hat. Sure, he approached politely, but it was just a tactic. His demeanor was clearly a ruse. No Sox fan is polite. So with just a few well-placed words, just the right inflection, and a stare that would melt iron ore, that first interloper scurried off, tail between his legs like a Sox fan leaving the Cell with his team down 3 runs in the 8th inning. The next battle would take longer to win, but win it she did. The exchanges were, out of necessity, more pointed, her tone cranked up to a level that would have normally made her blush. But this was the war she had to fight, the stand she had to take.
Having visited over half of this nations’ major league ballparks, I can tell you that the currently constructed models are far superior for a dozens of reasons. Your ball park was built at a time when the automobile was just coming into its own, replacing the horse as a common means of transportation. Since then they have made improvements to that invention, and horses are now something few rely on for getting to and fro. Same with ball parks..... the older parks had the charm of a horse drawn carriage, but in the end the modern ballpark is a superior product.
All together now, “God bless America...land that I love...”
Revel in your traditions.... even I will admit they are charming. But beware: you may get so wrapped up in traditions that your emphasis may not wind up with proper focus on the real prize of being a baseball fan: the knowledge that your team can truly compete for a championship on a regular basis, and actually win it all on occasion. Traditions can become so stifling that in the end you wind up with a product that closely resembles what comes out the back end of that horse.
SUBJECT: Series Over, 4-2 White Sox Date: 7/4/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A.
SUBJECT: Series Over, 4-2 White Sox Date: 7/4/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W.
Happy 4th of July my friend,
You must have cast a spell on yesterday’s game with your premonition of getting swept. Instead of some White Sox carpe diem we found ourselves victim of one Rodrigo “Cy Young” Lopez, who won his first game of the season against us yesterday. He pitched well and we accommodated him by swinging at a lot of pitcher’s pitches.... a malady we have suffered more than a few times this year. Hey, 2 out of 3 in your sunshrine and 4-2 overall (again) for the season. Head to head on the last 21 games vs. the Cubs we have only won 15 times, not quite as good as the Pirates but it will have to do. Oh yeah, and that was 5 series victories out of 6 against National League teams and their “superior” brand of baseball.
Well, no one was more surprised by the outcome of the game yesterday than I. Let’s just say Gavin Floyd (0-2 ) is my favorite Sox pitcher this year. Yes, you take the series 4-2, but it had to be a bit too close for you. Both teams scored 18 runs in the 6 games, both batting averages over that time were close (and bad). And before you put any words in my mouth I am not happy with “close.” I want to win, I want to win badly, and I want to win every day. But being a sane human being I recognize the situation management has allowed this team to get to, and I recognize that it is going to take time to extricate the club from this mess.
And by half way through the game, this delightful example of American grit and strength had won her war. No, her beloved Cubbies did not win this fine day. But by God she won. She won for herself. She won for her country!
With your last diatribe about the value of the designated hitter I have come to realize that this is yet another topic upon which we will never, ever agree....but would that be a surprise considering our conflicting allegiances to our respective teams? Why should it surprise me that you and yours would rather watch a helpless pitcher flail away at a baseball he would be lucky to hit more often than a talented high schooler thrust into the game? Why would I think for a minute that you would agree the game was better for extending the careers of talented baseball players with whom fortune had dealt a cruel blow but they could still contribute? You are so stuck in “tradition” that even the concept of the “tradition” of losing the Cubs have had over the last century has become amusing....in fact, almost comforting. Charming. Look, Wrigley Field is beautiful when the sun is shining on the vines on the walls and the old time scoreboard is neat.....but the bathrooms suck (slippery floors, troughs that stink despite the pink cakes), the concourses are too narrow (took me 25 minutes of packed face-to-face shuffling to exit the park yesterday) and the sight lines behind the poles are ri68
In the mean time, I have the choice of ignoring the team and holding my breath until we win regularly again (the preferred measure, it seems for Sox fan loyalty), or simply trying to enjoy today’s game (and we drew the second largest 3 game series crowd in history this weekend...3 sellouts, none at The Cell for a team a few games out of first place) without tying my well-being and self-worth to the outcome. Since you’re taking another swipe at our differences over the DH, let me put the spotlight on one statement you made. “...the game was better for extending the careers of talented baseball players with whom fortune had dealt a cruel blow...” A cruel blow? The majority of DH’s are DH’s because THEY CAN’T FIELD. Period. Or they suffered the same “cruel blow” that all humans do; they got older and less capable of the athleticism required to play baseball at the major league level. Exactly what cruel blow was Frank Thomas dealt? Other than suffering from “Leather boot syndrome.” Every time he wore leather, he’d boot the baseball. Take a look at the Silver Slugger winners in the AL at DH. Where are all the supposed 69
tales of woe that these brave gladiators have overcome? Let’s see, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro, David Ortiz...ah the inspiration! And for a little statistical value, this year the best record in the AL is owned by the Yankees, who have hovered at or near the bottom of DH batting average the entire year, while the KC Royal have gotten about .300 from that spot.
As for my affection for tradition, I understand the difference between traditions that make the game special and the inability to recognize the lessons of history. It is not “comforting” to see the futility my team has endured and I never painted it as such. No real Cub fan does. But the affection we Cub fans have for our franchise and traditional venue does not die. Cub fandom changed in the early 2000s. Expectations were raised when Dusty Baker was hired. No longer were the fans at Wrigley just happy to see the game played. They wanted results and they were vocal about it. When the success of his first 2 years was not duplicated, when he allowed the inmates to run the prison, the once-adoring fans turned on him vociferously and deservedly. Within the past year and a half, that attention has been turned on Hendry and it will be interesting to see if Ricketts heeds the will of the public once this season is ended.
You mention Rafael Palmeiro? He won THREE Gold Gloves. Harold Baines was a tremendous right fielder before his knee injury and he played the field for 12 seasons. Frank Thomas, while not being gold glove material, played first base until he got hurt. He’s only the best right handed hitter in modern baseball history, we should have put him out to pasture I guess. Vlad Guerrero was hardly a butcher in the field. Sorry, I like the DH and I am not ashamed to admit it. We’ll have to agree to disagree and move on.
As to the design of Wrigley, no one makes the argument that modern parks aren’t more convenient, aren’t more obviously user-friendly. Why wouldn’t they be? Not many Cub fans would mind a total retrofit of the old park ala Fenway (which, as memory serves, you weren’t thrilled with either). I like modern conveniences. But when I go to Wrigley, I know what I’m in for, and the minor inconvenience of aisles that are more cramped or knowing to buy a ticket that is not behind a pole are small prices to pay for the general experience and atmosphere that even you admit are charming. True Cub fans don’t see traditions as being at war with success on the field and should not have to choose one or the other. We want both; we are convinced we can have both. Having visionary management and ownership can make that happen. And to think anything else is not so much what comes out of the back end of a horse. It more resembles the back end leavings of a bull. Oh, and since you guys are home tonight, you may want to have your fans actually get off their keysters and vote for Paul Konerko to make the All Star team. As much as I kid you about your poor attendance, this is a slight that is inexcusable and squarely on the shoulders of Sox fandumb. Oops, I mean fandom. SUBJECT: Rebuttal time Date: 7/4/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Could not resist department....some rebuttal and commentary on some of your recent ramblings.... “Well no one was more surprised by the outcome of the game yesterday than I.....” Yes, I understand.....any time the Cubs win it’s a pleasant surprise.....hey, 15 more in a row and you’ll be the .500 club you were predicted to be. “....But being a sane human being I recognize the situation management has allowed this team to get to, and I recognize that it is going to take time to extricate the club from this 70
Let me count the years..... 103, 102, 101, 100, 99, 98...... “The majority of DH’s are DH’s because THEY CAN’T FIELD...”
“It is not “comforting” to see the futility my team has endured and I never painted it as such. No real Cub fan does.....” REALLY?? You’ve never heard the term “lovable losers” in reference to your team in the last several decades? Take the blinders off.... “True Cub fans don’t see traditions as being at war with success on the field and should not have to choose one or the other. We want both; we are convinced we can have both....” Too bad your ownership doesn’t seem to see it that way. I am sure your fans were thrilled when the only thing “new” you got form your new owner was a Toyota sign in left center field. After all, it’s “Year one (oops, two)” and “A Way of Life.” Very telling. “I love the fact that you admit here that this 85 year old woman had words with 4 Sox fans, and they got up and walked away, never to return......” That woman’s behavior was shameful.....and she was scary enough to scare off a UFC champion. I guess that’s the mind set rooting for the Cubs for that many years gets you. Yikes! You are correct, it’s all perception... and I perceived that I could enjoy the baseball game (whatever the outcome) getting as far away from that poisonous personality as quickly as possible. No one needs to put up with that. Trust me; you would NOT have gotten a “kick” out of sitting next to her....though you may have gotten a KICK..... Ouch! OK, lady, I’ll move...... SUBJECT: Rebuttal Time Date: 7/4/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Sorry, but can’t just let some of this go. Some brief responses, and then on to the next subject. - You like the DH, I don’t. Fine, agreed. But the names you mentioned became DH’s AFTER they could no longer play baseball. That was my point. Doesn’t matter what they were. The fact is they could no longer play baseball. They could hit, but they could not play the actual game at the major league level. 71
- “Lovable losers” was a tag invented by an enterprising sportswriter to describe the “Cubbies.” There’s not some blood oath we sign somewhere saying we enjoy losing and accept losing or find it comforting. I do not wear blinders, nor do I abjectly defend the indefensible, a trait honed to perfection by the always defensive White Sox fans and their lead TV cheerleader.
The 2011 team has outdone the failures of last season thus far...... I present the following examples:
- As to our new owner, let’s go back to the early 80’s, shall we? It was what, 23 years before Sox ownership brought home a title? And before that happened, how many managers, GMs, and threats to move the franchise were employed before you found a winning combination? (Good thing they had the foresight to get rid of LaRussa. Wouldn’t have wanted too many of those pesky Championship trophies lying around collecting dust. ) As I’ve said before, I fear Ricketts is Baseball McCaskey, but to judge a new owner saddled with the baggage he had to accept as part of the deal in the second year is blatantly unfair and unrealistic.
* The White Sox are third to last in overall batting efficiency with runners in scoring position overall.
Good luck in your game tonight against KC (and watch out for their DH, he’s a killer!). We’ve already blown a 4-2 lead in the 7th and lost in extras to Washington.
* Gordon Beckham continues to hit as if he is allergic to the stat “.250”
SUBJECT: Bupkis…. A brief summary at the All-Star Break Date: 7/13/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Hello: Well, as we pause here at the All-Star break I think back to one of my favorite TV shows as a youngster (and to this day), the Dick Van Dyke Show. There was an episode where Rob tracks down an old “buddy” who sold a song they co-wrote and Rob’s name was conveniently left off the credits. The song (and the episode) was called “Bupkis” and the chorus of the song went like this: “Bupkis is a lot of nothing and that’s what you left me.....” This certainly sums up the “first half” of the season for both sides of town....but for different reasons. Let’s look at my team first....... “ALL IN” The White Sox management got everyone excited by splurging a bit during the off season, signing Adam Dunn to provide awesome left handed power to compliment the right handed slugging of Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios. They also “ponied up” to re-sign Konerko and Pierzynski, prompting the slogan “ALL IN” to show the fans they were serious about a World Series berth in 2011. What we’ve got so far is the world’s loudest THUD as these dreams have crashed. Only an equally inept American League Central has kept us in the race as we finished 4 games under .500 at the break.... the first time that has happened since 2007 (and that year was a flat out disaster). The 2010 team suffered from lack of production with runners in scoring position and the inability to win games within their own division. It also suffered from numerous players playing well under the stats established over their careers, or the “back of the baseball card” as one would have it. 72
* The White Sox have the WORST batting average in the major leagues wit unners in scoring position and two outs.
* The Sox are a pathetic 8-16 vs. the weak AL Central, they actually play much better against everyone else.
* The Sox have gone 1-9 vs. The Twins and 1-5 thus far vs. the Tigers. Any questions??
* Alex Rios has shown why the Blue Jays put him on waivers in the first place. He is dogging it on the bases, breaking the wrong way on anything hit right at him in the field, and hitting an astonishing .211 at the break. All this for only $12,000,000 a year....with three years remaining on the contract. * All this yet the poster child for the Sox lack of success in none other than Adam Dunn. For a player who has been almost as productive as Albert Pujols for the past 6 seasons, these stats are a train wreck: batting average .160. OBP .292, Slugging % .305 with only 9 home runs and 34 rbi and an OPS of a stunning .597. The man could not hit water if he jumped into a swimming pool. The Good??? The starting pitching has been terrific.....and wasted. Most of our starters should have at least 3 more wins apiece. Our bullpen, though shaky the first two weeks of the season, has been rock solid since. Paul Konerko has BEEN the season thus far.... he is hitting .310 with 22 HR and 67 RBI. Lord knows we would be way more than 5 games out if it were not for him. The last “good thing” is that the AL Central has accommodated us and we are only 5 games out, so if the team can wake up we can still make a run. Time will tell, and we have 12 straight games within the division coming out of the break. If there is no sign of life within that span, it’s time to break this team up by July 31 and start thinking about next year. SAD. AS FOR THE CUBBIES........ Well, if there is one thing to make a Sox fan feel better it’s looking at the unmitigated disaster that is the Cubs woeful season. Mike Quade has been totally unable to carry over the inspiring play he managed to squeeze form the team when they were well out of it last season, and coupled with the injuries and the ineptitude, this may go down as a season to remember..... for all the wrong reasons. At 37-55 and 12 games out, the auditions for 2012 have already begun. Let’s walk down memory lane and examine the accomplishments: 73
* The Cubs have failed to win three games in a row for the entire first half of the season. * They are 12-24 against the teams in their division. * Their starting pitchers have the worst ERA in the major leagues at a whopping 5.29 * They lead the major leagues in errors with 77. * They lead the major leagues in double plays hit into with 88. * They are last in the National League for walks taken (223) AND walks allowed (349) * The Cubs have not won a SERIES since June 14-16 (that’s a month for those of you without a calendar handy) * The Cubs lost both ends of the series vs. the crosstown rival White Sox again, falling 4-2 in the six game set for the third straight season. They are steadily slipping behind in the head to head rivalry, currently 6 games under .500 since the two teams started to play for real back in 1997. The Good??? Well, this is a short list but it certainly appears that Starlin Castro is for real and the Cubs may have their Ernie Banks type player for the next decade. Rookie Darwin Barney has been a pleasant surprise. Carlos Marmol seems to be settling in as a legitimate closer, though he has more blown saves than Sergio Santos now. Possibly the best news is that the Cubs are so far out of it that they may relax and play better.... Aramis Ramirez, Big Z and several others have always performed better when the heat of a pennant race is well off in a distant land. But this might NOT be the good news, because it could fool management into thinking they have a solid core again..... they fell for the fools gold last season and it would be catastrophic long term to think that any improvement in play from this collection of overpaid veterans should mean keeping them around. What do we share in common? Both teams suffer from a couple of seemingly immovable long term contracts, though the Cubs have more of those than the Sox. The time has come to pay the piper for the long term deals given to Soriano, Fukudome, Ramirez, and Zambrano. The Sox are saddled with Rios, and Jake Peavy needs to show he can really be Jake Peavy....you can’t pay that much money for a guy who goers 11-9 since 2010. Where do we part ways? I am firmly convinced that my front office is doing everything they can think of to win every year, despite the way this season has exploded in their face like a trick cigar. The Ricketts family needs to show what they are made of beyond shaking hands with fans in the stands, holding press conferences where they proclaim the team is on the right path and erecting new Toyota signs to increase revenue. Hopefully “Bupkis” will not be the assessment of the second leg of this season, time will 74
tell. Have a nice couple of days off......hey, since the NL won the All-Star game you’ll host 4 games in the World Series.....oh, never mind....... SUBJECT: Bupkis…. A brief summary at the All-Star Break Date: 7/13/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Well, as much as you know I HATE to disagree with you, I must take umbrage with you calling this the “All Star” break. Given the number of players who decided not to participate, I contend it should be called the Mostly Star break. Frankly, I believe the import of the game is so negligible I think they should scrap it. Give the major leaguers a well-deserved three day break, and have the nationally televised game featuring the top prospects that currently airs on Sunday moved to Tuesday night. Bud Selig’s pathetic idea of inflating the meaning of the game by giving the winning league home field advantage is spurious and ridiculous. Home team edge should go to the team with the best record, period. The excuse that baseball needs to have some advance knowledge of where the Series will be played to accommodate the logistics of the sport’s most important showcase is patently ridiculous. But I digress... As to bupkis, I give you credit for finding a term that captures both of our seasons to date. You may have a little less bupkis than my Boys in Blue, but if the season ends and we’re both golfing, the degree of bupkis has no bearing on the bottom line. You’re still left with bupkis. In reading your recap, I believe you captured great still photographs of the season. You have beautifully summarized the spot your dirty Sox are in. You do, in fact, owe a debt of gratitude to your division for keeping you competitive. I have found it interesting that there is so much chatter out there on web sites, fan sites, etc. regarding Kenny Williams. There’s an awful lot of resentment being directed his way. No doubt his recent track record is not very strong in terms of results, but a lot of the people sticking a dagger in his back are the same people who lionized him for picking up Dunn and Peavey. Not many baseball mavens out there called those moves into question when they happened. Rios, well, I’m a strong believer that every team should have an Alfonso Soriano. Is this the right time to add that Kenny offered Kosuke Fukudome more money than the Sox did? In any event, I admire Williams’ willingness to stick his neck out, and his ability to navigate the tricky territory of appeasing Ozzie and giving him enough room to do things his way. I thought that was particularly apparent last year when he left the Jim Thome decision completely in Ozzie’s hands. I did think at the time it was a mistake however. Sometimes the GM has to serve as a “brake” to his manager and assert some authority in the dugout through roster manipulation. Kenny stepped back, and it was a mistake. Ozzie’s desire for a rotating DH was fulfilled, and failed. For your sake my friend, I fear history is repeating itself, but this year, history’s name is Dayan Viciedo. Let’s see how long they keep him down on the farm, and lets see how long Ozzie continues to be the Teflon manager in the eyes of Sox faithful. Up on the North Side of town, suffice to say that FBC was MADE for seasons like this. As I look at the categories of not only just futility, but epic, league-leading futility I can only say, if you’re going to do it, be the best at it. So look at it this way: 75
- No team has been better at NOT winning 3 games in a row than the Cubs. - No starting pitching staff is better at being the worst than the Cubs’. - The Cubs are the best team in baseball at missing balls they should have caught. - No team is better at hitting into double plays than the Cubs. - No team has taken fewer walks than the Cubs. (Was it only a year ago that we were told the acquisition of hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo would be the key hiring of the off-season?) - No team has issued more walks than the Cubs. As for Mike Quade, it’s pretty clear that it was not he who elicited “inspired play” from his team last Fall. It was simply “Not Lou Piniella” who inspired that play. Quade is a good guy who is clearly overmatched and does not have the presence to command veteran major league players. And is it me, or has the new pitching coach, Riggins, gotten a total pass because everything else is such a disaster he is simply being ignored? I have no idea who this guy is, what his background is, but if you allow his work to speak for him, he’d have been better off gagged. Jim Hendry has failed. This was apparent last year when Ricketts should have pulled the trigger, but he gave him another chance and wasted yet another year in the hundred-plus of waiting that we’ve been doing. The list of Hendry failures has been epic. Two words; “Milton Bradley.” That’s when any shadow of a doubt was removed for me. I’m a baseball fan, not a hard-line, stat-geek, and even I knew that was a signing doomed to fail. There were so many red flags one could easily have thought they were witnessing an accident on a NASCAR track. Of course, Bradley turned out to be more of a train wreck than a car accident. In a recent interview, Hendry cited his signings of Pena, Garza, and Wood, as a 3 for 3 success. All played reasonably well. But real Cub baseball fans would tell you they would have accepted a full out youth movement (4 young kids for Garza, an impact pitcher on a team that was not going to make an impact) if it meant getting us closer the big prize. This stopgap nonsense has never worked here, yet Hendry keeps repeating the same mistake. No real philosophy, no real direction, treading water, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, and all the while overseeing a minor league operation that has a pathetic track record. The latter is the biggest strike against him. Hendry’s main alibi over the years has been that the Tribune Company ordered him to get the likes of Soriano to put asses in the seats as they were readying to sell the club. That’s still not an excuse for a tattered farm system (that is getting better now since the arrival of Dave Wilkens) or negotiating against yourself when you give the one dimensional Soriano that much money and that many years when no one else was. To be completely fair though, as with Kenny when he got Dunn, no Cubs fans were complaining at the time of the signing because all they cared about was getting him in the fold. So, here we go with the final portion of a long long long year. Your best hope is that your team can play to the back of their baseball cards, my best hope is that the owner will fire everyone. Odds are, that on October 1, after all our disagreements, flat out fights, and momemts of despair, you and I will have one thing in common................Bupkis.
Chapter Seven: Truce! A Chance to Say Something Nice We thought since it was the All-Star Break we would also take a break from beating each other up and write something nice about the “other” team. Having lived through enough years to have seen some great ballplayers and some great moments in this great town (World Series challenged though it may be), we put down the swords and jotted down a few words of admiration….. or least respect. SUBJECT: TRUCE / PAUL KONERKO Date: 7/14/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. As the White Sox continue to stumble to be relevant this year, yo-yoing between legitimate contention for a playoff spot, there is and remains one constant on your roster who should be the role model for every major league ballplayer. I will not sully the intent of today’s missive by pointing out that the Sox only narrowly hung on to him, thereby avoiding a situation which would have made the disastrous Adam Dunn season look even more radioactive. Oh, well I guess I just did. Since I already went there, here’s Rick Hahn’s description of how close it got: “Kenny and I had a meeting with a representative for another player after he (Williams) met with the media (in December when he revealed that the two sides weren’t close in contract negotiations). In all candor, it was time to start moving down that path (finding another first baseman) aggressively.” Of course, both sides came to an understanding, and I think your season was saved in the process. As I write this, Paul Konerko, your 2005 ALCS MVP is hitting above his lifetime average in every category that reflects real value in major league baseball. He’s the Gary Cooper of the Sox; he exudes quiet strength, consistency, quality, and class. While these traits would be essential in every locker, it is especially true in a locker room run by Ozzie, where Konerko is the right balance for the whirling dervish that writes out the line-up cards and mangles the language with equal aplomb . If the best player on your team put up exactly the same numbers Konerko is putting up right now but was a personality less stable than Paulie, I have no doubt that your team (which is in trouble anyway) would be further back. Such is the value of that great intangible; leadership. Just how far off the ranch can any other Sox players go when all Ozzie has to do is point to him? If you constructed the perfect personality to thrive and be an example in a sport that plays 162 games over 6 plus months, it would be Konerko’s. While people debate what constitutes an MVP, my definition reveals the real value he brings to your club. if he weren’t on your team, where would the club be? Four words: Undeniably. Not. In. Contention. Apparently, some good guys do wear black. 77
SUBJECT: TRUCE / ERNIE BANKS Date: 7/14/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. The funny thing about rivalries is that it does not take away admiration and respect for the great ballplayers that play for the team(s) we love to hate. The Yankees broke my heart many a time during the 1960s but even as a child I understood that Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, etc. were great ball players. Damn, to this day I can recite the starters for the team that kept a White Sox team of 1964 that won NINETY EIGHT GAMES out of the World Series.....by winning 99. When it comes to the Cubs, I must admit to always having the greatest admiration for Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub. Ernie and his “let’s play two” demeanor was infectious, and I distinctly recall enjoying whenever he came to the plate on the old black and white tube...... his thin but muscular frame would stride confidently to home plate and he would step into the batter’s box. Standing erect and very square, his fingers would massage the bat handle as he waited for the pitch. When he saw one he liked, his eyes lit up and his quick wrists snapped at the ball, which jumped off his bat like it was made of rubber. What a career he had. He was one of the last of the great African-American ballplayers who started out in the Negro Leagues, playing for the Kansas City Monarchs beginning in 1950. He became the first black ballplayer for the Chicago Cubs when they signed him in 1953. He was up with the big club to stay in 1954, and he did not take long to establish himself as a future hall of famer. Certain things jump out when you read his list of accomplishments: 8 consecutive All-Star appearances from 1955-1962, 11 All-Star appearances overall. 512 home runs in an era when 500 was like 600 is now....can’t you hear Jack Brickhouse calling his 500th as you read this?? A gold glove at shortstop in 1960 before moving over to first base in 1962. There are two even more telling stats from his chart though..... His love for the game was not an act, as he played in every game of the season in 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960. This was in an era when doubleheaders were part of the usual routine throughout the season. I do not have the exact number, but he played at least 620 games in a row from ‘57-’60. I wonder how many players from any era can make that claim. fact that he earned the National League MVP award in back to back years.....for a team that finished UNDER .500 and between 13 and 20 games out of first both years! I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that something like that simply would not happen in this day and age. That’s a shame, because if those who voted would do that even once in awhile it would provide a better perspective on who was “Most Valuable” to their team vs. who was the “best player on a team that made the playoffs this year”.
I don’t like the Cubs, that’s no secret......but how could anyone not like Ernie Banks? A tip of the cap to you Ernie, you were a joy to watch play the game! SUBJECT: TRUCE / 2005 Date: 7/14/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. “Oh my God, they’re going to win the World Series.” I heard myself say those words during the second game of the Series. Paul Konerko had just stroked a momentous grand slam into the seats at US Cellular, and in that instant I understood that it was inevitable. This was when I finally accepted that it was going to happen. Previous to that moment, when it came to the emotional swings I’d experienced in the post-season, I’d known all 5 of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of death, chief among them, denial. The team had blown what seemed to be insurmountable lead. 15 games ahead at one point, and if memory serves Cleveland had whittled the Sox hold on first place down to a game and a half. The Fates were about to hand me the gift of the South Siders collapsing worse than the Cubs had in ‘69. Then, quicker than you can say “Bartman,” the Sox recovered, won out in their last series of the year against Cleveland, finished with 99 wins and a relatively comfortable 6 game lead. When they swept Boston in the opening round of the playoffs, my stomach churned from the possibility of continuing South Side success. In Round Two, even when the LA Angels managed to win a game, as an outside observer it felt more like a speed bump than a turning point. There are just some teams for whom it seems it is meant to be, and the 2005 Sox radiated that vibe. There were too many heroes spread out over the entire roster, pitching that was throwing too well at the right time, a work ethic that made the team impossible to dislike. After vanquishing the Angels 4-1, the Astros were next, and while I thought the Series might go 6, intellectually I didn’t think Houston had a chance. I thought they were lucky to get past a far superior St. Louis team. Then came the Konerko swing.
Times change and attitudes along with those times also move on, but those two MVP awards are a shining example of just how good Ernie was and what he meant to his team. He beat out some pretty good competition in those years, including a few ballplayers you may have heard of like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Stan Musial to name just a few.
Yes, that was not the game-winning hit. That was not even the most dramatic moment of the game, nor the most memorable. But that was the sign. Good guys were wearing black. This was confirmed further when Scott Podsednik improbably hit a walk off home run to give the Sox the 7-6 win, but for me, it was all about Konerko. It was the right guy at the perfect moment, and as is the case in so much of baseball lore, it seemed to have been written on a typewriter in Hollywood. A walk off homer not enough drama for you? How about a 14 inning, 5 hour-plus extravaganza followed by a 1-0, Series-clinching win that featured a catch for the ages by one Juan Uribe. Juan Uribe??? As I said, a team full of heroes.
After all his years in the game, Ernie saw his best chance to get into a World Series in 1969. He summoned up one last great year at age 38, knocking in 106 runs with 23 home runs....but in the end the Amazin’ Mets wrote a different chapter of baseball history and Ernie quietly faded away in 1971, appearing in a mere 39 games.
I will always insist that most Cubs fans were pleased to see the Sox win it all. Not elated; pleased. I certainly was, because the 2005 Sox were what teams were supposed to be. Balanced, disciplined, likeable, workmanlike. A real “Chicago” team. Anyone from Chicago knows how lionized our athletes are. They are our celebrities, yet this team had only one
real celebrity, the Venezuelan manager who was not some carpetbagger who’d rode in on a white (sox) horse to lead the team to victory. He’d been a wildly popular player for the South Siders for more than a decade, and he felt like one of us. And on the day of the parade, where hundreds of thousands lined the streets where once barely 500 had shown up at a Save Our Sox rally 2 decades before, Jerry Reinsdorf accepted the game ball from Konerko on the podium and there was not a dry eye in the state. It’s one thing to have a back and forth between fans of teams, but it’s quite another to lose yourself so deeply in hatred for a local rival that you lose the ability to recognize just how exquisite a moment like is. I’m thankful my Cubbie Blue did not blind me to the achievement of that special team, and hopeful that when we finally sit atop the mountain, you will be able to say the same about your White Sox Black. SUBJECT: TRUCE / BILLY WILLIAMS Date: 7/14/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. The Cubs of post-World War II have seen numerous great players but few great teams. Digging into the past also reveals the Cubs have numerous interesting anomalies, including the fascinating tidbit that they had a pair of Hall of Famers that played together for thirteen years and never got to play in any postseason games together. I have to wonder how often that has happened in the annals of baseball history? From 1959 to 1971 Cub fans had the fortune of seeing Ernie’s talents complimented by Sweet Swingin’ Billy Williams from Whistler, Alabama. He had a couple of cups of coffee with the Cubs in ‘59 and ‘60, the joined the club for good on 1961. All he did that year was win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, stroking 25 home runs (a big total in the pre-steroid era) and driving in 86.
Billy finished his career as a DH with the Oakland As, knocking in 23 home runs in 1975 which was good enough for 11th in the powerful American League at the age of 37. He did get one crack at the postseason in that final year of his career, but the As were swept by Boston and Billy completed his career with a quiet 0-8 in the AL Divisional Series. While I have yet to meet Billy face to face, I did have an encounter with him once. During the NHL “Winter Classic” on January 1, 2009 held at Wrigley Field, we were lucky enough to have tickets. Our group was seated in the lower deck down the left field line, and looking up we could see the catwalk that led to the private boxes above. Luckily, the VIP box was just above us. We watched hockey greats Bobby Hull, Stan Makita and Ted Lindsay walk in and out, along with numerous other members of sporting royalty. Suddenly, out walks Billy Williams. He looks down into the crowd and for some reason (these things just seem to happen to me), he picks me out of the crowd..... Of course I was wearing my 2005 White Sox World Champion “Ozzie” jacket with the bright mustard yellow sleeves so I was an easy mark. Billy looked down at me, pointed and made the “out” sign with his thumb while smiling. I smiled back and pointed to the “Sox” crest on my breast. He laughed, pointed at me again and “threw me out” a second time. I countered by pointing to the “World Champions” patch on the sleeve. One more time he smiled and “ejected” me, laughing even harder. I put my hands around my throat and “choked” myself to “death” in my seat. Looking up after the exchange, he was grinning from ear to ear. I guess if you spent that much time chasing the golden apple without ever getting a taste, you had better have had a great sense of humor. His statue now graces the northeast corner of Wrigley Field. You wish it would swing that youthful and graceful bat one more time.
He patrolled left field at Wrigley with flair, and even if he was not the greatest of fielders (he accumulated 10 or more errors a season five times), he also made some spectacular plays that others would never attempt. His road to the Hall of Fame however, was paved with his bat. His sweet-as-honey swing was a thing of beauty to watch. His career average is .290, but perhaps the most telling stat in his batting history is that he had the most prolific stretch of his career between the ages of 32 and 35, when he hit .322, .301 and finally .333 in 1972, capturing his first and only NL batting title at a time when most were slowing down at best (if not already retired). One must conclude that swing just aged like fine wine. Williams was a model of consistency, finishing in the top twenty in the NL in all three Triple Crown categories (Batting average, Home runs and RBIs) every year from 1962 through 1972, and in the top twenty five in home runs and RBIs EVERY YEAR he played in the majors with enough at bats to qualify. He was the perfect partner for the flashier Banks, never begrudging the spotlight afforded Ernie. He carried himself with class. 80
Chapter Eight: A Great Big Bowl of Blue Colored Suck??
SUBJECT: Just to put it in perspective…. Date: 7/28/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W.
SUBJECT: WELCOME BACK from the “Mostly Star” Break Date: 7/15/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A.
The Seattle Mariners have just snapped their record 17 game losing streak. 17 games! And they still have a better record than the Cubs. I know you’ve been ultra focused on your team. Even I am currently cutting your South Side tension with a knife. To sum up your recent experiences:
Whooooooo-eeeee, your boys came back from the “Mostly Star” break with a BANG! “Marmolade” comes in with a two run lead, but couldn’t find the strike zone with a compass. He walks the first three batters on 13 pitches. Hey, I’ll bet 5 out of 10 high school players in the stands could throw more than one strike in 13 tries. Then Darwin Barney throws away a relay throw to allow the lead run to score (that’s another NL-leading error for those of you keeping score) just to add insult to injury.
- You had to endure a wild pitch that saw you lose a series to the Kansas City Royals.
Ex-Sox factor: Dwayne Wise (he of “the catch” in Buehrle’s perfect game) tripled and then scored on Barney’s Bummer. Net result: 5 run ninth inning for the Marlins, Garza’s gem is tossed overboard and fed to the sharks....er....Marlins....and the “second half” of the season looks like it will be as entertaining as the first. 100 losses or bust! I can see why you hang with these guys...... they are a STITCH. SUBJECT: WELCOME BACK from the “Mostly Star” Break Date: 7/15/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. You beat me to the punch here. A wonderful welcome back to the wild and wacky world of Wrigley. Marmol was struggling mightily before the break, over-relying on his slider. For other closers, the failure to be able to mix pitches has been a death knell, and I believe that’s a funeral dirge I hear in the distance. But take a close look at Barney’s error if you want to see the essence of FBC. Barney caught the throw from Fukudome as Wise was rounding third. Wise tripped. Took a full yard-sail-header and ate turf on a play he would have and could have scored easily. So now Barney has him nailed. Game will remain tied ( albeit admittedly until Marmol has a chance to walk the next few batters ), right? Barney makes a throw that’s exactly on line to get to Soto on one perfect hop...except the ball hits the lip of where the grass meets the dirt and takes a wild hop to Soto’s right and beyond recovery. Perfect. Oh well, there’s another game today. Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel better. You guys open tonight against a Cabrerra-less Tigers team. I assume the stench of the Twins owning you has faded a bit after you choked away another series to them prior to the break. I see that both Minnie and Cleveland won last night. Leaves you 5 games out, back tied in the loss column with the Twins, who play KC tonight. No pressure.
- This was followed by an Ozzie Tantrum that prompted a series win over Cleveland and a 5-3 end to your road trip that kept you in contention in a division no one appears eager to win. - Upon arrival home, Kenny pretty much suggested big changes and then said the words I have longed to hear from Jim “It’s Not My Money” Hendry when he told Ozzie to play whoever he thought would win, contract size aside. Kenny actually took responsibility for bad contracts, and as a direct result your club took the third game of the Tiger series, which I think for you was the most important game of the season. Lose that game, and I bet Kenny pulls the plug. -Kenny trades Edwin Jackson which I think signals something’s afoot. This was a good news/bad news deal. Good news is you knocked salary and an inconsistent pitcher out of the South Side, bad news is you are now relying very heavily on Jake Peavey who I think is a world class phony. And remember our wonderful shared experience at The Cell when my Cubs beat your club because Ozzie was the only one on the park who didn’t know Gavin Floyd was done? We found out why. When Peavey lost the middle game of the Tiger series, Ozzie said he was counting Peavey’s innings, not his pitches. Well, here’s a great stat for you. Peavey’s ERA more than doubles after the 75 pitch count. I do not know a major league manager who isn’t aware that 6 innings having pitched 60 pitches is better than 6 innings having pitched 75 pitches. (Please note, I do not include Mike Quade in this as I specified major league manager.) Meanwhile on the North Side, on Tuesday our stalwart manager said we were still in the race, our owner gave his most McCaskey-like assessment of the organization yet, and our GM proved how useless his monied decisions were when he basically begged the Yankees to take Zambrano and they came back with a “no way in Hell.” He managed to dump Fukudome for 2 minor leaguers who do not have a chance of making it to the Bigs AND paid most of Fukudome’s salary to boot. What else, oh yeah, Big Z managed to show up Quade when he was removed from his game yesterday against the Brewers and made typical Z comments afterward. It’s just a mystery why no other clubs are interested in him. Oh, and Alfonso Soriano is making Adam Dunn look like Babe Ruth. He’s hitting .170 in July. If they replaced him with a minor leaguer who put up “I’m going back to Des Moines on the next bus” stats, it would still be an improvement. And before I forget, let me give you another great Quade quote. When he said we still had a chance in the Division, he said we just needed the middle of the line up to get hot. Well 83
Ramirez has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball, Pena is hitting way above his HR average, and Byrd has been on fire the last 2 weeks. AND Castro and Barney are pretty damn good. AND IT’S STILL NOTHING BUT A GREAT BIG BOWL OF BLUE COLORED SUCK!!!
you’re surprised at this??
But allow me to save the best for last. In a recent 9-1 loss, Quade publicly berated Castro and Barney for botched communication on a pop-up, saying it was the game-changing play that cost them. Z can do whatever he wants, Soriano can do nothing, Dempster can have a public shouting match with him, Ramirez can play 1 month out of the first 4, but this veteran-coddling wannabe (whom all of those veterans lobbied Hendry to retain ) decides it’s time to get tough on the rooks.
You had to endure a wild pitch that saw you lose a series to the Kansas City Royals.
So here’s the situation the Cubs are in. The trade deadline looms, and the guy who hired this manager and doled out all of that bad paper is still making decisions that will affect the organization for years to come. Ricketts rightfully gave Hendry a year last year after he bought the team. I can understand that. But he went a year too long, as proven by the “structure” of this year’s team. It’s beyond time to pull the plug on Hendry, Quade and Crane Kenney. But it won’t happen until the off season, and every day this decision is put off is another day further away from the World Series. And mark my words, if by some miracle...if the sun should not rise, if the Chicago River is swimmable, or if Ozzie speaks cogent English...and the Cubs do not make the sweeping changes needed, I will end up having to learn the words that I swore would never pass over my lips...”Go, go you White Sox...” SUBJECT: Just to put it in perspective….a commentary on the commentary… Date: 7/31/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. As you know my life rhythm was interrupted by a power outage and some water in the basement during that nasty storm.... nice to be able to sit & write to you again.... Your latest offering left my head spinning. An angry Cub fan? I hardly conceive of the thought....I thought it was through thick and thin and loveable losers and black cats and goats and Bartman and Soriano it was always baseball, sunshine and good vibes? Perhaps this diatribe suggests there is actually a recognition of the sunshine that’s been blown into private body parts by the Cubs management surfacing here. Come here; sit down in this nice box seat. Have a beer, beautiful day isn’t it? Pay no attention to that dropped fly ball in left, the double play that wasn’t turned and the closer who needs a seeing eye dog to find the strike zone. Look at all the people here, it’s a great place to come and put your cares away....as long as you don’t mind finishing deep in the division and pushing for 100 losses.....
I know you’ve been ultra focused on your team. Even I am currently cutting your South Side tension with a knife. To sum up your recent experiences:
The perplexing White Sox as of today are 8 games over .500 against teams with a winning record and 9 games under against teams with a losing record....and you wonder why we’re frustrated beyond belief? This was followed by an Ozzie Tantrum that prompted a series win over Cleveland and a 5-3 end to your road trip that kept you in contention in a division no one appears eager to win. I would like to thank all the mebers of the Amercian League Central for their consistent mediocrity and keeping us in the race while we search for the Sox team we have on paper. Upon arrival home, Kenny pretty much suggested big changes and then said the words I have longed to hear from Jim “It’s Not My Money” Hendry when he told Ozzie to play whoever he thought would win, contract size aside. Kenny actually took responsibility for bad contracts, and as a direct result your club took the third game of the Tiger series, which I think for you was the most important game of the season. Lose that game, and I bet Kenny pulls the plug. We were sitting in the stands the final game of the Tiger series facing a 3 1/2 or 5 1/2 game out scenario, figuring a win meant we would hang in there and a loss meant “kaboom” and 2-3 more players would be gone. Interesting way to watch a ballgame. Kenny trades Edwin Jackson which I think signals something’s afoot. This was a good news/bad news deal. Good news is you knocked salary and an inconsistent pitcher out of the South Side, bad news is you are now relying very heavily on Jake Peavey who I think is a world class phony. I don’t think Peavy is a phony, phonies rarely win Cy Young Awards. I think he never should have pitched the first season we had him and the ramifications have been a string of injuries from which he may or may not recover. We also dumped a BAD contract by the name of Mark Teahen, so there was another upside to this..... AND we got a very reliable reliever to spell Jesse Crain before he wore out. The Sox obviously felt they were not going to sign Jackson next season, so they got something good for him AND dumped salary. Nice job by the GM.
The Seattle Mariners have just snapped their record 17 game losing streak. 17 games! And they still have a better record than the Cubs.
And remember our wonderful shared experience at the Cell when my Cubs beat your club because Ozzie was the only one in the park who didn’t know Gavin Floyd was done? We found out why. When Peavey lost the middle game of the Tiger series, Ozzie said he was counting Peavey’s innings, not his pitches. Well, here’s a great stat for you. Peavey’s ERA more than doubles after the 75 pitch count. I do not know a mjaor league manager who isn’t aware that 6 innings having pitched 60 pitches is better than 6 innings having pitched 75 pitches. (Please note, I do not include Mike Quade in this as I specified “major league” manager.)
I managed to miss this interesting fact whilst bailing the water out. Hey, look at today’s “Big number” in the paper: Cubs fall 23 under .500 for the first time since last year. So
As much as I like Ozzie and Cooper, I think they have cost us at least 5 games this year with poor decisions durinjg the game with the staff. The question is, does that make them
And now for some “commentary on your commentary”.....
any different than any other manager in the league?
Meanwhile on the North Side, on Tuesday our stalwart manager said we were still in the race, our owner gave his most McCaskey-like assessment of the organization yet, and our GM proved how useless his monied decisions were when he basically begged the Yankees to take Zambrano and they came back with a “no way in Hell.” He managed to dump Fukudome for 2 minor leaguers who do not have a chance of making it to the Bigs AND paid most of Fukudome’s salary to boot. What else, oh yeah, Big Z managed to show up Quade when he was removed from his game yesterday against the Brewers and made typical Z comments afterward. It’s just a mystery why no other clubs are interested in him. Oh, and Alfonso Soriano is making Adam Dunn look like Babe Ruth. He’s hitting .170 in July. If they replaced him with a minor leaguer who put up “I’m going back to Des Moines on the next bus” stats, it would still be an improvement.
And mark my words, if by some miracle...if the sun should not rise, if the Chicago River is swimmable, or if Ozzie speaks cogent English...and the Cubs do not make the sweeping changes needed, I will end up having to learn the words that I swore would never pass over my lips...”Go, go you White Sox...”
Wow, a lot to cover here. Quade stating the Cubs are still in the race is surely delusional. Your GM is the same guy who wrote those long term contracts and is now reaping the back end results. Any team that wanys Big Z should fire their GM immediately. Z and Milton Bradley should all go fishing together in a leaky boat with no compass. On Soriano, I beg to differ. He is still hitting 10 points over the “Dunn Line” of .160.
SUBJECT: From the Land of Sky Blue Waters Date: 7/31/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A.
And before I forget, let me give you another great Quade quote. When he said we still had a chance in the Division, he said we just needed the middle of the line up to get hot. Well Ramirez has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball, Pena is hitting way above his HR average, and Byrd has been on fire the last 2 weeks. AND Castro and Barney are pretty damn good. AND ITS STILL NOTHING BUT A GREAT BIG BOWL OF BLUE COLORED SUCK!!! “BLUE COLORED SUCK”...... I think you should submit that for next season’s slogan. I like it. But allow me to save the best for last. In a recent 9-1 loss, Quade publicly berated Castro and Barney for botched communication on a pop-up, saying it was the game-changing play that cost them. Z can do whatever he wants, Soriano can do nothing, Dempster can have a public shouting match with him, Ramirez can play 1 month out of the first 4, but this veteran-coddling wannabe (whom all of those veterans lobbied Hendry to retain) decides its time to get tough on the rooks. You’re missing the point.....the vets have already succumbed to annual Cubbie occurances. They love playing here not because they have a chance to win but because the fans, the ballpark and the “way of life” (losing) is OK with them. And besides, who respects a manager who was picked over a hall of famer who played his entire career in a Cubs uniform and then worked his way up the farm system only to be shat on by the organization? Weak managers prey on the weak until they are flushed out. So here’s the situation the Cubs are in. The trade deadline looms, and the guy who hired this manager and doled out all of that bad paper is still making decisions that will affect the organization for years to come. Ricketts rightfully gave Hendry a year last year after he bought the team. I can understand that. But he went a year too long, as proven by the “structure” of this year’s team. Its beyond time to pull the plug on Hendry, Quade and Crane Kenney. But it won’t happen until the off season, and every day this decision is putoff is another day further away from the World Series. How dare you put the phrase “World Series” in any paragraph about the Cubs. 10 point 86
This comment blew me away..... let’s just say I’ll be happy to teach you the words. I’ll even get you your own hammer (lol). OH, and it’s “Let’s go go you White Sox, we’re with you all the way....” Headed to the ballpark now, I’ll be back after I see if we can get 2 out of 3 from the Red Sox.
For most of us our baseball souls are formed in the early years of childhood. I know a few people who did not become baseball fans until later in life, some of them strong fans..... but I always felt as if they got robbed, since the deep passion and loyalty to a team can grow deeper roots when they take shape when one is in grade school. I often wonder what they did as kids since (and this has been verified by my “baby books”) I ate, lived, dreamed and slept baseball when I was a kid. One oddity of being a fan of either Chicago team from that time is that we (Sox and Cubs fans) shared a broadcaster. Both teams were televised on WGN Channel 9 (where the term “superstation” had yet to be invented), and both teams had their play by play done by Hall of Fame Broadcaster Jack Brickhouse. Jack started on the radio in 1948 and then graduated to television, where he had the enviable job of watching baseball on a daily basis while describing the daily fortunes of both the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs until 1968....at which time the Sox moved to another channel no one could find with a compass......but that’s a story for another time. Unlike New Yawkers who had Mel Allen and Red Barber doing the Yankees, Vin Scully piping for the Dodgers and Russ Hodges (and his famous “shot heard round the world’ call) broadcasting the Giants, we had Brickhouse calling both teams....at least on TV. Brickhouse had a free- wheeling style and wore his emotions during the game on his sleeve, all while being decidedly G rated...which must have been tough on him, as he was not shy about his love for the Cubs over the Sox.....even though the Cubs managed to climb to .500 ONCE from 1948 through 1962 (and only four times between the shared years of 1948-1968). One must wonder if the “inferiority complex” of White Sox fans had the seeds planted in the days when the Sox won 90 games most years while the Cubs were fortunate to win 70.......but Brickhouse would shill for his beloved Cubbies. It was obvious to all that Jack preferred plying his trade at “the friendly confines”. It is often said that one should be wary of what one asks for....you might get it. Never was this more true in 1969, when Brickhouse found himself doing only his beloved Cubbies on TV, meaning he got to personally witness one of the greatest collapses by any baseball team in the annals of the sport. Of course, he had plenty of heartbreak research to fall 87
back on, as the Cubs had played a stellar 1423-1847 baseball (424 games under .500) in the 20 years leading up to the “black cat” year best remembered by most outside of Chicago as the year of the “Amazin’ Mets”. I dare say it was MORE “amazin’” that Brickhouse didn’t have a heart attack right there and then as that season from hell unraveled on men in blue of ‘69. Sorry, Ernie, it didn’t turn out so mighty fine...... In the end I actually have good memories of Brickhouse, because he was colorful, he loved the game and he would use the same expressions of both joy and pain for both sides of town. To this day it is easy to think back to watching the black and white images on the screen and listening to Jack as he called whichever team was on the tube that day.....usually while my mother ironed or folded laundry. There isn’t anything I would not give to re-live one day of that time. Life was surely different then.... we had a comfortable house but no air conditioning.... and no TV in the cooler but unfinished basement. This meant to watch the game required having a fan nearby and plenty of lemonade. Everyone (it seemed) smoked cigarettes indoors back then, so the fan also helped keep the smoke from choking you out of the room. Lunch at noon would usually be a sandwich of white Wonder Bread with either baloney, salami or Krakus ham (YES!!)...... or sometimes Spam, Summer Sausage or Cotto Salami (Yecch!) The TV was ignored as Mom watched “As the World Turns”, but as soon as the soap was over it was not hard to get her to turn on the baseball game at 1:00, as she too was a Sox fan to her core. I would walk over to the TV, turn the mechanical dial on the black and white Zenith from “2” to “9” with plenty of scary white noise blaring from the open stations in between and then it was time for Jack Brickhouse to make the day better by bringing us all a baseball game....... brought to you by Hamm’s Beer, “From the Land of Sky Blue Waters” Let’s go back to 1962 and listen to Jack do a couple of late season games........ September 2, 1962.....Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Colt 45s Wrigley Field, Chicago Attendance 13,088 “The Chicago Cubs are on the air.....Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Brickhouse coming to you from the friendly confines of beautiful Wrigley Field as our Chicago Cubbies will take on the Houston Colt .45s in an exciting matchup between two teams fighting for 8th place. It’s a nice, sunny afternoon here at the ballpark, so if you’re in the neighborhood why don’t you come on over and cheer on the Cubs this afternoon...... plenty of good seats are still available...... Here we go into the bottom of the first as the 45s went 1-2-3 in the top of the inning.... Lou Brock steps to the plate as Ken Johnson gets ready to throw his first offering of the afternoon....and there’s a sharp single into center field! That’s the way to get us started, Lou! This young kid looks great in a Cubs uniform and fans; from the looks of this year you can look forward to seeing him shine here at the friendly confines for many years to come....... Kenny Hubbs now steps in, another promising young ball player.... oh, brother, he went for a low outside pitch and Johnson has struck him out. One away and here comes Billy. 88
Billy Williams is having an outstanding season, good enough reason alone to come on down to see our Cubbies play....he’s hitting .307 coming into today’s contest! There goes Brock....and the throw is not in time.....SAFE at second base! Wee-hee, that’s catching ‘em off guard, Lou! C’mon, Billy, let’s get this run in and get things started...... Williams hits a grounder up the middle, shortstop Bob Lillis grabs it and.....BOOTS IT! Williams is safe at first, Brock scores and the Cubs lead 1-0!!! Great start to this game and it’s not too late for you to join us if you’re near the park....c’mon down! Up steps George Altman, the right fielder hitting clean up today. George is hitting a robust .317 this season....let’s see if he can move Billy to third for Ernie, who is swinging a pair in the on deck circle....there’s a fly ball to left field....drifting under it is Al Spangler who grabs it for the second out. Here comes Ernie!! Mr. Cub steps to the plate..... he’s been hitting in bad luck this season, driving the ball hard but it always seems to be at somebody, so he’s hitting a respectable .272, a bit less than we’re used to seeing from our hero... let’s see if he can hit one on to Waveland Avenue and stake us to a 3 run lead.....here comes the pitch and it’s popped up to the shortstop. This time Lillis snags it without trouble and Houston is out of the inning but after one inning it’s our Cubs 1, the Colt 45s nothing....... and now for a word from our sponsor, Hamm’s Beer! (Repeating BUM-bum-bum-bum drum beat in the background.... the black and white Hamm’s Bear dances on a rolling log in the lake....and falls in of course...) From the Land of Sky Blue Waters.... (wah-ah-terrrrs...) From the land of pines, lofty balsams... Comes the beer refreshing...HAMM’S the beer refreshing..... HAMMMMMMMMM’S (Later in the game.....) We’re going to the top of the eighth with the Cubs clinging to a 1-0 lead. Bob Buhl has been on top of his game today, as he has kept the 45s from scoring thus far. He’ll need to keep that momentum going as he faces the top of the order and center fielder Carl Warwick.....here come the pitch and there’s a sharp single to center field. Oh man, that’s not the way to start things off here in the 8th..... Al Spangler steps to the plate and there’s a ground ball right back to Buhl..... HE DROPS IT AND EVERYONE IS SAFE.....OH, BROTHER! We’re in trouble now with runners on first and second....NOOOObody out. Santo and Banks will be looking for the bunt from Johnny Temple, who has grounded out three times today...and there it is, a perfect bunt and the only play will be to first base. Second and third, one out for veteran Norm Larker, who is 1 for 3 thus far...... there’s a pop fly to right field, going into foul ground and.....Altman makes a nice running catch as he goes over the bullpen bump and makes a strong throw home! Two outs now and here comes Roman Mejias, the Colts right fielder. He can be dangerous and is the Colts leading hitting for average at .295. Buhl gets the sign from catcher Dick Bertell and throws......there’s a line drive down the line in left field and it is....... A FAIR BALL! Mejias pulls into second with a double as Warwick and Spangler score.....the 45s lead it 2-1......OH, BROTHER! Charlie Metro slowly strides to the mound to settle down Buhl....let’s keep this a one run 89
game and we’ll get ‘em in the eighth...... Buhl is ready to deliver to third baseman Bob Aspromonte now..... here comes the pitch....and there’s a pop fly to short right field, we should be out of the inning...wait, Altman got a late break, there goes Hubbs chasing it and...OH NO! It falls for a hit!! Mejias scores and Aspromonte pulls into second with a bloop double. 3-1 Houston!........ We’re going to the bottom of the ninth, Cubs trailing 3-1 and any old kind of two runs will tie it up and send us to extra innings.....it’s the 8-9-1 hitters for the Cubbies, who have scored but one lone run on Lillis’ error WAY back in the first inning. Don Landrum will pinch hit for Dick Bertell, who was 2 for 3 today, a curious move but the manager is going with the percentages. Landrum slaps a ball down the first base line, easily gobbled up by Norm Larker and there is one away. Pinch hitting for tough luck pitcher Bob Buhl is Bob Will, a .244 hitter. C’mon Bobby, let’s get on base for the top of the order......Don McMahon winds up and throws....STEEEERIKE THREE to Will and there is two away. That leaves it all up to Lou Brock, who has singled, stole a base and scored the Cubs only run this afternoon.....And he comes through again with a line drive single to left field....atta boy, Lou! We’re still alive! Man, this kid is something. Cubs fans have something to look forward to with this young man on the roster.... Let’s see if Kenny Hubbs can put a charge into one and send us to extra innings..... oh, my....there’s a lazy fly ball into center field, Carl Warwick steps under it and the game is over..... Houston 3, Cubs 1....... This loss puts our Cubs in 9th place, 39 1/2 games back but a measly 1/2 game behind these pesky Colt 45s, so let’s get ‘em tomorrow! Stay tuned for the 10th inning post game show, sponsored by Household Finance Corporation. This is Jack Brickhouse saying so long from the friendly confines....... The 1962 Cubs went on to finish in 9th place with a stunning 103 losses. Amazingly they did not finish in 10th......the Houston Colt 45s finished 8th with “only” 96 losses, but the Mets lost a whopping 120. This season set up what was to become a miracle to those in New York and one of the most painful years in Cubs history (if that is possible) only seven years later. And now, let’s head to the south side, where the White Sox are taking on the New York Yankees, who (unfortunately for any team playing in the American League), dominated the 1950s through much of the 1960s..... September 21, 1962..... Chicago White Sox vs. New York Yankees Comiskey Park, Chicago Attendance 32,711 “Welcome back to Comiskey Park where the White Sox and their 82-73 record are up against the Bronx Bombers from New York. This is Jack Brickhouse happy to be with you on this nice late summer evening here on WGN-TV, your home for White Sox and Cubs baseball..... The faithful have come out in droves for the Sox tonight to see if they can stand up to the Yanks who have 91 victories already and are running away again with the American League pennant. Lefty Whitey Ford goes for the Yanks, and it’ll be up to another lefty Juan Pizzaro to see if he can hold down the bats of this powerful ball club from New York.....we’ll be back after a word from our sponsor, Hamm’s Beer....From The Land of Sky Blue Waters! 90
BUM-bum-bum-bum BUM-bum-bum-bum,,,,, Refreshing as the Land of Sky Blue Waters (wah-ah-terrrs....) Land of lake and pine, cool enchantment HAMM’S the beer refreshing, HAMM’S the beer refreshing...... Welcome back, folks..... The White Sox have scored but one lonely run thus far in the game, scoring in the bottom of the second when Al Smith reached on an error and then scored on a sharp single by Mike Hershberger. Our Sox are trailing 5-1 thanks in part to a two run homer by Chicago native Bill “Moose” Skowron who clubbed one into the right field stand with Hector Lopez aboard in the top of the sixth. Ford has thrown a lot pitches on this hot summer night and with one out in the bottom of the sixth manager Ralph Houk has his bullpen working already..... one out as Al Smith steps to the plate.....let’s get something going here..... Ford fires and Smith hits a ground ball up the middle past a diving Bobby Richardson and the Sox have a base runner! . Here comes Houk, looks like that will be it for Ford....yep, he has summoned the bullpen and it looks like Bud Daley will be coming in. You know fans, while we’re waiting for Daley to throw his warm up tosses let me remind you that Friendly Bob Adams at General Finance is ready to loan you the cash you need, just pick up the phone and give him a call at ANdover 3-2020. When you need cash, always remember Friendly Bob and the helpful folks at General Finance! Back to the action now, and woooo-weeee could we use a good old fashioned rally right about now. Here comes Jim Landis, who singled in the bottom of the fourth but was stranded. Daley checks the runner, here comes the pitch.....and Landis pops it up to short left field......third baseman Clete Boyer drifts back and parks under it for the second out. One last chance this inning to cut into the Yankees lead for Mike Hershberger, who drove in Sox only tally thus far.... Daley delivers and there’s a tap back to the mound, eeeeeeasy out as Daley tosses to Skowron to end the inning...... Later in the game....... Well, folks it’s the bottom of the ninth at the White Sox have been stymied thus far by the Yankees hurlers... they now trail 6-1 thanks to a two out ground rule double by Tom Tresh off reliever John Buzzhardt. Man, these Yankees never fail to come up with young talent to plug into their powerful roster. Well, let’s see if the White Sox can pull something special off here in the bottom of the ninth...... Scrappy Nellie Fox leads off against Bud Daley, who came on for Whitey Ford in the 6th and has thus far shut the pale hose down. Here’s the pitch and Fox snaps off a sharp grounder in the hole to left and the lead off man is aboard! Here comes Camillo Carreon, the Sox young catcher who is hitless so far..... Daley goes into the stretch as Little Nel dances off first....and Carreon lines one to left for a single! Two men aboard to start the ninth! Still a tough hill to climb but there is still hope here on the south side. Skipper Al Lopez is sending pinch hitter Bob Roselli to the plate to bat for the pitcher. Roselli may not scare Daley, as he is hitting an anemic .194, but anyone with a bat can be dangerous in this situation..... Daley pauses and throws.....and there’s a line drive into the gap! The ball rolls all the way to the wall as Fox scores and Carreon stops at third as Roselli pulls up with a stand up double! Atta boy, Bobby! 91
Well, things are getting interesting now as the 33,000-plus start to make some noise..... and here comes Ralph Houk to get Daley. In from the centerfield bullpen comes lefty Marshall Bridges.....the “sheriff” as he is known has been the Yankees secret weapon out of the bullpen this season. He makes the slow walk from the pen to the mound sporting an 8-3 record and a thrifty ERA of only 2.84. As he takes his final warm up tosses Roselli trots into the dugout to a nice round of applause from the fans as rookie speedster Ken Berry replaces him as a pinch runner at second base. The sheriff will be facing the top of the order with the tying run in the on deck circle.....and here comes “Little Louie” Aparicio, the Sox leadoff hitter. He’s had a tough night, going 0-4 without hitting the ball out of the infield and including a double play to kill a potential rally in the bottom of the 7th. Louie will be seeking redemption here in the ninth........… .and there’s ball four as Bridges can’t find home plate to his first hitter. Bases loaded with the tying run coming to the plate in this 6-2 contest....hold on to your seats....this game is not over yet! Joe Cunnigham steps into the left hander’s batter’s box and he will have to deal with the left handed offerings of Bridges. He is 1-4 as he singled to lead off the eight off the right hander Daley. Bridges gets set to deliver to Cunningham and here it comes.....and there’s a deep fly to left center field, nobody’s going to get that one! Carreon scores! Berry scores! Here comes the throw to the plate as Aparicio is waved around third and he is........SAFE! Wooooo-eeeeeeeeeee! It is now 6-5 Yankees as the fans are going crazy cheering for Cunningham, who is standing on second with the tying run and nobody out! Don’t you dare go away, baseball fans! Here’s Floyd Robinson to try and tie this baby up. Houk stays with Bridges as the fans are standing all over the park.... ball four! The winning run is now on base for Al Smith! And here comes Houk, that’s going to be all for the sheriff! Trotting in from center field is right handed Jim “the Mummy” Coates...Houk hands him the ball and gives him a pat on the back.... the game hangs in the balance as he takes his warm up tosses. OK, heeeeeere we go as Smith digs in and Coates tries to silence these noisy White Sox faithful. Coates works out of the stretch with Cuningham on second and Robinson on first..... he lets it go...Smith swings and there’s a shot down the line in left.....it’s a FAIR BALL!!..... Cunningham scores to tie it as Tresh rifles it in to third too late as Robinson slides in.... this place is up for grabs as the White Sox have tied it at six apiece on Smith’s double! It’s a whoooooole new ball game and any old kind of a run will win it now! Catcher Elston Howard goes out to talk to Coates, who looks a bit rattled after that liner. Houk motions from the dugout and we’re about to find out if they will pitch to Landis..... oh, brother, Jim will not get a chance to be the hero tonight as they are intentionally walking good old number 1 to set up the force at any base. Well, folks, here’s a surprise..... skipper Al Lopez is going to pinch hit for Mike Hershberger who was 2-4 today and is sending the oldest rookie in the major leagues Deacon Jones up to pinch hit for Hershberger. Jones has spent 11 years in the minors before finally being a September call up and appearing in his first game on September 8th...... OK rook, here’s your chance to be a hero!
now.....bases loaded, noooo-body out and one hit will give the Sox an incredible come from behind victory over their hated rivals. Cotes chooses to wind up and here comes the pitch.....and there it is....Hey Hey! Jones lines a single to center as Robinson crosses the plate with the 7th game winning run for the never-say-die White Sox! Wheeeeeeeeee! And after the game...... “Welcome to the 10th inning folks and here are the happy totals......” The White Sox went on to win 2 out of 3 from the Yankees and finished the season 85-77, eleven games behind the eventual world champion........Yankees. In a strange twist of fate that year, their 85 wins were only good enough for 5th place (they were 2nd or 3rd most of this era), finishing behind the Angels, Tigers and the Twins. For this night though, it must have felt like 1959 all over again...... ****************************************************** Final Notes: * In the years from 1948-1962 when Brickhouse called the games for both teams the Cubs finished .500 or better only four times: 1952 (77-77); 1963 (82-80); 1967 (87-74) and 1968 (84-78). In the same time period the White Sox did NOT finish .500 or better only four times: 1948 (51-101); 1949 (63-91); 1950 (60-94) and 1968 (67-95). * The combined record of the Cubs from ‘48-’68 (as noted previously) was 1423 - 1847, 424 games under .500. His beloved Cubbies never finished higher than 5th place in that span until they peaked in third place in ‘67 and ‘68. They finished LAST five times in the same time stretch. * The White Sox in the same period had a record of 1735-1541, 194 games OVER .500. Try and wrap your mind around the fact that the Cubs finished 306 games in the loss column behind the White Sox in the shared “Brickhouse” era.....not to mention the fact that the White Sox were one of only two teams to displace the Yankees in the World Series between 1949 and 1964. If not for those “damn Yankees” and the lack of a playoff format in those years, the White Sox would have played in the postseason at least EIGHT (possibly as many as eleven) additional times over and above their World Series appearance in 1959. * Based on these numbers the only logical conclusion one can come to is that Mr. Brickhouse was the INVENTOR of FBC, and that all those days in the hot summer sun at Wrigley must surely have warped his sense of perspective. Whatever Kool-Aid he fed you as a youth must have worked since there is absolutely no comparison between the quality of baseball played between the two teams during his era. * I don’t know about you but just writing this gave me the goose bumps.... those were wonderful days when the whole world was simpler and a base ball game on the TV on WGN with Mr. Brickhouse was all that mattered......thank you, Jack! You made my childhood just a little bit better with your enthusiasm and love for the game. Hey Hey!
33,000 short-sleeved Sox fans are on their feet as Jones steps to the plate.... watch it 92
Chapter Nine: Mega Bupkis SUBJECT: Dear Ozzie Date: 8/1/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Dear Ozzie: Well, it’s been a few weeks since I wrote last, and not a whole lot has changed. We’re still 2 games under .500, we’re actually CLOSER to first place (3 games in the loss column). Adam Dunn is setting a new standard for “human train wreck”, hitting .165 with only 10 home runs and 3,476 strikeouts (it sure seems that way). The hitting in general has continued to be the curse of this team......yesterdays’ game vs. the Red Sox was another in a long string of “perfect examples” of the frustration we all feel: 12 men left on base, 8 of them in scoring position (and many of them early in the game when the tone could have been set). A closer look at the at bats during those critical moments is enough to drive anyone who knows this game crazy. Five strikeouts (three looking), 1 pop out and two meek ground balls (Sunday hops no extra charge) to third base. For those of you keeping score, that’s eight at bats with runners in scoring position without hitting a single ball out of the infield. Who are the culprits? EVERYONE, and that’s the issue. When the ducks are on the pond, we go fishing for bad pitches.....or take strike three right down the middle. Why does this happen over and over and over and over and over......?????
the game the right way”.....hustle, awareness of the situation, always ready to attack when the other team makes a mistake, situational hitting, mental toughness. Do you see this from some of the players on this team? Let’s talk about Alex Rios for a moment. If he isn’t hiding a debilitating injury, then he is the most embarrassing player to wear a White Sox uniform in recent history. No hustle, refuses to run hard to first base. Pulls his head out on most swings, refuses to adjust to how pitchers are pitching him. Throws to the wrong base on a regular basis. Breaks the wrong way on many balls hit right at him as if he has forgotten how to play...or he isn’t paying attention. Oh yeah, and collecting $12 million dollars a year for that kind of performance. What kind of message are you sending the rest of the team when you keep putting him in the lineup? Trust me, Ozzie, I share your pain. I have attended 47 games in person this year and watched almost all the rest on TV from start to finish. I love baseball and I love the White Sox, I build my days around the games. I know like you know this team has far more talent than it has shown, and the big problem has been the hitting. The pitching staff could sue this offense for lack of support and win a big settlement. You have tried protecting them, encouraging them, scolding them, begging them....and it’s the same old same old same old results far too often. Two things to turn this season around: 1)
Ozzie gets tough and starts demanding better play or you sit. Period.
I am sorry, but I have to differ with your opinion of our hitting coach, Mr. Walker. I have had the pleasure of meeting with him and speaking to him on several occasions. Nice man, dedicated to his craft. Works hard. Over his head and ineffective more often than not.
2) Find a new voice for the hitters to get advice from who preaches APPRAOCH over video and mechanical fixes. Let their natural talent that got them to the major leagues prosper by preaching the thinking part of hitting over the physical part..... they all have the talent.
The missing ingredient? APPROACH at the plate. Our hitters do not follow some of the basics of good hitting: * Look for your favorite pitch when the count is 0-0, 2-1 or 3-1. Leave other pitches alone.
Thanks for listening again, I know you’re busy. See you at the ball park tonight, C.C.Sabathia awaits so the expectation of a three game losing streak hangs over everyone’s heads.....or will tonight be one of those nights we tease everyone and look like contenders?
* Shorten your swing a little when the count is not in your favor.
* If you need a fly ball to score a run, put a fly ball swing on a fly ball pitch.
* If a junk ball pitcher is going tonight, have the concept of taking him to the opposite field from the moment you step in the box. * Learn how to foul off more pitches and wait for YOUR pitch. Paulie and Omar Vizquel are about the only two hitters on this team that subscribe to those time tested theories..... and to my thinking it is the responsibility of the hitting coach to preach these concepts, and the job of the overall staff to INSIST on these concepts from their players. On another topic, I was thinking back to how many times you have talked about “playing 94
SUBJECT: Mega Bupkis Date: 8/4/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. DUCK!!! I think the Yankees just hit another home run! It is with only muted glee that I tap away into my computer following your 18-7 loss to the Yankees. 5 losses in a row after legitimately looking like you were the team that was about to make what could pass for “a move” in the AL Central. In the meantime the good guys up 95
north fashioned their first 4 game winning streak of the year with a great 1-0 win over the fast-fading Pirates ( perhaps newly annointed Pittsburgher Derek Lee is a carrier of the curse). As was the case last year after a culmination of Cubbie occurances drove Lou Piniella over the edge and back to Florida, my team seems poised to rally around their only-seemingly annual “we’ve accepted that the season’s over and we all want to live in Chicago so what say we play well for a while and maybe even save Mike Quade’s job so we continue to allow veterans to play without accountability drive.” Interesting timing for our winning streak. We’d hit what I cautiously assumed was rock bottom with a 13-6 loss to St. Louis last Saturday. (As you are well aware, rock bottom is a relative term, particularly for the Cubs.) Every mistake that a Pony League team could make was made in that game. My personal favorite was Alfonso Soriano’s “throw” from left field that missed its intended target. (I assume he did not intend to hit the on-deck circle, but with Mr. Soriano I could be wrong. Based on his defense, I’m not sure anyone can assume anything about what his intentions are.) True to form, the Q-less one said not a word after the game by way of criticism of the Almighty Alfonso. (Everyone! Come into the Big Tent and see the mystical magic of the Almighty Alfonso! Watch incredulously as he makes baseball fundamentals disappear into thin air! ) If it had been Starlin Castro or Darwin Barney making any sort of an error, Q would have purchased ad space in the Tribune, and bought time on ESPN 1000 and The Score to excoriate them. It was 10 days ago that Q-less declared the Cubs were still in it and just needed a good run against the Brewers and Cards to get back into. That optimistic leadership led to 5 straight losses culminating in the aforementioned 13-6 shellacking. But when it comes to a shellacking, it’s going to be tough to beat the ass-whuppin’ you guys got last night. I will respectfully not use this missive to beat the attendance horse. I will not point out that the Yankees visit to Wrigley produced record crowds and an actual Cub victory. I will not say that your best pitcher since the All Star break blew up last night or that you were playing against the Yankees worst starter. I will, however, apologize to you for not congratulating you on getting back to .500 a few days back, as it looks like that might have been the last chance for me to congratulate you on achieving that milestone. As we both know, the Cubs lost hope of achieving .500 back on April 20 or thereabouts. It was just this past Sunday morning Sox fans woke up 3 games back, Detroit reeling, Cleveland treading water, and Minnesota beginning to slip out of the picture. The Grand Poobahs of ESPN were hailing the Sox as the team that was going to make the run. And now, just 4 cruel days later, the Sox are 5 games below .500, 6 1/2 games back, have another game with the Yankees and go to...drum roll...MINNESOTA for the weekend. Take heart though, there are still matters of intense interest that should hold your attention.
4. Will you know all of the fans who attend your games in September by name? Just so you know I’m not entirely cruel, I am spending the next day knitting a blanket made from 100% FBC. It will be my gift to you, so that you are protected from the chill and loneliness of October without baseball. SUBJECT: Zero wins, Zero Walks Date: 8/6/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. 4 games, 4 losses, no walks. Discuss. SUBJECT: Zero wins, Zero Walks REPLY Date: 8/6/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Ah ha...... throw me a slow curve and wait to see if I can hit it, eh? Let’s give this a shot.... This was the first time since 1978 the White Sox got swept at home by the Yankees. It was painful to watch, especially after dropping the last two to the Red Sox, yielding us a season high six game losing streak. To make matters worse, the red hot Texas Rangers gave us no help while playing the Tigers, and we suddenly look up at a steep hill to climb at 6 1/2 games out. Ouch, that hammer hurts..... No walks in four consecutive games had not been accomplished by the White Sox since 1968, so we got to enjoy seeing two historical events that had not happened in 33 and 43 years respectively......but that did not make it any easier to endure. While I can occasionally be amused by negative history, Adam Dunn is providing me my fill of those kinds of stats this year. Let’s start by saying that the Yankees were better than we were for those four days. MUCH better. They sliced us, diced us and made mince meat out of us. Some days you’re the dog and some days you’re the hydrant. This series we were painted red. To wit: * John Danks had come into the game having an ERA of 0.98 in his last six starts.....and promptly got rocked all over the ball park, yielding four runs in the first three innings, setting the tone for the game.
1. Will Adam Dunn make it to the finish line and record that worst stat line of any regular player in Major League history?
* Gavin Floyd has been even better than Danks, touting the lowest ERA in the major leagues since the All Star break. They came out bunting: 2 perfect bunts for hits, a bloop single to left and then a monster three run homer = 4-0 before most people were in their seats. What fun.
2. Are you watching the last days of Ozzie Guillen and preparing for the return of Tony LaRussa?
* The Yankees had three hitters with four RBIs each in the Floyd game. My scorecard looked like I had spilled ink on it.
3. What is the over/under date on the next Kenny Williams explosion?
* They hit more home runs in the four game series than Adam Dunn has all year......by the 97
way, I heard of a guy who has a bet on Dunn that his strikeout total will be higher than his batting average. Methinks he wins a bunch of money, no way Dunn is going to hit over .200 unless he wakes up and finds the real Adam Dunn has taken over his body again. * Their pitchers threw strikes, and we swung at them. We swung at them high, low and in between. We swung at fastballs, curve balls, sliders and change ups. We swung at Dancer and Prancer and Comet and Blitzen. We swung as if our lives depending on swinging.....and no one walked for four games. To no one’s surprise, we lost four games. * The one day we actually scored some runs (7), we gave up 18. No further discussion needed. Look, when you get beat 31-11 over four days, you never led, you gave up runs in the first inning three of the four games and you drew no walks in the four game series there is only one thing to say: WE STUNK On to Minnesota, where we hope to get back to work at salvaging a season that has begun to sink into the west.....er, central. If we get swept up there, we can start planning for 2012. P.S. Your bleeping Cubs won five in a row while we were losing all these games. Couldn’t even get any soothing consolation from seeing the Cubs scores up on the big board. This only increased the weeping and the gnashing of teeth from the faithful at the Cell.
1. Be a nice complimentary sub off the bench, play a serviceable outfield, hustle all the time, and hit well enough to be in an OK major leaguer. He’s also 34 years old, which means (unless he opts for Sammy/Roger/Jason/Barry juice ) his best days are behind him. 2. That’s it. Mike, here’s the thing. This season was over a very long time ago. Approximately April 20 if memory serves. We have the rest of the season to accomplish exactly one thing; find out what the players who are question marks can do on an every game basis. Those question marks include Campana (who is fast as lightning, wields a nice glove, but is apparently only capable of throwing what appears to be an eephus pitch from the outfield ) and Tyler Colvin, who also sat recently in the name of “winning now.” And speaking of trying to take something away from this miserable year, here’s to hoping Baseball McCaskey figures that the time is NOW to hire a President of Baseball ops so he can see this mess in real-time motion and make the necessary changes ( Hendry, Quade, Kenney ) to turn us legitimately competitive and long-term competitive beginning in the 2013 season. (Yes, I’ve written off next year already and will happily watch a younger team struggle and grow so long as it’s actually growing...) Anyway, congratulations on sweeping the Twins. Has to take a little of the sting out of last week’s Yankee visit. Your boys head to Baltimore 51/2 back and we get to work on moving to that elusive 15 games below .500 mark. It’s called “aiming high.”
SUBJECT: The NL Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief Date: 8/6/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W.
SUBJECT: Catching Up: The Attendance Horse Date: 8/10/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A.
The juggernaught that is the Chicago Cubs has finally been brought to heel! Cincinnati managed to end our 7 game win streak ( please note that the Sox’ longest win streak this year was 4 games...a minor victory for us but since minor is all that’s available I’ll take it ), squeaking out an 8-7 thriller. The usually-reliable Sean Marshall had a meltdown so this easily could have been win number 8 in a row. We almost got back to 15 games below .500! I could hear the Brewers shaking in their cleats. Huge crowds again this weekend more fans in our last two games than in your Yankee series...just sayin’)...and not a single true Cub fan swayed by the Fool’s Gold.
Could not resist the urge to go back and “catch up” on commenting on a variety of topics you recently touched upon. I am sure this will come as a shock to you…. Out of respect, I’ll start with your comment and then either tear it to shreds or commiserate.
It was just a very nice week to be a fan, nothing more. But just in case anyone needed any reminding, Mike Q-less provided us with this nugget, when asked why Tony Campana was out of the line-up Saturday after hitting an inside-thepark homer Friday as well as making a gem of play in the outfield. “We still need to see what Reed Johnson can do...” Mike, I have not seen every game Reed Johnson has played in his career. I am a baseball fan and do not consider myself an expert in the sport. BUT EVEN I KNOW WHAT REED JOHNSON CAN DO. In case you do not have access to scouting reports, baseball cards, mlb.com, Google, or The Onion, let me tell you exactly what he can do: 98
“I will respectfully not use this missive to beat the attendance horse. I will not point out that the Yankees visit to Wrigley produced record crowds and an actual Cub victory.” Record crowds at Wrigley do not surprise me.....as mad as the Lemmings are, there are still many who faithfully show up to the shrine regardless of record, effort or talent on the field. This has been a well documented phenomenon for decades. “Yankee Fans” who go to one game a year all wanted to be part of “the scene” when the Yankees returned to Wrigley for the first time in eons. This surely affected the normal injection of “Yankee fans” at our ball park. Non-record crowds at the Cell when the Sox are still struggling to get to .500 and be a real contender do not surprise me either.....though even I admit the under 30,000 attendance numbers for the Red Sox and the Yankees felt weird. My wife may actually be the perfect barometer for the Sox attendance. She is so tired of the up-down teeter totter season of mediocrity that she attends the games she committed 99
to grudgingly. “Nothing to believe in this year” she keeps saying. “Rios and Dunn are useless and killing us” she keeps saying. “Nobody hits in the clutch” she keeps saying. Sox fans TRULY differ from your breed......they are content to hold their money and watch all the games on TV until the team meets with their approval. There might be a lesson in that for Cubs fans?? In the meantime, I will admit it was tough to keep my double chin up in the throes of that six game skid at home vs. two teams that WILL be in the playoffs. Small consolation dept: we took 4 out of 6 from the Red Sox overall this year.
Kenny Williams is as passionate about our team as we are. His passion earns my respect. He seems to shoot from the hip but once he explains the thought process behind a move you understand why he did what he did....agree or not. For this he earns my respect. I do truly enjoy when he goes off like Mount St. Helens, because the passion is worn on the sleeve and the words come from the heart. I loved it when he looked at the press and said: “I have no answers for this team. If any of you (the reporters) have any answers speak up now. (Silence) I thought so.”
“Will Adam Dunn make it to the finish line and record that worst stat line of any regular player in Major League history?”
Perplexing, enigmatic, inconsistent, bewildering.... any writers Thesaurus is getting worn looking for fresh adjectives to describe the underachievement of the 2011 White Sox.
Recently a reporter asked Ozzie how he felt when Adam Dunn was at the plate. He said “I cry”. I agree wholeheartedly...... all of us fans in the stands cry too. You’ve heard of the Mendoza line for hitters flirting with a .200 batting average? We’ve instituted the “Dunn line” of .160. Adam Dunn has been just barely keeping above the Dunn line for weeks now. His at bats might best be replaced with some creative dentistry; it might be more entertaining and certainly less painful.
“Will you know all of the fans who attend your games in September by name?”
But Wait! Adam recently speaking to a national reporter vowed he would “report to training camp in shape next season”. Nice of him to consider that for $14.5 million dollars. It surely appears that he is Adam Done for 2011, though our playoff hopes (dreams?) may hinge on him waking up one day and discovering the demons have vacated his baseball soul. I hear he’s a real nice guy and has carried this load with as much class as one can muster. That IS a small consolation that he has not blamed anyone or anything else or pulled a Milton Bradley (or Carlos Zambrano). “Are you watching the last days of Ozzie Guillen and preparing for the return of Tony LaRussa?” This is a great question....and one no one will be spilling the beans anytime soon. Ozzie, as much as I love him for everything he has done for the White Sox seems to have lost his magic here. Might be time for a new challenge, might be time for a new voice in the clubhouse. The next 6 weeks will tell a lot. As for Tony LaRussa, he would make for an interesting reprise should he return for a second stint. I know this much: many teams have rebounded with a fresh voice and a new focus. He might be willing to come here, thinking of the Sox as unfinished business. Might be our time for change if this talented team does not make the playoffs......and that makes me cry. Ozzie has done great things here and I (and many other fans) will FOREVER be grateful. These thoughts have to be circling the craniums of both Kenny and Jerry also, and that must be tough. Ozzie.... I am rooting for you to find that magic again. You were born to be with the White Sox. “What is the over/under date on the next Kenny Williams explosion?” 100
Come come, my good friend. Surely you know that I already know most of the fans who attend our games. While I may not know all of their names, the regulars are easy to spot.....they look haunted as this aggravating season marches on toward....??????????? Greetings to Dave, Dan M., Tim, Danny Jr. and Dan C., Arlene and her husband Terry, Bill G., son Johnny and all the family. A big Go Sox to Larry and Carol, Bob & Krasny, Ed, Chad, Bill B. and son Dan, Kevin, Manny, Jim Mik, Alice, June (or is it Helen?), the Gallagher girls, Debbie, and Megan (wherever you are). Also big THANKS to Laura, Erin, Ruth, Jamie, Jo, Tevin and to everyone else who makes our club box the only summer home any baseball fan would need. Oh yeah.....and Dad, Grandpa, Don and Rick..... we miss you and we know you’re watching from the best skybox in the universe. Tell Yia Yia Tommy says hello and the Cubs are still throwing the ball straight. “Just so you know I’m not entirely cruel, I am spending the next day knitting a blanket made from 100% FBC. It will be my gift to you, so that you are protected from the chill and loneliness of October without baseball.” Thanks for the kind thought but I am allergic to FBC, it makes me itch. Silly as it sounds, I am still holding out that the White Sox will find some way to play up their talent level and find a way to win this division. Then we’ll see who can beat our pitching staff in the playoffs. I cannot, will not succumb to FBC...it’s not in my DNA. I DO think you’re on to something though.....Just think of the t-shirt variations you could offer: Forever Bad Cubs? Frightfully Bad Century? (now featuring part two?) Foolish But Cheerful? Forgone Blue Conclusion?
Chapter Ten: “Pop” Go the Sox, Big Z and the Hendry Legacy
Hitter after hitter flailed away swinging as hard as they could at Chen’s 74 mile an hour change up, his 82 mile an hour curve ball and his 84 mile an hour screwball. No one adjusted as we witnessed pop out after pop out after strikeout after two hopper. What fun.
SUBJECT: The Sweep, the turnaround and “Pop” go the Sox Date: 8/13/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. The Sweep
In the meantime, we totally wasted yet another quality start from young Zach Stewart, who held the last place Royals to two runs over 7 innings. Just to make sure the embarrassment was complete, Matt Thornton served up two bloop hits followed by a towering home run to Melky Cabrera in the ninth to make it 500-0 (oops, I mean 5-0). We scored a meaningless run in the ninth when no one bothered to hold the runner on first on base and we avoided a shutout with a two out single.
Took a nice 3 day trip with the “Sox Grinders” group that travels to some road series during the season and had a GREAT time as the Sox swept the Twins in Minneapolis. Let me repeat that. The Sox SWEPT the TWINS ON THE ROAD.
“POP”...... that balloon sure did not last long. We were quickly reminded that we had now lost 7 in a row at home, have a losing record against the last place Royals and that Bruce Chen has three wins against the Sox and four against everyone else in the AL.
The pitching was awesome as Buehrle, newcomer Zach Stewart and Jake
Oh yeah, and Pierzynski (who is hitting .295) got hit on the wrist and is out indefinitely.
Peavy just shut the Twins bats down as the Sox actually got some clutch hitting all three games.... even Alex Rios hit, so there must have been something in the water. Adam Dunn must have had been drinking something else, because he still did not hit. I am not sure if it was more fun winning the games or watching the faces of the Twins fans who were used to walking all over us when we came to the twin cities.
We were supposed to come home Sunday morning but the prospect of a sweep kept us in town for game three...... and what fun we had as the Sox hit four home runs and cruised to victory on Sunday. Jo (our host from the Sox) got a call from the office asking if the Grinders could just keep going to Baltimore to help keep the momentum going. I think most of us would have gone in a heartbeat if it was practical....or the Sox would have footed the bill! Best moment of the weekend: Having a good-natured Twins fan see our group leaving the park Sunday and saying “Nice job, White Sox!” That was a stark contrast to the treatment we usually get in that park and a BIG tip of the cap to whoever that fan was.
Just as I thought nothing could make me feel better I read about Big Z in Atlanta....... more coming soon. Time to leave for the game tonight. My wife says if they don’t win tonight she’s done for the rest of the year. Judging by our attendance she must not be alone....but make no mistake the Sox management feels the heat. Hey, your phone is ringing. It’s the Ricketts family taking orders for next seasons sunshine blown up your........ talk to you later. Where’s Z?? SUBJECT: Big Z: Thirty Days in the Hole Date: 8/14/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A.
“Pop” Go the Sox
Well, well, well..... Carlos Zambrano finally melted down again. So much for the “99.9% I’m cured thanks to anger management” speech. Losing, pitching poorly and giving up five home runs in one game set off the human firecracker down in Atlanta. After being thrown out of the game following yet another embarrassing display of anger that would make Mrs. Milton Bradley blush, Big Z shows his true character by cleaning out his locker and tweeting about retiring from the game. We baseball fans should be so lucky that this hot head who cares not for anyone but himself should fade off into the sunset once the smoke of his recent explosion clears. Unfortunately, it has already come to light that his agent has informed the Cubs that retirement has been taken off the table as an option. Should this surprise anyone? He may be a selfish, boorish boneheaded moron who can’t control his temper, but he’s not that dumb to leave $18 million on the table because of “pride”.
A cold, cold bucket of water got thrown all over those warm-fuzzies last night. The lowly Kansas City Royals (who ALWAYS give us fits) strapped a can of whoop-ass on us Friday night as journeyman Bruce Chen held us to ONE bleeping hit and ZERO bleeping runs over 6 innings despite walking four and hitting two. Good old Alex Rios regressed into “Bad Alex” by popping out twice with the bases loaded in the first and third innings, which seemed to take the entire luster off the team.
The Cubs front office and current manager, who have done everything in their power to coddle the man as if he had nitroglycerin running through his veins (which indeed he may......) has (maybe, possibly) finally come to the obvious-to-everyone-else conclusion that his days with the Cubs must be over. May I politely suggest that took about three years (and a few Gatorade coolers) too long to figure out.....but then again, we’re talking about a franchise that took almost forty years to put three consecutive seasons over .500
The Turnaround The Sox got the season turned around by continuing a stretch of good baseball in Baltimore, winning 3 of 4 for a 6-1 road trip. They came from behind in game one, scored early runs in games two and four, and almost got a sweep by coming from behind in game three (only to lose in 10 innings on a gopher ball). Life was good again as the Sox headed home for a nine game home stand only 4 games out of first and feeling good about the overall quality of play displayed. Could not WAIT to get to the ball park Friday and then........
together, has not won a pennant since Japan surrendered in World War II and has not won a world championship since Henry Ford produced the first Model T. Currently, the Big Z has been sentenced to “thirty days in the hole”..... The seldom used “Disqualified List”, where Zambrano is allowed no contact with his team and goes without pay for thirty days. Bravo! Perhaps they can exercise another little known clause and have him sit in a chair facing the corner during sunlight hours or write 500 times on the blackboard “I will not throw at people’s heads at 95 miles an hour after they hit five home runs off me.” The only tragic part of this is that we all expect the Players Union to file a grievance and the Cubs front office will have to waste more time, energy and money defending a move everyone (including most of his teammates) surely applauds. It did not escape my attention that the downtrodden Cubbies reacted to this news by beating the red hot Atlanta Braves twice in a row after BIg Z was shown the door. While some may say it had more to do with Scott Linebrink be allowed to pitch with the bases loaded Sunday (any Sox fan could tell you that’s a BAD idea), I would offer that while the Cubs were winning these two games the most popular song in the clubhouse was “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”. Finally, I consider it poetic justice that it was ALPHONSO SORIANO who went down and chewed out Zambrano for “embarrassing the team” with his antics, apparently pushing him to the point where he cleaned out his locker and walked out on his team. While I may applaud his moxie, I would also politely suggest that his play in left field is embarrassing enough on its own. I’ll tell you what......you take Alex Rios for the last three years of his contract and we’ll take Z for the final year of his, as long as Z agrees to the following conditions:
it? Pay no attention to that maniac attacking the water cooler, throwing baseballs in the stands, beating his chest while screaming at the umpire and starting fights in the dugout with his own teammates. He’s a good pitcher and he’s just wound a little tight. To make him feel better about things, we’ve written a new verse to our victory song: “Go Cubs Go-oh-oh......watch Z Blow-oh-oh.......hey Chicago whadda you say? Big Z will pop his cork today....” SUBJECT: Where’s Z you Ask Date: 8/16/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. The word is “inevitable.” I-n-e-v-i-t-a-b-l-e. Please use it in a sentence. “When you reward a child for childish behavior, that he will continue to act like a child is inevitable.” I have to tell you I am absolutely giddy about the latest meltdown of Mt. Carlos. The conspiratorial excuses, therapies, covering up, and simple ignoring of behavior executed by his teammates and bosses over the years made this moment an inevitability. Any great organization that knows how to set championship standards does not shudder and cower and rationalize out of fear, and that’s exactly what the Cubs have done with Zambrano. The Cubs have always feared offending Zambrainless because if they dared to actually coach him, or set behavioral or athletic standards that did anything but make him smile, they might “lose” him. Here’s how I picture the conversation in the executive suite at Wrigley: “Z just destroyed a Gatorade machine.”
1) He wears an electronic blood pressure monitor. Should his temper rise and the doctors can see he’s about to blow, we’ll set off the electronically charged jock strap he has to wear, thus disabling him. We’ll then come out and take him off peacefully.
“But he’s got such good stuff.” “Z just punched out a teammate.”
Hey, it worked for Jimmy Piersall..... 2) On the days he doesn’t pitch he does his workouts before everyone else arrives and goes home. No problems with poisoning the clubhouse.
“But he’s got such good stuff.”
3) He takes anger management classes three times a week. If he misses a session, he is forced to watch “The Bells of St. Mary’s” for six hours without food or bathroom breaks. 4) He dresses and showers at home. No contact with any other players. Can’t risk it. On second thought...... I’m pulling that trade off the table. I would be embarrassing to have him on your roster under any conditions. How sad is that for a guy with enough talent to be 125-81 lifetime for a series of mediocre teams? Meanwhile, back at Wrigley: Come here; sit down in this nice box seat. Have a beer, beautiful day in the sunshine, isn’t 104
“Z just berated his teammates again.” “But he’s got such good stuff.” This hands-off, no boundaries approach has NEVER worked in sports. NEVER. Think of some of the biggest loons in Chicago sports and you can see my point. The Bulls and Phil Jackson handled Dennis Rodman brilliantly. They allowed him room to be himself off the court, but on the court he toed the line that was consistently enforced by both management and teammates. Result: 3 more NBA titles. The reality of the Cubs and Z is actually worse than just pretending his issues didn’t exist. The Cubs actually rewarded him for his misanthropic behavior. Weeks after his brawl with catcher Michael Barrett, he was the recipient of a contract extension that paid him like a pitcher who had actually won 20 games, was a primary factor in leading his team to the playoffs, led the majors in strike outs, ERA, and or a Cy Young contender. For those of you interested in facts, he has done exactly none of those things. 105
This philosophy of treating Z with kid gloves is also part of the the basis for my ongoing anger with Mike Q-less who is a taskmaster with Castro and Barney and spineless with his vets. That Q-less is just the last ( I hope the last, although with Hendry, Kenney, and Baseball McCaskey making decisions I have no historical basis for making this assumption ) in a line of managers who has pampered the pitiful, pot-bellied, potassium-deficient, pitcher who’s been more potential than production does not make him any less guilty. Baker was guilty, Piniella was guilty. And it’s more than management. How many teammates did Carlos have over the years who stood up to him? How many demanded that he get in line, take care of himself, and realize his potential? None that we know of. The exact same number of World Series titles and this is not a coincidence. A real leader would have taken care of this situation with the backing of real teammates. Maybe someone did try and we just don’t know about it. Maybe the players were so worn down over the years by management’s approach to this waste of baseball talent that they came to (correctly ) believe that no matter what they tried, it wouldn’t matter because management always had Zambrano’s back. Pathetic. When you set childish standards for a child he remains a child. Carlos was never asked to grow up here. Hendry allowed this to happen over his entire tenure, and that alone is proof positive that he has never set an organizational philosophy or standard that required Zambrano to be what he could have been. Maybe, just maybe, that was a form of subconscious self-preservation by the GM. If he held Zambrano to championship standards (along with all the other lazy miscreants that were signed to Cubby Blue by this failed General Manager), maybe, in turn, someone would have held Hendry to such standards. The standings, the contracts, and the farm system show he certainly never held those standards for himself. Sort of buried in this mountain of crap was a damning aside that the GM uttered in trying to criticize the monster he created. He said that besides the public meltdowns, there have been issues Z has had that have not reached the media. He said that in trying to portray himself as someone who went above and beyond for the unappreciative Venezuelan dolt. Hey Jim, you’re saying that there’s more he’s done that YOU know about when what WE know is already plenty enough to release him on its own merit. You have MORE reason to have terminated this sideshow than we know, and you haven’t done it. Not only haven’t you done it, you signed him to an extension with a raise!!! We could double the size of this book by listing all of the excuses Hendry et. al. have given over the years for not winning. But if you want to bottom line it, whether it was during the Tribune ownership or after, the one piece of the puzzle that has been most obviously missing comes in the form of wall decor. Wall decor you say? Have I suddenly lost my marbles?
sensical behavior, made him stare at the image of a bloated, spoiled, prima donna who could have had a Hall of Fame career, perhaps this story ends differently. But alas, no mirrors in the general area. Shame. You could have used that same mirror and held it up to Jim Hendry when he alibied his signing of Soriano, or to Aramis when he waves at balls within inches of his glove at third, or to Dusty when he lost control of his team a few years back. You may remember that team that was in contention for a while. Actually two people did have the (Steve) stones to hold up a mirror. They were the team announcers. They held up the mirror and ended up out of a job at year’s end. Remember the rumors at the trade deadline about Z getting interest from the Yankees? Of course, we would learn that there was ZERO interest on their part and that it was all so much hype. Perhaps Hendry forgot that the Yankee pitching coach was Larry Rotchschild, who no doubt had his fill of the pitcher who looks more like one of those Russian dolls than a pro athlete. (And anyone wanting to point out what CC Sabathia looks like will get me to chill my rancor once he shows me where Z’s numbers compare with CC’s.) For anyone who forgot, the Yankees didn’t take Z because they could see from halfway across the country what Hendry couldn’t see under his considerable belt. Z is not a champion, Z never will be a champion, and Z is perfectly at home as a Cub under Hendry because neither has the slightest idea about what it really takes to win. So here we sit, Zambrano relegated to something called the Disqualified List, (baseball’s version of double secret probation) girding for the also i-n-e-v-i-t-a-b-l-e dog and pony show his agent is sure to orchestrate apologizing, lying and rationalizing all the way to his commission. I hear people saying that how Hendry reacts to all of this will be his ultimate test. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hendry failed his test a long time ago. There is no make-up exam available. The person being tested right now is Baseball McCaskey. He already failed his first quiz when he retained Hendry at the end of last season. Will he be as spineless in his approach to Hendry as Hendry was with Zambrano? That’s the test that’s being administered right now. I have my red pen ready. SUBJECT: Streaks are born to end, continued angst and other meanderings Date: 8/18/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. And from Tom A. right back to Tom W. Tom A.’s “returns the pitch” in italics…..
Have I gone south of sanity right along with dear Carlos?
Well, the last few days for the teams on both sides of town have shown us more of the same, though with different twists......
Yes. Wall decor.
It seems there’s not a single mirror in the Cubs’ clubhouse or executive suites. It’s the one item that apparently is banned by fiat.
Just when you thought it was safe to keep your eyes open when Marmol was closing out a game (9 in a row!) he implodes again, losing on a bottom of the ninth grand slam home run after walking everyone but the beer vendor. Oh yeah, he did that against a last place ball club also. Pass the Marmolade please, for Sox fans that was sweet to spread on the
If someone had the stones to hold up a mirror to Zambrano when he first evinced his non106
morning toast! For Cubs fans (those of you still watching), that had to be FBC moment #122 of 2011. Just goes to show you how little you Sox fans pay attention. He did so walk the beer vendor, although I thought Ball Four caught the black. And for good measure, the next game, the Cubs took a page out of the Sox book and had runners on first and third with no outs 3 different times without scoring en route to a one run loss. After that two week “hot” streak, it’s nice to see the boys returning to form. DiMaggio Remains Safe Thanks to a stellar defensive play by none other than a Chicago Cub, the 33 game hitting streak of Dan Uggla has come to an end, keeping the sacred record of 56 games by Joe DiMaggio completely safe. It figures it would end with a play like that from a player on a team like that...... What are you talking about? That play will rank #2 on our season highlight reel. And there may not be a #1. The Sox are hanging in there, going on a nice 8-2 run to get within 3 1/2. I should have known that you couldn’t wait too long before wander off into jealousy-tinged stereotyping. As if its a bad thing to have good attendance. Going to the ballpark should be fun. You South Siders can’t seem to stand a day that goes by without a little angst. Nothing wrong with going to a ballgame, having fun for fun’s sake, and living in the moment. That’s a separate issue from the state of the team and the state of the organization. A subtlety lost on the fans of the black and white, who are more comfortable seeing everything as black or white. I admire Williams’ phrasing for sure. Its total accountability and that’s (as I’ve written often) an unknown commodity with the Cubs management as it is now constituted. Speaking of things you may not have noticed, we had a good-news, bad-news issue yesterday. The good news is the Cubs put their money in the future by spending an unprecedented amount to get their top draft picks signed. The bad news is it was Cubs brass that drafted them. Hopefully though, this is a sign that Baseball McCaskey is truly investing in the future and that there is a plan in place. I just want to make sure Hendry, Q-less, and Crane Kenney are nowhere near the North Side beginning the day your team and my team break out the golf clubs. SUBJECT: The Hendry Legacy Date: 8/21/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Good morning...... Nine years is a significant time to serve as a GM in baseball. Jim Hendry can be proud that he lasted that long (seventeen years all told with the team), and it is obvious his roots ran deep with the Cubs when he demonstrated real class by staying with the team from July 22 until this week to help finish the business of signing the young players just drafted who may have gotten away had he not stayed. A tip of the hat to Mr. Hendry for that. 108
As far as your owner goes, he seems to be fumbling his way through the ownership manual for a major league baseball team. Here are a few of the chapters he seemed to skip: 1) When you first purchase a team, you clean house right away if the team you purchased has not been in the playoffs all the time. It’s your best chance of getting the fresh start you so obviously desire as a new owner. Oooooops, sorry.....too late. “Year One” featured a Toyota Sign as the most visible “sign” of new ownership. 2) Don’t allow the GM who was the architect of past failures choose your next manager.....you might get Mike Quade. Ooooooops, sorry...... too late. The real major league managerial candidates fled the organization when that choice was made. 3) Don’t allow the GM who was the architect of past failures, bloated contracts for free agents (see Soriano and Zambrano), questionable free agent selections (see Milton Bradley) and overall mediocrity handle the team for two more years after you take over........Oooops, sorry.......too late. The next two years or more will now still be influenced by the choices that were made.... (see Fukudome gone for a bag of baseballs and two minor leaguers who won’t make the media guide next season). 4) Don’t assume the fans will immediately embrace you just because you are new and they will continue to blindly support the team while you figure out a direction. Oooops, sorry, too late..... the fans are angry and on some days the attendance is even down (no wait, that has to be an illusion, right?) Now that Mr. Ricketts and family have apparently missed the first four very important road signs, it appears they are going to miss one more big important sign staring them right in the face: 5) If you DO change general managers, you also must replace the president of operations who has been sticking his nose in and keeping the GM from doing his job. The retention of Carmen Kenny may sabotage anyone who comes into the position......reminds of the Blackhawks when they had a revolving door of failed GMs thanks to a meddling Bob Pulford, who was always there to “look out for the best interests of the organization.” All of this adds up to a sense that we will soon be celebrating the 109th, 110th, and the very special 111th anniversary of a Cubs World Series championship. Final note: Do you find it as ironic as I do that Jim Hendry’s final record as GM (depsite having hundreds of millions of dollars to spend during the Tribune years) was TWO GAMES over .500 (749-747).....and he “accomplished” that only because the team went on a tear during his final doomed days between July 22 and the public announcement of his “stepping down”??? I suggest you watch out for that first step, it’s a doozy! THE FINAL COMPARISON: Jim Hendry’s Cubs (hired on July 5, 2002) * Overall record for Cubs from 7/5/02 until day of termination = 749- 747. * NO World Series appearances or titles 109
* Division Titles: 2003 (Bartman), 2007 (swept in first round) and 2008 (swept in first round) * Five finishes below third place during this period (‘02, ‘05, ‘06, ‘10 and ‘11) The White Sox from July 5, 2002 to day of Hendry firing * Overall record 786-707, 79 games over .500 and 46 games in the loss column better than the Cubs. * World Series Championship in 2005. * Division titles in 2005, 2008 (Lost in first round 3-1) * One finish below third place during this period (2007) You know, no matter how you slice it, we KEEP COMING OUT ON TOP! SUBJECT: The Hendry Legacy Date: 8/22/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. The cheap and easy thing to do would be singing “Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead.” Even easier to hum the Hallelujah Chorus. But with this move, even with this right, justified and necessary move, I can do nothing but be cautious about what might happen next. Being an actual baseball fan and an actual Cub fan (don’t even think about it...that is NOT an oxymoron), I want to point out some things now that Jim Hendry has been fired by Baseball McCaskey. By the way, I will continue to refer to him as Baseball McCaskey (or BM for short...yes, BM) until the Cubs take tangible steps towards actually creating a winning organization, culture, and team. This move is only a step in that direction. My observations from this momentous day: - Jim Hendry was fired. Good. It was right, it was necessary. I do not take personal, vindictive satisfaction in the move and because of that will not resort to insulting Hendry. It was simply the right move. I feel bad for what he must be feeling. By all accounts he’s a good man who had some of his decisions unduly influenced by Tribune execs, Crane Kenney and Sam Zell. But outside interference does not explain the years of mishandling Zambrano, signing Milton Bradley, hiring Mike Quade, doling out unearned guaranteed contracts, and the abject failure to implement the statistical tools that have proven to abet winning baseball in this century. In trying to defend his record, Hendry often said that he had overseen some of the most successful years in Cubs history. (He was the only GM to oversee 3 Division Titles...but the team was also only 1 game above .500 during his tenure.) That’s true. It also makes you the tallest midget. That’s not the right standard. The standard is the World Series. Any year you fail to win that title you fail. You can have a great year, an enjoyable year while winning and winning big and still fail to reach the mountaintop. But if you’re not going to reach the mountain top, that winning thing needs to happen annually and so often that it feels like the World Series is only inches away, that “next year” is more than a tired cliché. 110
- BM stated that today is the very first part of the search process. I hope he’s lying about that. He gave some nice insights into the parameters for the search. He did not explain why he did not have a list of candidates at his ready. If he fired Hendry on July 22 as he said, he’s had nearly a month to work on that list. If you go back to when he first started his efforts to purchase the club, he’s had 4 years to develop a list. I don’t know too many successful execs in any business who don’t have a list at the ready that is constantly updated in case someone in their current employ, fails, quits, or leaves for greener pastures, or ivy. Despite my knee jerk reaction in wanting BM to clean house when he first bought the team, I think it was wise long-term not to come in and fire people for firing’s sake. But after his first year at the helm, “Year One” as the ad campaign went, he balked at firing Hendry, and that was simply a mistake. “Year One” was a bad year and exposed all that was rotten in Cubdom. In “year Two,” high profile prospects left for Garza ( a wonderful pitcher to be sure, but will he be a legitimate piece of the rebuilding puzzle more so than the 4 prospects that Hendry gave up? ), Quade in, Sandberg out. I’m concerned that not having a man ready right now prevents that person from getting the running start of seeing the organization from top to bottom live and in-person. That person needs to experience the smell the rotting cadaver on Addison up close and personal. Fast hiring doesn’t equate right hiring, but the hiring wouldn’t have had to have been fast if BM had known what every Cub fan knew was inevitable; change was necessary. - BM gave a vote of confidence to Crane Kenney, who by many accounts seems to be the “Meddler In Chief” in the organization. This is bad. Very bad. BM inferred that he has Kenney segregated totally on the business side, but too much smoke is saying that’s not true. No way to know for sure from the outside. This bears watching, because few legit, knowledgeable, candidates will want the specter of interference from someone like him. - Not having this happen after the end of last year aside, I see the in-season timing of the firing as part good, part bad. The positive was that this did not become public until after all of the draft choices were in the fold. That tells me that there was some rationale behind the timing of the announcement. That no organizational volatility became public probably helped the process of signing the prospects, and as I’ve written earlier, the process and commitment BM made to those signings was an overwhelmingly positive sign of a commitment to the future. Assuming, of course, that the scouts did the same job they’d done in identifying Barney, Castro, and Cashner, and we have moved beyond the eyes that identified Brooks Kieschnik, Corey Patterson, and all the other “phenoms” who were actually phantoms. The negative of the timing was that Hendry was the actual definition of a lame duck when the trade deadline passed, meaning that potential trades for dead weight were not completed. I have zero doubt that Hendry gave his best efforts during this time period...but as BM had determined that those efforts were worthy of giving him the axe, why would you want him to still have the keys to the kingdom? Not logical. - The funniest moment of the press conference was when BM shared that the front office was preparing a book for all of the organization’s prospects so that they could become familiar with the history of the franchise in an effort to instill pride in wearing the Cubbie Blue. Excuse my French, but I shit you not. 111
The point of developing talent in the organization is to OVERCOME the history of the franchise, not revel in it. What BM should have done is given every legit prospect a book that was blank. He should have told them that the book was blank and was theirs for the writing. The story going forward is in their hands, and if they are to write a book with the fairy tale ending all Cubs fans want, there’s a right way to complete each chapter. Every sentence is built around good fundamentals, exceptional work ethic, and attention to detail. Every hire from here on out, GM, Manager, minor league staff should be on the very same page as those prospects, hold themselves totally accountable to the good fundamentals, exceptional work ethic and attention to detail, and settle for nothing less than building towards that elusive World Series title. Cubs prospects must NOT be exposed to a book where 3 Division titles in 9 years is good enough, where 1 game above .500 in 9 years is good enough, where not winning it all is OK so long as you have wonderful heroes along the way. I’ve already read that book. It sucks.
Chapter Eleven: Butting Heads and Bitter Feelings SUBJECT: Congratulations, you can be a Sox Fan…. Date: 8/23/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. WOW...... so much for sunshine, baseball and enjoying the moment..... Your recent dissertations on Big Z, Mr. Hendry, “Baseball McCaskey” and the Cubs as a whole have revealed a disappointed fan who wants to win on a regular basis. You even talk about winning a world series as an actual goal! While I have observed that the Cubs faithful in general have been a bit grumpier than the usual sedated masses, and I have observed that attendance is down slightly, and I have observed the newspapers being a bit more sarcastic about the Cubs (usual) woes than they normally are........in the end I expect the great majority will get over it quickly and line up to buy more tickets, more beer and more clothing of Cubbie blue. You, on the other hand have revealed a real streak of discontent under the scratched surface of blue paint..... I am proud of you. For your reward, I invite you to come join us next home stand and grump about OUR under achieving team. Feel free to boo Alex Rios or Adam Dunn. Get some frustration out by screaming at the next hitter who pops up on the first pitch with the bases loaded and the tying run on third......then you can go back to Wrigley and teach some of your fans what we have known all along: The fans dictate how accountable team management is in its commitment to winning. NOTHING would speak louder than 24,000 in the stands when the Cubs (mired so far down in the standings you need a periscope to see first place) played the Cardinals (perhaps out of it but like the Sox hanging in there and grasping at whatever straws are left). Instead your team nearly set a record for a weekend series, drawing 164,137 for three games. You might as well write them a letter that says: Dear Cubs Management: Everything is just fine. Keep up the good work. Please email me information on ticket sales for 2012 as soon as it becomes available. I’m in. Thanks for the sunshine, the beer and the wonderful tradition that is Cubs baseball. Signed, Your Fans
SUBJECT: Congratulations, you can be a Sox Fan…. Date: 8/23/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W.
SUBJECT: Clinging to hope from the left coast Date: 8/27/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A.
Thank you so much for the kudos. Since it is apparent that there will be no getting past the attendance issue with you (jealousy is such an ugly thing...) allow me to send a letter of my own:
Dear Sox Management: Under separate cover, please find the details of the law suit I am filing to recover my medical expenses that were a direct result of your negligence. In recent weeks, I have been unable to work because of my severely compromised mobility. I am currently wearing a leg immobilizer as I recover from the broken ankle I suffered jumping off the White Sox bandwagon. Signed, Another Fan Who Does Not Come To Your Games SUBJECT: Congratulations, you can be a Sox Fan….Part Two Date: 8/23/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Interesting letter. Let me return the favor by ghost-writing the letter you’ll be sending to Chairman Reinsdorf before too long: “Dear Jerry, “Can you believe those Cubs fans? They’re still going to Wrigley in record numbers, despite the fact their team is no damn good. Here we are, still in the race, and our attendance is almost embarrassing. I admire you for being honest with the fans about your budget structure, and recognizing that the principal difference between Sox fans and Cubs fans is that Sox fans cannot be fooled about their team. The Cubs fans are mere sheep, who will go to Wrigley, no matter how good the team plays, no matter their won-loss record. They fail to recognize that unless the team is poised to be a legitimate World Series contender, unless management is committed to being a World Series contender, they’re not only throwing their money away, they’re encouraging Cub management NOT to pursue excellence because they’re going to show up no matter the strength of their team. “Thanks for letting me vent. Oh, and while we’re communicating, go ahead and renew my season ticket package for next year. Because I’m a loyal Sox fan, and being a loyal Sox fan is different than being a loyal Cubs fan. Nothing but sheep. I’m a loyal Sox fan because we’re having such a great year this...um, no, I mean I’m loyal because we did so well last...well, that doesn’t work either. I got it, I’m loyal because our cohesive management team is clearly on the same page.... “OK, forget the logic. Just sign me up for the season tickets. BAAAAAaaaAAAA.” 114
As I ponder the prospect of my Sox finally paying for their 11-22 start, I cannot help but dwell on how a simply reasonable start, like 18-15 would have us tied for first place. Being the third year in a row a slow start has made for this kind of misery, I was thinking as I packed for my last (regular season) road trip that the first shovel of dirt had already been thrown over the coffin of the Sox 2011 season at 7 games behind the surging Tigers...... then when I arrived in Seattle the first thing I read was a story in the USA Today about the Angels. They were one batter away from being 8 games behind the Rangers, got a big walk off home run, won seven games in a row and were suddenly only 2 1/2 games back again....all in 8 days. The theme of this trip is NOT DEAD YET......while we surely need some help the Tigers do have a history of stumbling down the stretch and we are STILL waiting for a big run from our team. Of course we’re also still waiting for Adam Dunn to show he can hit, and Alex Rios’ season is almost as bad. If the big run never occurs (which is surely possible), those two will wear BIG goat horns for a lonnnnnnnng off season. Oh, one thing really made me feel better when we checked into our room in Seattle. We were assigned room 1908. A quick reminder of what REAL misery is. SUBJECT: Clinging to hope from the left coast Date: 8/27/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Dear Traveller, “Not dead yet.” Now there’s an inspirational rallying cry if I’ve ever heard one. What’s next? “We’re not mathematically eliminated!!!” It was with a knowing chuckle that I read today’s email. Thank you for reminding me just how similar Cubs and Sox fans really are at heart. Tom, your interpretation of what you read in USA Today is called, “grasping for straws.” Parenthetically including “regular season” when referring to your last road trip is called “grasping for reality.” Allow me to point out some differences between the Angels and the Sox. The Angels are 11 games over .500. The Angels do not have Dunn and Rios. The Angels have a manager widely considered to be the best in the game. The Angels just swept the White Sox in games that weren’t close and should have reminded you why this season was such an exercise in frustrating mediocrity, and why the only real hope is no hope. As if to answer your little swipe at Starlin Castro for not focusing at the plate a few days back, Mr. Dunn apparently needs to be reminded that there are 3 outs in an inning. When he ran damn-near off the field after 2 outs and then said he was just looking to get a new ball, he managed to make an excuse even lamer than his season. And that’s about impossible. 115
While I like Ozzie, this past month it’s been more than how he handles the starting pitching staff that has raised eyebrows. In the paper today, when addressing the recall of Dayan Viciedo (The season is saved! The season is saved! The wunderkind is here! When did I hear that last? Oh yeah, when Gordon Beckham arrived) Ozzie said his job is to put the players in the line up where they can do the most damage. Unfortunately, as his head appears headed south to Miami, he seems to have forgotten that his lineup is not supposed to do the most damage to the Sox. A full month after Kenny came out and said to disregard contracts, play a team that will win; Mr. Dunn only very recently has seen his playing time reduced. Things that make you go, “Hmmmm...”
These two recent seasons alone provide that glimmer of hope, as we all know history wears on a team mentally..... let’s think about who that could apply to.....gee, that might be one of my all time favorite collapses:
You also may want to take a look before scapegoating Rios and Dunn totally for the season. Those 2 alone weren’t responsible for your rancid start. Don’t forget what a disaster your bullpen was. That’s a reflection of management and coaching. The same management that has you locked into Rios and Dunn contractually for three more years, and after all the blustering about the Soriano contract, not sure that dual signing doesn’t match it in depth of disaster. Please don’t forget this either; the Sox almost lost Konerko willingly after they signed Dunn. Take Konerko out of this season and your team and my team are in a foot race to be able to say, “We ARE mathematically eliminated!!!”
Dateline: August 28, 2011 following our respective three games weekend series:
Enjoy the rest of your trip in the Northwest. Don’t even give that upcoming series with the Tigers a second thought. The Tigers. The Tigers. The Tigers. SUBJECT: Dear Bitter Cubs Fan…. Date: 8/29/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Wow, we got a little testy in that last tirade of yours, didn’t we?? I think I sense the bitterness of a fan whose season is OVER WITHOUT A DOUBT vs. one that may be clinging to life but still has a chance. Just because the Angels have a better record does not mean SQUAT.....When it comes to playoff baseball, you start by winning your division. As fate would have it this year, our underachieving, mediocre (sometimes pitiful) performance is still good enough to have us within striking distance of first place. Good fortune? Certainly. Never look a gift horse in the mouth as they say..... Will we ever go on a big run and genuinely threaten to win the AL Central? I do not know, but at least I get to witness some meaningful baseball in late August and September....... something Cubs fans are only vaguely familiar with. Your keyboard got stuck and you mentioned the Tigers five times in one line..... yep, I know they are in first place. Yep, I know they’ve been on a run lately. They are also 52-52 when anyone but Verlander pitches and he can’t pitch every day. They rely on hot bats vs. solid pitching, and hitting is a far more fickle friend. The annals of baseball history are littered with stories of teams that blew leads of 6 games or less the final week of August. Let’s think back now...... 2009 Tigers entered September with a 7 game lead and wound up tied with the Twins, then lost the tiebreaker game. 2010 Tigers had a tailspin that would make you dizzy after the All-Star break and eventually wound up in third place. They had a September to forget. 116
1969 Cubs who had a 9 and 1/2 game lead in late August and wound up 8 games out of first place. And you wish to be the first to throw dirt over our grave? Lecture me sarcastically on having some hope? Are you kidding???
White Sox: Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Not dead yet. Cubs: Sweh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-pt! R.I.P. SUBJECT: A Big Series for one team, a big ?? for the other Date: 9/2/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Well, here we are. September 1. A month left to the long, winding road that is the baseball season. We find our two respective favorite teams in very familiar territory on this day of evaluation: The White Sox are 5 1/2 games behind the Tigers and are IN DETROIT this weekend. To keep the season meaningful they need to win at least 2 out of 3. A sweep would be nice but not a “must”. WHY are the Sox 5 1/2 behind a Tigers team that can hit but has so little pitching? An 11-22 start, even worse than the poor starts of the previous two seasons. Since 2009, we have been the poster children for the cliché “you can’t win a pennant in April but you sure can lose one.” Time will tell if the Sox can catch the Tigers, who did fold like a cheap umbrella in 2009 and faded off to into the sunset themselves in September 2010. If they don’t, Adam Dunn (.163 and 157 strikeouts) and Alex Rios (.214 with only 8 home runs and 33 pitiful RBIs) will be the ones to hang prominently in effigy, wearing the goat horns and hearing the boooooooos. Jake Peavy and Gordon Beckham, who have both been mediocre at best, will play second fiddle in the blame game. As of September 1, however, we are still playing meaningful baseball and trying to win a division, which is far more than I can say for the Cubs......... The Cubs are a molten pile of rubble, 59-78 and a mere 21 and 1/2 games out of first. Their season has been over for weeks on end, the GM has been fired, the manager knows he’s next and the rebuilding process has begun. Oddly, the owner has elected to pass out pamphlets about the Cubs history to all new players coming into the system. Would this be to scare the hell out of them or to let them know that “It’s a Way of Life” does not include the ways of winning? Very strange.....but this is a franchise based on very strange: the college of coaches, the refusal to install lights until 1988, the glorification of a ‘69 team that had one of the greatest collapses in baseball history. To continue: a team that put up a statue of its most famous 117
broadcaster ahead of some its greatest players, a team that has spent more energy developing deals with the rooftop owners than with winning ballplayers, a team that sells sunshine, beer and tradition instead of focusing on winning. Hey, but who cares? Three million plus show up every year to drink the Kool-aid and feed the myth. Party time at Wrigley has nothing to do with winning. Perhaps the most revealing part of this exercise has been to see and hear that SOME fans like yourself can actually get worked up about the sad state of affairs that has been the Cubs. I applaud you for your anger and frustration. You share more in common with us south siders in that respect. There is no jealously on this side of the fence. Only amazement that so many people have bought the myth for so long. You would think at some point your fans would get tired of losing and send a message to ownership by not showing up. It worked for the Blackhawks, their new owners changed the entire culture and won a Stanley Cup. Take a look around you..... cities that used to sell out all the time have seen their attendance decline as their teams have won less. Cleveland. Los Angeles. Baltimore. Toronto. But the great Cubs faithful keep showing up, plunking down their cash and sending the message to the owners: IT’S OK, DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING. IF WE EVER WIN ANYTHING IT WOULD BE WONDERFUL BUT DON’T TOUCH THE IVY AND DON’T SPILL MY BEER. I’M COMFORTABLE. This attitude from the fans seeps into the players. Why do you think so many players who have never won anything love playing here so much? Because they would be booed and booted out of town in most other cities. Anyway, it’s September 1st. We may wind up with our own set of disappointments this season...we could wind up calling for tee times the same as your sad sack group. But at this point we’re still fighting for a division title. Is that enough? Nope. I’ll be madder than blazes if this team fails to go to the post season. So will tens of thousands of others who will choose to watch on TV instead of paying for tickets. Our owners will get the message....and I know we’ll do our best to put a winning product on the field. Can you say that? SUBJECT: A Big Series for one team, a big ?? for the other Date: 9/2/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. As per usual, it is incumbent upon me to point out not only the stark reality of where your franchise sits as we begin the first weekend of September, but also to continue to clear up the myths about the Cubs that so many South Side afficianadodos like to propagate. When Kenny Williams gave the public go-ahead to Ozzie Guillen to sit large-contracted anchors like Dunn and Rios so many weeks back, your team was 3 games out of first place. While you continue to rationalize (in very stereotypically “Cubbie blind optimism” fashion, I might add) the rose-colored outlook that your team is still viable by citing past anomalies, you have actually LOST 2.5 games in the standings. Also, let me point out that I find it interesting that when you point your gun at the season’s goats, you did not include 118
the aforementioned GM and manager, two men at whom your barrel should be aimed. 2005 stands as a brilliant and crowning achievement for your team, and I would never diminish it. But in the 6 years since, exactly what has your team accomplished? “Meaningful” games in September, ultimately, are meaningless if you’re not playing in October. Since 2005, the Sox have made the playoffs once. Let me repeat; once. The Cubs have made the post-season twice in that same period. That is not to lionize the North Siders. If you do not get the brass ring, it’s still not where you need to be. Despite my many protestations and previous writings, it appears you continue to refuse to acknowledge that Cubs fans have been restless and beating the drum for change louder and louder with each failure to achieve the ultimate goal. This started in earnest after the notorious “5 outs away” debacle. A year later, it was the fans who drove Dusty Baker out of town, tooth picks, wrist bands, and all. Management couldn’t ignore the booing and catcalling by those who voted with their vocal chords. Lou Piniella got us to the post season 2 years in a row and it took less than 1 losing season for him to take early retirement because he couldn’t get it done. There are a lot more fans like me on the North Side who get it, who are tired of the losing and underachievement. By sending the message while being at the games, we are taking the “no money” excuse out of ownership’s hands. Cubs players do like playing here, I think largely because of the city itself and the environment of Wrigley. However, when you say that they don’t get booed, it shows that you continue to be more comfortable dealing in stereotype than fact. Were you not aware of Cub fan treatment of Milton Bradley? Latroy Hawkins? Dave Kingman? Kyle Farnsworth? Alfonso Soriano? Ryan Dempster in relief? And it wasn’t just the villains that got that treatment. I was at the park a lot back in the storied summer of ‘69 and I can tell you that Ron Santo was booed loudly and long on many occasions of underwhelming performance. What you and yours continue to fail to realize is that we can be loyal while we demand change, and still GO TO THE GAMES. My good friend, that makes Cub fans...exactly like you. If attendance is the ultimate arbiter of ‘message’ to a franchise, how come you have gone to damn near every game the Sox play no matter where they are on the planet, even during their losing years? Does it not bother you that they haven’t made the playoffs in so long, that the GM’s free agent signings are just as bad as the Cubs have been, and that your manager blabs on about his contract extension while trying to win “meaningful” games? It must not bother you because, as your logic goes, you go to the games, therefore it doesn’t bother you. Of course, that’s ridiculous. You are the ultimate Sox fan; informed, loyal, live and die with the team. But YOU went to the games during their lean years, you continue to go. That means you’re loyal which is a good thing. It does not mean you’re sending the wrong message to Reinsdorf et. al. So stop the stereotype of painting Cubs fans as mindless sheep. Now. You’re wrong, and it’s wrong. There are people who go to Cubs games because of the mystique of Wrigley. There are people who go to enjoy the aura, the ivy, and the beer. But the majority of hard core Cubs fans who still go to games (and factually, attendance IS down this year can actually enjoy the moment of winning. If we’re out of the race, that doesn’t preclude the ability to go and enjoy the sport we love and enjoy a great day at the park. By going and keeping the franchise financially competitive, we take the Reinsdorfian “we’ll spend on the field if you come out and support us” excuse away from ownership. Cub ownership has no excuse for failure. 119
The fact that fans do attend in impressive numbers has isolated the excuses, pointed to those who are responsible for the failures, and are making them accountable. I’m miserable that I have no confidence in the new owner, but at least something is being changed. And something is being changed 2 years removed from back to back playoff appearances, unlike the South Side of town where 6 years of post-season absence is apparently OK. Small town markets like Minnesota, Milwaukee, Tampa Bay, Florida in the past, and others have succeeded with relatively miniscule budgets and shaky attendance. It’s still about how you spend the money, not how much money you have. Even with the Sox embarrassingly half-hearted fan support, if Williams would have spent his money better, your team would be better. There is no doubt in my mind that the Cubs were committed to winning. Unfortunately there is a difference between commitment to win and ability to win. Cub management made the commitment through budget, but the people charged with executing the process of winning weren’t any damn good at it. As for your re-re-re-re-recitation of our strange history, allow me to take you down a stroll through White Sox Memory Lane. Why look, off to the left we have an owner playing chicken with the Player’s Association and having the World Series canceled. And over there, a bunch of drunken and high, mindless, rhythm-challenged white boys are storming the field because they don’t like disco music. Just a few feet further and you can see the many uniforms the club has worn. Who would have thought you’d ever see a pro ball player wearing shorts. Hey, let’s stop that guy over there and ask for directions to the thrown World Series. Glass houses and all that. So now you have a huge “make-or break” series with the Tigers. You need 2 out of 3 or you’re toast. We have a series with Pittsburgh which means absolutely nothing. No pressure. You have Verlander in Game 1, so that’s a loss. Stranger things have happened of course...well, maybe not. So you will go into Saturday knowing that you are in a must-win situation to keep your thin hopes (mathematically, it’s less than a 9% chance) of post-season play alive. I will enter the weekend assured that I have a post-season to look forward to, perhaps the most meaningful post-season for the Cubs in decades. Bottom line: The Cubs are a Chicago baseball team riddled with bad contracts, a supposed #1 starting pitcher who’s quit on his team, a manager who’s had a bad year handling the pitching staff, a questionable farm system, decreasing attendance, who will not make the playoffs. And your Sox? They are a Chicago baseball team riddled with bad contracts, a supposed #1 pitcher who’s quit on his team ( I quote Mr. Peavey after his latest meltdown, “I can’t wait for the off-season.” ), a manager who’s had a bad year handling the pitching staff, a questionable farm system, decreasing attendance, who will not make the playoffs. I know you said you didn’t want it, but I never threw that snuggly FBC comforter away. You will need it in October.
SUBJECT: Rebuttal and correction needed…. Date: 9/2/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Gooooood morrning. How different the baseball season is once you have resigned yourself to the fact the horse has left the barn and you’re experiencing the pennant chase from a distance. This will NOT stop me from taking you to task, though.....if you’re going to bash the Sox at least get your facts straight: 1) No argument that one post season appearance in 6 years since winning the World Series is UNACCEPTABLE. Our fans have spoken loud and clear about that fact by not purchasing nearly as many tickets since 2007. 2) NOTHING sends a message like reduced attendance. I know we do not agree on this, but ask the Orioles, Blue Jays, Indians, Dodgers, Mariners...you know....everyone but the Cubs. The lemmings keep returning, ordering another beer and soaking up the sunshine. Case in point: 36, 797 at Wrigley on a cold, rainy Wednesday night on September 7 with the team at 62-81 and 19.5 games out. When does loyalty become idiocy? If I were the owner I would worry more about how to get those people to purchase their tickets for next year before I would worry about winning..... Because history has shown if the Cubs ownership says the right things and cowtows to the lemmings who are addicted to the bleachers, the ivy and the beer profits can be made without winning. 3) YES, I have noticed some fans seem grumpier than usual this season. Being 22 games under .500 can do that to you.....but it hasn’t been as bad lately, you’re only 18 games under. The cheering far overshadowed any grumpiness at the recent home stand. Look, there is no way I am going to “win” this argument with you....except I win every time your team finished with a poorer record than we do and fails to even get to yet another World Series. Therefore, I expect I’ll keep winning that battle for many years to come. They say that insanity is doing the same thing that does not work over and over and expecting a different result. PLEASE keep those fans showing up, it will be the best safe guard against the most fearful thing of all: a Cubs fan with a winning team. Meanwhile, back at Wrigley: Come here; sit down in this nice box seat. Have a beer, beautiful day in the sunshine, isn’t it? Pay no attention to that manager wincing in the dugout. He won’t be here much longer. Don’t the September call-ups look good? Oh, I know they’re mostly sitting on the bench because the lame duck manager is trying to win a few more games to save his job but, hey....they look sharp in Cubbie Blue! Have an Old Style, we’ve been serving it here for 61 years....you know, that means this beer got introduced here only 5 years after the last World Series hosted here. Now THAT’S tradition!!
SUBJECT: Rebuttal and correction needed…. Date: 9/2/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results, going back to your recurring characterization of Cub fandom proves that you need a sanity adjustment. I suppose the only thing that would make you happy would be if fans who showed up for baseball games spent the three hours in the park doing nothing but weeping and gnashing their teeth. The utter stupidity of suggesting that time spent at the ballpark should be anything less than enjoyed to the fullest is so ridiculous that mocking it is unnecessary. Since your team is dead in the water, I assume I can watch a game and see Sox fans sitting stoically, not applauding, not drinking beer, weeping, and cursing. Sounds like a great way to spend one’s discretionary income and time away from the drudgery of the workaday world. Ugh. SUBJECT: Rebuttal and correction needed….Part Two Date: 9/2/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. OVER REACTION ALERT....... OVER REACTION ALERT Of course baseball should be enjoyed to its fullest. If you cannot enjoy the game itself there is no reason to be there. I am trying to figure out how you came to the conclusions below based on my last writing. I never said fans should sit there weeping and gnashing their teeth, but I will stand by my statement that the game “feels” different once you’re out of it. Perhaps it’s all the same to you because the Cubs are almost always out of it. To make your point for you, though, there IS a distinct difference between our two parks right now (at least from what I witness in person vs. what I see on TV). It would certainly appear that your ball park is still filled with people cheering their Cubbies on as if it were mid season and they were 2 games out, while the Cell is definitely more muted. Those Sox fans like myself who love baseball and will see the season through are upset at our team for falling WAY sort of expectations and there is a decided pall over the park. The fact that this should astonish you (and apparently disgust you) I find amusing....I guess FBC really has taken over. We truly are a different breed. Passion for the game, passion for your team and passion for WINNING should not be mistaken for stupidity in the big picture. In the end, any true baseball fan understands that only 6 teams make the playoffs, 2 make the World Series and 1 team wins. How well your team “meets or exceeds expectations” factors into how satisfied you as a fan should be with your team. Not even the Yankees can win every year...... why they only won two WS in the last decade! On the other hand, if my team had little to no chance year after year after year my love for that team would be definitively challenged. I do not seem to be alone in this regard, every 122
team but the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs have gone through up/down cycles in their attendance in the last 15 years...but the Yankees and the Red Sox have been competitive every year so the Cubs fans remain the exception. Sorry, I think the stereotypes fit to a certain degree..... Sox fans will weep and gnash their teeth over a lost season with high expectations. We’ll look critically at Dyan Vicedo (thumbs up so far), Alejandro De Aza (thumbs up so far), Tyler Flowers (arrow up but still needs to show more bat) and other youngsters to analyze of they can help us WIN next season. We’ll cringe when Dunn or Rios get yet another at bat. We’ll look at young pitchers who might help us next year but know the race is over so the pressure is off. Cub fans will shrug it off as part of their history, using FBC or whatever mental exercise fits their persona to proudly wear their colors and hate all that is White Sox. It’s OK, we’re used to it. I think Jerry Reinsdorf was right when he said that Sox fans don’t like the Cubs, Cubs fans don’t like White Sox fans. By the way, I’ll be at the game tonight. I’ll cheer my team and lament a lost season. I will savor the fact that I have precious few games left to enjoy this season, as it will end too soon...especially considering the perceived talent on our roster. But it will be different than it was two weeks ago when we still had some hope......and if I ever came to the conclusion that our ownership and /or management was at least not setting the bar at winning it all on a year to year basis I would think long and hard about how many times I showed up in person vs. watching it on TV for free. THAT’s what is so hard (impossible) for Sox fans (including me) to understand most Cubs fans..... they just keep showing up no matter where the bar is set. Many of those teams that saw 3,000,000+ through the turnstiles had no chance to win it all under almost any circumstances. Sorry, I cannot “get it” no matter how hard I try. The ivy, the grand old scoreboard and the rooftops would not be enough for me if we failed year after year after year after year. It’s interesting to me how passionate we both are about our perceptions here..... and we are light years apart.... well, at least 102 years apart...... SUBJECT: Rebuttal and correction needed….Part Two Date: 9/2/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. This mythology of the Cubs as perennial losers is dated and doesn’t fit. But you wouldn’t want the facts to get in the way of a good stereotype. You’d rather believe that there is nothing but failure “year after year after year.” It’s just not true, and provably untrue in a sport where statistics are king. There is a difference between the tourists and the fans, and you and your bretheren in black choose not to acknowledge the difference. Repeat Cub fans do not go back for the ivy and ambience alone. Tourists and the very casual fans are mesmerized by the aura and the neighborhood. Those are assets to be sure, but not the sole reason for repeat attendance. 123
Real die hard Cub fans appreciate the aura but we return to the park because we are loyal, we love our team, and we love baseball. Our loyalty is not just “win deep.” True patriots do not only love their country when the economy is soaring and when we are admirable examples to the rest of the world. Wanting the country to do better does not mean we abandon it and abstain from participation. The same is true for the true fan. Another difference between Cubs and Sox fans is seen in your depiction of the “hatred” of Sox fans by Cub fans. Most of that “hatred” is exaggerated, tongue in cheek on the North Side. When the Sox won it all in 2005, the vast majority of Cub fans, real Cub fans, die hard Cub fans applauded along with the rest of the city. If the reverse occurred, that would not be the case. There’s not a neutral observer of sports in this town who thinks Cub hatred for the Sox is at the same level of Sox hatred for the Cubs. There’s a social element to that animus that is inarguable and far beyond your circumstantial experience with individual fans while attending games. Sox fans have perfected the victim mentality and Sox PR personnel use that to their advantage. No problem there, anything they can do to make their fan base more loyal is fair game.
we’re embarrassed and...yes, angry. That goes with the territory of passionately rooting for most teams. I could not ever see myself supporting a team known as “lovable losers”. I know you reject that term but the press...and many of your fans.... see the Cubs that way. The Cubs are an exception to the rule of most fan bases. You, my friend, have more angst about their losing histrionics than any other four Cubs fans I know put together. Far too many of them prefer Wrigley Field to remain “Fantasy Island” over a true overhaul in attitude to win the big one. Until that attitude changes, methinks it will be a long time in the future before any Cub fan gets to feel the inner peace and satisfaction of having your team earn a World Championship. There’s no feeling quite like it. You’ll have to trust me on that one for now.
And given all the empty seats, desperately needed. I have officially given up on getting you to understand all this, but that’s OK. My next rant will be directed towards Baseball McCaskey and the search for a GM process. That will give you time to go back and consider what I wrote a few days back. At the end of this season, there are a lot more similarities between where these teams will find themselves than there are differences. P.S. May want to tell your buddy Brooks Boyer to save the organization some embarrassment and stop running those “All In” commercials. It’s a little late. SUBJECT: Comments on your recent attack Date: 9/2/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. All in all, your inaccurate claim goes right to the heart of all that is so typical Cub fan: success is relative. Finishing above .500 three years in a row, getting into the playoffs and getting swept twice plus the ultimate embarrassment of getting to the NLCS and having a spectacular crash and burn equals supremacy over the White Sox......I get it, I get it. Your ball park is better. Your team is better. Your team colors are better. Your fans are better. Your neighborhood is better. Your girls are cuter. Your players are more interesting. It’s all I’ve heard from Cub fans since I was a kid. I continue to hear it today. While self-resignation is surely in the DNA of many Cub fans, humility from lack of success is not. In terms of winning baseball games, your team vs. the White Sox since we were born is so far behind in the loss column that back to back 162 win seasons wouldn’t allow the Cubs to catch up. I’ll take my team. I feel in my heart that, despite “only” one world championship and two world series appearances in my lifetime that winning baseball was at the forefront of the effort over the long haul. By the way, that’s one more World Series championship and two more World Series appearances than your team in your lifetime. When we don’t win, 124
Chapter Twelve: So Long, Ozzie! SUBJECT: A post Detroit poem Date: 9/5/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A.
(18-2 ) as a means of vengeance for some of your more critical missives, I will move past the Friday clobbering, the Saturday comeback, and the Sunday embarrassment (18-2) to ask you about the latest clubhouse drama between your volatile GM and the hitting coach. Seems Mr. Williams and Mr. Walker had quite the little set-to over Gordon Beckham’s swing a couple of weeks ago. Between that and Ozzie’s ridiculous statements to the press last week about wanting a contract extension, isn’t your owner in a position where he has to step in and right the ship?
Instead of writing you after the embarrassing, depressing, pathetic, lackluster and totally unacceptable performance by my team in Detroit over the weekend I thought about crawling under a rock, but I found Dunn and Rios hiding under the first two I overturned, so I was inspired to man up and write the first of a month’s worth of obituaries for this season.
I’m still baffled by the Ozzie stuff. This time feels like he’s crossed a line he can’t jump back over. I know he’s saying he responded to a question, but all he had to do was say, “We play the Tigers this weekend. Our year hinges on this weekend so it’s no time to discuss a contract.”
A Tribune writer made a comment that will stick with me for a long time...his thought was that there would be no miracle comeback from this team, since miracles are reserved for underdogs, not underachievers. The pain quotient on this season has just been jacked up big time..... not since 1984 can I remember a Sox team with higher expectations and fewer results.
Controversy dead before it starts. Next question. Common sense.
A forlorn tip of the cap to the Tigers, who t-boned us and had us for dinner over the holiday weekend in front of a national audience. I wonder if the team is anywhere near as depressed, embarrassed and totally pissed off as I am. With apologies to poets anywhere and everywhere, I offer the following lament: W is for woeful, which stands for how we played H is for hot air, which our manager has splayed I is for impaled, how we feel after getting swept like mopes T is for the Tigers who crushed the baseball and our hopes E is for the expectations that this team and fans all shared S is for stunk ....how could we play like we barely cared? O is for the offense which has made us shed many a tear X is for the “chalk mark” of 2011.... we’re playing for next year SUBJECT: A post Detroit poem Date: 9/6/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Your poem, as all great art does, moves me to tears. Tears of joy, yes, but tears nonetheless. Well done, my friend. It would be piling on for me to comment about Detroit sweeping your Sox, clobbering them Friday, mounting an absolutely epic comeback Saturday, and destroying them Sunday. (18-2.) Hey, by scoring 2 runs in the 9th, the South Siders avoided having been tagged with the most lopsided shutout loss of the year. You know me, always looking for the silver lining. So instead of belaboring the Friday clobbering, the Saturday comeback, and the Sunday embarrassment (18-2), instead of using the weekend where you guys were clobbered Friday, surrendered a huge lead Saturday, and were pounded into submission Sunday 126
Just to make sure you’re not feeling lonely in your depression, in case you missed it, Baseball McCaskey either committed an act of utter stupidity or telegraphed that he’s already got an agreement with someone to become the next Cubs GM. He re-signed Oneri Flieta, head of minor league development and the guy responsible for what appears to be a vastly improved Cub Caribbean connection, to a 4 year contract extension. Apparently the Tigers were sniffing around and about to ask the Cubs permission to speak to him, and BM responded with the contract. IF BM had already reached an unofficial agreement with a new GM and ran this past him, all could be good. If not, he’s already tied the new GM’s hands by locking someone into a position that the GM should have been able to hire. Given Cub history and my distrust of BM, I can only assume that the latter scenario is the accurate one. So my gift to you on this otherwise gloomy White Sox Monday is that it appears the Cubs will continue to stumble along their seemingly pre-ordained path of epic futility. Join me in my annual October chant; loud and clear now, “Fore!” SUBJECT: Losing with “Style” Date: 9/18/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. I suppose it was a conspiracy by the press to give a half page article complete with a full color picture of a beer vendor pouring a cold one at Wrigley and wearing a Cub hat under the title: “Is losing with Style to end at Wrigley?” “Among Cubs traditions, failure endures, but Old Style at the ballpark may not” You had better get that large posse of serious Cub fans who really care about winning to protest this unfair article published in the Daily Herald on September 5. Let’s look at a quote or three from the article: “With no pennant race to worry about, yet again, fans are buzzing both at Wrigley and on 127
the Internet about the prospect that the team will end one of the most amazing streaks in sports- the 61 years with Old Style, not the 103 years without a World Series title. ”It’s history, this field and this beer,’ said Fred *****, a 59 year old suburban Chicago resident who grew up an Ernie Banks home run away from the park. ‘Wrigley Field will lose something by losing Old Style.“ “I went from vendor to vendor until I found my Old Style.... to me that’s Wrigley Field.“ OK, let me hear about how Sox fans are typecasting the Cubs again......... SUBJECT: Losing with “Style” Date: 9/18/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Further proof that you need to learn the difference between fact and anecdote. There was a news blurb a week or so ago about the prospect of Old Style leaving Wrigley. That’s all it was, a news blurb and this article was addressing that. And when an editor selects a picture for a newspaper, we’re intelligent enough to know it’s not a conspiracy but an attempt to illustrate a story, unlike the White Sox meatballs who cried for years about the “conspiracy” of Chicago papers to devote more column space to the Cubs than the Sox. In typical Sox style, you make it seem as if all Cubs fans were gnashing their teeth over this because it fits your myopic view of us. Utter nonsense. Speaking of beer, maybe you should hoist a few today to help deaden the pain of the Ozzie Express. Another bullpen meltdown Friday against those juggernauts from Kansas City and you got your butt handed to you on a silver platter last night when they scored 10 runs. But it’s easier for you to break out all the old stereotypes than to face the facts; as a franchise, the Sox are in some serious trouble right now. Like I said a while ago; bad contracts, weak farm system, dysfunctional management. The only real difference between your club and mine is that old Sox bugaboo; attendance. SUBJECT: Stereotypes and “surrender” Date: 9/18/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Talk about stereotypes..... The only argument Cub fans can win is attendance. You win. Congratulations. Next topic.
SUBJECT: Stereotypes and “surrender” Date: 9/19/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. I’ll take my wins where I can get them. Thanks for waving the white flag. You have learned your lessons from The Chairman well. And when it comes to déjà vu, don’t forget that your late season folding act is in its third showing. Each of the last three years, your team has found a way to get smoked by the team ahead of it. Maybe it has something to do with the letter T. The only difference this year is it was the Tigers when it used to be the Twins. SUBJECT: Ozzie before Quade….. Date: 9/27/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. I was there last night.... on a cold and London-like evening with bitter swirling winds making friends with an even chillier mist that went right through anything you tried wearing to fend it off. 20 years from now not one of the 15,000+ no shows will admit to staying home.....but there could not have been more than 6,000 people in the park. The box score will show that two White Sox rookies were the stars of the game, as Dylan Axlerod earned his first major league victory as he pitched 6 scoreless innings. Rookie Tyler Flowers (playing first base) hit a 419 foot 3 run homer. It will also show that Sergio Santos got the save despite an adventuresome ninth inning where he almost blew the save before finally striking out Adam Lind with the bases loaded. He almost snatched Axlerod’s first victory away from him for the second time....but in the end the kid got his beer shower. None of that was the big story though........The rumors started swirling around the ballpark faster than the wind was blowing about the sixth inning. Ozzie was gone. Kenny was gone. This was Ozzie’s last game. He had already accepted a deal in Florida. He had been traded to Florida. Jerry fired him. Ozzie quit. In all my years in a baseball stadium I never witnessed anything like it. The few hearty fans who did attend were walking around, talking and spreading the rumors as if it were a senior prom. My friend and I had taken refuge in the temperature controlled club level mezzanine when the word started to pass. It started with a phone call from a well placed friend who called and told us that Ozzie had told the team before the game tonight was his final game in a White Sox uniform (this turned out to be true). Then a fellow fan came by and told us Ozzie and Kenny had both been fired (this turned out to be false). Then Hawk Harrelson told the TV audience that they should stay tuned for Ozzie’s post game show tonight..... and on and on it went. Stepping back outside I glanced into the Sox dugout..... and Ozzie was not in his familiar perch at the top of the steps. He wouldn’t have left in the middle of the game would he? No, his head poked out of the dugout and he resumed his usual position in the “Ozzie chair” for the eighth. The downstairs fans began to cluster behind the dugout on Ozzie’s side as the buzz continued. Three ladies on the club level went out with their umbrellas and shouted “We love you Ozzie!” loud enough to be heard downstairs, garnering applause. They came back
inside, happy they were in the building to say goodbye. We went out for the ninth, standing in the aisle which helped block the vicious wind. Ozzie was standing on the top step, bouncing a baseball nervously as Santos took a 4-1 lead into the danger zone by giving up a walk and a hit to start the inning. We speculated that a blown save would almost be fitting for the occasion considering how poorly the team had played this year......but we knew in our hearts we wanted Ozzie to win his last game. The inning lasted forever. Santos struggled with the wet baseball and could not command his pitches, but he rebounded from allowing the two base runners by striking out the next two. For the record, one of the base runners was Mark Teahen, one of the poster children of the White Sox failures of 2010 and 2011.....and of course he was 2 for 3 with a walk this evening. The “crowd” all stood for the final out. The fans behind the dugout chanted “Thank you Ozzie!” over and over. Ozzie never looked back that I could see, but I could be wrong. I was trying to take it all in...... this was the end of an era that brought the first World Series title to Chicago in 88 years ending right before our eyes. Santos went back to struggling. With two strikes, he allowed a double to pinch hitter David Cooper and it was suddenly 4-3 with the tying run in scoring position. A.J. made another trip to the mound to calm Santos. You really don’t want to walk Marcus Thames to get to Jose Bautista.....but that’s exactly what he did. First & second, two out and here comes the only hitter in the majors with 40+ home runs, 100+ rbi, a batting average over .300 and a slugging percentage over .600. Yikes, it really isn’t going to end with a meltdown is it? The tension and despair in the air was measurable. A.J. did his best Joe Mauer impression, making yet another trip to the mound. Don Cooper, the pitching coach joined him. What do you say? Don’t blow it for Ozzie, kid? Bautista steps in, bending his front knee back towards home plate. I think of Alex Rios and his odd stance and the distance in performance between these two hitters. I wince. Santos throws a wild pitch, and the runner on second advances to third.... why didn’t the runner on first go and set up the lead run in scoring position? We then realize that the first base coach held him in order to keep first base occupied, therefore “making” Santos pitch to Bautista instead of walking him intentionally. For two teams fighting for nothing but pride a heads up move.
Santos throws a slider in the dirt for ball two, A.J. blocks it. I shout out for another one, and Santos obliges, but Lind gets a piece again. The small crowd is making big noise as Santos breathes deeply as he ponders what to throw next. He chooses a third slider, and Lind flails at it wildly, missing by a foot.....but the ball bounces away from A.J. and he can’t find it as the tying run races for home. He locates the ball and steps on home plate for the final force out.....and Ozzie’s last game is a winner. At first it looked like he would not come out of the dugout, but he finally did. Many of the players gave him a hug as they passed by on their way into the dugout. The crowd chanted “Ozzie! Ozzie!” as he headed into the dugout for the last time, but then pivoted as he realized A.J. was standing there waiting for him. A big hug followed, then Buehrle and Konerko grabbed him looked like they were going to put him on their shoulders.... but he would not have it. They laughed and they went into the dugout, where the ever stoic Harold Baines was crying. It was over. Eight seasons. 678 wins, 617 losses (.524). Forever a part of perhaps the greatest moment in White Sox history, the 2005 World Series Championship. Did it need to be over? Probably. The past two years have been tough, with thinly veiled infighting between Ozzie and Kenny plus a plethora of issues where Ozzie continuously violated one of the golden rules of sports..... don’t air your dirty laundry in public. In the end, he could not help himself as he continued to soil the linens in his own space. Ozzie was sly as a fox. He never once said he wanted to go to Florida and take over the Marlins but it is all but assured he will be granted that poorly disguised wish. Let me be the first to say he will come to regret that move. He is leaving family for fortune, and that seldom works out. Let me also be one of the first to say “THANK YOU OZZIE” for 12 entertaining years as a player and 8 entertaining seasons as a manager. We will never forget 2005. You were as great a manager that year as your players were on the field. As a final thought, who won the million dollars by betting that Ozzie Guillen would be dismissed before Mike Quade in 2011? He should take us all out to a nice dinner somewhere we can defrost after witnessing some baseball history last night.
Would Ozzie come out and pull one of his famous moves to walk Bautista anyway? I looked down and Ozzie was still bouncing the baseball. If there was going to be a call it was well camouflaged. Santos continued pitching to Bautista, eventually walking him anyway. Bases loaded and the Blue Jays cleanup hitter Adam Lind to the plate. The ninth inning is taking forever and we’re all freezing. NO ONE is sitting in our box, only a stubborn few standing in the aisles. My friend Dave and I have our favorite usher Tevin keeping us company for this moment in history. Santos throws a fastball for strike one. Cheers, then hands back into pockets. Fastball outside for ball one. Fastball for a swinging strike two, and the fans come to life again, doing their best to will a final win for Ozzie. Another fastball and a swinging strike three..... ooops, he tipped it and the ball rolls slowly away from A.J. Time for the wipeout slider I suggest? My friend Dave warns of the possibility of a wet slider rolling to the backstop. I threaten to throw him over the railing (just kidding of course...) 130
Chapter Thirteen: The Pennant Chase Skips Chicago (Again) SUBJECT: BM Fiddles While the Future Burns Date: 9/21/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Time to expand upon the roll of Baseball McCaskey’s ditheringly delayed dumping of Jim Hendry. Not giving Hendry the boot after the end of last year hurt the franchise in more ways than simply having to deal with a full season of Mike Quade’s managerial decisions and dugout “leadership.” We are now privvy to the rerun of the same end-of-season nonsense we saw last year. “We owe it to the veterans to let them play,” goes the rationale, sung this and last year by Quade and in years past by various Bakers, Rigglemans, Baylors, and Treblehorns. No, you do not. You do not owe the veterans anything except what they are entitled to in their contracts. The people you owe are the fans; the fans who loyally support the franchise and continue to support the team through their faith and attendance so that you (the imperial “you” of Cub management) can continue to afford the upgrades necessary to keep Wrigley viable as well as allowing you to afford the upgrades in the structure of your farm system. BM, Quade, and all of those before them continually remark about how we have the best fans and the most loyal fans, but when it comes to hard and fast decisions for the greater good, they have failed to act decisively. In action, not lip service, BM favored Jim Hendry over the fans when he rehired him. That one action, that proof that the best interest of the greater good was not executed, put us in the late-season limbo we are currently in. Again. There is only one question that should be asked before a hiring is made or before a lineup card is filled out. “Does this bring us closer to a World Series?” Did allowing Hendry and extra year bring us closer to a World Series? No. Does keeping Q-less at the helm bring us closer to a World Series? No. Late season limbo is the reality of reading every day that Soriano is in the line- up, the we need to see what Reed Johnson can do, that Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez, and Jeff Baker “need” to play. Does playing Soriano instead of younger players bring us closer to a World Series? NO. Does seeing what Reed Johnson can do bring us closer to a World Series? NO. Do Pena, Ramirez or Baker bring us closer to a World Series? NO. See how easy? The Cub organization has the perfect chance right now to see if Brian Lahaire can play every day at first base. He might be a good and cheap one year bandage allowing Pena an 132
exit to another zip code. Or he could be another Micah Hoffpauer with a future in Japan. We will not know the answer despite having the perfect labratory environment to make that very decision. Sometimes he plays first, sometimes he plays out of position in right. Sometimes he sits. Same for Tyler Colvin, who should have played every single game since his recall so there can be zero doubt about his ability to be a regular in the Bigs. But this season will end with that question unanswered because Q-Less wants to make this year’s record a little less embarrassing. Gotta love the logic though. It goes like this: “We need to play the veterans who are responsible for this horrid losing record, so we don’t lose. If we play younger players in an effort to find out which of them might help us win in the future, we might lose. We would rather play the guys we are sure can help us lose, than those who only might help us lose. We owe it to the players who have proven their ability to lose, to give us a better chance of winning today, which will help ensure that we will lose in the future.” FBC. FBC. FBC. SUBJECT: A Classic Performance from a Classy Pitcher Date: 9/28/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. On yet another cold and mist driven night at the Cell with nothing at stake in terms of postseason play for either team there was still good reason to show up..... Mark Buehrle was pitching, perhaps for the last time in a White Sox uniform. The fans that showed up and stood up to the weather were almost all there for one reason.....to pay their respects to one of the classiest acts in the history of their baseball team. Durable. Crafty. Competitive. Reliable..... but the perhaps the most meaningful adjective to describe this champion is HUMBLE...... a word so seldom used when describing athletes of this day and age. How refreshing! The stands were still all abuzz with the Ozzie situation from the previous evening..... a lot had transpired in the last 24 hours. Joey Cora, who was originally announced as the interim manager was replaced by Don Cooper. While it was no surprise that Cora would join Ozzie in Florida, the rumor that he was told by the Sox via text message that he did not need to show up for work today was an interesting one. One would guess that the message was loud and clear that everyone understands which side of the fence Mr. Cora stands on. Don Cooper took over for the final two days, and he was simultaneously issued a contract extension, along with Harold Baines. Whoever is going to take over the club will have some veteran coaching presence to accept with the deal. Does that mean LaRussa is out as a candidate? He has been virtually married to Dave Duncan since he has managed. Time will tell, but my guess is LaRussa is out. The hot stove was ablaze already..... and it’s interesting to note how the sting of this season has already begun to be replaced with the speculation of next years’ challenges. Hope is salve that heals all wounds.....I guess you and yours in blue would know that better than anyone. 133
It did not take long for focus to be totally shifted to the field. Buehrle finished his warm up tosses and slowly walked in from the bullpen with A.J. as a ripple of warm applause followed him the entire journey, as it always does....but this time it was bit louder, as the fans took advantage of the chance to shower some pre-game thanks on his shoulders.
SUBJECT: The Pennant Chase Skips Chicago (Again) Date: 10/5/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A.
What followed was a perfect example of why fans still show up when their teams have been eliminated for the season. Mr. Buehrle was masterful, weaving himself a “typical” performance when he is on his game:
As we ponder the smoldering ruins of our baseballs seasons, I could not help but be excited at the wild card chases put on the final week of the season by both Tampa Bay and St. Louis. As a baseball fan, I found myself genuinely excited those final days, even though the playoffs are skipping Chicago yet again. The greatness of the game (and the chase) outweighed my disappointment in the end....I had to watch!
7 Innings pitched, 97 pitches 0 runs 7 Hits, only one inning without a base runner 6 strikeouts 0 walks...... on a night when the ball had to feel like it was greased from the steady mist and occasional brief downpour. Amazing. Oh yeah, and he set a record for pitching 200 or more innings for 11 consecutive seasons. He was given a heartfelt standing ovation as he left the mound after the top of the 7th leading 2-0. A young kid named Alvarez was pitching for Toronto and he impressed also, allowing only a solo home run to rookie Tyler Flowers and an RBI single to Pirezynski through six. The Sox went meekly in the seventh, and the crowd waited to see if Buehrle would come out for the 8th. Interim manager and pitching coach Don Cooper had one last hurrah planned for his lefty and it was a special moment indeed. The entire team stayed in the dugout. Buehrle trotted out to the mound amidst surprised and lusty cheers.....then Coop came out and got him, they hugged and Mark took a slow walk back to the dugout while the place went crazy. Tears glistened in a lot of eyes as the cheering continued to rise. Once in the dugout, the standing “O” continued until Captain Konerko pushed him out for one final curtain call as the team finally strolled out to their positions and Jesse Crain came in from the bullpen. If that was his last appearance in a White Sox uniform, it could not have been a finer moment for someone who has been all that is good about this game. The bullpen tandem of Crain and Sale gave up one run but held on for a 2-1 victory. Meaningless? I think not. Fitting? Absolutely? The end of the Buehrle era? Time will tell that also....but just in case THANK YOU Mark Buehrle.... you are and always will be one of the most loved pitchers ever to don a Sox uniform, and your legacy is quite secure.
Having been the victim of many a Red Sox fan looking down their nose at our Sox for many a year (they think they are the only team with “Sox” in their name....) I took great satisfaction from seeing their over bloated payroll collapse on the last day of the season. They will have some smoldering ruins of their own to deal with. All that money couldn’t buy the heart the Tampa Bay Rays showed. The final collapse of Atlanta did not have the same effect on me. While I appreciated Tony LaRussa and his crew coming back, I kind of felt bad for Atlanta.....especially when their season ended with Scott Linebrink on the mound. I could have told them......but he was not the real goat. Closers must close and hitters must hit in the clutch if you’re going to be participating instead of watching come October. Atlanta could not muster either feat in what would turn out to be their final game of the season, game 162. As the wildest of wild card Wednesdays spun itself a permanent place in baseball history, I wished we were part of it.....but the toll of a poor start, a historical collapse by our #1 free agent acquisition and the underachievement that was seemingly tolerated by a distracted manager was simply too much to overcome. It will be a fascinating off season on both sides of town as they clear the debris that has been the season of 2011. SUBJECT: The Pennant Chase Skips Chicago (Again) Date: 10/7/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. Any time either of us can agree on anything, it is time to celebrate. I too, was caught up in the most exciting few minutes of sports this year as the playoffs were settled on the last day and in final at-bats. I can understand your Red Sox thing; there is an insufferable smugness about Bostonians that translates directly to their rooting interests whether it be Sox, Bruins, Patriots and especially Celtics. That smugness is just as irritating as the arrogance of New Yorkers, although probably a little less physically threatening. For me, there was no emotion involved. As much as the Cardinals are our rivals, and as much as I think LaRussa’s macho posturing is tired, I have true admiration for a franchise that continues to stay relevant over so many years. St. Louis is a true baseball town, maybe the best and most slavishly devoted baseball town in the country. The Cub rivalry with St. Louis may be the healthiest rivalry in baseball. I’ve always sensed there’s a true understanding a grudging respect between the clubs that has allowed a give and take that is gently sprinkled with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink “we get it” when it comes to how important sports rivalries should be in the big picture of life. 135
So the playoffs are here and we are golfing. Bring on the bulldozers, and welcome to my world, where the off-season is the best part of the season. SUBJECT: Parting Shots Date: 10/8/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Now it’s time to say goodbye........we picked quite a season to do this little exchange. The White Sox failed miserably in their “All In” campaign. Let’s take a glimpse at some of the most commonly used adjectives and phrases about the 2012 White Sox: “Underachieving” “Frustrating” “Disappointing” “Mind boggling” “Aggravating” “Lackluster” “Season from hell” In fact, more than one sportswriter deemed this 2012 season the “worst ever” for the White Sox when factoring in expectations vs. actual performance. A team that finished 6th in the AL in quality starts but could not even finish .500 much less get to the playoffs. Having been around awhile, I would rate this season tied for most disappointing in my lifetime along with 1984. The entire season reminded me of a really sharp looking chromed-up muscle car engine that you want to hear ROAR and every time you tried to start it conked out. You looked to the head mechanic, and he was off in the corner spitting sunflower seeds and complaining to the owner he deserved a raise. Our fans were grumpy, early and eager to boo the poor performance and in some cases absent. We fell 600,000 short of goal in attendance, not a surprise for a team that finished a pathetic 36-45 AT HOME and never inspired except for one awesome hitting performance on opening day.....in Cleveland. But the beauty of being a Chicago baseball fan is you always have the Cubs....... despite the horrific season we had we still finished EIGHT GAMES BETTER THAN THE CUBS. Oh yeah, and we won the “Crosstown” head to head battle 4 games to 2 for the second year in a row. I knew there was something in there to make me feel better..... THANKS north-siders! P.S.
When do pitchers and catchers report?
SUBJECT: Parting Shots Date: 10/8/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W. I am only going to acknowledge a conditional parting of the ways for the season. It seems that my very own Baseball McCaskey has dipped a toe into the Theo Epstein waters. I dare not indulge in the same hope I felt back when the Tribune hired Andy McPhail away from the Twins and we all thought our prayers had been answered. Been there done that. Something about Wrigley seems to swallow the seeming-saviors and spit them out, having drained their souls along the way. For further reference, see Don Baylor, Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella. But maybe, just maybe....naw, couldn’t be. Could it? SUBJECT: A New Manager for the White Sox and a Glimpse Into 2012 Date: 10/8/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. Now that Ozzie has traded “Good Guys Wear Black” for his pink silk shirts in Miami, back here at home the hot stove has been burning early with talk about who would manage the club. Sandy Alomar Jr. seemed to be the leading candidate, with Dave Martinez (bench coach for Tampa Bay and former White Sox OF) not far behind. The talk turned itself up a notch when the mighty Red Sox failed to make the playoffs and Terry Francona resigned....especially since he started his career with the Sox of the other color. Count on Kenny Williams (who apparently has survived this carnage) to produce yet another slap your head shocker...... please meet out new manager: Robin Ventura. I know that there was some chuckling in the background when this pick was made, and the local press have mostly (not all) panned the pick. On a national scale, the comments which much more positive. After the surprise and associated adrenaline rush wore off, I pondered the pick and decided I liked it. Robin is a class act who has been pursued by the White Sox since he retired, choosing to spend some family time post playing career first. He went back to work with the Sox and Buddy Bell this summer, working with the minor league players and impressed everyone he worked with. He’s a class act and will bring a sense of professionalism to the clubhouse. He was a team leader during his career here and wasn’t afraid of anyone.....he took on Frank Thomas when he thought he was whining to umpires too much, and he tried to take on Nolan Ryan in an infamous “fight” that showed it’s foolish to go against someone twice your size and twice as mean as you. Before you blast the pick and fluff off his chances, ponder this: Next year for the White Sox would be a “freebie” for anyone who comes in. The Sox are stuck with Dunn, Rios, and Peavy. They’re going to give underachieving Gordon Beckham another year. At the end of the day, the fate of the 2012 White Sox will largely hinge on the comeback efforts of 137
the Failed Four......and therefore it wouldn’t matter if Casey Stengel was on the bench with Sparky Anderson as his bench coach for this coming year. If those guys play well, anyone will look like a genius. If they don’t....it does not matter who is pushing the buttons.
Will Ohman Addison Reed Dylan Axelrod and/or Zach Stewart
If the manager is going to get a pass for one season, Don Cooper is there to manage the pitching staff and Harold Baines is there to help analyze the talent, it’s the perfect time to throw a new manager into the dugout and let him hit the ground running.
If this works, Kenny Williams could be our GM for a long, long time. If it doesn’t......but that’s the story of any GM. My predictions for the 2012 roster: Gone: Mark Buehrle. Someone will overpay him 3-4 years for $10 million per....and that’s too much. Two years at $16-18 million and we have a shot but don’t hold your breath. The Sox have had a good record of knowing when to let pitchers walk for bigger dollars elsewhere, and we’re almost always the long terms winners. He’ll be missed. Gone: Juan Pierre. The Dodgers have been paying most of his salary and that won’t happen this time around. His outside chance to return would center around no other teams making a good offer, which at his age could happen. My gut tells me he’s gone because Alexandro De Aza is going to play left field and lead off. Gone: Omar Vizquel. I could be wrong on this one, the Sox love him and he taught all of our infielders how to play like a gold glover in the majors. I think he’s going to want to go to a team where he would get to play more.......but don’t rule out a player/coach contract. Gone: Ramon Castro. Welcome Tyler Flowers, who will play more than Castro did. 2012 will tell us if we need another catcher beyond 2012. Gone: Jason Frasor. The option on his contract is simply too much money for the way he performed during his short stint here. The Edwin Jackson trade is going to hinge on whether or not Zach Stewart pans out. Of course, dumping Mark Teahen as part of that trade was a big plus right out the gate.
Paul Konerko Gordon Beckham Alexei Ramirez Brent Morel ???????? Utility man needed (Brent Lillibridge can play all 4 positions, plus there are three others who can play first base) Outfield: Alejandro De Aza Alex Rios Dayan Viciedo Brent Lillibridge ???????? Utility man needed Catchers: A.J. Pierzynski Tyler Flowers DH: (Hopefully not “DK”) Adam Dunn If that group plays “to the back of their baseball cards’ instead of to “2011 performance”, we’ll still have a good club.
Traded: Carlos Quentin. He is arbitration eligible and the Sox are going to hand Dayan Viciedo the right field job. He is the most tradable commodity we have. Look for Kenny to get two pitchers, one can make the club now and a top prospect from someone who needs a power hitting right fielder (Atlanta?)
SUBJECT: A New Manager for the White Sox and a Glimpse Into 2012 Date: 10/12/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W.
Your 2012 Chicago White Sox, barring one of Kenny’s knock your sox off surprise trades:
As we North Siders hold our breath while BM and his siblings strategize over whom to entrust with the direction of our franchise, let me share the word that comes to mind when I see what’s going on with your team:
Starting pitchers: John Danks Gavin Floyd Jake Peavy Chris Sale (prediction: this will turn out to be a mistake) Philip Humber Bullpen: (6 or 7?) Sergio Santos Matt Thornton Jessie Crain 138
Mediocrity. While I am not surprised that you like the move to hire Robin Ventura, let me point out that there is an amazing similarity between the direction the Sox are taking and a direction that has proven to lead directly to abject failure. As I see it, with the hire of Robin Venture, your Chicago White Sox have become the Chicago Blackhawks circa 1995. You have a longentrenched GM Kenny “Pulford” Williams who is a personal favorite of a long-entrenched owner, Jerry “Wirtz” Reinsdorf, who hires a manager with zero experience who had no prior interest in the job, Robin “Dirk Graham” Ventura. 139
To pretend that someone with Ventura’s background can come in and steer this ship back to the glory that was the World Series is worse than foolish. This smacks more of Kenny Williams’ desire to prove he can out-fox the experts than it does his desire to return the Sox to legitimacy. Williams opted for someone with no qualifications for the job over other candidates who were clearly more qualified. Perhaps Williams is protecting his backside after two years plus of failed moves by bringing in a popular novice who people will be more patient with. Bring in a better manager and the team continues its slide, and fingers will point to the GM.
SUBJECT: AN OPEN LETTER TO TOM RICKETTS Date: 11/7/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W.
Ventura’s short time with Buddy Bell as a virtual roving instructor had nothing to do with managerial acumen. Of course he was impressive, he didn’t have to do anything, he didn’t have to make scrutinized pitching and line-up decisions. And the baseball highway is littered with the carcasses of players who were good clubhouse guys who couldn’t make the switch to manager. Hires like this drive me crazy. They infer that professional baseball people believe that managing is so easy that someone with no experience can do it. As a Sox fan, you should be insulted that your management thinks so little of you that they would hire someone they are willing to train at the major league level while you pay major league prices to see a major league product. I can’t even imagine how frustrated and insulted guys like Ryne Sandberg, Sandy Alomar, Dave Martinez et. al. to see a coveted position like this go to someone who has paid no dues and is clearly less qualified to tackle this challenge.
I am sorrier than anyone has ever been. I am so so so sorry. I apologize. I am sorrier than sorry. I am so sorry, there is no word for it. If you could multiply sorry by ten thousand, that would not be one one millionth of how sorry I am.
Let me ask you a simple question. Was Robin Ventura the best man for the job?
In case you missed it, I apologize.
You know the answer and I know the answer. No. Simple, indisputable. No. Yet, he was hired.
As sincerely as I can say it, I apologize, I am sorry, forgive me.
One more question. Was Robin Ventura the least qualified of all of the candidates who had been rumored for the position? Yes. Simple indisputable, Yes. Yet, he was hired. Even richer, and as revealing of Williams’ mindset (and ultimately his disrespect for the complexities of being a major league manager) was his admission that he considered Paul Konerko for the position of player-manager. There have been more red flags flying at Comiskey than Adam Dunn can miss by shaking a bat at, and you and your South Side brethren need to take note and stop giving the benefit of the doubt to your GM who appears to me to be more intent on proving that Ozzie was little more than a nuisance than on crafting a return to relevancy. You have shown a propensity for holding out hope where there is none (as evidenced by how long you held on to the unrealistic hope for a Sox playoff appearance this year), and this latest dog and pony show by Sox management has you being refitted with rosecolored glasses. Hoping that your returners “play to the back of their baseball cards” is further proof that you are showing symptoms of the oft-mocked primary trait of Cubs fans; hope where there is none. As a Cubs fan, I am delighted by this turn of events. No matter how badly Baseball McCaskey screws up the hiring process for the next Cub GM, I can’t see any way he’s do worse than this.
I’m sorry. I cannot tell you how sorry I am.
If a grain of sand on the beach was “sorry,” you could add up all the grains of sand on every beach on the face of the earth and still only have a fraction of how sorry I am. I am more than sorry. I am sssssssssssooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. I apologize.
I am so sorry that my relatives are sorry. I am so sorry that people I’ve never met are sorry. And I apologize for them too. I am sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry. I am sorrier than the sorriest ruer has ever been. As a matter of fact, I make that guy seem grateful. As I write this, I am standing in a corner, wearing a dunce cap of my own creation. That’s how sorry I am. Wait, no. I’m sorrier than that. Much sorrier. I am so sorry, there’s a 78 year old man in Senegal who just felt my sorrow. That’s how sorry I am. Wait no. I’m even sorrier than that. I am so sorry that the entire population of Papua, New Guinea is making an offering to the gods in the name of my sorrow. And that is not one fiftieth of how sorry I am. Please try to understand. All the Baseball McCaskey references, the BM stuff, the scoffing at the way you handled the Quade and Hendry stuff...it was, it was...temporary insanity!!! Yeah! That was it. It’s been nothing but decades of goats and curses and Treblehorns and Bartman and Lee Elia and Leon Durham and the 69 Mets and Big Z and on and on and on. I just lost my mind there for a while. I know in your all-knowing wisdom, you’ll understand, perchance, forgive. You’ve led me to the light Mr. Ricketts. I now believe. I believe that you had a vision, that
one day when you were just a child, a vision appeared to you. It was a vision of the biggest parade in the history of the world. Millions were there, crying out in joy, having thrown off the chains of more than a century of frustration. And in that vision, you were told that Theo The Bostonian would lead them.
SUBJECT: I BELIEVE Date: 11/25/2011 From: Tom A. To: Tom W.
You knew, yes Mr. Ricketts, you knew all along that if you had fired Hendry a year ago when we all wanted it to happen, if there had been no full year of Mike Quade, there would have been no Theo. It would have been another experimental hire, more hope with no proof of substance. But you did not heed the foolishness of knaves like me, of the great unwashed, the peons who knew not what they wanted. You exhibited Yoda-like patience as we brandished our pitchforks and torches, keeping your wits about you while all those around you lost theirs.
Since you had the first word in this entire exercise, I will gladly take the last. If we Cubs fans are guilty of pinning everything on hopes for “next year,” you and yours are certainly guilty of living in 2005. IT’S OVER, TOM. As I write this, your crowning achievement came 6 years ago. The fact is, today, the present, this very moment, the Cubs are closer to winning the next available World Series than the Sox. THEO-WOO THEO-WOO THEO-WOO!!!The Cubs now have the type of people in place, the type of organizational structure in place, and the corrected set of priorities in place to make actual inroads towards a championship in the modern baseball world.
You knew that Boston would implode, you knew that the pain of one more bad year at Addison and Clark would be nothing in the grand scheme of things because all good things come to those who wait. And all good things did come. All good things were Theo and Jed and logic and computers and understanding statistics and the modern world of sports and proven winners and a real plan! Mr. Ricketts...I believe...I really believe! I BELIEVE!!!!! SUBJECT: AN OPEN LETTER TO TOM RICKETTS Date: 11/24/2011 From: Tom W. To: Tom A. I have been sitting on your “Open Letter to Tom Ricketts” for a couple of weeks now. I really, truly was going to let that sit as the last word, as I think the wide eyed reverent tone of the letter truly does speak for itself, while at the same time perfectly embodying the psyche of the true Cub fan. To wit: Cub fans akin to your frame of mind will read your mea culpa to Mr. Ricketts and say “YES! That’s just how I FEEL TOO!”...... While at the same time a true Sox fan will read your letter and have a wave of nausea that won’t go away any time the text appears before their eyes. 103 YEARS AND COUNTING. You know, I believe too.... I believe the Cubs have been the best antidote for millions of Sox fans for many, many years....and I also believe that even IF by some miracle the Cubs manage to win the big one before I shuffle off this earth that no one can take way the fact that THE SOX GOT THERE FIRST IN OUR LIFETIME. Cubs fans can only dream of knowing how deeply satisfying that feeling is. A dear departed friend who was a lifelong Sox fan summed it up perfectly when they won it all..... he said that he was surprised that while he was excited, his overwhelming emotion was a feeling of a “deep inner peace”. Well said. It’s Thanksgiving Day as I write this, and I just want to say THANK YOU WHITE SOX making that magical year of 2005 happen. It would be marvelous to do it again. I’ll come visit you in the zoo.......
While they were putting this impressive front office together, your GM continued to make decisions that made the foreseeable future for you and yours bleaker than our past. The Sox are becoming the Blanche DuBois of the sports world, happily living in the once-was (the 2005 mantra, exhuming Robin Ventura, etc ). No sense acknowledging the future when all glories are relegated to the past. I do not doubt that you and others of your ilk have seen the Cubs as an antidote for all that ails the Sox. That is a wonderfully tacit admission that you remain weirdly obsessed with we North Siders. An organization truly dedicated to winning would compare themselves with the Yankees, not a club that hasn’t won the big prize in your seemingly-every-emailrepeating-chant of “100 plus years.” Of course, to do so would be to reveal the smallmarket mentality of a big-market franchise that HAD its crowning achievement in 2005, an achievement that will never be repeated in your lifetime. Hope you enjoyed it, glad you enjoyed it, it will never happen again. There’s also another interesting tactic you’re employing. As if to neutralize the future, you say “if” the Cubs win the World Series, the Sox will have gotten there first. That’s called moving the goal posts. How far back should we go? How about if I say the race started in 1907, so the Cubs have won it more than the Sox since that time? I won’t do that, but I will do this. I will start the contest in 2005. Including 2005, I will wager that going forward; the Cubs will win the Series more than the Sox by the time we pass from this mortal coil. That said, I suggest we both invest in sound-proof coffins so neither one of us endures the indignity of hearing the victor tap-dancing on our grave. And as a side bet, I’ll further guarantee that it will take Theo and Co. less than the 23 years it took for the Reinsdorf group to win the big prize, to do the same. As I look back on this season, there’s a part of me that wishes we would have done this during a year that both teams would have been more successful. But beyond the rarity of those occasions, I’ve now come to believe this was the best year to undertake this project. It ends up having been a year of great change for both teams, it ends up revealing the long term directions for both teams, and it epitomized the historic frustrations of both teams. I also think it wise to conclude with the two Toms who wrote about two teams agreeing on two things:
Agreement #1...Can’t wait for Spring Training.
Agreement #2...Loyalty to either Chicago team, ultimately, leaves you black and blue.
The passion I have for baseball in general and the White Sox in particular comes primarily from two people: my father Ray Wendlandt and my uncle Ron Kraft... and without the blessings of my wonderful wife Lynne, this passion could not be nurtured as it has been. Ray Wendlandt’s love for the game was something he carried with him all of his life, and it was the one of the most precious gifts he passed on to his son. He played for a semi-pro team called the “Dreamers” when he was young, and he carried the dream of almost getting the chance to play professionally throughout his life. He took me to my first game at old Comiskey, taught me one hell of a curve ball (that got me some attention from the scouts later in life) and taught me how to love the 1-0 game. He passed away in 2006, so he got to see his White Sox finally win it all in 2005 before going home. I will always treasure sharing that wonderful season with him, even if he was too frail at that point to travel to Chicago to join me in person. A large part of the inspiration I felt to complete this book came from the influence of my Uncle Ron, who has treated me like a prince since I was a kid. He took me on my first plane ride, to Pittsburgh, PA of all places, where we went to old Forbes Field in 1961. He brought me programs, magazines and books from his travels to distant cities (where he always seemed to go to a game) and even once gave me a foul ball he caught in Yankee Stadium off the bat of Mickey Mantle (which of course I played with and lost to the big dog in the next yard….not making that one up!) To this day, when the Sox win, the first thing I do is call Uncle Ron out in California. Our undying love for the White Sox has been a constant in our lives. He has also been like a second father to me, often encouraging me to live life to its fullest and to reach for new heights at all phases of life, for which I will always be grateful. Finally, I want to thank my wife Lynne, an angel if there ever was one. She had no rooting interest in baseball when I met her, but she has come to be as passionate a Sox fan as any.... and she never minds when I head to the ballpark (with or without her) since she knows both the game and the Sox are the sustenance that keeps me going. This book is dedicated to them, my son Geoff, and grandsons Haidyn and Caleb.....who, of course, are all huge Sox fans and the joy of my life. I love you all. Tom W
My love for the Cubs did not involve choice, as it grew from equal parts geography, media, and family. I grew up on the northwest side of Chicago, had WGN TV as a primary source of entertainment, and was commanded to love the Cubs by my dear departed Greek immigrant of a grandmother, Panyiotta Adrahtas. The best memories of my childhood were the times I spent with her, absorbing her sense of humor, and riding the buses to Wrigley. I was 13 going on 14 during the now-fabled summer of ‘69, a season and historic collapse that colored my world-view of things as much as any event ever would. I loved Ernie and Fergie of course, but I particularly enjoyed Phil “The Vulture” Reagan. The reliever with the herky-jerk style would rescue the Cubs time and again out of the bullpen, but alas, not enough. This is also the right time to mention the voices of my youth whose dulcet tones were the soundtrack of the sporting side of my life. Thanks to Vince Lloyd, Lou Boudreau, Lloyd Pettit, Jack Brickhouse, Harry Caray and the two men who have not only carried on but, in my estimation, surpassed the rich heritage of their predecessors, Len Kasper and Bob Brenley. Unlike my co-author, I never really played baseball, but was oddly drawn to umpiring. So as much as I knew about my heroes with mitts, I was equally conversant on the different strike-call mannerisms of Shag Crawford, Chris Pelekoudes, Al Barlick, and Emmet Ashford. One of my life’s biggest regrets is not going to the Wendlestedt Umpiring School in the 80’s when the opportunity presented itself. What really drew me to this project was my co-author. There is not a more passionate Sox fan, or more importantly a more passionate baseball fan than he. He knows the game inside and out, he knows what a manager should be doing before the manager does, he knows what pitch should be thrown and why a batter got fooled. TW has been a wonderful friend and trusted co-worker, but the deep level of respect I have for him stems from who he is as a person and how much he loves the game and his Sox. I’m sure as you read this book, those elements were apparent. A special “thank-you” to Marcus Feferman for his wonderful design on the front and back covers of this book, as well as the chapter design and layout. Finally, I want to acknowledge my family, chosen and otherwise. My aunt Ginny and her neverending energy; Kelly and Mandi and the cutest baby ever, my sorta-grandson Logan; Lee Cannon, Jeff Walker, Dick and Ania Wallace, and the world’s greatest best friend, Gregg Simon. TA
SOX vs. CUBS North Side vs. South Side. Wrigley vs. Comiskey. Tradition vs. Progress. The subject has sparked everything from good-natured ribbing to barroom brawls. Take a look inside the 2011 baseball season and the historic changes in leadership it triggered on both sides of town through the eyes of the authors, each lifelong, diehard fans. Humorous and insightful, insulting and uplifting, reective and derogatory. SOX VS. CUBS: A Year of Baseball in Black and Blue offers something for fans of both sides of the legendary rivalry.
Published on Oct 18, 2012
A book written by authors Tom Adrahtas, and Tom Wendlandt. All desing work and photograhy was done by Marcus Feferman. The book is emails...