Ask Mir About the Cubs

Photo by Miriam Romain

Opening Day 2022

Normally, Opening Day, a holiday in my book, is filled with anticipation and excitement. I love getting to the ballpark early to watch Wrigleyville wake up and start that special vibe that only comes with Opening Day, and the World Series.

But this Opening Day was different. We were first in line, as usual, but the neighborhood didn’t wake up as it had for other Opening Day mornings. There was no buzz. There was no excited vibe. In fact, it seemed dead. I was happy when, soon after getting settled, several bleacher friends arrived.

Getting in line early gives us a chance to catch up on what happened over the winter. We all were happy to be back at the ballpark. There was little talk, at least around me, about the lockout that caused the delay of Spring Training and Opening Day.

With so few people strolling around outside the ballpark before the gates opened, I did not expect an exceptionally large crowd. People are still angry and sad about the team trading Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez, fans are still angry about the owners locking out the players while trying to negotiate a new labor agreement and the weather forecast wasn’t conducive to playing baseball.

Well, the game was played, and while it was cold, the rains did not make it to the ballpark as forecasted. I stayed warm, but I also was wearing three layers of thermal underwear, a turtleneck and a sweatshirt under an extremely warm winter coat, and I was wearing my warm winter boots. I was prepared. Plus, it always seems warmer when your team is winning. And the Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4.

Surprisingly, the game drew 35,112, more than I expected on a gloomy 44-degree day. Still, it was not a sellout, and I don’t expect to see many sellouts this season.

Go Cubs Go!


Five years ago today

Photo by Miriam Romain

The following is an updated version of a piece I wrote a year ago today.

It’s hard to believe five years have passed since the Cubs won the World Series. Where has the time gone? Did it really happen? Did they really win? YES!

I was sitting in my family room watching the game, wishing my dad could see what I knew in my heart was going to happen. I could not to go to Cleveland for the game. I was too sick to travel.

I knew this was our night and had champagne chilling in the fridge. What I couldn’t anticipate were the ups and downs that would accompany the greatest World Series game in baseball history.

The pivotal point was when the Baseball Gods intervened with a 17-minute rain delay at the end of the ninth inning. All Cubs fans know the strength of the Baseball Gods. On August 8, 19 88, they caused the first night game at Wrigley to be rained out. So, rain on another important night in Cubs history seemed fitting.

During that 17 minutes, Jason Heyward gave a talk that galvanized his teammates, giving them the confidence they needed to go out and win the first Cubs World Series in 108 years.

When the game was over, it took some time for it to sink in. I had waited my entire life for that win. Was I sorry I wasn’t there? Sure. But I was watching on TV, and when Kris Bryant threw that final out to Anthony Rizzo, my jaw dropped. I sat there not moving. Then the tears came. It was a bittersweet moment for me. The one person I really wanted to call was my dad, but that wasn’t possible. He had passed away eight years before this historic night, never seeing his favorite team win the World Series.

I walked out onto our back deck and could hear the cheering and car horns coming from Wrigley Field a couple of miles away. It was surreal. And then it really hit me. WE WON IT ALL. I grabbed the champagne from the fridge as my cell phone started lighting up with text messages from friends congratulating me and the Cubs on the historic win. Like I had anything to do with it.

Baseball has been through a few changes the past five years. Two years ago, COVID-19 forced the season to begin late and then be shortened with no fans in attendance. Last year started with only 25 percent seating capacity at Wrigley and fans sitting in “pods” for the first few homestands, also because of COVID-19.

The team has changed in those five years, especially this year. Rizzo, Bryant and Javier Baez were traded at the end of July. While the teams Rizzo and Bryant were traded to make the postseason, neither of them made the World Series. Surprisingly, Joc Pederson, who never really fit in with the Cubs or the fans and was traded to the Atlanta Braves in July is in the World Series and doing well. Go figure.

Where were you when the Cubs won the World Series?

#chicagocubs #ChicagoCubsWorldSerieschamps #chicagocubs2016champs


Wrigley opening to full capacity June 11

The Chicago Cubs announced today that Wrigley Field will open to 100 percent capacity beginning June 11, just in time for the weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

This was a much-anticipated announcement as Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker had announced that Illinois would move to Phase 5, opening everything up June 11. The question was whether Chicago would follow suit. It had not in the past. Previously, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot had pegged July 5 as the date Chicago would open, but yesterday she announced Chicago would keep in line with the rest of the state.

What does this mean for baseball fans? Season ticket holders should already have their tickets in their accounts in the Ballpark app. Those with tickets in the bowl will have their original seats returned to them. The Budweiser Bleachers will go back to general admission. Gate will open two hours before first pitch, as it had in the past.

But there will be some changes from the last time the ballpark was at full capacity. All tickets will remain on a touchless and mobile system, and restrictions on bag size will remain at 5×9. The only exceptions to this rule would be if you have a legitimate medical bag or a manufactured diaper bag for a baby or toddler in diapers.  Concessions will be cashless. Masks and social distancing will no longer be required. Pod seating that had been in place since Opening Day will be eliminated.

Single game tickets go on sale tomorrow, June 5, at 2 p.m. Chicago time at www.cubs.com/tickets.

#chicagocubs #wrigleyfield #Phase5 #100percent capacity


Wrigley capacity increasing to 60 percent

Rumors that the seating capacity at Wrigley Field would be increased to 60 percent have come to fruition. Today the Cubs announced that the State of Illinois and City of Chicago have given the green light for capacity to be increased beginning with the homestand May 28-June 2. Tickets will be sold in pods of up to six people, with at least one seat between pods.

Because tickets for that series already have been sold based on 25 percent capacity, season ticket holders were informed today that they will get first crack at the newly released tickets tomorrow.  

Fans also have until 11:59 p.m. tomorrow to sign up for the Return to Wrigley Presale Access Program at https://www.mlb.com/cubs/tickets/return-to-wrigley. Winners will be chosen at random and notified of the date and time to purchase tickets for the May 28-June 2 games. Those who already have signed up do not need to sign up again. There is no guarantee you will be selected for this special presale, but it’s worth the time to sign up. After you sign up, you will automatically be eligible to be selected for any future presales. No purchase is required.

The general public will have the opportunity to purchase tickets for the May 28-June 2 games on May 18, starting at 10 a.m. Tickets will be sold on a first come first served basis.

In addition, the State of Illinois and City of Chicago are requiring the Cubs to offer an area for fully vaccinated fans for the series against the Washington Nationals May 17-20. The Cubs have designated the upper center field bleachers as the fully vaccinated zone. Those seats will be sold at full capacity with no social distancing on a first come first served basis. Fans with tickets to this area will be required to show proof of vaccination plus a photo ID. According to a Cubs spokesperson, fans who already have seats in this area and are not fully vaccinated will be relocated. Tickets for the fully vaccinated section went on sale today at 3 p.m. These tickets can be purchased online at https://www.mlb.com/cubs/tickets/vaccinated-area.

Protocols implemented at the beginning of the season remain in place. Fans two years old and older are required to wear a face mask at all times unless actively eating or drinking. All purchases will remain cashless and entry to the ballpark will remain touchless. More information can be found at https://cubs.fanportal-mlb.com/wrigley-safety/.

#chicagocubs #cubstickets #wrigleyfield


Opening Day 2021 will be different

Tomorrow is the day so many of us have been anticipating for two years. It’s Opening Day at Wrigley Field! Even though capacity is being limited to 25 percent, many season ticket holders were able to secure tickets for the game. Anticipation is high as no fans were allowed inside the ballpark during last year’s abbreviated season.

Due to the pandemic, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is allowing the Cubs to host 25 percent of capacity. In Wrigley Field’s case, this amounts to about 10,000 fans. Bleacher regulars will not be allowed into the bleachers for tomorrow’s game as those seats are reserved for approximately 1,000 vaccinated health care workers. Many of the regulars were able to find seats in the bowl. I’ll be there in the accessible area of Section 103, but only for Opening Day. The rest of the home stand I will be in my regular bleacher section, just two rows down from my usual spot.

Seats were sold only for the first home stand in pods of one, two, three or four. Some confusion and even disgust ensued after the initial offering, which was for 20 percent of capacity. At that time, many season ticket holders were shut out of games. When Lightfoot expanded the capacity, many of those who had been shut out were able to purchase tickets, including for Opening Day.

Why is Opending Day so important? There are many reasons. Opening Day signifies the start of a new season. Of new hope. It’s knowing spring is really coming. It’s being out and rooting for your favorite team. But it’s also important for another reason. Many of us have Opening Day attendance streaks on the line. Skipping last year, since no fans were allowed inside Wrigley, tomorrow will be my 21st consecutive Opening Day at Wrigley Field. Does that seem like a lot to you? It’s nothing when you consider some of my friends who are working on streaks of around forty or even fifty consecutive years! This also would have been my 12th consecutive Opening Day in the bleachers.

This Opening Day will be quite different for me from any other Opening Day. As a kid, I went to Opening Day with friends and we’d hang around the ballpark before and after the game. As an adult, even though I lived in Atlanta for a while, I started attending consecutive Opening Days with my dad in 2000. We’d park the car, have lunch and then wander to our seats in the first row of the upper deck above the Cubs batting circle. Those Opening Days, from 2000 through 2008, were incredibly special for me.

In 2009 I started sitting in the bleaches. Friends and I would arrive at the ballpark hours before the gates opened to assure we were first in line. Watching the neighborhood wake up on Opening Day was always interesting. Many times, I was there long before the magnetometers were even set up. It was a time for many of the bleacher regulars to reconnect after a long winter and share the excitement of a new season.

This year we won’t be able to assemble outside before the gates open, open, but many of us have kept in touch all winter through a weekly Zoom call. At some point tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll see most of the people who would normally come out early on Opening Day. It’s what we do.

Opening Day and first pitch will be here in less than 24 hours. Are you excite? I am! Go Cubs!

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New rules greet Cub fans in Mesa

Fans on the berm sat in pods of either two or four and were kept socially distanced from each other. Photo by Al Yellon bleedcubbieblue.com

The Cubs played their spring training home opener yesterday at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. Adbert Alzolay started for the Cubs, but only pitched one inning, as did all the pitchers following him. The only other regulars to play were Kris Bryant, Ian Happ and Jason Heyward. The Cubs beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2. It was an interesting spring training game with the Cubs holding the Royals to a no hitter until the seventh inning, which was the last inning of the game. And even though the Cubs were winning, the bottom of the seventh was played to give the Royals pitchers a chance to pitch.

But there was another story to the game, which started before the game even started. The ballpark opened at 11:35. There were two lines at the Home Plate Gate, each with new magnetometers wide enough to easily accommodate a wheelchair. In fact, more than one person can go through this new magnetometer at one time, saving a lot of time getting people through the gates.

The technology is quite amazing. As you walk through the device, it senses whether you have anything, such as a gun or explosives, on your person or in a bag. A photo is taken, and the “hot spot” is identified. If the item that the device has picked up looks unusual, the person is taken aside and then asked to empty pockets. I triggered the device when I was wheeled through it, but they waved me on. My wheelchair or my knee replacements triggered it. The photo showed the area in question and it was not a problem. There is no need to empty pockets of keys, coins or cell phones. I am hoping the Cubs use this technology at Wrigley when fan are allowed back in.

Signs are posted that masks are required at all times, unless you are actively eating or drinking, no exceptions. Not all people adhered to the rule, and security walked around telling people they needed to wear their masks.

Fans were seated in “pods.” In the bowl, fans could sit in pods of two, four or six. On the berm, circles were painted on the grass allowing for either two or four people in a pod. Those without berm tickets supposedly were not allowed out on the berm, though it was obvious there were fans who did not belong. Right in front of me was a group of eight sitting together until security made them split up. It would have been nice if their tickets had been checked because anyone with a berm ticket should know about the rule. I do give the Cubs and the security company high marks on being proactive in making sure there were no more than four in a pod and that masks were being worn.

Some people did not understand the new rule of no bags over 9 inches x 5 inches allowed unless there was a medical reason for needing a larger bag or had a baby and needed a diaper bag. One fan kept telling a Cubs employee that his clear bag had always been accepted before this year. The employee was very patient in explaining the new rule mandated by MLB. Most fans adhered to the new rule, and those with larger bags seemed to understand when they were asked to return the bats to their cars. Factory sealed bottled water is still allowed as is outside food.

It appeared that some of the concession rules had changed. Fans were able to go up to the ice cream cart and order ice cream without having to go through the Ballpark app. It also looked like this was an option at other concession stands. It’s probable that the Cubs saw what worked or didn’t at some of the other ballparks Sunday and yesterday and revised how things worked. I heard no complaints about lines being too long for food.

I was told that kinks were still being ironed out and some things may still change, but from my perspective, things went quite smoothly. It was great to be back at the ballpark!


Cubs win spring opener 1-0

Have you missed baseball? I have. I felt gipped last season as I only was able to attend two spring training games due to health issues. I usually go to all of the Cubs home spring training games, plus some road trips. I got sick and was hospitalized last year. I returned to Arizona in time to see two games before spring training was shut down. Then the season was called off.

Spring training in the Cactus League started yesterday, with the Cubs starting today “on the road” in Peoria against the San Diego Padres. Today’s game was not televised, so I listened on MLB. It sounds as if our guys are starting strong. Kyle Hendricks appears to be in top form already.

It also is spring training for the announcers. They called Kyle Hendricks Jason Hendricks and pronounced David Bote as Boat. Both mistakes were corrected between innings.

Today’s game went seven innings. This will be the norm for spring training unless the teams agree to play fewer or more innings. No team can play fewer than five innings. In today’s game, the crowd sang the “Fifth Inning Stretch.” The Cubs won the game 1-0.

Tomorrow, the Cubs open at Sloan against the Kansas City Royals. Adbert Azolay will be the starter for the Cubs. I’ll be there rooting for our guys and taking pictures of how fans are dealing with pod seating, mask wearing and social distancing.


Spring Training 2021

Despite the high number of COVID-19 cases across the country and especially in Arizona, it appears Spring Training 2021 will begin in a couple of weeks. This is, of course, assuming new variants, such as those from the UK and South Africa, do not suddenly surge. The possibility still exists that Spring Training will be delayed, or it could start and then be stopped, like last year, if cases start to surge again.

Major League Baseball has revamped Spring Training schedules for both the Cactus League and the Grapefruit League. In the Cactus League, the Cubs will now play 14 games instead of the original 18. The first game will be March 1 against the San Diego Padres in Peoria, AZ. The first home game will be March 2 against the Kansas City Royals in Mesa.

Fans attending games will notice some changes when they arrive at Sloan Park. Capacity is limited to 20-25 percent, meaning somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 fans will be able to attend games at Sloan. All seats will be sold in pods of two, four or six in the seating area and two or four on the berm. Berm seating will be first come-first served, as always. Circles will be drawn into the grass to keep fans socially distanced. Only fans with berm tickets will be allowed on the berm area.

MLB has mandated that there be at least six feet of space between players and fans, with 12 feet of space around the dugouts. This means the first few rows of seats in the seating area will be empty.

No autographs will be allowed, and fans will not be able to watch workouts on the back fields.

All fans must always wear masks, unless eating or drinking. Gators and masks with breathing vents are not allowed. If someone arrives at the ballpark with an inappropriate mask, a one-time use surgical mask will be supplied by the Cubs.

Concessions will be provided on a touchless basis using the Ballpark App and QR Codes. There will be no vendors.  More information on how to order food can be found here.

All tickets will be mobile, available on the Ballpark App. Fans will find entry to the ballpark touchless. Pockets will not need to be emptied into trays. In fact, there will be no trays. Purses or wallets of 9×5 inches or smaller will be allowed. Nothing larger. However, fans with babies needing diapers will be allowed to bring in a diaper bag and medical bags also will be allowed. I reached out to the Cubs to find out their definition of a medical bag but have not yet heard back on this. No coolers of any kind will be allowed this Spring Training.

Fans will be able to bring in factory sealed bottled water and their own food for consumption. This has been the case since Sloan Park opened. Be aware that only factory sealed bottled water is allowed. No other types of drinks, especially no alcohol.

Tailgating will not be allowed this year to ensure social distancing. Because tailgating is a large part of the Spring Training experience, some fans may choose not to come to the park this spring.  

Tickets went on sale yesterday for Cubs Spring Training season ticket holders. Today sales opened to season ticket holders in Chicago. Tomorrow sales will open to the general public. It must be noted that single tickets will not be available. A minimum of two tickets per game, or a pod is required with a maximum of six tickets per game.

For more information, click here. The FAQ’s are a great source of information.

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MLK Day 2021

Today, we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with a national day of service. But how many of today’s children really know who MLK Jr. was?

The first time I remember hearing about King was the day he was assassinated. I was eight years old and visiting my grandparents in St. Louis, MO. My grandfather, a rabbi, cried when the special report came on the television. He called King a great man with a great vision.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My grandparents eventually moved in with us. My grandfather often spoke about King, sometimes at my urging. You see, my grandfather was a bit unusual and ahead of his time. When my mom was a child, he was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). That’s right, a white rabbi was a member of the NAACP. He did not see skin color. I’m like him, I do not see skin color. One day he told me we were both colorblind, but in a good way. One of his biggest regrets was that he was unable to march in Selma with King, Rep. John Lewis and others, but he supported what they were doing.

In college I took a Sociology of Sport class and learned about the Negro Baseball League. I was intrigued and went on a quest for the book “Only the Ball was White.” Until then, I only knew that Ernie Banks had started his career with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League but hadn’t really paid that much attention to it. That class and that book opened my eyes.  

I did not experience true racism until I moved to Atlanta in 1984. I was in the south and segregation was still alive. That was an eye-opener for me. Especially when I told my friends I wanted to go downtown to the King Memorial and past Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King had preached. None of my white friends wanted to go with me. I didn’t want to go alone because I wanted someone to talk to while I was there. I waited for my parents to visit and the three of us went to the memorial and talked about how my grandfather admired King and what he stood for. I told my parents I lived in John Lewis’ district and would proudly vote for him every time he ran for office.

Years later, in 2011, I went to see the Cubs play the Royals in Kansas City. A must stop for me was the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum there. It was fascinating, and sadly, not very crowded.

It is said that baseball is a reflection of society. It was very apparent in 2020 as the country struggled with a pandemic and the fallout from the killing of George Floyd.  Black players started to speak out and up about their feelings. We learned stories about players, or their parents being pulled over by law enforcement just because they were black. This was news to me, and I was horrified.

On August 26, 2020, Jason Heyward, the Cubs’ right fielder, joined other athletes in sitting out a game to peacefully protest what was happening in this country. The movement had gone beyond George Floyd. Heyward talked to his teammates about his decision. He offered to start a dialogue and said he would answer any questions they might have. He also told his teammates that they should not feel obligated to join him. None did, though some said they wanted to. The silent protest was loudly heard, at least in Chicago and by his teammates. Major League Baseball must also have heard because in December, MLB finally recognized the 3,400 players in the Negro Leagues as major league players. Change is slow in baseball, but after 100 years, the right thing was done.

The country has been sharply divided, especially the last four years. We have a long way to go. Black lives do matter. All lives matter. Dr. King would have been appalled at what has transpired the past few years, but he also would have been happy to see some of the progress baseball has made to help make his dream a reality. 


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Christmas Eve 2020

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the park

Not a creature was stirring, it just was too dark.

No stockings were hung by lockers with care

Due to the pandemic no one would be there.

The players were snuggled all warm in their beds

Playing in empty parks still clear in their heads.

Jed Hoyer was with his family, but Tom Ricketts was not

He wandered the ballpark then went to a cot.

When out on the field there was such a clatter

He ran up the ramps to see what was the matter.

Away to the press box he flew like a flash,

Forgetting he couldn’t do a 50-yard dash.

The moon on the ivy now gone dormant and brown

Gave a feeling of mid-day on the infield’s crown.

When what to his wondering eyes should appear

But a Cubbie blue sleigh carrying players and someone in the rear.

He recognized the driver, it was David Ross.

And the masked players listened because he was the boss.

More rapid than eagles the players they came,

And he shouted and hollered and called them by name.

Now Rizzo! Now Heyward! Now Hendricks and Darvish!

On Contreras, on Bryant, on Baez and Bote.

To the top of the old scoreboard to the top of the bleacher wall,

Now dash away quickly, and please do not stall.

As dry leaves that rustle on a windy Chicago night

When they meet with an obstacle and can’t hang on tight,

Up to the press box the players they flew

With a sleigh full of baseballs and David Ross, too.

And then in a twinkling, Tom heard on the press box roof

What sounded to him like a reindeer hoof.

As he drew back in and was turning around,

Down the safety netting Rossy did bound.

He was dressed all in blue from his head to his foot

And his uniform was dirty from way too much soot.

A bundle of baseballs he had flung on his back

And he looked like a masked bandit just opening the pack.

His eyes how they twinkled, his smile could not be seen,

His cheeks they were covered but you could tell he wasn’t mean.

The hidden smile on his face was drawn up like a bow,

And his beard had turned white like the cold winter snow.

Being careful to stand more than six feet apart,

Rossy and Tom knew where they each had to start.

With so much uncertainty about the season ahead

Tom put all his bets on good ol’ Jed.

Rossy looked at Tom and with a wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Tom know for certain he had nothing to dread.

While 2020 saw the team losing money,

Tom tried to decide how to reason with Alderman Tunny

Ross spoke not a word, but went straight to work

Showing Tom the current roster, then turned with a jerk.

And laying a finger alongside his nose,

Up to the top of the scoreboard he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh to his team gave a shout,

And away they all flew, they all knew the route.

But Tom heard him say as he flew out of sight,

2021 will be better now go home and have a good night.

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Four years ago today

world series champ marquee.

It’s hard to believe four years have passed since the Cubs won the World Series. Where has the time gone? Did it really happen? Did they really win? YES!

I was sitting in my family room watching the game with Al, wishing my dad could see what I knew in my heart was going to happen. We had elected not to make the drive to Cleveland due to Al’s book publishing deadline and the fact that I was too sick to travel.

I knew this was our night and had champagne chilling in the fridge. What I didn’t know about were the ups and downs that would accompany the greatest World Series game in baseball history.

The pivotal point was when the Baseball Gods intervened with a 17-minute rain delay at the end of the ninth inning. All Cubs fans know the strength of the Baseball Gods. On August 8, 1988, they caused the first night game at Wrigley to be rained out. So, rain on another important night in Cubs history seemed fitting.

During that 17 minutes, Jason Heyward gave a talk that galvanized his teammates, giving them the confidence they needed to go out and win the first Cubs World Series in 108 years.

When the game was over, it took some time for it to sink in. I had waited my entire life for that win. Was I sorry I wasn’t there? Sure. But I was watching on TV, and when Kris Bryant threw that final out to Anthony Rizzo, my jaw dropped, and I sat there not moving. Then the tears came. It was a bittersweet moment for me. The one person I really wanted to call was my dad, but that wasn’t possible. He had passed away eight years before this historic night without seeing his favorite team win the World Series.

I walked out onto our back deck and could hear the cheering and car horns coming from Wrigley Field a couple of miles away. It was surreal. And then it really hit me. WE WON IT ALL. I grabbed the champagne from the fridge as my cell phone started lighting up with text messages from friends congratulating me and the Cubs on the historic win. Like I had anything to do with it.

World series win champagne

The next day we found a pop-up store selling World Series Champs gear and spent way too much money, but it was worth it. Because so many people were crowded around Wrigley, it was a couple of days before I could get close to the ballpark. And when I did, I picked up a piece of chalk because I wanted to add my dad’s name to the tributes on the walls and sidewalks. Every square inch was covered, but something made me keep walking toward the Bleacher gate where I sat, first in line for every home game. The Bleacher gate where my dad, at 12 years old, tried to get into a World Series game in in 1945 only to have the guy in front of him get the last ticket. The Bleacher gate where, somehow, there were two empty bricks

dad name on bricks

right where I always put my chair while I waited for the gates to open. Was this Divine intervention? Somehow, I knew my dad was with me and the tears started again. We added his name to the many other names on the walls and sidewalks, giving him a place in Cubs history.

Where were you when the Cubs won the World Series?

#cubswin  #flythew  #cubsworldseriesdroughtover

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Alec Mills throws a no-no

Alec Mills

I wonder what it’s like to throw a complete game no-hitter in a ballpark with no fans. Alec Mills found out yesteraday in Milwaukee. But it must have been bittersweet knowing that only your teammates were there to cheer you on. Sure, his cell phone lit up after the final out – Jason Kipnis took video of the texts coming in, but there were no fans there to add to the excitement. I know what it’s like to have your pitcher throw a no-no. I was in Milwaukee for Carlos Zambrano’s no-no in 2008. You remember that one. The Cubs and Astros were supposed to play in Houston, but Hurricane Ike was taking aim on Houston, so the game was moved to a neutral site – Milwaukee. We made a last-minute decision to go to the night game. Who knew we’d see a no-no? Talk about exciting.

Ask almost anyone and you will be told that Mills was an unlikely candidate for throwing a no-no. He was a walk-on to the baseball team at the University of Tennessee-Martin. According to various sources, he walked into baseball practice one day and told the coach he could pitch. He had a tryout and the coach asked him to return. As Len Kasper related on television last night, Mills was never really told he was on the team, but he kept showing up and the coach kept putting him in to pitch.

Mills was drafted after his junior year by the Kansas City Royals in the 22nd round.  The Royals traded him to the Cubs in February of 2017. He was called up from Iowa in 2018 as a replacement for the injured Tyler Chatwood and made his first start against the Cincinnati Reds on August 24. He has been part of the regular rotation this year. And he has been very good. But no one expected what he accomplished last night.

The last time a Cubs pitcher threw a no-hitter was in 2016 by Jake Arrieta in Cincinnati. It was Arrieta’s second no-hitter. Now-manager David Ross was the catcher in that game.

By the way, the final score of the game was Cubs 12, Brewers 0. The final out was made by Anthony Rizzo on a throw from Javier Baez. Rizzo gave that ball to Mills.


Reds suspend Thom Brennaman

Wednesday night, Thom Brennaman, Cincinnati Reds broadcaster, got himself into a ton of trouble after a hot mic caught him using a homophobic slur. Thank goodness the Reds have a zero-tolerance policy and eventually pulled him off the air and suspended him. However, they waited until the second game of a doubleheader to do so. The question is, why did it take so long for this to happen? Brennaman should have been pulled immediately.

Cub fans, you remember Thom. He was with the Cubs from 1990-1995. He was not the most beloved Cubs broadcaster. I was living in Atlanta at the time, so could only see the Cubs on WGN. (Remember those days?) I rather enjoyed his banter with Steve Stone, especially when they got into MidAmerican Conference college sports. You see, Stoney went to Kent State and Thom to Ohio University, both in the MAC. I also went to Ohio University, but graduated just before Thom started.

I met Thom one spring training in Mesa. We chatted for 45 minutes about almost everything. It was like we had a secret connection, both being OU alums. I learned a bit about him and his family that I’d not known and probably wouldn’t have lost sleep over if I’d never known.

That Thom was no different from the Thom that came through Wednesday night on the Reds broadcast. He was quite sure of himself, almost to the point of being too smug, but he wasn’t a jerk to me. We compared our times at OU. He was in broadcast and I was in print, so our experiences were a bit different.

That Thom told me how much he enjoyed broadcasting Cubs games. Sadly, a few years later, he was working with his father, Marty, in the Reds booth and dissing the Cubs every chance he had. Those who never liked Brennaman liked him less if that was possible. I was disappointed. I thought he was above such pettiness. And the reason he left the Cubs? Brennaman wanted to do more than broadcast Cubs games but the Cubs said no so he left.

Perhaps we should not be so surprised, then, at what happened Wednesday night.

Before leaving the broadcast booth, Brennaman “apologized” for what he said. Well, not really. At least not Wednesday night. He never apologized to the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, he apologized “for” everyone – the Reds organization, the person who writes his paycheck, a whole list of people. Never “to” anyone on Wednesday night. The Reds did not utter the slur, Thom. You did. You deserve to be fired. You say you aren’t that person? Yes, you are.

#thombrennaman  #CincinnatiReds  #ChicagoCubs  #zerotolerance


Mark Grace must go

Were you watching Saturday’s Cubs game? Are you as appalled as I am over Mark Grace’s insensitive, stupid remarks about his ex-wife? Calling her a “ding

bat” on the broadcast was not only inappropriate and insensitive, it was just plain stupid. If I were the ex-wife, I’d investigate a defamation of character suit against Grace.

Marquee Network, shame on you for not pulling the plug on Grace after his first reference to his first wife as a “ding bat.” I don’t remember how many times he used the word, but it was more than twice. How could you allow him to continue? He adds nothing to the game anyway.

A couple of weeks ago, we had to endure Grace’s inept babble for three consecutive games. He wasn’t even paying attention to the game then, talking about Ian Happ being a pinch hitter when he had started the game, among other things. Then there was yesterday. I’m still shaking my head.

I am not sure, but I believe Grace was supposed to be the third person in the booth again yesterday. Luckily for everyone, he was not. Let’s hope Marquee got the message and cut ties with Grace. Although, I noticed that he is still on the Marquee website under on-air talent.

Marquee Sports Network has promised Cubs fans “network quality” broadcasting but I sure haven’t seen it. Making Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies wear suits does not constitute network quality anything. It’s awkward and stupid. Putting a third person in the booth usually does not work. Yes, on occasion it can work. It worked with Ryan Dempster, but he shared information relevant to the game. He didn’t ramble with stupid, inappropriate babble nor did he put anyone down.

We also don’t need Taylor McGregor doing cutesy stories during play. Cubs fans want to watch the game. Casual fans who want to see the game are tuning in for the game, not for little stories that add nothing to the game. A better fit for her would have been the information given throughout yesterday’s broadcast on the Negro League, which celebrated its 100th anniversary yesterday.

I don’t care if this is what the networks are doing. Marquee should take a poll and see how many Cubs fans turn off the volume on national broadcasts to listen to Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer because they can’t stand the network broadcasters. I don’t have numbers, but I hear it all the time from Cub fans.

Later this afternoon we get treated to our first doubleheader. Each game will go seven innings with 30 minutes between games. We shall see who the third person in the booth is for one or both, and hopefully, none, of the games.


Streak ends, game postponed

You knew it couldn’t and wouldn’t last, right? I’m talking about the Cubs’ winning streak. It seems that in this pandemic-shortened season, the Cubs are doing most things right, unlike many teams. Starting pitching (for the most part) and great defensive plays have helped make the Cubs one of the best teams in the league. But there are areas for improvement – mainly the relief pitching.

Let’s take Craig Kimbrel, for example. Is he hurt? You cannot argue with the fact that something is wrong. So wrong, in fact, that Manager David Ross should strip him of the closer title and let him work middle relief. Or, make up an injury and try and figure out what’s wrong.

The other thing not going quite right is the high fiving in the dugout. The Cubs have made a show of high fiving at a distance while on the filed after a win, but once they get to the dugout, it’s a different story. Also, until yesterday, few of the players were wearing masks in the dugout as well as not keeping at least six feet apart from other players. Major League Baseball finally mandated that everyone in the dugout wear masks, but that may be too late for some teams.

For example, Jon Lester was supposed to take the mound tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis. That game has been postponed due to another Cardinal player testing positive for COVID-19. The Cards have not played in nine days because 13 members, including seven players, tested positive for COVID-19 last week in Milwaukee. Today we learned that one more player has tested positive for the virus, forcing the postponement. The player was not identified.

Major League Baseball has been taking this pandemic mostly seriously. At this time, it is unknown whether any games will be played in St. Louis this weekend.


Play Ball

Good news Cubs fans. The Cubs, Marquee Sports Network and Comcast announced this morning they had reached a deal to show live Cub games on Comcast beginning with tonight’s opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.

According to a Cubs press release, Comcast viewers in the Chicago metropolitan area will find Marquee Sports Network on channel 202. The agreement includes viewers in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and parts of the Indianapolis market served by Comcast. Viewers in those markets can go to http://www.marqueesportsnetwork.com to find the channel numbers associated with their areas. Both standard definition and high definition are listed.

There was always a sense that this deal would go down to the wire as there was little incentive for Comcast to agree to carry Cubs games when no games were being played. However, it is possible that the backlash of not carrying the Marquee Sports Network in the Chicagoland area would have been great. People in Chicago are used to seeing the Cubs on television. It is a part of Cubs history. Many people were upset when the contracts with WGN and Comcast ended last year.  Comcast joins Charter Communications, RCN, DirecTV, Hulu Live, Mediacom and Frontier Communications carrying Marquee Sports Network.

Now it’s time to think about Opening Day/Night. First pitch is at 6:10 CDT. Kyle Hendricks will throw for the Cubs against Brandon Woodruff for the Brewers. A moment of silence and solidarity will be observed in recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement.

No fans are allowed in the ballpark, though there will be fans on some of the rooftops. Spitting and high-fives are not allowed due to COVID-19, and players will observe social distancing as well as they can. Also, for this 60-game season, teams will use a Designated Hitter for all games.

Tonight’s game is available on Marquee Sports Network and ESPN, though ESPN will be blacked out in the Chiago area. The game also will be available on 670 The Score and


Are you ready for baseball?

Tomorrow is Opening Day for the Cubs. Usually I’m excited for Opening Day. It’s a fresh beginning. It signifies hope. And many times, it means freezing my butt off in the bleachers while watching my favorite team. But this year is different. The original Opening Day in March (talk about cold) was postponed due the pandemic. Baseball shut down during Spring Training. I used to say that if there was no baseball, life could become rather boring. I had no idea how right I was.

But, for as much as I have missed baseball, I’m kind of meh on the season as it is supposed to be played out. Sixty games? There was a short Summer Camp in which the Cubs trained for a short time at Wrigley. No fans were allowed in the ballpark and none will be allowed for games in the foreseeable future.

Through last year, going to games was a big part of my life. I got to all 81 home games – only the second time I have been able to do that in my life. The first was in 2016. Remember that great year? This year I’ll get to zero games. And, right now, since Comcast/Xfinity has not signed with the Marquee Network, I’ll also not be able to watch the games on TV. It makes it difficult to get excited for the season. Because I write about the Cubs, I need to “see” what’s going on. I am limited to what is shown on TV, which is why being at games is important. I can watch the entire field or focus on what I want to watch.

I understand why Comcast has not yet signed with the Marquee Network. I think. Sure, there was no hurry to sign anything once baseball shut down and there were no games to broadcast, but I feel like they are holding me hostage. The Cubs keep saying that the two sides are still talking. I sure hope so. My sources have told me to expect an announcement tomorrow morning. If that announcement is that a deal has been reached, I sure hope things will be in place to show the first game at 6:10. If not, it will be a huge fail for the Cubs, Marquee Network, Comcast and present and probably future fans. And nobody like to fail.


Book Review: Teammate

David Ross Book

Are you craving baseball like me? Why not satisfy some of your craving by reading an outstanding book on the sport? I highly recommend Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages by David Ross. Not only will you re-live that glorious 2016 season, but you will learn a lot about Ross.

We all know Grandpa Rossy as the most likeable backup catcher. How could you not love the guy? But, did you know he wasn’t always so likeable? After being told he wasn’t a very good teammate, he made a concerted effort to change, becoming the person and player we all know.

Throughout the book, Ross shares his baseball journey leading to his 2016 farewell season. You get a clear picture of the type of manager he will be whenever baseball resumes. And even though he embraced the Grandpa Rossy persona in 2016, he has made it clear now that Grandpa needs to remain in 2016.

You will find out how Ross encouraged his teammates, but also held them accountable. And the players responded to him. Many critics were not happy when the Cubs selected Ross as the new manager, but you’ll learn that managing is not really all that new to Ross. He explains that as a catcher he had to know everything that was happening on the field and with the players. He was able to determine when his teammates needed extra encouragement or just a friendly ear. Isn’t that part of what a manager is supposed to do?

Throughout the book, Ross questions why his teammates have been so good to him. He relates the story of Spring Training 2016 when Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo gave him a motorized scooter with a “Grandpa” license plate. And why Grandpa? Read the book. Ross also marvels at the generosity of Jason Heyward, who paid for Ross to have a suite at road trip hotels as a thank you for his mentorship, friendship and guidance when Ross and Rookie Heyward were teammates on the Atlanta Braves.

If you have any doubts about the type of manager Ross will be, the book should put your mind at ease.

#David Ross #Teammate Book Review


Today was supposed to be Opening Day

marquee-world-series-champs-by-mark-yellon

I should be sitting in the left field bleachers at Wrigley right now, not sitting at my computer in Arizona wishing there was a game to attend. You see, today was supposed to be Opening Day at Wrigley Field.

Months ago, some of us had decided who would be first in line to hold our places, an annual ritual for those of us who are regulars in the bleachers. The game was supposed to start at 3:10 Chicago time, and one friend had offered to be in line before 8 a.m. That early, you say? That’s not early. People would start lining up at 2 a.m. for a 1:20 start in past years.

All of this changed when COVID-19 invaded the world. First it caused the cancellation of almost half of the remaining spring training games in Arizona and Florida and forced the beginning of the regular season to be pushed back, but no one knew how far. Some said a couple of weeks. But it became apparent with the quick spread of the deadly virus, Opening Day would not be happening any time soon.

According to the New York Times, “at least 253 million people in at least 30 states, 82 counties, 18 cities, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are being urged to stay home” in an effort to get a handle on the virus. In the Illinois alone, there have been 5,057 reported cases of COVID-19 and 73 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 140,904 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,405 deaths in the United States. Worldwide numbers are even more staggering.

I believe it is just a matter of time before Major League Baseball calls off the games between the Cubs and Cardinals that were supposed to take place June 13 and 14 in London. I have my tickets. Plane reservations have been made. Accommodations are set. But with travel bans or warnings in place, and airlines cutting back service, who knows when it will be safe to travel to Europe, or anywhere.

Because I am considered part of the high-risk category due to my lupus and RA, among other chronic issues, I elected to stay in Arizona where we believe I am much safer. Cases of COVID-19 in Chicago are climbing at an alarming rate. There are fewer cases in Arizona, but social distancing is easier here, and the weather is better for me.

This morning, instead of being at the ballpark at 10 a.m. (I was going to arrive later and relieve the person who arrived very early), I slept in a bit, went through emails, sat outside and read for a couple of hours and came in to write this column.

Will there be baseball this year? If yes, what will the season look like? Players want to play. They will consider playing in front of empty ballparks. But it wouldn’t be the same. They draw energy from the fans.

For a baseball fix, MLB Network is showing games like Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeout game, which is always fun to watch. And bleedcubbieblue.com is running simulated games that follow the original schedule.

Opening Day represents so much to so many of us. It represents a new beginning. It is a time for us to reconnect with old friends and our Wrigley family. Baseball brings us together in very special ways.

I feel a bit cheated. I missed all but two of the spring training games that were played because I was in the hospital, and now the original Opening Day is here and there is no baseball. I was ready for it. I bought new boots to keep my feet warm and a new warm coat for the cold days of late March and April. They would have come in handy today. Game time temperature at Wrigley was 43 and the wind blowing in at 11 mph with temperatures gradually dropping into the mid 30’s. Perhaps I’ll be able to wear them in October.


Spring training done, Opening Day delayed

The new coronavirus, COVID-19, is on everyone’s mind. While its impacts are large globally (cities being shut down, large gatherings banned) sports here in the United States are being hit hard. Monday, Major League Baseball along with the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer restricted access to player locker rooms and clubhouses to players and “essential personnel” only. Player interviews were to be conducted in media rooms or other specified areas.

Last night, the NBA suspended the rest of its season and MLS followed suit. Today, the NHL also suspended the rest of its regular season, and earlier this afternoon, MLB announced it was suspending the rest of spring training and delaying the start of the regular season by at least two weeks. Today’s games in the Cactus League were called due to “inclement weather.” There has been a lot of rain the past two days and predicted storms have hit the area this afternoon, this may just be a ruse to give MLB time to get its act together. Also, postponed indefinitely were the qualifying games in Tucson, Arizona, for the next World Baseball Classic.

Previously, it was announced that the Seattle Mariners would begin their season playing at another ballpark, however that park had not been named.

MLB now must determine scheduling for the regular season. It is unclear whether the season will be shortened or whether games will be pushed back. It is unlikely that the schedules, as put out earlier by the league, will be adhered to. One big question concerns the June games in London between the Cubs and Cardinals. The choices seem to be play on the scheduled dates, move the games to St. Louis, or push it back a year. It might be too soon to decide the fate of that series.

MLB is working on guidance for daily operations and workouts. Those will be shared with the teams in the coming days. There is no reason the teams cannot stay at their spring training homes to work out.

There are many Cubs fans who planned their vacations to see spring training. For some it is an annual pilgrimage. Some of these fans may consider the cancellation of games to be overkill, but really, it’s not. This virus is highly contagious. There is no known treatment and there is no vaccine. The only way to get a handle on it is to limit exposure and one way to limit exposure is to cancel the events that attract large numbers of people.

Late this afternoon, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts issued the following statement:

“The health and wellness of our fans, players and associates is our team’s top priority. In light of rapidly changing developments resulting from the coronavirus, we believe Major League Baseball’s decision is in the best interests of the safety and well-being of the public and the game of baseball.  While our hope is to play baseball at Wrigley Field soon, we will continue to work in close coordination with Major League Baseball, as well as with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and their administrations to ensure that we make the best decisions to protect public health and safety.

“In the meantime, Major League Baseball is preparing a variety of contingency plans in concert with clubs regarding the 2020 regular season schedule and will be offering updates as soon as possible.”


Remembering Ernie Banks

Five years ago, I was alone in our Arizona condo when I learned that Hall of Famer Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, had died. At the time I was still working for Examiner.com, and I wrote a column about Ernie after his memorial service. It was personal. One of my readers told me it was one of the best sports columns he had ever read. I am running it again on my own blog on the five-year anniversary of Ernie’s death, with just a few minor adjustments.  I hope you like it.

The past week or so I have been reflecting on the life of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, who died January 23 at the age of 83, a week before his 84th birthday. As I watched the memorial service on television and heard the stories about Ernie, I reflected on my memories of Mr. Cub and how lucky I was to have known him.

I became a Cubs fan as a way to have something to discuss with my dad. Little did any of us know this seemingly simple gesture would take over my life and cement an incredible father/daughter relationship.

My dad took me to my first Cubs game in 1968, just before my ninth birthday. I fell in love with the ivy-covered walls and with a first baseman named Ernie Banks. Ernie was, by far, my favorite all-time player. There was just something about him, apart from how he played the game, that captivated me. My dad and I saw Ernie play many times. We even saw his last at bat together.

What I didn’t know when I was eight was that as an adult, I would realize my dream of writing about my favorite baseball team and that Ernie Banks would become a great ally and a friend.

Unfortunately, I was never able to share these stories with my dad, but the first time I met Ernie, we talked about him. I was at a press conference and Ernie walked up to me and asked my name. Then he asked who I wrote for and why I was writing about the Cubs. I gave him the short version of my story and even said I wished I had been able to share it all with my dad, but I got the job within two hours of his death. Ernie looked at me and told me that this was meant to be and that my father knew. He told me to always keep my dad in my heart and he would always be with me. I wanted to cry. But that was Ernie. Always asking about other people. Always knowing the right thing to say.

Sometimes food is served at the larger press conferences. Ernie usually showed up for those and he always made sure to say hello and tell me to get something to eat. One day I asked him why he was so concerned about my eating and he told me I needed to keep my strength up in order to interview people.

Ernie was like that. He had a genuine interest in other people and, if you watched the memorial service, you learned that he didn’t really like to talk about himself. He always turned it into questions about you, how you were doing, how your family was. It’s all true.

The last time I had a chance to talk to Ernie was at a press conference after President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He proudly showed it off and quickly changed the subject.

Ernie spotted a new photographer in the room. He asked me if I knew the person, but I did not. Ernie put his arm around my shoulders, and together we walked up to this photographer. Ernie asked me, in front of the guy, if I knew him. I played along and said no and asked Ernie if he knew the guy. Ernie looked at me with a fiendish grin, and answered no. He then turned to the photographer and told him that since neither of us knew him we wanted to know who his name and media affiliation.

After getting a satisfactory answer from the bewildered photographer, Ernie took me by the arm and started introducing me to other people in the room. He told them that any friend of his should be a friend of theirs and to give me time if I needed to ask some questions

What I realized last week was that Ernie and my dad were very much alike in many ways. Neither saw a person’s skin color. Both were unusually optimistic and happy people. They each had a great sense of humor. They truly cared about other people, beyond a superficial sense. Both would go out of their way to help people if they could.

After my dad died, my brother and his wife found a box in the basement of our childhood home. It was filled with items from my dad’s desk that he had packed when he retired and never unpacked. Among the items they found when they were going through the box was an Ernie Banks signed baseball. No one knew my dad had the baseball. He never mentioned it. My brother and his wife gave me the ball, knowing I’d appreciate it more than anyone else, but not really understanding the significance of that particular baseball to me at the time. Today it has even more significance.

The eight-year-old who told her dad she wanted to write about the Cubs never dreamed she would actually get to know her favorite player. Ernie, my dad and the Cubs will forever be intertwined. I miss them both, but I know they will be with me at Wrigley for every game and everywhere I go because they both live on in my heart.


 

CubsCon starts tomorrow

The 35th annual Cubs Convention begins tomorrow at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Hotel. As always, the weekend begins with the Opening Ceremonies, to be held at 6 p.m. Chicago time. It is expected, as in past years, that Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts will start the weekend off with highlights from the past season. And there were some. Current and former Cub players will be introduced, and a highlight film will be shown. At least, that is how it has been the past 34 years.

Friday night, the annual “Off the Mound with Ryan Dempster,” always a popular session, will be held. In past years he has had President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein among other front office people as his guests, getting them to relax, have fun and maybe make fools of themselves. This “show” is where we got the “St. Louis is Boring” statement from Kris Bryant last year. Also, I saw a tweet from Dempster a couple of days ago asking people if they could ask any question of Tom or Laura Ricketts, what would it be? Perhaps that’s a clue that Tom and Laura will be “guests” on the “show.” I don’t know, it really is a guess.

Many of the popular sessions from previous years will be presented on Saturday. It is still unknown whether the Ricketts family will hold a session or not. Last year they did not, which angered some fans. The reason given was that it was the least popular session and the questions were always the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t hold a family session this year, either.

A new feature this year is a Loews Experience. While the Loews Experience passes are sold out, if you purchased an All Access Pass for the weekend, it will be honored on Saturday. The Experience is to be part of an audience for special tapings of some of the more popular Cubs YouTube channel pieces including “Bae vs. Ballplayer” and “Call to the Bullpen.”

In past years, the Opening Ceremonies, Ryan Dempster’s show and some of the sessions have been streamed on social media. I reached out to the Cubs a week ago to find out whether anything would be streamed this year and have not yet heard back. My guess is that at least the Opening Ceremonies and Dempster’s show will be available online.

The full schedule of panels was not available as of noon this afternoon, but a partial listing can be found at https://www.mlb.com/cubs/fans/cubs-convention/. There you will also find the full list of players and alumni scheduled to be at the convention.


Girl permanently injured by Almora foul ball

On May 29, 2019, Albert Almora, Jr., and the Cubs were facing the Houston Astros at Minute Mail Park in Houston. In the fourth inning, Almora hit a foul ball that careened off his bat and hit a two-year-old girl in the back of the head. Her father, who had been holding her in his lap, jumped up with her in his arms and ran for help. Today it was revealed that the girl still has seizures and likely will the rest of her life.

At the time, Almora was devastated. It came through on the cameras. He had watched the ball and when he saw it hit the little girl, he dropped his bat and his hands immediately went to the top of his head. He tried to take a step toward where the girl and her family were sitting then dropped to one knee, absolutely devastated at what had happened. At one point he seemed inconsolable. The next inning Almora walked to where the family had been sitting to see how the girl was doing. The cameras caught him weeping on the shoulder of a security guard. He then left the game.

I was watching the game on TV and wrote about it the next day, relating my experience with getting hit in the forehead by a batting practice ball. My story, and a photo of me a few days after getting hit, are on askmir.org. You’ll have to click on Ask Mir About the Cubs and scroll down a bit to find the story.

At that time, I made it clear that I was in favor of extending the netting at all ballparks to try and prevent injuries like this from happening. In my case, I was sitting in the bleachers and even though I saw the ball coming, I could not get out of the way fast enough for the ball to miss me. But the danger is higher for fans sitting between the foul poles. That’s where the greatest number of foul balls are hit. And they come at you fast! Looking at replays, it’s probable that the father would not have had enough time to prevent his daughter from getting hit. The ball was just too fast. There are only two things that could have prevented the incident – not being at that place at that time and extended netting.

Today it was revealed that the little girl likely has permanent brain injuries that cause seizures. She is on medication and likely will be the rest of her life. It has not yet been determined whether her cognitive skills are affected, but the damage to her central nervous system from the ball hitting her in the back of the head is permanent.

I noticed after that incident that Almora’s play was affected. He started making errors in center field and he went into a batting slump. It was obvious that the guilt over hitting that girl was weighing heavily on his psyche. At the end of the season I had hoped that being away from baseball for the winter, and maybe getting some counseling, would help Almora move on. But after today’s news, it seems a bit unlikely. Almora seems like an extremely sensitive person and he may never fully recover from this trauma, which is a real shame. I like Almora. A lot.

Under Major League Baseball’s new rules, all ballparks must further extend protective netting for the 2020 season. Because of the way the bowl at Wrigley is designed, it won’t be an easy installation, but it is necessary. Not only will it protect fans, but it could erase the anguish players feel after hitting an innocent fan.

As I’ve said many times since I was hit in 2011, I was lucky. The side effects I have from my injury are minor. This little girl in Houston will likely have to deal with severe side effects, including seizures, headaches and stroke-like symptoms, the rest of her life. And Almora will always have that unwanted memory of being the one who caused those injuries, even though it really wasn’t his fault.


Cubs Night Before Christmas

red and white baseball
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the park

Not a creature was stirring, the dogs did not bark.

The stockings were hung at each locker with care

In hopes that St. Theo soon would be there.

The players were nestled all snug in their beds,

With visions of last season fresh in their heads.

And Tom in his office and Ross in his, too,

Had just settled in feeling the long winter’s cool.

When out on the field there arose such a clatter,

Ross jumped from his chair to see what was the matter.

Away to the dugout he flew with such speed

Running down the long tunnel into the dugout indeed.

The moon lit the infield with new fallen snow,

Giving a luster of midday, a beautiful glow.

When what to his wondering eyes did appear,

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,

With a front office driver so lively and quick,

It had to be Theo not jolly St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his players they came,

And he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

On Rizzo, on Heyward, on Bote and Schwarber,

On Bryant, on Hendricks, on Baez and Lester.

To the top of the scoreboard to the top of the wall

Now dash away, dash away, dash away all.

As the snow that blows in a mid-winter storm

When the flakes build up and drifts they do form.

Then up to the rooftop the players they flew

With the sleigh full of baseballs and St. Theo too.

And then in a twinkling Ross heard up above,

The dancing and stomping of each player we love.

As Ross took a step back and was turning around

Down the netting St. Theo came with a bound.

He was dressed all in blue from his head to his foot

And his clothes were all tarnished with last season’s soot.

A bundle of prospects he had flung on his back,

And he looked so delighted just showing his sack.

His eyes how they twinkled his dimples so deep,

His moves for next season would not come cheap.

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow

And the beard on his chin looked like the white winter snow.

The stump of a pipe he held fast in his teeth

The smoke encircling his head like a wreath.

He kept checking his players and went to a shelf,

And Ross had to laugh in spite of himself.

Then Ross looked at the stockings and the names on them all,

And he did not know who would get the next call.

A wink of Theo’s eye and a twist of his head

Soon let new manager Ross know he had nothing to dread.

St. Theo spoke not a word but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.

And laying a finger aside of his nose,

Then giving a nod, up the netting he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a bark,

And away they all flew, like a baseball that’s hit out of the park.

But Ross heard him exclaim as he rode through the night,

Happy holidays to all and to all a good night.


 

Baby boy Bryant due in April

There has been a lot of talk about whether Kris Bryant will remain with the Cubs. No one knows the answer to that at this time. However, Bryant and his wife, Jessica, have people talking for another reason. This morning they made an announcement on Twitter with a two-minute video announced they are expecting a baby boy in April.

The video shows images of the two from high school, their prom, their wedding and a celebration at Wrigley Field. It concludes with an image of an ultrasound.

The Bryants were married January 2017, in their hometown of Las Vegas. If Bryant is traded, the two might really have their hands full with a move and a new baby at around the same time.

Also, last week Anthony Rizzo introduced the newest member of his family, a Dachshund named Kevin. Rizzo and his wife, Emily, posed the pup among stuffed toys from the movie “Toy Story” on Instagram. Why the name Kevin? Only Anthony and Emily know the answer to that question. I could understand if the dog was named Andy. That was the name of the boy who owned the toys in the movie. But, Keven? Could that be the name of the Bryant’s baby boy?


Season ticket prices down from 2019

As the 2019 baseball season ended with the Cubs not going to the postseason for the first time in four years, some fellow season ticket holders and I pondered what season ticket prices might be for the 2020 season. Surely, with the Cubs falling flat, the powers that be would have to reduce season ticket prices, right?

Invoices went out the other day. Season ticket prices went down an overall average of 2.5 percent with some sections of the park seeing more of a decrease than others. According to the Cubs, decisions on ticket pricing are made when the season ends and are based on market and demand. This past year, nearly 3.1 million fans attended games at Wrigley Field, a slight decrease from 2018. It also takes into consideration the schedule and the number of games in March and April for the 2020 season. In 2020, the Cubs will play 18 games in March and April, six more games over last year.

The Cubs are assuring season ticket holders that the prices they pay per ticket will remain lower than single ticket prices. The breakdown for the number of games in each category is as follows:

Bronze – 9 games, up two from 2019

Silver – 25, up eight from 2019

Gold – 17, down six from 2019

Platinum – 12, down one from 2019

Marquee – 12, down five from 2019

Diamond – 6, up two from 2019

Remember, these games and tiers take into consideration the number of games being played at Wrigley in March and April.

Also new for 2020, the Cubs are instituting a new game time of 6:40 for weeknight home games before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. This is a trend we are seeing across baseball. The Arizona Diamondback and Colorado Rockies, among other teams have instituted this new start time. The hope is that more families will be able to enjoy weeknight home games earlier and later in the season on school and work nights.

And let it be known that the Cubs have listened to their season ticket holders. This year, the Season Ticket Holder Family Day is being held this weekend, November 9 and 10. Season ticket holders were outraged with this after-season perk. Next year, Season Ticket Holder Family Day will be Friday, June 26 and Saturday June 27.


Three years ago today the Cubs won it all

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Photo by Miriam Romain

Ask any Cubs fan what the greatest day in sports history was, and just about every one of them will say November 2, 2016. Why? Because that’s the day the Cubs broke the longest drought in sports history and won the World Series.

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, it’s true. The Cubs finally won it all. It was like a perfect storm. They had the right manager, the right players and the right stuff come together pretty much all season. When the Cubs broke Spring Training camp, I told many of my friends that team had what it needed to go all the way.

In 2016, the Cubs won 103 games and were the best team in baseball. But, the best team in baseball doesn’t always win the World Series. And it wasn’t easy for the Cubs. In the end, they forced a Game 7 in Cleveland. It really was a good game with the Cubs taking an early lead only to see the Indians come back and tie them more than once.

But probably the best inning was the 10th. All Cubs fans know that the Baseball Gods have a history of not being kind to the Cubs. It was said on August 8, 1988, when the Cubs turned on the lights at Wrigley Field for the first time that the Baseball Gods did not want lights or night baseball at Wrigley. The rains came and the game was called, to be played the next day.

So, when the rains came in Cleveland, Cubs fans cringed. The rain delay lasted only 17 minutes, long enough for Jason Heyward to give his teammates the lift they needed to win the game. That short meeting was held behind closed doors. Even Manager Joe Maddon was not allowed to listen in. Whatever Heyward said worked. The Cubs scored two runs and the Indians scored only one in the bottom of the inning.

I was sitting at home watching this game. When it was over, I sat stunned. Wait, The Cubs won? I wasn’t sure how to react at first. Then it happened. The tears I was afraid would come, came. My dad took me to my first Cubs game in 1968 when I was eight years old. I’d go to as many games as I could, many with my dad, especially from 2005-2008 when he and his friends were finally able to upgrade their season tickets to the full package.

I had spent years defending myself as a Cubs fan and watching or listening to games as often as possible. I lived in Atlanta for 20 years, and while I rooted for the Braves when they weren’t playing the Cubs, they were never “my” team. Only the Cubs were my team. I endured years of ridicule for that dedication. I had waited all that time for the Cubs to win the World Series – 48 years! And it finally happened. It took days for it to sink in.

The tears I shed were not only for the win but remembering my dad and wishing he could have been around to see that night. I walked out on our deck and could hear the cheering from Wrigley about two miles away. It was surreal. So many of us had waited so long for this to happen, and it finally did. I have the t-shirts and sweatshirts!

But that was three years ago. It’s difficult to repeat. The Cubs did get back into the postseason the next two years. This year, they didn’t even do that.

What will it be like when the Cubs win their next World Series? That’s hard to say. The impact of getting there, for me, might not be as strong since I’ve experienced it once. Then again, who knows?


David Ross introduced as Cubs manager

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David Ross dons his old number 3 as the new manager of the Chicago Cubs. Photo by Miriam Romain

This morning David Ross was introduced as the 55th manager of the Chicago Cubs. Ross said that he’d had his eye on managing since his first major league game and was thankful for the opportunity with the Cubs.

Grandpa Rossy, as he has been affectionally referred to by teammates and fans, told reporters that that the image of Grandpa Rossy isn’t really who he is. He said he knows winning, having been on winning teams with the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox and Cubs, and he knows losing. He knows the Cubs can win and he will hold everyone, including himself, accountable. Remember, Ross has World Series rings from both the Red Sox and Cubs.

When asked about his relationships with the 2016 team, Ross said that he wasn’t afraid to get in someone’s face if they weren’t doing their job, and he won’t be afraid as manager. He even said that if he had s mic on him during some of the visits to Jon Lester on the mound, they wouldn’t have been pretty, even though he and Lester are close friends. Lester apparently was the first to text Ross this morning telling him to enjoy his day.

Ross also said that he will bring his own style of managing to the team, but also will incorporate some of the things he learned from Joe Maddon. He said he will coach from the dugout, letting situations come to him, rather than forcing a situation. And, he will try to bring a positive spin to any negative issues that arise. As an example, he told the story of how when he was with the Braves. He had struck out four times and was down on himself. Manager Bobby Cox patted him on the rear and said, “That guy’s really good today,” or something similar. It made Ross feel better that yes, that pitcher was really good and perhaps Ross wasn’t all that bad. Small things like that can really turn a negative experience into something positive, he said.

President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said that he will let Ross manage the way he wants to manage and won’t interfere. Ross said that he would let Theo and Executive Vice President and General Manager Jed Hoyer make the decisions on players, though he hopes to have some input.

It is unknown which of the coaches will be retained and who Ross’ bench coach will be. Ross sent text messages to all the coaches this morning letting them know he would be meeting with each one of them soon.

In the three years since retiring from baseball, Ross has been a member of the front office staff. In his role there, he learned the process for the draft, about amateur and pro scouting and other behind-the-scenes activities most people never see or hear about. And he said he learned a lot in his role at ESPN watching many different players. He said all of that will help him as he moves forward in his new role.


Grandpa Rossy is the new Cubs manager

In case you haven’t heard, the Cubs announced yesterday that David Ross is the new manager! Yes, Grandpa Rossy will be guiding the team for the next three years.

Why Ross? Concerns have been raised about his relationships with many of the current players, but he proved his leadership abilities in 2016 by using “tough love” and holding his teammates accountable if they weren’t giving it their all. And, it was that tough love that helped guide the team to the World Series. And yes, he has been teammates and friends with many of the current players, but that won’t stop him from managing them and guiding them like before.

“A lot has been made, and rightfully so, of my connection to the 2016 World Series team, and the notion that I’ll now be managing players I once counted on as teammates.  Having those relationships going into this will be a bonus, no doubt about it.  But those guys know I’ll be the first to hold them accountable, the first to demand their best daily effort and the first to let them know about it if they give anything but their best.  I never had a problem dishing out a lot of tough love as their teammate, and that won’t change as their manager.  We’ll have our fair share of fun along the way, but working hard as a team, playing fundamental team baseball and winning a lot of games will be our top priorities,” said Ross.

Ross is entering the managerial role three years after retiring as an active player. He probably was the most beloved backup catcher in Cubs history. A player and fan favorite. Anthony Rizzo nicknamed Ross Grandpa and the nickname stuck. Rizzo and Kris Bryant even bought Ross a motorized scooter during spring training three years ago. The players and fans ate it up.

Jason Heyward played with Ross in Atlanta. He had so much respect for Ross being a mentor and friend that during the 2016 season, he paid for Ross to stay in a suite each time the Cubs were on the road.

Everyone knew Ross was retiring at the end of the 2016 season. In a remarkable Game 7 of the World Series, Ross hit a home run. A fitting ending to his career. And when the Cubs won the World Series, they carried Ross off the field on their shoulders.

Think about that for a minute. He dished out tough love and held his teammates accountable and they responded by trying harder and then carrying Ross off the field to celebrate.

Ross credits Bobby Cox and Joe Maddon for being his mentors. They had different managerial styles and I’m sure he learned the best from each.

The past three years, Ross has been a member of the Cubs front office as a special assistant in baseball operations as well as an analyst on ESPN providing commentary and opinion during studio and in-game broadcasts. He also did a stint on “Dancing with the Stars,” where he and his partner ended in second place. Among his front office duties, he assisted in evaluating amateur players leading up to the draft

The 42-year-old is the youngest Cubs manager since 42-year-old Jim Riggleman, who was manager in 1995. Ross turns 43 on March 19.

While many fans are thrilled to have Ross as the new manager, some are not so sure because he has no managerial experience. Others claim he is the perfect choice.

“Who doesn’t love Grandpa Rossy? I recall Ross delivering tough love at times while playing. I hope he can continue that as manager. But now he’s gotta be consistent with his tough love. I am sure that had to be covered during the interview process,” said Cubs fan John Neubauer.

Ross will be formally introduced as the new manager at a press conference Monday.


 

Cubs won NLCS three years ago today

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Photo by Miriam Romain

Hey, Cubs fans. Do you remember where you were three years ago today? I remember where I was. I was already at Wrigley Field waiting for the gates to open for Game 6 of the NLCS. I had returned the evening before from Los Angeles, where I saw the Cubs win two of the three games that played at Dodger Stadium. It was quite exciting. If the Cubs won Game 6, they would go to the World Series for the first time in 71 years. Oh, for them to win it at home. And they did!

The place erupted into cheers like I had never heard. I tried to sum up my feelings when we won. It wasn’t easy. It needed to sink in. We beat the Dodgers. We are going to the World Series.

But, as happy as I was, I was also sad. I kept looking toward my dad’s season ticket seats of more than 30 years. In my mind, I raced through 40 years of games at Wrigley Field, with and without him, especially the games he and I attended together from 2005-2008, and there were a lot of them. Dad should have been there to see our team finally make it back into the World Series. He was 12 the last time the Cubs had been in the World Series. He snuck out of his house and tried to get into Game 6 in 1945 but some guy in front of him got the last bleacher ticket, so he had to listen to the game on the radio at home.

I thought I was holding it together pretty well until I saw a friend walking toward me. He knew this was going to be a hard night for me and he was coming to give me a hug. That’s when I lost it. And everyone knew why.

Three years later I reflect on that night. I was happy. I was sad. My tears were tears of pure joy that I got to see something I never thought I’d see. And the tears were tears of sadness that my dad wasn’t there to see it. Now, I’ve had three years to process what I witnessed and experienced.

For years I was ridiculed for being a Die-Hard Cubs fan. I went college at Ohio University in southeast Ohio. My friends were all Reds and Pirates fans. I was teased relentlessly about being a Die-Hard Cubs fan. But even though I was teased, the guys always saved a front row seat for me in front of the TV when the Cubs were playing either the Reds or the Pirates.

My senior year of college I wrote an article for a journalism class titled “Cheering for Misery.” It was about being a Cubs fan and how my favorite players never made it to the postseason. When I read it aloud in class, people thought it was hilarious. It wasn’t meant to be funny. In the end, I got an A on the article and a recommendation to be part of a new Comedy Writing Class coming to campus. I had that last laugh there! And I was getting the last laugh (or cry) again as my team was celebrating a victory no one thought would happen.

Was it just three years ago that the Cubs were on their way to the World Series? Yes, it was three years ago. Can they do it again? I can only hope. The only thing that would be sweeter than clinching the NLCS in 2016 at home would be a World Series win at home.


 

Goodbye Joe, you will be missed

It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to one of the greatest Cubs managers ever. On Sunday, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein announced that the Cubs were not going to offer Manager Joe Maddon a contract extension. Maddon’s five-year contract ended when the Cubs season ended.

Was this unexpected? No. Talk around the ballpark for the past few weeks has been that Maddon would not be back next year. Fans were second-guessing how Maddon used his lackluster bullpen and the makeup of the starting lineups.

But Maddon is not really to blame for the Cubs collapse. He started the season with no closer as the Cubs were waiting to see what was going to happen with Brandon Morrow. He never returned. They tried to make a bullpen of closers, but that didn’t work. Pedro Strop, the logical choice a few years ago for closer lost his touch. And what about the injuries? At one time or another, starters Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Cole Hamels were on the Injured List, along with a few of their bullpen cohorts.

And who could have guessed that our biggest stars would end up on the Injured List, as well? Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant? Daniel Descalso played almost all season with an injury and that hurt the team. Ben Zobrist left the team in May and didn’t return until September. That seemed to really hurt the team.

Was any of this Maddon’s fault? No. He had the Cubs contending almost all season, something no other manager would have been able to accomplish. I guarantee it. But I get it. Someone had to be the fall guy and Maddon was it.

During a news conference Sunday, Maddon stood next to Epstein, something you’d never see any other manager do after being let go, and told the press the decision was mutual.

In a news conference Monday, Epstein took some of the blame for what happened this season, but not enough, in my opinion. He praised Maddon even though he let Maddon go. What Epstein said rings true. Maddon was the right person at the right time with the right team. You might say it was the perfect storm and it took the Cubs to a World Championship in 2016.

Joe, I am sorry you are leaving us. I will never forget you. I have the T-shirts to remind me – “Embrace the Target.” “Try Not to Suck” (in English and Japanese) and “We Did Not Suck.”

Thank you, Joe, for bringing a World Series Championship to my Cubs, Wrigley Field and the fans. You laughed off the 108-year drought and proved the Cubs could win. You led us to four consecutive postseasons. That was new for us. It was exciting.

When you came to the Cubs, everyone was excited. You had a way of working with all the players, especially the younger ones. They responded well to your theme trips, zoo animal visits and American Legion weeks.

You made changes, Joe. You changed the culture of the team and the fans. For that we all should be eternally grateful.


 

Explaining baseball to Australian cousins

Those of you who know me know how much I love the Cubs and Wrigley Field. You know that Wrigley is my summer home. You know how I believe there is magic and healing in the ivy on the outfield walls, and how much I adore my bleacher family. So, it’s no secret that I love to show Wrigley Field off to anyone who is willing to take in a Cubs game with me.

This week, I was able to share my “happy place” with two of my cousins from Australia. Sandra has been hearing about the Cubs and Wrigley pretty much our entire lives, so when she told me she and her brother were coming to Chicago and wanted to take in a game, I was thrilled! I could finally show her what I’ve been talking about all these years.

The game we chose was this past Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics. It was a day game after a brutal night game, but the weather was perfect, and it was great to see Sandra and Michael! (Side note: I’ve seen Sandra a few times since we were kids, and twice in the last nine years. Michael, I had not seen since I was in Australia 38 years ago for Sandra’s wedding.)

Now, here’s the catch. These two cousins had never been to a baseball game before, even though there is a baseball league in Australia. What I learned is that it’s quite difficult to explain the game of baseball unless you’re watching it. Sure, you can explain the basics – Nine players on a team, nine innings, unless it goes to extras or is called after 4.5 because of rain, three outs per half inning… But there is so much more that you must see in order to explain it.

My cousin, Michael, was particularly intrigued with the 6-4-3 double-play as he saw the numbers on a t-shirt. This is where you must explain how each fielder is assigned a number and when you score, you use those numbers instead of writing out shortstop to second to first (6-4-3). He seemed to catch on quickly. He also said baseball reminded him of Cricket, which has some similarity to baseball. I learned a thing or two, as well. Michael kept calling the batter the striker, which is the Cricket term for batter.

Sandra seemed to pick up on the game quickly. The player positions seemed to make sense to her immediately. I wonder if she cheated and studied before arriving at Wrigley. She was up on her feet after each Cubs home run, with the rest of the crowd.

As I explained the game and what was happening on the field, I was reminded that baseball, while a seemingly simple game, isn’t really all that simple. There is so much more to it than a guy hitting a small ball with a stick and running around in a circle. Trying to explain all of this in one afternoon what took me years to really understand and appreciate is not easy. There’s the baseball lingo, the superstitions, the placement of fielders on the field…

There is so much more baseball I want my cousins to experience, but that comes with attending many games and unfortunately, they are only here for a week and the Cubs are now out of town the rest of their stay here.

Michael and Sandra said they really enjoyed the game and had a great time. I hope that’s true. It seems like it. And now Sandra understands a bit more what it is about the Cubs and Wrigley that grabbed my attention, and my heart, when I was eight and never let go.

Oh, the Cubs won that game.


 

Mai Tai Guy gets Schwarber’s gamer

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Mai Tai Guy. Photo courtesy of Al Yellon (bleedcubbieblue.com).

What should have a been a great celebration after a 10th inning walk off home run in Tuesday night’s game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds turned into an ugly mess for one Cubs fan. Known as Mai Tai Guy, the fan whose real name is Chris, has been the subject of ridicule and downright hatred on the Internet and in person after he retrieved the gamer from the basket.

Chris just happens to be a friend of mine. I have known him about 10 years, since I started sitting in the bleachers full time. Of all the bleacher regulars, I would say Chris is one of the most patient and helpful persons when it comes to helping kids get batting practice balls or balls thrown into the bleachers by Kyle Schwarber after warming up each inning. He understands what it’s like to get a baseball at a game and the importance of giving a ball to a kid, which is sort of like passing on the torch for a new generation of Cubs fans. Many of us who have gotten BP balls have given them to a kid. While I hide during BP, every so often I also get a BP ball. If there are no kids around, I keep it in my backpack until I see a kid who should have it. I recently held onto a ball for more than two home stands because I forgot I had it. One night, a friend of mine brought two guests with her to a game. The 12-year-old daughter really wanted a baseball but wasn’t getting one. I remembered I had one and gave it to her. The next day I was texted a photo of the girl sleeping with the baseball. That warmed my heart. I have kept one baseball. That was the one that hit me in the forehead and bounced back onto the field. A Giants player tossed it back up to a friend of mine so I could have it. (You can read that story if you scroll down to the piece about the little girl who was hit in the head by an Albert Almora Jr. foul ball a few weeks ago.)

I sit in the upper left field corner and there are very few home run balls that come my way. Chris sits in the first row of the well in prime home run territory. Throughout BP and the game Tuesday night, he had let about five or six kids come into the front row for baseballs. He said he had told them that home run balls were a different story, and if one came their way, he was going after it. After the ninth inning, he went for a hot dog, something he does when games go to extra innings. When he returned with his hot dog, a few of the kids were in his seat. Instead of asking them to move, he sat down in the second row. Suddenly, Schwarber’s ball was sailing right to Chris and the kids. Chris jumped up, ready to catch the ball, which fell into the basket. As you can see from the video (click here), the ball falls into the basket and Chris scoops it up. Watch the kids on either side of him. Neither of them could have reached the baseball, and if they had really tried, one or both could have fallen into the basket, which would have created other problems.

Chris told me that in the moment, he was focused on the ball, but very aware that the kids were around. And if you look at the video, he can be seen raising his arm up over one of the kids in order not to bump or whack him in the head. At times like this, you’re focused on the ball.  Chris was focused on the ball, yet still aware of the kids. He was going after a gamer.

Later that night, the video of Chris scooping the ball from the basket and getting hugs from another friend went viral. Reaction was swift, with many people condemning Chris and spewing hatred his way. The names he was called make my stomach turn. #MaiTaiGuy was the number one trending hashtag on Twitter for a while, and not for good reasons.

Chris told me he contemplated not showing up at yesterday’s game, but eventually decided he wasn’t going to let the haters win. One of the men who had been sitting near him Tuesday night told him that the mother of one of the boys really didn’t understand the fuss and hatred aimed toward Chris. She was grateful to Chris for helping her son get at least one ball that evening. She saw nothing wrong with what Chris did to get that gamer.

Kids Mai Tai Guy helped

Chris helped these kids get baseballs Tuesday night. Photo courtesy of Mai Tai Guy.

Did Chris do anything wrong? NO! Did he take a ball from one of the kids? NO! Did he push the kids out of his way to get to the ball? NO! Watch the video. Those boys could have bumped into him trying to get to the ball. Did Chris do anything wrong by not giving one of those kids that particular ball? NO! While BP balls should go to the kids, gamers are another story, especially walk-off gamers. Besides, if Chris had given that ball to one of the kids, which one would he have offered it to?

Baseball brings out the kid in almost all of us. I watch the people, men and women, boys and girls, during batting practice from the safety of my chair behind where I always sit. Grown men, and some women, compete for the balls that make it to the bleachers. There are times when it can be dangerous for those not paying attention to what’s going on, but it’s fun to see grown-ups acting like children, going for a prized baseball, and it’s heartwarming to see those balls go to a kid. The thrill of catching a BP ball cannot be described. However, the thrill of getting a gamer, wither on the fly, on the bounce or getting it from the basket, goes beyond getting a BP or foul ball. A five- or six-year-old probably doesn’t understand the importance of getting a home run ball, let alone a walk-off ball. Those are prized possessions. Those are never given away. And, for what it’s worth, when you see a ball thrown back onto the field, you can bet that 99 percent of the time, it’s not the home run ball, it’s a throw-back. Because, even though that homer was from the opposition, it was still a gamer and those are kept.

Be honest with yourself. If you were in the same situation, what would you do? My guess is that you would do what Chris did to get it and you’d keep the ball. I know I would.


Cubs trade Montgomery for Maldonado

Trivia time. What pitcher was on the mound in Cleveland when the last out of the 2016 World Series was recorded? Answer, in case you’ve forgotten, Mike Montgomery.

Since the World Series, Montgomery has been used in whatever capacity Manager Joe Maddon has asked, but those who knew Montgomery knew he really wanted to be a starter. And on this Cubs team this year, that just wasn’t going to happen. In fact, some Cubs fans have been wondering out loud why Montgomery hasn’t been used at all since before the All-Star break. Speculation was that Maddon just didn’t trust him since he hasn’t been that good this season.

Last night fans got an answer. Montgomery was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Catcher Martin Maldonado. It’s believed that this trade was made now as regular starting catcher Willson Contreras has missed the last two games with a sore foot and likely will be placed on the Injured List later today with a strained arch muscle.

According to a Cubs press release, the 32-year-old right-hander has played all or parts of the last nine seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals. He won the Gold Glove for defensive excellence while he was with the Angels.  He also has thrown out 122 or 327 attempted base stealers, which is the best caught stealing percentage of any catcher in baseball beginning in 2011, with a minimum of 600 games played.  Maldonado also has a Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Montgomery will always be remembered by Cubs fans as the last pitcher standing on Nov. 3, 2016, in Cleveland as the Cubs celebrated winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years.

Keep your eyes open. This is not going to be the last trade the Cubs will make before the July 31 deadline. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two of the big names on the team end up on another team. The clock is ticking.


 

Cubs send three to All-Star Game

The 2019 All-Star Game will be played in just a few hours. This year, the Cubs have three representatives – Javier Baez and Willson Contreras are starters and Kris Bryant will also have a chance to play.

All three players have played at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH, before – during the 2016 World Series. And in case you’ve forgotten, the Cubs won that World Series in the 10th inning of the seventh game at Progressive Field against the Indians after a 17-minute rain delay.

It’s no secret that going back there has brought memories, mostly great ones, to these three players. How can you forget ending a 108-year drought in the greatest World Series game ever played?

Baez will start at shortstop and bat second. Contreras will start at catcher and bat seventh. It’s a safe bet that Bryant will play at some point. It remains to be seen whether Baez will show off his fielding prowess. He sure can put on a show!

How do you think Baez, Contreras and Bryant will fare in tonight’s game?


 

Cubs/Sox split 2019 Crosstown Series

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We can finally put this year’s Crosstown Series in the books. The Cubs ventured to Guaranteed Rate Field this past weekend for a two-game series against the Chicago White Sox. They split those games, as they did earlier in the season at Wrigley.

Before going to the south side, I wrote about the bad blood between Cubs and Sox fans. I also said that I’d never had a problem at Wrigley or Guaranteed Rate Field with Sox fans. This remains true.

We got into line early for the Saturday night game. At first I saw only Cubs fans, but then Sox fans started showing up. They were all very friendly. The biggest conversations seemed to be when the gates opened. Gates open 90 minutes prior to game time on the south side, whereas the Cubs open the gates two hours before first pitch. Many of us wondered why the Sox didn’t open the gates earlier because everyone knew the game was almost sold out and the Sox aren’t used to sellouts.

Saturday night we had many Cubs fans around us. We had no problems. However, across the stadium, there was a huge brawl, likely fueled by alcohol. The crowd on Sunday afternoon around us was a bit feistier, but we had no problems. It’s great to be passionate about your team, but a line must be drawn between being passionate and spewing hatred. Both sides are guilty.

To those who refuse to see the Cubs when they play on the south side I say, maybe you’re missing something. I believe trouble will find you if you’re looking for it. I wasn’t looking for it and had no issues.

That said, how would you feel if the teams were realigned and we had to face the White Sox as many times as we do the Milwaukee Brewers or St. Louis Cardinals? I would not like it. We have enough problems with these two teams. Making the Cubs and Sox play more than four or six times a year would be a huge mistake. This is not a natural rivalry, it’s forced. St. Louis is a natural rival. Milwaukee is more natural. Let the teams stay in different leagues. It would be much better for baseball in Chicago.


Two-game Cubs/Sox series begins tonight

This weekend the Cubs and White Sox play two games at Guaranteed Rate Field as part of interleague play. While this should be a friendly rivalry, history has shown that it is not. In fact, when the Sox played at Wrigley earlier in the season, some Sox fans became downright nasty after winning the first game. I have friends who refuse to attend these games either at Wrigley or on the south side. Let me say right now that I have never had a problem with Sox fans at either ballpark. Maybe I have been lucky. I have witnessed many fights, some rather nasty, and I just don’t understand the hostility. It started sometime after 1984 and before 2004. I know, because those were the years I lived in Atlanta. When I left for the south, the Sox were “the other team” to me. When I returned, Sox fans put me down for being a Cubs fan, and they were quite nasty about it.

So, let’s look at some history of how this may have come about. The first charity Windy City Classic was played in 1985. The teams alternated parks until Interleague play began in 1997. The series then became known as the Crosstown Classic. For a short time after the Ricketts family bought the Cubs, the two teams tried to make more of the series than it was, with the BP Crosstown Cup. Fans were less than thrilled with the idea.

I did not see any of the Windy City Classic games, but have seen all the interleague games, at both ballparks, since 2007. It can be rough – for fans and players.

A famous fight between Cubs catcher Michael Barrett and Sox catcher A. J. Pierzynski broke out in 2006. In the second inning, Pierzynski ran into Barrett at home plate causing Barrett to drop the ball. Pierzynski was called safe. He slapped home plate in celebration and started to walk back to the dugout. Barrett took exception to it all, blocked Pierzynski and punched him in the jaw. Both benches cleared. Both players and a couple of their teammates were ejected.

In 2010 Carlos Zambrano had a famous meltdown during the Cubs/Sox game. Z obviously thought Derek Lee should have fielded a ball but did not and “attacked” Lee in the Cubs dugout. I believe there was also an incident with a Gatorade cooler during that eruption. Z was not sent out to start the second inning. Later that night, he and Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen has dinner and discussed the incident. Z was suspended, ordered to apologize to his teammates and fans, ordered to go through anger management training and was demoted to the bullpen.

Perhaps some of the hatred stems from this time period. The White Sox have always had a chip on their shoulder not being as popular as the Cubs. As Al Yellon from bleedcubbieblue.com has told me, if it wasn’t for the Cubs being on WGN and getting national attention, perhaps the White Sox could have been the more popular team.

There is supposedly a dividing line between the north side and south side. However, I have friends who grew up on the north side as White Sox fans. One because he just wanted to root against the Cubs, one because Carlos Lee lived up the street from him. Heck, even one of my favorite cousins is a White Sox fan. He grew up on the south side, though.

I’ll be watching tonight and tomorrow to see how fans from both sides react to each other and the game. It is always my hope that fans will get along and this can be a friendly series, but I fear that is not to be. We shall see.


 

Is there hope on the horizon?

I can’t remember the last time Wrigley Field sounded so loud when a much-anticipated closer entered the field for the first time. It almost sounded like we’d won the World Series again when Craig Kimbrel first appeared in the doorway of the bullpen in the ninth inning of yesterday’s game.

But, let’s back up a bit.

The Cubs were fighting to even the series at two games apiece against the Atlanta Braves and things weren’t looking so great after three innings. Many fans thought the game was over with the score 6-1, but they were wrong. The Cubs started a come-back in the fourth inning that surely must have been scripted to allow Kimbrel a chance to make his first appearance in a Cubs uniform on the day he reported to Wrigley.

Cubs fans had been waiting all season for a closer. Brendon Morrow has been on the Injured List since last year and not one of our bullpen guys could be named closer. Even Pedro Strop couldn’t fill those shoes. Some may say it’s because he has been injured, some say he’s just not a closer, he’s a setup guy. So, when the Cubs announced on June 7 that they had signed Kimbrel, fans were ecstatic.

Then the Cubs hit the road and the ecstasy turned to frustration as they dropped two of three to the Cincinnati Reds. But even more frustrating was the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday night.

Alzolay got his second start for the Cubs and was absolutely pounded. The Pirates won 18-2.  With the score as it was, Daniel Descalso pitched the seventh and Kimbrel the eighth.

As expected, the Cubs activated Kyle Hendricks from the Injured List, as well as Randy Rosario and optioned both Alzolay and Rowan Wick to Triple-A Iowa. Hendricks started last night’s game, but the result was the same. Another Cubs loss, making it three in a row.

Fans are getting restless and who can blame them? Javy Baez has been making errors and mistakes, which is so unlike him. And even though Jason Heyward’s bat has finally livened up, the team seems to have no life. Yes, the Kimbrel acquisition was a good one, but he can’t really be used if we have no need for a closer.

So, what’s the answer? The single trade deadline is at the end of this month. The Cubs need to do something to start winning. Trades must be in the works. It’s unlikely anything will be done before next week’s All-Star game since the players who were named will represent their current teams, but there is a real possibility that after the ASG trades will develop.

The question then becomes, who gets traded and for whom? The Cubs need a second baseman. As the season drags on, it’s looking less and less like Ben Zobrist will return to the team, even though the Cubs insist the door is open for his return. We need help now! Daniel Descalso is not the answer at second, nor is Addison Russell. I believe it would be to everyone’s benefit if the Cubs could somehow trade Russell, though who would want him right now? Not only does he have baggage, but he looks horrible at the plate. Though I’d hate to see this, maybe the Cubs should make a package deal – Albert Almora, Jr. and Russell for a second baseman. David Bote has signed a long-term deal with the Cubs, and he can play both second and third, but he has not been used as an everyday player. I really like Almora, especially in center field, but something must give.

To address this issue, the Cubs selected the contract of Robel Garcia, an infielder. He started yesterday’s game, and just when you were thinking it was a mistake (after a strikeout in his first at-bat, he came through in a big way. Garcia hit a single, a home run and a triple in a Cubs rout of the Pirates.

The Cubs really turned it on after David Bote was hit in the helmet and Joe Maddon took exception to the Pirates throwing too high and inside, especially on Javier Baez. Maddon was ejected from the game and the Cubs showed the Pirates they were not intimidated.

The team still needs help, especially with pitching. Kimbrel was just the beginning. We no longer need a closer, but we do need other ;pitching help.

Who would you like to see as a Cub and who would you trade to get that player?


 

What’s up with the Cubs?

What’s up with the Cubs? They lost two of three in Colorado, but the win was a blow-out. Cole Hamels pitched a great game and was on track to pitch the first Cubs shutout ever. Unfortunately, Brad Brach came in and messed that one up. They still won 10-1, though.

Last night in Los Angeles, things were looking good for the Cubs, at the beginning. Kyle Schwarber took the first pitch of the game for a home run. Kris Bryant even hit a homer, but it wasn’t enough. They ended up losing 7-3. Even though baseball does not work this way, it seemed like the Cubs had used up most of their runs on Sunday.

So, what is going on? We know Carl Edwards Jr., was just placed on the 10-day Injured List retroactive to June 10 with a left thoracic strain. Tim Collins, a left-handed pitcher, was recalled from Triple A-Iowa. Ben Zobrist is still out on the Restricted List, but they have been doing well at home without him.

Speaking of Zobrist, an article in The Athletic quotes President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein as saying there is a possibility Zobrist could return to the team. However, there still is no timetable for such a return. Epstein emphasizes that right now Zobrist needs to concentrate on his family, and the Cubs are allowing him to do that.

There still has been no word from Zobrist on the exact nature of his absence, but as I’ve said before, he is entitled to his privacy.

There was talk when the Cubs signed Craig Kimbrel that Zobrist could retire, freeing up some money to go toward Kimbrel’s contract. That did not happen. The article reiterates that Epstein is in contact with Zobrist and has said that door is still open for him should he wish to return. At this point we only know that his wife, Julianna, filed for divorce here in Illinois and he filed for legal separation in Tennessee. If I had to guess, I’d say he is not going to return, at least as a player. I can see the Cubs offering him a special assistant position. His contributions to the team are many. He is a switch hitter, can play multiple positions and has much needed leadership qualities. Those leadership qualities are what will make him a very good special assistant.

Kyle Hendricks, who recently pitched an 81-pitch complete game shutout at Wrigley, takes the mound tonight against former Cub Rich Hill. Let’s hope The Professor has his good stuff tonight and can get the team on a winning track.


 

Young girl hit by Almora foul ball

Last night a four-year-old girl was hit by a foul ball off Albert Almora Jr.’s bat in the fourth inning of the Cubs/Astros game at Minute Maid Park. Almora saw where the ball went and immediately reacted, putting his hands on his head. Overcome with emotion, Almora dropped to one knee and was consoled by teammate Jason Heyward and manager Joe Maddon. After the next half inning, Almora went to the area where the girl was hit to find out how she was. He was seen weeping on the shoulder of a security guard.

While there has been no official word from the Astros, the little girl was awake, alert and crying when she was whisked up the stairs, presumably by her father. The only official word was that she was taken to the hospital.

This brings up, once again, the debate over whether the protective netting should be expanded again. All teams were required to install netting that goes from end of dugout to end of dugout by the beginning of the 2018 season. The young girl was sitting beyond where the netting currently ends.

This is a tough call for baseball. Some fans still are complaining about having to sit behind the netting as it exists, even though there is proof that it does protect fans.

What some people do not understand, and what I found out the hard way, is that sometimes you just do not have time to react to a baseball coming toward you at 100 mph or more.

For years, I watched as others got hit in the head during games. Some were not paying attention, some were. Many times, there was a lot of blood. But there were times where the injuries were not as serious.

My story happened at the end of June in 2011. I was sitting in my regular left field bleacher seat during batting practice, paying attention to where balls were going. It should be pointed out that during batting practice, unless the batters are working on something specific, they’re trying to hit the balls as hard as possible. That day, there were a few balls that went into the bleacher seats. When Pat Burrell of the San Francisco Giants got into the cage, he sent a screaming ball in my direction. I saw it coming, as did my boyfriend. He was pulling me out of the way when the ball made contact with my forehead, just above my left eye. I remember hearing my teeth rattle and my boyfriend grabbing me, preventing me from hitting the back of my head on a rail at the top of the fence behind me. Had he not been pulling me away, the ball would have hit me square in the nose. That would have been devastating.

I really thought I was okay, but I wasn’t. My forehead swelled immediately. Paramedics were at my side within a minute or two putting ice on my forehead and helping me into a wheelchair. I was taken to first aid. The doctor there wanted me to go to the hospital because he suspected a concussion, but I said I was fine. The pitching match-up that night was Ryan Dempster against Tim Lincecom and I wanted to write about it. I was back in my bleacher seat before first pitch.

Should I have gone to the hospital? Of course. Did I have a concussion? Of course. Within days, the bruising went from where I was hit and migrated under both eyes, making it look like I’d broken my nose. You could see where the ball left an impression of its stitching on my forehead. It took weeks for the bruising to go away.

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Me a few days after beiong hit in the forehead by a batting practice ball.

Today, I sit behind my regular bleacher seat during batting practice. I don’t like anything being thrown or flying in my direction. The only thing that could have prevented me from getting hit on that day was not to be sitting exactly where I was sitting.

I was lucky. Others have not been so lucky. Remember the woman who was hit in the head by a broken bat at Fenway in 2015? She had life threatening injuries but has lived. How about the woman who was hit in the back of the head while going to her seat behind home plate at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park in 2015? She sued the team and Major League Baseball. In 2018, a woman died after being hit in the head by a foul ball during a Dodgers game in Los Angeles.

It is a shame that incidences like this occur before MLB acts to protect fans. Do I think the netting should be extended? Yes. I would vote for it to go from foul pole to foul pole. This doesn’t protect fans in outfield or bleacher seats but would make a huge difference for fans seated between the foul poles where the greatest danger exists during games.

Every time I see someone get hit in the head, or hear about it, I remind myself how lucky I am. I do have some side effects from being hit. When I have a flare-up of my RA or lupus, and when it rains, my forehead swells where I was hit. But I have one interesting side effect from my concussion. I now can do math in my head, something I was unable to do before.


 

Bill Buckner dead at age 69

The other day we learned that former Cubs first baseman Bill Buckner passed away at the age of 69. Buckner was a member of the Cubs from 1977-1984. He won a batting title in 1980 and was an All-Star in 1981. He was a favorite at Cubs Conventions.

I last saw Buckner this past spring in Mesa. He was a regular at Fergie Jenkins’ table, signing autographs for Fergie’s foundation. There was one day he walked past me and didn’t seem “right.” He didn’t say hello and he didn’t seem to walk well. I knew he was suffering from dementia, but aside from that one day, I saw no outward signs of the disease. I’m also not a doctor.

Buckner’s 22-year baseball career began in Los Angeles when he was the Dodger’s second round draft pick in 1968. He was traded from the Dodgers to the Cubs following the 1976 season along with Ivan DeJesus and Jeff Albert for Rick Monday and Mike Garman. Due to a staph infection in his ankle, the Cubs moved him from left field to first base. He remained there 14 years.

While a favorite here in Chicago. He also played for the California Angels and Kansas City Royals before going back to the Red Sox for one more year.

Buckner probably is most remembered for his “goof” at first base while a member of the Boston Red Sox during game six of the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets.

In that game, Buckner let a routine ground ball go through his legs and into right field, which eventually allowed the Mets to win the game. The Series went to a seventh game, which the Mets won. Buckner received death threats and was heckled by fans after the mistake. The error was the epitome of the “Curse of the Bambino.” Years later it was reported that he had come to terms with what had happened after years of ridicule from fans and the media. Fans reacted as if that one error was the only thing that made the Red Sox lose that World Series.

Buckner retired from baseball June 5, 1990, at the age of 40 and moved his family to Idaho. He spent two years managing the Cubs affiliate Boise Hawks.

Buckner’s cause of death was Lewy Body Dementia. This sort of dementia causes abnormal protein deposits in the brain, creating problems with thinking, movement, behavior and mood.

Lewy Body Dementia symptoms are difficult to diagnose, because it is similar to other brain conditions. More than one million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. It is typically found in in individuals age 50 and older, though can be found in younger people, as well.

Cubs Executive Chairman Tom Ricketts issued a statement on behalf of the Cubs.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Bill Buckner, a great ballplayer and beloved member of the Cubs family. Bill’s remarkable 22-year-career included eight years with the Cubs during which he won a batting title in 1980 and earned an All-Star appearance in 1981. After his playing days, Bill served as a valued member of our player development staff and was a fan favorite during his appearances at our Cubs Conventions.  On behalf of the Cubs organization, I extend our sympathies to Bill’s family and his many friends.”


 

Divorce is reason Zobrist is on restricted list

Rumors have been flying about Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist since he took a leave of absence from the team and was placed on the Restricted List. The rumors can be put to rest. It was revealed yesterday that Zobrist and his wife are getting divorced.

According to public records, Julianna Zobrist filed for divorce in Cook County on Monday, though no reason was stated for the divorce. That same day, according to various sources, Ben Zobrist filed for legal separation from Julianna in Tennessee citing “inappropriate marital conduct which render further cohabitation impossible.”

This is a far cry from the loving couple Cubs fans thought they saw. The Zobrists had made it a point to not go more than six days without seeing each other, starting when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Julianna is a Christian singer and Ben has used one of her songs as his walk-up music. It was something that got people dancing in their seats. Last year, after Gary Pressy kept playing Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” on the organ at Wrigley when Ben was at the plate, Julianna recorded a version of the song for Ben to use as one of his walk-up songs. Her rendition, which was somehow approved by Elton John, was not well received by Cub fans, yet he continued to use it. Ben once said that Julianna told him he didn’t have to use one of her songs, but he told her he wanted to because he really liked it. I’m guessing that will change IF he returns to the team.

Give Ben credit for knowing that he could not leave this behind and play baseball. We all say you shouldn’t bring your problems to work, but it is usually difficult to leave them. Ben knew that it was affecting his play, so asked for personal time. Now the question is whether he will return at all. Only time will tell. For now, we should be satisfied knowing the reason for his absence and letting things play out for Ben and Julianna. They both are public figures, but even public figures are entitled to privacy.


 

First place Cubs are on a roll

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Photo by Miriam Romain

Okay, ledge jumpers, is everyone accounted for? Didn’t you feel just a little silly standing on the ledge so early in the season? Sure, the Cubs lost a lot of games, but haven’t they turned things around? Just look at what has happened in the last 10 games.

The Cubs have taken sole possession of first place in the Central Division. Kyle Hendricks threw a gem of a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, throwing just 81 pitches for the first “Maddux” game, defined as throwing fewer than 100 pitches in a complete game shutout. By coincidence, Carlos Zambrano, who threw, who threw a Maddux game in 2009, and Jon Lieber, who threw a Maddux game with only 78 pitches in 2001, were in attendance.

Three different players had walk-off home runs within a five-day span – Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras. The Contraras walk-off occurred in the 15th inning of a cold and rainy afternoon when no one really wanted extra innings. I was in my regular spot in the left field corner of the bleachers when that ball hit the pavement almost right next to me. It is difficult to describe what a water-soaked baseball sounds like when it hits the pavement. That was after it bounced off the hand of one of my friends. Despite it being a very long cold and rainy day, it was an exciting finish, especially since it came at Milwaukee’s expense.

This home stand also saw the return of Addison Russell. He was booed each time he came to bat, quite loudly, though not as loudly as the boos heard for Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun. Russell has a lot to prove both on and off the field. He has acknowledged the fan reaction to his return and has said he is focused on helping the team win games. Cubs fans are usually forgiving, but this time it’s different. Chairman of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein originally wanted to bring Russell up in Cincinnati, most likely to avoid the home crowd reaction and probably to take some pressure off Russell, but had no choice after Ben Zobrist was placed on the restricted list for personal reasons and Daniel Descalso was day-to-day with after tweaking his ankle.

And what about Zobrist? There are a lot of rumors flying around about his absence and placement on the restricted list. No one in the Cubs organization is talking about it so there’s no way of knowing if any of the rumors are true. Perhaps some are. Time will probably tell. This leads me to wonder if Zobrist’s late arrival to spring training, also for personal reasons, had anything to do with what is happening now. The likely answer is yes, but again, there is no way of telling for sure. All Manager Joe Maddon has said in an interview was that it was a family matter. The best thing to do right now is keep an open mind, hope things are okay and be patient.

In the meantime, it’s time to look ahead as the Cubs begin a road trip tomorrow with stops in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.


 

Cubs move up start time against Marlins

Due to the threat of bad weather, tonight game against the Marlins has been moved up to 6:35. This is the second time this season the Cubs have moved up the start time when bad weather has been forecast. Gates will open at the regular time of 5:05.


 

April weather and Cubs games

Is it really April? Waking up to a snowstorm yesterday, you could have fooled me. To make the weather even more, um, interesting, we also had thunder and some lightning.

Because of the weather, the Cubs postponed the series finale against the Los Angeles Angels. It was just announced that this game will be played Monday, June 3 at 3:05 p.m. The Cubs urge you to keep your tickets from yesterday to use June 3. Mobile tickets purchased through the MLB Ballpark app will automatically update with the new date and time. The replica statues of Wrigley Field will be distributed at that time. Can’t make it to that game? You can see the broadcast on WGN-TV or listen to it on 670 The Score.

There was some good news about the Cubs calling the game before 8:30 a.m. Fans were spared waiting out in the cold and snow for the promotion, but they also were spared seeing Tyler Chatwood start the game. Chatwood was expected to start since Jon Lester is on the Injured List. This way his start will be skipped, keeping the other pitchers on their regular schedule. Why is this good? Chatwood is not a starter. During Spring Training, I watched him pitch. When he was brought in as a reliever, he did very well. When he was used as a starter, he was awful.

There are two other facts about postponing yesterday’s game. Fans may get a chance to see Mike Trout play at Wrigley. He has been day-to-day with a groin issue and did not make this trip to Chicago. Also, Cubs fans may have one more chance to see Albert Pujols play. The Angels will not be back at Wrigley for three years and by then Pujols will be retired.

Let’s talk about the whacky weather this homestand. The forecast for Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates was not promising. Wisely, the Cubs started the game 30 minutes earlier than usual. Storms were predicted to arrive around 9:30 or so. However, they arrived earlier than expected, during the seventh inning. Lightning in the area prompted the Cubs to evacuate the bleachers and lower bowl while play was in progress. If there’s lightning and the stands must be evacuated, shouldn’t the players vacate the field? While many fans sought cover from the rain, many questioned why they had to leave a game in progress that they had paid to see.

As it turned out, play was stopped after the seventh inning. I had already decided that if the tarp was pulled, I was going home. So, home I went. The Cubs were ahead and we had an official game. I was sure play would not resume. I was wrong. So, I watched the last two innings dry, warm and in bed. While the rain had stopped, for a short time, storms resumed in the ninth inning. Once again, fans who had stayed during the rain delay were evacuated from their seats during play in the ninth inning with two outs left in the game.

So, why was this done a second time? According to a Cubs spokesperson, “The seating bowl was cleared for fan safety. It takes far longer to safely and successfully evacuate 40,000 fans than nine players on the field of play.  While it could be an inconvenience for some fans, lightning doesn’t care about convenience. It is far safer to remove fans rather than risking injury or bodily harm.”

By starting the game 30 minutes early, the entire series against the Pirates was played. Had it started an hour earlier, perhaps the entire nine innings could have been played before the storms hit. But baseball being baseball, there is no guarantee.

The next afternoon the Los Angeles Angels came to town. Weather conditions were better than the previous night, but it was extremely windy with gusts reportedly up to 50 mph. It showed as Willson Contreras hit two long home runs, Anthony Rizzo hit one and Albert Pujols hit one. Both Contreras homeruns went onto Waveland Ave.

The winds had died down by the time Saturday’s game began. This game ended in controversy as the Cubs staged a rally in the ninth inning, only to have the game end on a controversial call against Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber became very upset when he checked his swing and it was called strike three to end the game. While he disputed that call, he reportedly was infuriated because an earlier checked swing had been called a ball. He was tossed from the game, but the game was over anyway.

The Cubs are in Miami with tonight’s game against the Marlins starting at 6:10 on WGN. Yu Darvish will start the game on Jackie Robinson night. Tonight’s lineup will be Ben Zobrist at second base, Kris Bryant in left field, Anthony Rizzo at first base, Javier Baez at shortstop, Jason Heyward in right field, Willson Contraras catching, David Bote at third base, Albert Almora Jr. in center field and Darvish batting ninth.


 

Where did that glorious weather go?

As I said in my previous entry, Opening Day at Wrigley is a holiday for me. I realized when I was being interviewed by a reporter for the Chicago Tribune that Monday marked my 20th consecutive Opening Day. Throw in four years of high school and a couple of other Opening Days, and it’s at least 25 total since 1968.

There is only one word to describe Monday’s home opener – Glorious. The weather was perfect – mid 60s and sunny. At one point I wished I’d worn shorts because it was warmer in the sun.

The day started extremely early. I got into line very early with good friends and we caught up on what had happened over the winter. As time grew closer to the gates opening, a wheelchair was brought out to me, as usual. I saw many familiar faces among the staff at the gate. There were hugs all around as we greeted each other.

I was taken to my seat in the left field corner of the bleachers where I was eventually joined by about 14 friends who regularly sit with us. Sue was there to oversee Home Run Derby. Only one homer was hit in yesterday’s game, and it wasn’t by either of the guys I chose. That was fine. I’ve won in the past. I even won on a walk-off grand slam last season, the first time that had happened with this group. There was a nice payout for that.

Jon Lester was our Opening Day starter. He left in the third inning after sliding into a base in the bottom of the second inning and injuring his hamstring. Current reports have him going to the 10-day Injured List. Our bullpen stepped up to keep the Pittsburgh Pirates scoreless. The Cubs won 10-0. Where were these guys the past week?

As I said, the weather was glorious. I cannot remember an Opening Day as nice as this one in the past 30 years! Last year, Opening Day was pushed back a day because of snow. That next day, like so many others before it, was extremely cold and windy. I remember sitting through extreme cold and wind with my dad for many home openers. We sat through the coldest home opener in 2003. The temperature was 32 and the wind chill was about 20. The warmest home opener was 86, back in 1960.

April weather is fickle. Yesterday, an off day, was another beautiful day, just a few degrees cooler than Monday. It’s too bad the Cubs didn’t try to get today’s game in yesterday because today’s weather is awful. Temps are only in the 30s and rain mixed with snow is on the way for this afternoon. As I write this, it has not yet started raining, but it’s on the day. There may be a “window” where the game can be played but it will be cold and windy, more like football weather than baseball weather. Tomorrow’s forecast isn’t much better. We may have heavy rain, thunderstorms and severe weather most of the day into the evening. This weather has been predicted for a week and seems to be playing out as predicted. The Cubs could and should have moved tonight’s game to yesterday. If either or both games are postponed, they can be made up later in the season because the Pirates do return to Chicago. No one wants a split doubleheader, but it sure beats sitting in cold, windy and damp conditions. That being the case for tonight, when Yu Darvish is expected to take the mound, I’m going to try and find my thermal underwear. I don’t want to freeze out there.


 

Opening Day 2019

For many of us, Opening Day is a holiday worthy of skipping school and work. When I was in high school, I took Senior Ditch Day every year. This was the day the Cubs opened at home. Yes, my parents knew and they were okay with it since my grades were good.

Opening Day became more important to me as an adult. I lived in Atlanta for 20 years but started flying home to attend Opening Day at Wrigley with my dad in 1999. That was in addition to my annual summer trips home where my dad and I would take in a Saturday game together.

I moved back to Chicago in 2004, exactly 20 years after I had moved to Atlanta. It was a rough winter for me health-wise. But I worked on getting my strength back so I could walk the ramps to the upper deck with my dad. This became part of my Spring Training ritual.

For many years, my Spring Training ritual started March 1. I’d watch baseball movies like “Field of Dreams,” “A League of their Own,” “Bull Durham” and “The Natural.” I also read books like “Mr. Cub” or anything else I could find about the Cubs and baseball. And even though I lived in Atlanta 20 years, I always took the Cubs home opener off and watched on TV.

The last Opening Day I spent with my dad was in 2008. We attended about 35 games together that year, maybe more. It was an exciting year. That was also the year my Spring Training ritual changed. I started attending Spring Training in Mesa on an annual basis. I called my dad from HoHoKam Park and could hear the excitement in his voice that I was there and trying to share it with him.

One year we went to Spring Training together. It had always been a dream of his, so my brother asked if my mom and dad wanted to join us one year when he and I had plans to go together. My dad did not hesitate to say, “yes.”

I did not know at the time that 2008 would be the last Opening Day I would share with my dad. For 10 years we sat through long, cold games. His seats were in the upper deck, first row near the press box. The winds off Lake Michigan in April were brutal, but we were there, bundled up.

Since 2009, I’ve attended Opening Day in the bleachers with great friends. It is an event that I wish I could share with my dad because it is so different from Opening Day in the bowl.

This year, Opening Day will start with getting to the park rather early. I’ll see friends I haven’t seen since October. Maybe someone will bring something to eat. We’ll get caught up on what happened over the winter and commiserate with each other about the Cubs’ lousy start. When the gates open, we’ll go to our chosen spots in the bleachers and wait for the game to begin.

I know that when I get to my seat in the left field corner, I’ll look at where my dad’s seats were and remember all those Opening Days he and I shared. Whether I’ll smile or cry is anybody’s guess, but I do know he will be with me at Wrigley cheering on our team.


 

What’s wrong with the Cubs?

I see you on the ledge. Please, don’t jump. It’s not worth it – yet. The Cubs have only played six games. There’s a whole season in front of us. Every team will go through a losing streak. It’s a fact. I would rather see the losses now than at the end of the season. I believe that losing now reinforces the sense of urgency President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said the team needed this year.

Like you, I’m a bit baffled at what I’ve seen so far. I spent the spring in Mesa watching these Cubs and felt that sense of urgency. It appeared that the players were ready for the season. But it sure doesn’t look like they’re ready yet. Does it?

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts make his annual speech to the full team the first day the full squad worked out in Mesa. He addressed the important issues facing the team – the emails involving his father, the abrupt end to last season and the Addison Russell issue. He made it clear to the players that his door was always open if they had a problem, or just needed to talk, especially if the felt they were being treated unfairly due to race or religion. And if you know Tom Ricketts, you know he means what he says.

So, what was the cause of six errors during the game the other night? Was something else going on distracting the team? We probably will never know, but if I had to guess, I’d say something else was going on. It’s anyone’s guess what that may be

There was talk before the season started about how the Cubs had the easiest schedule in the division to begin the season. It sure isn’t looking so easy, is it?

Last night the players seemed to be more into the game, even though they eventually lost to the Braves. The off day seemed to help them regroup a bit. There is one more game against the Braves tonight before the Cubs travel to Milwaukee for a weekend series before opening at Wrigley on Monday. They have a lot to prove to the Brewers and the fans, but let’s start with a win tonight.

Please don’t jump off the ledge yet. There’s a whole season of baseball ahead of us. Give the guys a chance.


Cubs launch new YouTube Channel

If you’re like me, you want to see as much about the Cubs as you can. We all know that the Cubs will be starting their own television channel in 2020, but they have a new channel on YouTube now. It was unveiled last week and features 17 new videos and 10 in-depth features. I started to watch the channel and got so wrapped up in it I ran out of time to write about it.

In the first set of videos, you will see some of the guys just having fun. For instance, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have two segments together – Who Knows Kris Bryant Better (or “Bae vs. Ballplayer”) and “Call to the Bullpen” where Bryant and Rizzo answer questions from fans.

In “Bae vs. Ballplayer,” Rizzo squares off against Bryant’s wife, Jessica, to see who knows Bryant better. While you would hope Bryant’s wife knows him best, you just never know. And in “Call to the Bullpen,” you can see the Bryant and Rizzo are having a lot of fun answering the questions that are posed to them.  In both segments, you can see how much fun they are having and what a great friendship they have.

Another segment, “Cubs and Pups,” shows Javier Baez being interviewed by a little boy. It starts with the two and a few puppies. Baez says he has seven dogs and is asked if there is a lot of dog poop. It’s a perfect question from a kid. Baez is great with the kid, answering questions, going on a scooter or small bike and trying to keep up with the youngster. Baez shows some of his tattoos. You must see it to appreciate it all.

There are some serious segments, too, like the breakdown of David Bote’s walk off grand slam last season. It is very well done, showing how what the players were thinking, especially Bote.

While I really liked the videos with Bryant, Rizzo and Baez, I also loved the 40-minute piece on Kerry Wood’s 20 strike out game. The game was 20 years ago when Wood was 20 years old (that’s a lot of 20s). I was living in Atlanta at the time and remember watching that game on TV when I was supposed to be working. It’s as exciting watching the video today and it was watching the game live.

I’m not going to give all the segments away. You need to see them for yourself. It’s worth taking the time to view these videos. You get a new perspective on the players and on how they think. And you will find at least one new episode every Thursday. I don’t want to miss any new videos, so I subscribed, and so should you. Go to www.youtube.com/cubs to see the videos and to subscribe.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this trailer of what you can see right now on the Cubs YouTube Channel.


 

Pitchers and catchers report to Mesa

Baseballs Al Yellon photo

Photo by Al Yellon bleedcubbieblue.com

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. To the devoted baseball fan, these are the most anticipated words of the year – aside from Cubs win the World Series, of course. Pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa signals the beginning of a new season. It signifies a rebirth of the hope Cubs fans, baseball fans, have for their favorite team. It screams out spring and Opening Day are almost here.

Tomorrow will be the first workout for the pitchers and catchers. Reports from Manager Joe Maddon, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer all indicate that the guys, for the most part, are ready to go. Yu Darvish, who did not endear himself to Cubs fans last year, is looking strong and healthy. According to Epstein, in the first press conference of Spring Training, Darvish is feeling good mentally and physically. And while he looked and felt good in Spring Training last year, Epstein indicated that there was more to Darvish as an individual and pitcher than there was last year. Of course, time will tell.

For his part, Darvish has worked out in Mesa this past week and even spoke to the fans, maybe showing a more relaxed person. Someone must have made him realize how he needed to change his persona around the fans. He must have gotten the message that Cubs fans really do want to like him.

During the press conference, the question was raised about the Joe Ricketts’ emails that have plagued the team the past week or so. Epstein said in no uncertain terms that he condemns the emails and they have no place in baseball or society. He went on to say that in order to be a winner you must embrace ethnic difference and learn from each other. He mentioned that he believes that actions speak louder than words and that the Cubs motto “Everybody In” will have more meaning this year. He said he did not like the fact that some people had to question their loyalty to the team they love because of one person’s actions and words, but he hopes that the actions the Cubs take throughout the season will prove that the team does not condone anything contained in the emails.

He emphasized that when fans go through the turnstiles at Wrigley Field (though magnetometers would have been a more appropriate word) they should be able to leave their troubles behind for three or three-and-a-half hours. He said he would like for the fans to see the actions not hear words that the Cubs will take. He included the domestic abuse charges that got Addison Russell suspended. While there hasn’t been much said about Russell’s progress with the Major League Baseball sanctions, it will be the actions Russell takes, and the team takes, that will define what is happening, just as it will with the email scandal. Epstein said the team and Russell are still in the early stages of the program and it will take time, but they are behind Russell, as they are behind Tom Ricketts, in being part of the solution to both problems.

The first Spring Training game is almost here. Are you getting excited?

#chicagocubs  #cubs  #springtraining


 

The 2019 Cubs Convention starts Friday

The 34th annual Cubs Convention begins Friday at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. As always, the Opening Ceremony in the main ballroom will be the kickoff for the weekend. Fans are hopeful that Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts will have news about players and plans for a Cubs television station, among other news reserved for the convention. The Opening Ceremony is set to run from 6 to 7 CST. The Cubs will stream the Opening Ceremony on social media for those unable to make it to the event.

Always an annual favorite, Ryan Dempster will host Friday Night with Ryan Dempster starting at 7:30 Friday night. You never really know what to expect from the extremely funny and whacky Dempster. The past couple of years President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has joined the show. Friday Night with Ryan Dempster will begin at 7:30. Can’t make it to the show? It will be streamed on social media.

Saturday is always a full day of panels, with three new panels added to the mix. And, as always, there will be opportunities for autographs, events for kids and the ever-popular Bingo on Saturday night.

According to the Cubs, the three new panels are:

Cubs Talk: Albert Almora Jr., Steve Cishek, Daniel Descalso and Ian Happ share stories and answer questions from fans.

Cubs in Cooperstown: Former pitcher Lee Smith will enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer in Cooperstown. Smith with be joined on a panel by Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg and Billy Williams.

Off the Field: In an even geared toward younger fans, Cubs stars Carl Edwards Jr., Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Pedro Strop will talk about their off-field interests. Topics include music, fashion, art and more.

New interactive displays and activities will include:

“Through My Eyes”: Ian Happ and artist Patrick Vale will discuss their creative collaboration that brings a new perspective of Wrigley Field to fans. The artwork can be purchased with proceeds benefiting Cubs Charities.

Cubs Trophy Room: Fans can take a selfie with the 2016 World Series Trophy and other Cubs memorabilia and experience a behind-the-scenes virtual reality tour of Wrigley Field before and during a Cubs home game. It is presented by Boeing and USO of Illinois.

ATI Morning Stretch: Kids can get ready for a full day of Cubs activities with a morning stretch clinic led by ATI Physical Therapy on the turf field.

High Speed Highlighting Catch presented by Xfinity: Young Cubs fans can experience making a game-saving diving catch at Wrigley Field.

Chicago Artists Live Painting: Three Chicago artists, Amuse126, Miss Merlot and Stuk One, will display their artistic styles and abilities. Fans can purchase the artwork with proceeds benefiting Cubs Charities.

If you can’t make it to the convention, two sessions, In the Batter’s Box and Cubs in Cooperstown, in addition to the Opening Ceremony and Friday Night with Ryan Dempster, will be streamed live on social media. You can catch In the Batter’s Box at 11 a.m. CST Saturday and Cubs in Cooperstown from 3-4 p.m. Saturday.

For a complete list of Cubs players and coaches attending this weekend’s convention, click here. Please note, do not expect to see Addison Russell or Anthony Rizzo this weekend. Russell was not invited as due to his suspension and Rizzo is still on his honeymoon.

#2019CubsConvention

#CubsCon


 

Spring Training tickets on sale Saturday

sloan park photo by al

Photo by Al Yellon bleedcubbieblue.com

I know it’s only January 10th, but it’s time to start thinking about Spring Training. Really. Single game tickets go on sale Saturday, January 12, at 10 a.m. MST (that’s 11 a.m. in Chicago).  An online Mastercard presale will be held tomorrow, January 11, starting at 10 a.m. MST. Please note, there will be a 15 percent premium added to your purchase when going through the Mastercard presale. Don’t have a Mastercard? No problem. You can use other credit cards, but a 20 percent premium will be added to your purchase.

Tickets can be purchased over the phone at 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827) or online at www.cubs.com beginning at 10 a.m. MST/11 a.m. CST Saturday, January 12. If you’re in the Phoenix area and want to purchase tickets in person, the Sloan Park box office will open at 10 a.m. MST January 12 and close at 5 p.m. It’s hard to predict how long lines will be, so show up early to have a better chance of getting the games and seats you prefer.

Pitchers and catchers will report to spring training Tuesday, February 12, and begin their workouts February 13. The first full squad workout will be Monday, February 18. The first Cubs home game of spring training will be February 23 at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona, against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs will play 18 home games, including two at the end of spring training with the Boston Red Sox. You can view the schedule here. Ticket prices for individual games can be found here.

Red Lot parking for season ticket holders is located on Rio Salado Rd., near the Home Base gate. Reserved handicap parking is located the Blue Lot in front of the ballpark between the Home Base gate and the First Base gate. General handicap parking is available in the Yellow Lot. General parking is available just east of the ballpark. Cost for general parking is $5. You also have the option of parking at Tempe Marketplace and ride their free shuttle to the ballpark and back.

If you’ve never been to spring training, you’re in for a treat. Sloan Park opened in 2014. Its original name was Cubs Park, but in 2015 it was named Sloan Park. It is located on Rio Salado Blvd. just off the Loop 101, and is easily accessible from the Loop202 off Dobson Rd.

As with Wrigley Field, items that are prohibited inside Sloan Park include spray suntan lotion, inflatables (beach balls) and alcohol. For a complete list of prohibited items, click here.

In previous years fans have been allowed to bring in their own food and sealed bottles of water. Soda or Gatorade or anything other than sealed bottles of water are prohibited. There have been instances where frozen bottles of water have been confiscated, but for the most part those have been allowed in.

Like the bleachers at Wrigley, lawn seating is first come first served. Please note that as of this writing, the video board is not visible from the left field lawn.

For more information about Sloan Park, click here.

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Addison Russell gets 40-game suspension

Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. announced yesterday that Chicago Cubs infielder Addison Russell has accepted a 40-game suspension, without pay, for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. The unpaid suspension is retroactive to September 21. Russell has agreed not to appeal the decision. He must participate “in a confidential and comprehensive evaluation and treatment program supervised by the Joint Policy Board.”

Allegations of domestic abuse by Addison Russell toward his now ex-wife Melisa Reidy-Russell gained new steam recently after Reidy-Russell shared a blog post about domestic violence incidents. In it, she alleges physical and emotional abuse by Russell over a period and in front of their young son. She also alleges infidelity during their two-and-a-half-year marriage. You can read the entire blog post here.

The allegations initially came to light more than a year ago when a friend of Reidy-Russell’s accused Russell of physical and emotional abuse. Major League Baseball opened an investigation at that time, but it dragged on because Reidy-Russell refused to cooperate with the league.

There are many questions to be answered here. Why didn’t she cooperate with the investigation a year ago? Are the allegations true? Was there emotional and physical abuse? Why did she decide to come forward now?

Please keep in mind that I have never met Reidy-Russell or Russell, so have no inside information into their private lives. That said, it isn’t hard to come to some conclusions regarding the above questions.

Reidy-Russell and Russell were married about two-and-a-half years. It is quite possible that Reidy-Russell would not initially cooperate with MLB because she was going through divorce proceedings and did not want to jeopardize the outcome of the divorce. Now that the divorce is final, she is free to talk without retribution by Russell. For many women in abusive relationships, divorce is liberating. It seems this is the case for Reidy-Russell. Apparently, there was no “gag order” so Reidy-Russell is free to speak.

Emotional abuse can be more damaging than physical abuse. Outward bruises will fade but the damage to the psyche can be more damaging. With emotional abuse, the abuser constantly puts the victim down, telling the victim he or she is not worthy of affection or possessions, that the victim doesn’t pay enough attention to the abuser, that the victim is either too busy or not busy enough. anything to put down the victim. In many cases, the abuser will isolate the victim from friends and family, but it is done in such and insidious way that friends simply are no longer there. It can start with a simple, “I don’t like that friend of yours.” It can escalate to, “No, I don’t want to go out with that couple. I don’t like them. They aren’t very smart.” And the friends don’t want to be around the abuser because they don’t like to be put down or feel like they are idiots. The abuser may ask the victim why he or she chooses to be friends with such “stupid people,” even insinuating that the victim isn’t very smart.

Emotional abuse can also come in the form of “joking.” The abuser will put the victim down, but say it is just a joke. But, it’s no joke. The put-downs continue and escalate and the damage to the psyche digs deep. The victim loses all self-respect and sense of self-worth as the “joking” continues. The abuser may even become lazy, insisting that the abused do all the work around the house. In Reidy-Russell’s case, it was laundry, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, taking care of the couple’s infant son and trying to take care of Russell.

But the abuser can be quite charming even trying to make him or herself the victim.

It would appear that Reidy-Russell did suffer emotional abuse. She states in her blog post that:

“Emotional/verbal abuse started way before I even realized, eventually it started to be an everyday thing. Being blamed for just about anything that went wrong, name calling, intimidating me with personal force, manipulating me to think I was the problem, destroying my personal things, threatening me to “send” me & our son home to my parents as if I was privileged to be living in our home. Basically, I felt like I was nothing, a nobody & I was nothing without him, & I couldn’t do anything without him.”

While Reidy-Russell did not describe the physical abuse alluded to, she did talk about Russell “laying hands” on her. This could mean he punched her or hit her. It’s unclear.

Let’s get to the question of why now? The divorce was granted in August. In her post, Reidy-Russell seems to have come to terms with the situation and is healing. She has nothing to lose by making her allegations now. But, if she wanted to hurt her ex-husband, she may not have understood how it also was hurting the team, both on the field and psychologically.

For his part, Russell consistently denied the allegations, though it seems by accepting the commissioner’s disciplinary actions, he is owning up to the allegations.

MLB initially placed Russell on paid administrative leave as they investigated new information. The Cubs, in a press conference, stated that they supported MLB’s actions and would cooperate with the investigation.

Will Russell return to the Cubs? It’s highly doubtful. In a press conference yesterday, when President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was asked that question, his response was, “I don’t know.” I’d say it’s 99.9 percent certain Russell has seen his last day as a Cub. The team should trade him. Someone will take him just as the Cubs took Aroldis Chapman in 2016. At the time Chapman had served a 30-day suspension for domestic abuse. And the New York Yankees even took him back after the Cubs won the World Series

MLB has strict rules about domestic abuse. The guidelines cover four main areas: Treatment and Intervention, Investigations, Discipline and Training and Education and Resources.

Under the treatment plan, “Players may be required to “submit to psychological evaluations, attend counseling sessions, comply with court orders (including child support orders), relocate from a home shared with his partner, limit his interactions with his partner, relinquish all weapons, and other reasonable directives designed to promote the safety of the player’s partner, children, or victims.” Non-compliance could lead to other types of discipline.

The Commissioner’s Office is charged with investigating all allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse involving players. Accused players can be placed on paid administrative leave for up to seven days while allegations are investigated. The administrative leave can be extended numerous times, if needed. Players can challenge any decision before the arbitration panel. In fact, Russell, initially asked for an emergency hearing on the matter, which apparently was not granted.

The Commissioner decides the appropriate discipline, which carries no minimum or maximum penalty. Players can challenge the decisions, though in this case, Russell has agreed not to challenge the decision.

“All players will be provided education about domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse in both English and Spanish at regular intervals. Resources to players’ families — including referral information, websites, hotline numbers and outreach facilities — will be made available, along with a confidential 24-hour helpline.”

After placing Russell on administrative leave, MLB reportedly interviewed Reidy-Russell and others and found more credible information to support Reidy-Russell’s claims.

“My office has completed its investigation into the allegations that Addison Russell violated Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.  Having reviewed all of the available evidence, I have concluded that Mr. Russell violated the Policy and should be subject to discipline in the form of an unpaid suspension that will cover 40 games,” said Manfred.

Russell is a talented player. He has great potential. Hopefully he will receive the help he needs and can get on with his baseball career.


Cubs season isn’t over yet

According to my baseball schedule, the season should have ended today. But, it hasn’t for the Cubs and three other teams. The Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers will play a tiebreaker tomorrow at Wrigley Field. The winner of that game will win the Central Division title and the loser will play in the Wild Card game on Tuesday against either the Colorado Rockies or Los Angeles Dodgers. The winner of the Wild Card game will then face the winner of the Cubs/Brewers game in the League Championship Series.

The Cubs were expected to win the division outright, but things just never are easy for the Cubs. Could multiple rainouts this season have influenced the team’s play? Sure. And consider the recent makeup game in Washington, DC. I thought that game was unfair to the Cubs because it caused them to have 30 games in 30 days. Turns out, it was the right thing to do. Imagine if they’d had to play that game tomorrow. That could have really messed up the postseason schedule.

Injuries also have plagued the Cubs the second half of the season, but the team has played through them. It helps that players can play multiple positions. If that wasn’t the case, the Cubs would not be where they are now.

So, today’s win over the St. Louis Cardinals kept the Cubs in a tie for first place in the Central Division and gave fans an extra game to attend this season.

Tickets for tomorrow’s game have just gone on sale online. Ticket windows at the ballpark on Clark St. will open at 8 tomorrow morning for in-person ticket sales. It’s expected that the game will be sold out, with few tickets available in the morning, even though fans are being given less than 24 hours to make plans to attend the game. It really doesn’t matter. This is historic. How many times do you get to see a tie-breaker in baseball? It is a meaningful game with a lot at stake.

Our boys are tired and banged up, but they are playing on. Game time tomorrow is 12:05. The forecast is for rain later in the day. Figures, doesn’t it?


 

Cubs await word on make-up game in DC

Ring, ring….

MLB: Hello, MLB headquarters, may I help you?

Me: Yes, please. This is Miriam Romain and I’d like to speak to Mr. Manfred.

MLB: I’m sorry Ms. Romain, but he’s in a very important meeting and is not taking calls from anyone.

Me: Would you please give him a message?

MLB: Of course.

Me: Please tell him to get off his rear and either move the Cubs/Nats game to a neutral venue or move it to Oct. 1 when the weather will most likely be more conducive to playing baseball. Tell him that putting the lives of baseball players in possible danger is more detrimental to the bottom line than losing ONE game, which will probably be rained out anyway. Tell him if he does decide the game must be played that I expect him to be in the ballpark, in the seats, not a suite, on Thursday at game time in DC. Oh, and tell him I send this message on behalf of every baseball fan. Do you have that?

MLB: Ummm…. Yes, ma’am.

Click.

Did this conversation actually happen? No. Would I like for it to happen. You bet!

It is now late Wednesday morning. Hurricane Florence is on track to make a direct hit on the North Carolina coast as a Category 4 hurricane. Bands from this storm are predicted to make their way to the Washington, DC, area, causing heavy rains and high winds, putting tomorrow’s makeup game between the Cubs and Nationals in danger of being rained out, again.

On top of that, it is expected that later today airports along the eastern seaboard will begin shutting down in advance of the storm. It is very possible that the Cubs could get to DC, not play and then be stranded, unable to return to Chicago and their weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds. Further, the Nationals could be stranded and not be able to get to Atlanta for their series against the Braves. Do those six games mean less than one game that can be made up at the end of the season – IF NECESSARY?

I’m not a meteorologist, but following weather is a hobby of mine and I do know more than the average person when it comes to weather conditions. I followed hurricanes for 11 years when I worked in the cruise industry, so I know how fickle these storms can be and I know how dangerous they can quickly get. I have experienced hurricanes on the seas and well inland from where they have made landfall.

As of today, airlines have announced they will waive change fees on a one-time basis for those who would like to change their itineraries ahead of the storm. The list of airlines, airports and the waivers and restrictions can be found here. Please note, some of the airlines have included the Washington, DC, area airports in their alerts.

Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein went on 670 The Score radio this morning and said the Cubs were in a holding pattern waiting for MLB to make a decision. When asked, he did not rule out possibly telling MLB they would not fly. If that scenario plays out, he said he would talk to the players and then decide.

Yes, EVERY game the Cubs play right now means something. The Brewers are on our tails. But, this game can be made up Oct. 1 if it’s necessary. There is no need to put our players in danger on or off the field. Does Rob Manfred have his head under a rock? Or, is he just inconsiderate and stupid? He needs to make a decision now. The storm is approaching. Move the game to Oct. 1 and get the Nats out of the DC area tonight so they can play their series in Atlanta (weather permitting) this weekend, and let the Cubs have their off day to prepare for the Reds. It’s a no-brainer.


 

Breaking news: Cubs acquire Daniel Murphy

BREAKING NEWS:

It was just reported that the Cubs have claimed Daniel Murphy off the waiver wire from the Washington Nationals. According to one article, Murphy, who is known as a “Cub killer” could fill in for both Kris Bryant at third and Addison Russell at short, if needed. And Cubs fans will remember that Murphy loves hitting at Wrigley. During the 2015 National League Championship Series he hit four home runs against the Cubs. His left-handed bat brings not only hits at Wrigley but post-season play the last three years. The Cubs gave up minor leaguer Andruw Monasterino from Myrtle Beach and a player to be named later or cash. Monasterino was drafter as a non-drafted free agent in 2014.

The stare, pitching woes and tying records

Now, back to the Pirates series that ended yesterday. It seems everyone was talking about Anthony Rizzo’s stare during the ninth inning of Thursday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He didn’t say a word to Pedro Strop, he just walked to the pitcher’s mound and stared. That was it. It was an interesting stare.

But this isn’t the first time a player has just stared at a pitcher. Back when Geovany Soto was a rookie catcher with the Cubs, he would often go to the pitcher’s mound when Carlos Zambrano was pitching. People wondered what a rookie catcher could possibly say to a veteran pitcher. It was finally revealed by Soto that he said nothing. He would just go to the mound, stare at Zambrano for a minute and then go back behind home plate.

It’s too bad Rizzo couldn’t give Tyler Chatwood “the stare” during Sunday’s game. Chatwood had been moved to the bullpen but was moved back to a starting role when Mike Montgomery went on the 10-day disabled list. What a mistake. Why can’t the Cubs make up an injury for him and have him sit the rest of the season? His nickname, Chatwalk, is well deserved.

But one pitcher doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the Cubs’ pitching problems. It is my opinion that the Cubs miss Chris Bosio. Yes, there were very good reasons for letting him go, but Jim Hickey is not the answer. It appears he is trying to emphasize new approaches with Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester, maybe even Jose Quintana, and it’s just not working. Lester and Hendricks looked like their old selves in Pittsburgh, which is good. I hope they went back to what was working for them before Hickey came along.

Yes, Hickey was very good with the Rays, but consider this, the pitchers he had there were young and still learning. We have established veterans on the Cubs. Don’t mess with what’s not broken.

And speaking of pitchers, what do you think the chances are of Yu Darvish returning to the team this season? I say zero. He pitched only one inning in Sunday’s rehab start in South Bend and asked for an MRI after complaining of pain in his elbow again. He already has had one Tommy John surgery. Is there another one in his future? It turns out this has been a bad signing for the Cubs. Thank goodness for Cole Hamels! He is 3-0 in four starts since joining the Cubs.

Despite all of this, the Cubs did make some history this weekend. They tied a Major League record for most double plays in a nine-inning game.

It was also revealed this weekend that the Cubs will face the Pirates in the third annual Little League Classic on August 18, 2019, at Bowman Field in Williamsport, PA.


 

Bote smacks ultimate grand slam

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Photo courtesy of Gene Schafer III

The Chicago Cubs went from playing one of their worst games of the year on Saturday, to playing one of the absolute best games of the season last night against the Washington Nationals. Down three runs in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, David Bote stepped in to pinch hit. With two balls and two strikes he did what almost every kid dreams of when playing baseball. He hit a grand slam for a walk-off win against the Nationals. Not only that, it was an “ultimate grand slam,” something that hadn’t been done in more than 20 years at Wrigley and only one of 29 known in baseball history, including Bote’s shot last night. And I thought Jason Heyward’s walk-off slam a toward the end of July was exciting.

Watch Bote’s ultimate grand slam here.

What made this slam more exciting was that the entire game had been a good old pitcher’s duel with Cole Hamels making his Wrigley debut as a Cub against Max Scherzer. After last night’s performance, it’s probably safe to say that many Cubs fans will either forgive or forget that Hamels threw a no-hitter against the Cubs in July 2015 when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies to end the Cubs’ no-hit streak, which lasted 7,920 games, a record that won’t be broken for quite a while.

Those who stayed to the end were on their feet as the ball left the yard. And they stayed until Bote returned to the field for his Gatorade baptism. Leaving the ballpark, cheers of “Go Cubs Go,” “Kris who?” “KB who?” and “EveryBoteIn” could be heard.

Almost forgotten, at least for a while, was Hamels’ outing. He gave up one run on only one hit, struck out nine and retired the last 18 batters he faced in seven innings.

Last night it appeared the magic had returned to Wrigley Field and fans hope it continues tomorrow and Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers, who lost yesterday to the Atlanta Braves. With that loss and the Cubs win, the Cubs retain sole possession of first place in the division and will retain it no matter what happens in the two-game series starting tomorrow.


Wrigley lights went on 30 years ago today

IMG_3986

Photo by Miriam Romain

Do you remember where you were 30 years ago today? Does that seem like a strange question? Let me be more specific. Do you remember where you were and what you were doing the evening of 8-8-88? Does that help? No? It’s the night the lights were turned on at Wrigley Field for night baseball.

I was living in Atlanta at the time. I was not initially in favor of night baseball at Wrigley. After all, Wrigley was the last ballpark without lights. The Cubs played baseball like it was meant to be played – during the day. I watched the television broadcast of the event, and it brought a tear to my eye. My phone rang. I answered. It was my mom checking on me. My dad wasn’t home, so she decided to call. I had made my feelings about this night very clear. It was bittersweet for me.

I watched as the game got underway. Rick Sutcliffe was pitching for the Cubs. He gave up a home run to the first Philadelphia Phillies batter, Phil Bradley. My thought at that point was that the Baseball Gods did not want the Cubs to win this first game under the lights.

But, I was wrong about the Baseball Gods. In the fourth inning, with the Cubs ahead, it began to rain. It was a real downpour. Perhaps the Baseball Gods were sending a message after all. Cubs players took advantage of the slick tarp and used it as a slide. They were having fun. After two hours, the game was called. Since it was not an official game, the score was erased, as if it never happened.

So, the first real night game at Wrigley Field was played the next night, August 9. In that complete game, the Cubs won over the New York Mets 6-4.

Watching that game, I pondered the implications of night baseball at Wrigley. I was no stranger to night games. I had seen my fair share of night games at the old Fulton County Stadium by then and I admit, I did like watching baseball under the lights – at that ballpark. I could not wrap my head around night baseball at Wrigley.

The next year, I was home visiting and the Cubs were also home. I talked my brother into going to the first night game of the season. I was curious to see what the ballpark looked like at night. And I got a huge surprise. The ballpark, which was always so beautiful to me during the day, was even more beautiful at night. I was stunned.

Fast forward 30 years. I’m living back in Chicago. I go to every home game. And guess what? I love the night games at Wrigley. Maybe it’s because I’m older and it’s more difficult for me to get moving in the mornings, or maybe I have finally accepted night baseball at Wrigley. I think it’s a combination of the two. There is something to be said for tradition, but, although the Cubs, like baseball itself, were slow to change, change happens. The game evolves.

The Cubs are allowed to play up to 43 night games per season. This does not include when ESPN, FOX or the MLB channel want to televise night games. The Cubs also are not allowed to schedule any Friday, Saturday or Sunday night games, though when national television wants to pick up the Cubs, that overrides the ban. So, the Cubs still play the majority of their 81 home games during the day.

I cannot believe, sitting in the bleachers these days, that I ever was opposed to night baseball at Wrigley. Times have changed. I have changed. The Cubs have changed. Hey, they even won a World Series two years ago!

#gocubsgo  #flythew


 

 

Cubs enjoy All-Star festivities in DC

red and white baseball
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This year’s All-Star Game is history. Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Jon Lester were named to the team. Lester was ineligible to play because he pitched Sunday, but he was on the bench rooting for his teammates. Baez and Contreras both gave him something to cheer about when Baez, the first to bat for the National League, got on base in the first inning. Contreras made history belting a solo home run on his first All-Star at-bat, and even on the first pitch, sort of like he did at Wrigley during his first at-bat there. Unfortunately, the American League won the game in 10 innings.

Kyle Schwarber joined Baez, Contreras and Lester in Washington, DC, to participate in the Home Run Derby along with Baez. Baez was knocked out of contention in the first round. However, Schwarber faced off against Bryce Harper in the final. There is talk that Harper’s dad, who was pitching to him, “cheated” by throwing pitches before a ball had completely landed. This is against Home Run Derby rules, but the rules were not enforced. It is what it is.

While Baez, Contreras, Lester and Schwarber were enjoying the festivities in Washington, Yu Darvish was awaiting word from the Evanston Zoning Board on whether he could build a six-foot fence around his property. The Zoning Board of Appeals met last night and denied the six-foot fence but did approve a three- to four-foot fence around the property, citing existing zoning rules. Darvish had said he needed the fence for security reasons. This enraged some of his new neighbors who were afraid that if built, it would take away from the ambiance of the neighborhood, and even block some views of Lake Michigan.

Darvish also wants to buy some land adjacent to his property owned by the city to build a multi-car garage. That issue is being dealt with separately.

Here’s what I don’t understand. I grew up in Evanston. My dad was an alderman there. I know there are rules and ordinances. Didn’t he look around the neighborhood? Could he not see that no one else had a six-foot fence, especially not on the front of the property? It is said that good fences make good neighbors. Well, no privacy fences make good neighbors in Evanston. I don’t think Mr. Darvish has started off on the right foot with his new neighbors.

And speaking of Darvish, there is still no timetable to when he will return to the rotation.


 

Wrigley Field rules and regs

As the Cubs prepare to host the Tigers, there are a few things that you need to know about this series and the series against the Cincinnati Reds that begins Friday.

Please note that there are a few rules that you need to be aware of. Some of these may differ from other ballparks, so please read carefully.

First, no aluminum cans are allowed inside the ballpark. This include the spray suntan lotions that are popular these days. Spray suntan products will be confiscated and not returned. We all know these are expensive. Please leave them at home or in your car. They will not be returned. There are times that small samples of suntan lotion are available at Guest Services. Be aware that these items to run out, so come prepared with your own lotion in a tube.

You can bring empty water bottles into Wrigley Field; however, they must be plastic. Aluminum and glass water bottles will be confiscated. These water bottles must be EMPTY upon entrance to the ballpark.

Water in factory sealed plastic bottles is allowed inside Wrigley Field. If you are drinking from an open bottle upon entrance to the ballpark, you will be required to finish or dump the contents before entry.

Just as in all other ballparks, you will be required to have your bags searched. Penknives are not allowed. Stadium seats also are banned from Wrigley Field. If you require something to sit on, a cushion is recommended.

Upon entering the ballpark, you will be required to pass through a magnetometer. If you have a pacemaker, please alert security personnel so you can be scanned. If you are in a wheelchair, you also will be scanned. Please tell the person doing the scanning if you have any metal in your body such as knee and hip replacements.

Should you require assistance getting to your seat, please let Wrigley personnel know. Wheelchair assistance is available to all who request it on a first come first served basis. This applies to pick up after games, as well. More information can be found at Wrigley Field Accessibility Guide.

For more information on the rules and regulations at Wrigley Field, please visit the team’s online “A-Z Guide.”


 

Yosh Kawano dies at 97

When I was growing up, Yosh Kawano was as much a fixture of the Cubs as Ernie Banks and Ron Santo. Sure, he was the clubhouse manager, but he was an integral part of the team. Yosh passed away on Monday at the age of 97.

This past spring, the Cactus League Museum, on whose Advisory Board I serve, inducted Yosh into its Hall of Fame. At the time I wrote:

“Cubs fans could always identify Yosh Kawano by his trademark white floppy fishing hat. The Cubs clubhouse manager for 65 years, he was a mainstay in the organization. It is said he was the force behind helping players choose their uniform numbers. Kawano was so beloved and part of the team that when the Wrigley family sold the Cubs to Tribune Company in 1981, the contract stipulated that Kawano would always have a job with the team. Kawano retired in 2008, before the Ricketts family bought the team.

“Kawano, a Japanese American, and his family were interred at Poston War Relocation Center in Yuma County (now La Paz County), Arizona, during World War II. After a little more than a year there, he was released to join the White Sox in California as spring training bat boy. With the help of the White Sox, Kawano enlisted in the war and spent 18 months as an intelligence officer in the South Pacific. Kawano loved baseball and always wanted to be around it. After serving his time, he went to Chicago and latched onto the Cubs.”

Kawano, who turned 97 on June 4, moved to Los Angeles after hospitalization for cellulitis and his subsequent retirement. He spent his final years in a Los Angeles nursing home with his brother, Nobe, who spent his life as clubhouse manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Raymond Floyd, and his brother, Carl, Ruzicka accepted the Cactus League Museum’s plaque for Kawano during this year’s spring training. The brothers also had a World Series ring made for Kawano after the Cubs won the World Series. They presented it to him last year.

Kawano’s trademark white floppy cap was donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, after he retired.

Cubs Executive Chairman Tom Ricketts said of Kawano, “He served in the U.S. Army then returned to the Friendly Confines, where he would eventually settle in as equipment manager in 1953. In the decades that followed, he enjoyed deep and colorful relationships with players, members of the front office and the media. Yosh was truly one of a kind and an integral part of our Cubs family and history. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and legions of fans.”

RIP Yosh.


 

0Gameday experience progress report

We are six weeks into the baseball season, so I thought it was time to do an assessment of the gameday experience at Wrigley Field. Warning, the Cubs will not like what I have to say, but it needs to be said.

Let’s start with the bleacher gate. Years ago, Cubs management provided a dedicated VIP gate for Bleacher Season Ticket Holders. Five minutes before the rest of the park opened, those of us in the VIP line, were able to enter the bleachers and go to the seats we preferred. This was done because the bleachers at Wrigley are GA, or general admission, meaning there are no assigned seats. The only time the seats are assigned is in the post-season. This worked very well. Those of us who were at every game would congregate prior to the park opening and socialize, then go to our preferred seats.

When the bleachers were expanded a few years ago, we lost the special gate. Instead, we have a special line, on the Waveland side of the main bleacher gate. There is a separate line behind the Season Ticket Holder line for those without bleachers season tickets. There also is a line on the Sheffield side of the main bleacher gate for general admission.

This has been a complete cluster. A few of us are there early every game. I’m almost always first in line. We have been managing the lines for the Cubs, without even a thank you. And even though we know the rules and there is a sign, people still ask where to stand. Some even challenge us when we try to help. A few weeks ago, one person, with GA tickets, asked who told us we had the special line. He didn’t believe us or the sign. Having a Cubs employee by the season ticket holder line an hour before the gates open would be most helpful.

It is great that we have our own line and can get into the park five minutes earlier than the rest of the crowd, but there is a problem with this. Random people buy season tickets off StubHub or friends and are told they go to the front of the line and get in anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes early. This is not true. Ideally, this line should be a perk for the season ticket holder, not random people who come to one or two games. We have “our” seats. Those who come once a year don’t have special seats.

The next problem is with bag check. Yes, it is necessary, and I don’t have a problem with having my bags checked, HOWEVER, this is not TSA and too many of the people checking are incompetent. Last year my cellphone was damaged because the bag checker was ramming a bat into my bag and smashed the screen. Yes, the Cubs paid for it, but it was a real hassle.

I’ve heard horror stories of people having everything taken out of their backpacks, towels being unfolded and then things stuffed back in haphazardly, so items fall out. Last week a friend of mine said he was told to open the burger he had brought to the park to be checked. He refused. Okay, if you’re bringing in Subway, you can hold the bag and see if it’s heavy. I was told that someone actually put a beer in a wrapped-up Subway sandwich. But this was a small burger.

Wait, it gets better. Two years ago, a priest friend of mine was told to open his aspirin container! Supposedly unbreakable clipboards have been broken by the bag checkers because they are not trained properly and have no regard for personal property.

Yesterday, I was the victim of an overzealous bag checker. I was first in line, in a wheelchair, as always. My backpack was open, including a cooler inside the backpack. The checker took the backpack and took everything out of the pack and opened everything that had a zipper. When he got to my medicines and took a bottle out, I got angry and told him he was not to open my medicines and to put them back. He didn’t listen, though he didn’t open the containers after I yelled at him. He did check my cellphone and then when putting things back in my backpack, I told him to just give me the small cooler, which he didn’t do. Instead, he shoved in into the backpack smashing the bills on the baseball cap and visor he had thrown back into the backpack. I yelled at him again and he took the caps out and was about to shove them in somewhere else when I told him to just give them to me and to get a supervisor. The person behind me asked if I was going to be strip—searched next.

I complained to a supervisor immediately, who told me I should not have been treated that way and he would take care of it. If this bag checker went through every bag the way he went through mine, there would still be a long line at first pitch. It’s ridiculous. The Cubs need to have the same people at the gates every day. We have the same people at the front of the line every game. We are not the problem. We are not going to jeopardize our season tickets bringing in contraband.  And guess what, even with this inconsistent and “thorough” bag check, people are still getting cans and bottles of alcohol into the ballpark.

And this brings up another point about the line. The special line should be for the season ticket HOLDER! Period.

The incompetence of many of the bag checkers and the Cubs in general is beyond belief. Every game there is a meeting before employees take their positions. If you have the same people in place each game, things would run much more smoothly. They would get to know those of us who are there every day. This suggestion has been made many times over the past few years and fallen on deaf ears.

The next problem, also in the bleachers, is the lack of vendors. Years ago, beer vendors were banned from the bleachers because too many people were getting drunk out there. I get that. But, when the bleachers were expanded, ALL vendors were banned from the bleachers. This is a real disservice to the fans, especially on hot days like we had this week. I guess the Cubs want people to go to the concession stands for food and drink, but there are a few problems with this method.

First, if you’re in a wheelchair, need a cane or walker or are on crutches, going to the concession stand is almost impossible. How are you supposed to carry food and drink back to your seat? Yes, you can ask someone to help you, but what if you want something and no one is available to help?

What if the game has started and you want water or something cold to eat or drink and you don’t want to miss the game? Lines can get very long. If it’s hot enough out, people pass out waiting in line for cold water! How does this make sense? The Cubs should at least have water, Gatorade, soda, Frosty Malt and Lemon Chill vendors in the bleachers, especially on hot days. I guarantee they will sell more overpriced water through vendors than making people go to a concession stand. It would also show that management cares about the fans and is doing what it can to make refreshments easily available.

This year for the first time, fans holding bleacher tickets can go in any gate. Well, that’s what we were told. However, one friend has tried at more than one gate on numerous occasions and has been told she needs to go to the main bleacher gate. When she has corrected the ticket scanner, she is told they don’t have the right scanner. That is not true. These employees probably have not been told how to switch the scanner to scan a bleacher ticket – or, they’re just plain lazy. Almost all the scanners, from what I have been told, are equipped to scan bleacher tickets. Maybe the people doing the scanning have not been told how to do it, but that doesn’t excuse them from giving false information.

And speaking of false information, umbrellas are allowed into the ballpark, but not golf umbrellas. One friend once was told he had to put his umbrella in his backpack. That is not true. Others have been told no umbrellas are allowed at all. Not true. And how stupid is this? The Cubs had an umbrella giveaway this past homestand, but fans were told they could not open those umbrellas in the park and they could not bring them back. What’s the point of giving something like that away?

Yesterday I was told that from now on stadium seats will no longer be allowed in the bleachers. This has been on the website for a very long time, but no one paid attention to it. Suddenly, because one new bag checker tried to ban a fan from bringing in his seat, they are looking at the website and citing that. However, I put the question out and no one recalls seeing it on the list at the gate of banned items. So, beware bleacher ticket holders. Even though your stadium seat often takes up less room than a single person, you will not be allowed to bring it into the bleachers anymore.

And one more word of warning for everyone entering the ballpark. Leave your spray sunscreen at home. Aluminum and metal containers are NOT allowed, and your spray sunscreen will be confiscated. Do not let someone tell you that all sunscreen is banned, that is not true. Just that which is in mental or aluminum containers. Oh, and don’t bring a metal or aluminum water bottle. That, too, will be confiscated, even if it’s empty. However, you ARE allowed to bring in sealed plastic bottled water and even soda. Just be sure it’s factory sealed.

Smoking, including vaping, is not permitted in Wrigley Field. After the first pitch, smokers can go to designated smoking areas. Cubs personnel can tell smokers where those are. Vaping is one of the biggest problems in the seats. It would be nice if an announcement was made prior to the game about Wrigley being smoke free. To date, this announcement is not made. No smoking signs also need to be hung in the bleachers.

While I’m at it, there are a couple of other other complaints I’ve heard from fans since last year concerning the PA announcements. Fans must pay close attention to the video boards to know when a batter has been intentionally walked and to find out the results of reviews. In other ballparks review decisions and intentional walks are announced. Is it really that hard for the PA announcer to let the crowd know what’s going on?

I do want to make one important point. Not all Cubs employees are incompetent. There are many who are excellent at what they do. The complaints are mainly with the new hires who aren’t trained properly and make up things as they go along. It makes the job more difficult for those who have been there a long time and actually know the rules. This isn’t right. New hires need to be properly trained. It would make the experience better for everyone.

Think you can remember all the rules? How about the “rules” that are made up each day? Great. Then enjoy the game!


Ian Happ’s Weather Channel debut

Well, we found out that Chicago isn’t the only place the Cubs experience rainouts. Last night’s game against the Braves in Atlanta was postponed due to inclement weather.  Maybe this is a theme this year with the Cubs and Braves, as they had made up a rained-out game in Chicago on Monday before both teams flew to Atlanta for a three-game series. Last night’s game will be made up Aug. 30. Jon Lester, who was supposed to be last night’s starter, will start tonight against Cincinnati.

Earlier in the day, Ian Happ paid a visit to The Weather Channel. It’s offices in Cobb County are not far from SunTrust Park, the new home of the Braves. Take a look at what was taped and be sure to watch the bloopers at the end.

Lester will start tonight against the Reds, weather permitting. Rain is approaching the Cincinnati area.

The Cubs activated Jason Heyward from the concussion list and sent birthday boy Randy Rosario back to Iowa. Heyward is not in tonight’s starting lineup. Ben Zobrist will start in right field and will lead off, with Javier Baez batting seventh.


 

Inclement weather plagues Cubs games

We all talk about the weather, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We’ve all heard that one before, right? This saying has more meaning in Chicago this past week than I can remember. Temperatures have been unseasonable cold. We’re still getting snow in mid-April!

The Cubs were supposed to play their home opener a week ago Monday. That game was called, eventually, due to the weather. There was too much snow on the field to be cleared for play, and it would have been too dangerous for the players. Also, I was told that the ramps were icy and unsafe. That was the right call as it snowed through the afternoon, but the call wasn’t made until about 10:30, less than an hour before gates were to open. Had the Cubs been smarter that day, they’d have called the game at 7 a.m. giving the players, game day employees and fans a day off. As it was, they had to pay game day employees a minimum of five hours, if they had clocked in. And what about the food that was being prepared? What a waste.

The home opener was played the next day, a scheduled off day, which is supposed to be used should the weather cause a postponement of Opening Day. Many fans were upset, and rightly so. Some had traveled long distances for the opener and basically wasted a day. Some had taken Monday off, but could not take Tuesday off.

Weather conditions were not optimal for baseball most of the week. We did have a few hours of spring one day, but then the temperature dropped severely, and we were left in the cold again.

I opted not to go to Saturday’s game, which never should have been played. Game conditions were horrendous. Joe Maddon said the conditions were the worst he’d ever played in. Atlanta Braves players openly criticized the decision to play in 28-degree temperatures with a wind chill in the low 20s or high teens and a drizzle that at times blew sideways due to a 20-mph wind that guested at times over 40 mph. It was a dreary cold day, but just when it looked like the entire day was ruined because the Cubs were losing 10-2, they came back in the bottom of the eighth inning scoring nine runs on just three hits. They ended up wining that game 14-10. It was exciting and I’m sorry I wasn’t there to see it in person, but I was warm and dry. Again, that game never should have been played.

So, who made the final call to play that game? According to an article by Paul Sullivan in the Chicago Tribune, both are to blame. Why in the world would anyone risk the safety of the players in conditions such as Saturday’s? It boggles the mind. You would think the teams would want to protect their investments. And you would think MLB would be looking out for the well-being of the players, as well. It turns out that MLB consults with the teams, but the teams do not have the final say. MLB does.

Then there was Sunday. Again, it was raining and cold. The game should have been called early in the morning. I had already decided I was not going to sit in the rain and wind, but it was finally postponed. That game will be made up May 14. We are all hoping the weather will be warmer and drier then. But, this is Chicago and there’s no guarantee.

The Cubs and major league baseball got smart yesterday and postponed the night’s game early in the afternoon due to inclement weather. It was going to be too cold to play. And from what I understand, game day employees were given enough warning that they shouldn’t have showed up for work. That game will be replayed July 21 in a day-night doubleheader, as a night game already was scheduled.

I’m in the process of layering up for tonight’s game. It will be frigid, but I’m sure the game will be played, especially since it looks as if tomorrow will be another rainout. The forecast is for a cold rain all day, turning to snow in the late evening.

The Cubs are not completely off the hook in decisions to postpone games. I believe they could fight harder when dealing with MLB. They are in the middle of what’s going on. MLB directives come from New York. But, it is unfair to blame the Cubs. They say they wanted to do the right thing. If there’s any finger pointing to be done, it’s at MLB.


Yu Darvish and the bullpen

Yu Darvish 2018 spring training by Al
Yu Darvish in the bullopen at Surprise Stadium. Photo by Al Yellon, bleedcubbieblue.com

Yesterday at the Cubs game in Surprise against the Rangers, I got a rare (for me) look into the Cubs bullpen both before and during the game. Our seats were in the accessible area of the lawn, right at the Cubs bullpen. It made me miss the old bullpens at Wrigley. It’s just not the same having them under the bleachers.

So, I took advantage of being able to watch the pitchers warming up. What a treat it was to watch yesterday’s starter, Yu Darvish, warming up. It was interesting to note his routine. He has a certain way of doing things and no one bothers him.

Not only did he warm up in the bullpen before the game, but after he was taken out of the game in the sixth inning with a 5-1 lead and limiting his former team to only three hits. He re-entered the bullpen to throw a few more pitches. During this time, several kids were hanging over the fence yelling at him to throw a ball up to them. At one point, Darvish replied in perfect English with no accent, “Not during the game.” So, if anyone asks, yes, Darvish does understand and speak English – very well.

I also had a chance to watch Carl Edwards Jr. warming up. I’ve liked this kid for a couple of years. He had a rather bumpy year last year – either he was really on or really off – but he seems to be really on this spring. That is good to see. I want to see him succeed. I have a gut feeling he could be our future closer.

CJ photo 2018 spring training by Al
Carl Edwards Jr. warming up before taking the mound during a game in Surprise. Photo by Al Yellon bleedcubbieblue.com

The mood in the bullpen was relaxed and there was a lot of laughter, most likely courtesy of Chad Noble, known for his antics in the bullpen.

Seeing the guys in the bullpen and seeing how relaxed they were and how well they got along gave me a sense of how things are in the dugout and clubhouse. I have a good feeling about this year’s team. The guys seem relaxed and ready to play. The Cubs’ record is 16-10 with three ties. However, many of those losses came after the Cubs starters left the game, usually with a lead. Hey, it’s spring training. These records really don’t mean anything.

There are only two home games left for the Cubs in spring training. We already are seeing our regular lineup. It appears that Ian Happ will be our leadoff hitter on days he plays and Willson Contreras will bat cleanup.

Our rotation has also been set. Jon Lester will be the Opening Day starter in Miami followed by Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood. My real concern is with Brandon Morrow, who has gotten rocked this spring training.

The regular season opens a week from today and the Cubs seem ready.


Spring Training games start soon

Baez 2018 spring training drill

Javier Baez during this morning’s drills in Mesa. Photo by Miriam Romain

Weather like this morning’s in Mesa would be perfect for Opening Day in Chicago, but it’s cold for February in southern Arizona. Temperatures were only in the upper 40s or lower 50s for today’s workouts at Sloan Park, but that didn’t stop almost 200 fans from coming out to watch the team practice base drills and participate in live batting practice. And that was only fans who were inside the practice field area. There were more fans outside the fields playing ballhawk, hoping to catch a home run ball.

Practices can become dull for fans, but today everyone was engaged being able to see Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward. Some fans got a bigger thrill seeing Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe.

Watching the drills is fairly easy at Sloan Park, though one fan told me he preferred watching at Fitch Park (where the Cubs held practices when their home was HoHoKam Park. I asked why, and he told me it was more intimate. That may be so, however, Fitch could not accommodate the number of fans who turned out today to watch the drills.

Rizzo 2018 spring training drill

Anthony Rizzo during this morning’s drills in Mesa. Photo by Miriam Romain

Since the weekend, there has been a magnetometer in place across the path leading from the back parking lot (the one past Field 6 and closest to the freeway. The reason for the magnetometer, I was told, was to limit the possibility of danger to players and fans. The magnetometer is only on this path, and not by Fields 1 and 2 because there is more foot traffic coming to the back fields from the back parking lot than around the others. The person who told me about this mentioned the shootings last week in Parkland, Florida. He said that he thought the Cubs had already decided to put the magnetometer by the back fields, but the shootings may have made it more of a priority. That was fine. I’m all for safety. My bag was checked, but I was not, as I was in a wheelchair and did not go through the magnetometer and the security person appeared not to have a wand.

Games begin Saturday at Sloan with the Cubs taking on the Texas Rangers at 1:05 local time (2:05 in Chicago). For those of you traveling to Mesa, here are some things you need to know.

Previously, when entering Sloan Park, security had handheld wands they used randomly on fans as they entered, and all bags were checked. This year, magnetometers (aka walk-through metal detectors) have been placed at all park entrances. Bags will still be checked and everyone entering the ballpark will have to pass through a magnetometer. For those who have medical issues that prevent them from passing through these devices, other arrangements will be made. Gates will open two hours prior to first pitch. Factory sealed water bottles are permitted, though soda and other beverages (especially alcohol) is not. Other items not permitted at Sloan Park can be found at sloanpark.com.

Like at Wrigley, netting is being extended to the outfield ends of both dugouts at Sloan Park for added fan safety.

New this year will be a designated autograph area for kids, something that the Cubs should have done when the ballpark opened. The team store is expanding its inventory of merchandise. Also, the Jim Beam Bourbon Bar in left field has been redesigned.


 

Florida massacre hits home for Rizzo

There are times when baseball and real life collide. Such was the case yesterday for Anthony Rizzo when he found out about the massacre at his old high school in Parkland, Florida. Upon hearing the news, he tweeted:

“‏Parkland and Coral Springs please stay strong! This is out of control and and our country is in desperate need for change. I hope In this darkest of times back home this brings everyone together and we can find love. You’re all in my prayers”

In the end, 17 people were killed, both students and teachers. The lone gunman, a former student, was apprehended without a struggle.

Rizzo has close ties to the community and the school. His parents still live there, and he makes his winter home there. In November, he donated $150,000 for lights for the high school’s ballfield.

This morning, Rizzo went back to Florida to be with his family and friends. He knew some of the those who were killed.

This says a lot about Rizzo as a person. And it says a lot about the Cubs, letting him take time off from spring training. It’s one thing to tweet your condolences, concerns and prayers. It’s another to put yourself into the middle of the grief. It’s said he is the most famous alum of the high school, and he’s certainly the most well-known. The field for which he donated the money for upgrades has been named for him.

Former Cub outfielder Juan Pierre, who played for the Cubs in 2006, lives in Parkland. He moved there initially in 2006, according to an article in USA Today, because he found a house with a yard large enough for him to build a batting cage. But, he stayed because he heard the schools were among the best in the area. Now, he says he is trying to wrap his head around what happened yesterday. Listening to the reports and the names of streets on the news, Pierre identified with all of it. The area had been considered safe. He rides his bike on the streets that were named and shops at the Wal-Mart in which some of the students took shelter.

Mets pitcher Anthony Swarzak grew up in Broward County. His sister went to the high school and two of his cousins graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Swarzak played against Parkland High when he was in high school.

I’ve never been anywhere near a mass shooting like yesterday and I hope I never am. I cannot imagine what these families are going through. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Northern Illinois University, when is this going to stop? School is supposed to be a place of safety. How can these kids ever feel safe at school again?

The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had an “AR-15 type” rifle, considered one of the most prolific guns in the world and easy to obtain. It’s possible that even though Cruz could not purchase a handgun legally because he’s not yet 21, he could somehow have purchased the AR-15. At this point, those details have not yet been shared. But really, who needs an AR-15? It’s a semi-automatic rifle. What kid needs a gun at all? I know guns are used for hunting, but they are not meant for hunting human beings, and hunting guns are not semi-automatic in nature.

Rizzo is an outspoken advocate for children with cancer, being a cancer survivor himself. Maybe he will also become an advocate for gun control now that this has hit so close to home for him.

 

 

Darvish joins Cubs family

Yu Darvish photo

Yu Darvish works out at Sloan on the first day of camp for pitchers and catchers. Photo by Al Yellon bleedcubbieblue.com. 

Pitchers and catchers reported to camp yesterday, while Yu Darvish was officially welcomed as the newest Cub player. During yesterday’s press conference, Darvish was officially welcomed by President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. Darvish donned his new Cubs jersey bearing the number 11.

It was easy to tell during the press conference that Darvish understands quite a bit of English, although he spoke in Japanese and used his translator during the entire presser. Epstein said that when they talked to Darvish in December, Darvish spoke in English without the aid of is translator, which Epstein said showed he was determined to try his best in everything he did. I’m guessing the translator was there, and that Darvish spoke in Japanese, so that the Japanese press in the room could understand all the questions. The translator also had to translate questions from those same Japanese reporters.

Much was made of the Cubs signing Chris Gimenez, a backup catcher who caught 12 of Darvish’s games with the Rangers. When asked if Darvish was swayed by the signing of Gimenez, he responded, “I like Contreras better.” Everyone laughed. I heard later that when Gimenez was told this, he replied that he liked Jon Lester better.

So, what do we know about Darvish? He is 31 and the one of the youngest players to come over and from Japan. He played seven years with the Nippon-Ham Fighters before joining the Texas Rangers in 2012. He played for the Rangers in 2012-2014 and again from 2016-2017. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017. In between he had Tommy John surgery, which Epstein said Darvish has come back from nicely. Darvish is also a four-time All-Star. While still in Japan, he was a two-time Pacific League Most Valuable Player and helped Team Japan win a Gold Medal in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Though last year he was 10-12, his overall record is 56-42, for those who still consider win/loss records meaningful.

During the press conference, Darvish praised Epstein and Manager Joe Maddon, along with some of the players with whom he is eager to get to know and start playing. He also said he plans to ask Kyle Schwarber what he did to hit such a big home run off him during Game 3 of last year’s NLCS.

After the press conference, Darvish worked out in the batting cage, making his point that he was ready to start with the Cubs. And he was back out today to practice with his new teammates at Sloan.

The weather for today’s first workout for pitchers and catchers was cool and a bit rainy. All pitchers have reported, except Williams Perez, who was arrested in Venezuela for on Sunday accidentally killing a baseball coach as he was handing the coach a gun. It is not clear whether Perez had a permit for the gun, but the arrest appears to show he did not. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs release him.

 

Bye, bye Jake there’s a new pitcher in town

Well, it’s about time. Yu Darvish finally chose a team! Luckily for us, it’s the Cubs. He agreed to a six-year deal that contains options. But before we talk about the contract, or at least what we know at this point, let’s talk about how long it took for Darvish to decide and what that means for Jake Arrieta.

I had a feeling the Cubs would sign someone this weekend. I was right. By signing Darvish, the Cubs have sent a strong message to Arrieta that his time as a Cub is over. I haven’t spoken to Jake, so I don’t know if he has had any real offers from any teams, or whether he hasn’t had any offers at all. If he’s waiting for an offer like the Cubs gave Darvish, he may be waiting a long time. I really don’t see any team signing Arrieta to a long-term contract.

His agent, Scott Boras, recently called out baseball owners for the lack of free agent signings. While I realize he’s doing his job protecting his clients, like Arrieta, he needs to be realistic. Arrieta wants more than he is worth! He is not the premier pitcher he was when he won the 2015 Cy Young Award. The Cubs know that. Besides, I detected an attitude last year that I didn’t think was warranted.

So, it appears the final piece of the puzzle came down to Arrieta and Darvish. Obviously, the Cubs really wanted Darvish, not Arrieta. Thank you, Jake, it was real fun, but we are moving on and trying to win another World Series. Perhaps we’ll see you when we play the Nats, if that’s where you end up – with a short-term contract, not what you really want.

Back to Darvish. Some may not like the signing as Darvish missed all of 2015 after having Tommy John surgery. His record last year was 10-12 with an ERA of 3.86 in 31 games started. Not the best record in the world, right? Consider that win/loss records mean very little these days for starting pitchers because they rarely throw complete games. Anything can happen when a starting pitcher comes off the mound. We’ve seen Lester leave a game with a win only to get the loss because the reliever let whomever was left on base score, meaning those runs are charged to Lester, and in the end, he would get the loss.

The six-year deal Darvish signed is contingent on a physical. I’m waiting on the official press release from the Cubs, but talk is that the contract is worth $126 million with opt outs. I’ll have those details as soon as they are available from the Cubs. But think about this. The Cubs quite possibly have the best rotation in the league right now with Darvish joining Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.

In the meantime, pitchers and catchers report to Mesa on Tuesday. The first workout is scheduled for Wednesday. I’ll be there and let you know what type of reception Darvish receives from the fans.

In the meantime, let me leave you with a parody my friend, Danny Rockett, did that was posted on bleedcubbieblue.com. Enjoy!

 

Yu got it! Darvish signs with Cubs

According to bleedcubbieblue.com, the Cubs just signed Yu Darvish. The deal, according to Ken Rosenthal, is six years $150 million, or in that range.

More details to follow.

 

marquee-world-series-champs-by-mark-yellon

Photo by Miriam Romain

Last day as champions – for now!

The 2017 Baseball World Series is going to a Game 7 tonight in Los Angeles. This means that today is the last day we Cubs fans (and players) can say we are the World Champions.

A year ago, tomorrow, we came back and forced a Game 7 in Cleveland. It ended up being one of the best World Series games in history. And we have celebrated all year! But soon, we will have to hand the crown to either Houston or LA. My choice, honestly, is Houston. They deserve at least one championship in the history of their team. Besides, the Dodgers just aren’t a likeable team, except for former Cub Pitcher Rich Hill.

So, how has this last year affected the Cubs? By winning the World Series, they set a very high bar for themselves. I was interviewed for an article in the Chicago Jewish News prior to the start of the regular season. I was asked if I thought the Cubs could repeat this year. My answer was I thought they could IF they stayed healthy (they did not) and if they kept their heads in the game, which it appears they really did not.

History has shown how difficult it is to repeat in consecutive years. This year’s Cubs team, while still very good, just couldn’t stay healthy enough to repeat. There were also too many other distractions, especially at the beginning of the season. Ring ceremonies, banner raising ceremonies, Rizzo Wrap, other endorsements…. I believe this all came into play the first half of the season when the Cubs were not doing all that well. I heard grumbling about how the team had reverted to its old ways, taking us on a huge high and bringing us back to earth with a thud. At least the second half was more like the Cubs of 2016.

I’ve been looking at my Facebook wall today and see many friends posting about how we are the champions for one more day. Yes, we are. And we can get there again.

The Cubs front office obviously thinks we can get there again, too, however, to do that they have made a lot of coaching changes. These obviously were thought to be necessary to get back to the World Series. Chief among the changes is the loss of Chris Bosio as pitching coach. His contract was not renewed. Dave Martinez, our former bench coach has taken the job as manager of Washington Nationals. No new bench coach has yet been named, so I’ll go out on a limb and suggest David Ross.

Last year, Ross was a key part of the team. The guys like and respect him. He would make a great bench coach and likely a great successor to Joe Maddon. Why not? It worked for a long time with Joe Girardi. He ended up managing the New York Yankees for nine years. Remember, Girardi also was a catcher.

For now, though, we need to turn our attention to tonight’s game. Will there be extra innings? Perhaps. Will there be a 17-minute rain delay? It’s highly unlikely. Will one team come from behind to win it? Perhaps. We had last year, and we will have future years as champions.

 

 

 

Cubs cleaning out coaching house

Wasn’t it around a week ago that Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said he expected all of the Cubs coaches to return for 2018, unless Bench Coach Dave Martinez was hired as a coach somewhere else? We know that Martinez has interviewed for Manager of the Washington Nationals, but no decision has been announced as of today.  And that job may just have become more interesting as Joe Girardi learned that the Yankees were not renewing his contract. So, put him on the possible radar for the Nats, as well.

Although the team still does not know whether Martinez is leaving, they are still cleaning the coaching house. First, they did not renew Pitching Coach Chris Bosio’s contract. Earlier this week Eric Hinske announced he was going to the Los Angeles Angels to be their hitting coach. Then we learned yesterday that Chili Davis was named Cubs hitting coach and Brian Butterfield was named the new third base coach. In addition to these hires, Andy Haines was promoted to major league assistant hitting coach.

Davis replaces John Mallee, who served as major league hitting coach the last three seasons. Many fans are not surprised at this turn of events, wondering after the National League Championship Series how long it would take for the Cubs to fire Mallee as Cubs bats were suddenly silent in the postseason.

This will be the seventh season as a major league hitting coach for Davis, the 57-year-old Jamaican native. Before coming to the Cubs, Davis coached at Oakland and Boston. His playing career spanned 19 years. He originally was selected in the 11th round of the 1977 Draft by the San Francisco Giants.  He was the first Jamaican to reach the big leagues, making his debut April 10, 1981.  Davis played for the Giants, Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees.  He also served as Triple-A hitting coach for the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2011 before joining Oakland’s major league staff a year later.

Butterfield, who will see his 39th year in professional baseball next season, replaces Gary Jones, the Cubs third base coach the last four seasons. This will be the 59-year-old’s 22nd season as a major league coach, and his 18th specifically as a third base coach. He began coaching with the New York Yankees as a first base coach before moving to the Arizona Diamondbacks as third base coach. He then coached with the Toronto Blue Jays first as a third base coach and then as bench coach. He most recently served as third base coach, infield coach and baserunning coach for the Boston Red Sox. His pro baseball career began as a minor league infielder. He also saw duty as a minor league manager and coach and roving instructor. The Bangor, ME, native was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in August 2014.

Forty-year-old Haines replaces Eric Hinske, who served as assistant hitting coach the last three seasons. Haines joined the Cubs as a minor league hitting coordinator prior to 2016. Previously, he had spent seven years with the Miami Marlins, most recently as manager of Triple-A New Orleans. Haines also managed and coached in both independent and collegiate ball. He was a catcher at Eastern Illinois University where he earned all-conference honors.

Just as I was about to post this, word came that the Cubs had hired Hickey to replace Bosio. Hickey and Maddon worked together with the Devil Rays. It was there that Maddon dubbed Hickey the Pied Piper, supposedly for the way he could get the pitchers to follow him.

I did a little bit of research and found out a few things about Hickey, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

Hickey, a Chicago native, was born in 1961. He grew up on the South Side. He was a pitcher and attended the University of Texas—Pan American, and was drafted in 1983 by the White Sox. He played eight seasons in the minors with the Appleton Foxes, San Antonio Missions and Columbus Mudcats. In the minors he worked as a pitching coach before taking a job with the Astros in 2004. He has World Series experience taking the Astros to the World Series in 2005 against the White Sox.

I know some of my friends in the left field bleachers are not very happy to see Bosio go, but I say give Hickey a chance.

 

 

 

Bosio out after Cubs fall to Dodgers in NLCS

2017 Cubs Thank You on video board
Photo by Miriam Romain

You know that saying, “There is no crying in baseball,” right? Keep that in mind when you think about the Dodgers’ win Thursday night over the Cubs at Wrigley. Sure, the Dodgers are National League Champs – this year. So, what. We had it last year. And keep in mind, it’s very, very difficult to repeat as champs and get to the World Series in two consecutive years.

For what it’s worth, the Cubs, over all, took their fans on another ride, though this one not as dramatic and exciting as last year. In fact, after a not-so-good showing in the first half of the season, the Cubs had one of the best records after the All-Star break.

But the magic that surrounded the team last year wasn’t there this year. Was it because there was no Dexter Fowler? No David Ross? It’s hard to tell. This team could not keep up the pace they had last year when they were only out of first place for one day the entire season. You run out of gas.

The good news for Cubs fans is this team has been built to have Octobers to remember. This was the third consecutive year the Cubs made it to the NLCS. Remember when the season ended and we went back to our regular lives in October? That has all changed. This team is built to be perennial contenders. Fans should expect to have October baseball for the foreseeable future. And some of those years should find us back in the World Series. We are no longer cellar dwellers. We are no longer the doormats of the National League.

The team wasn’t perfect. The flaws were evident. While we had no major injuries last year, this year we had plenty. With Addison Russell’s plantar fasciitis, which kept him out of the lineup for about six weeks to Ben Zobrits’ hurt wrist, which finally saw him going to the disabled list. Jake Arrieta had a hamstring problem at the end of the season and Jon Lester suffered from shoulder fatigue. The bullpen, aside from Wade Davis, suffered many meltdowns.  You can’t win if you’re giving up runs.

And, just two days after losing to the Dodgers, the Cubs fired their pitching coach, Chris Bosio, who had been credited with helping Arrieta become a “premier pitcher.” Someone had to be a scapegoat and Bosio was the target. Bosio was with the Cubs six seasons, through three managers. Fans wondered about unexplained absences from the team. They also questioned some of Bosio’s comments, which seemed awkward or inappropriate.

Jim Hickey, who was pitching coach under Joe Maddon in Tampa, is available. Could he end up with the Cubs? It’s possible. Anything is possible.

What we do know is that there will be a new pitching coach. Many times, new coaches like to bring in their own staff. Maybe this is a cue for Lester Strode to finally retire, rather than face the possibility of being pushed out. Time will tell on that front.

No explanation has been given for Bosio’s firing, especially after Maddon had told reporters that he expected the entire coaching staff back. In the meantime, Assistant Hitting Coach Eric Hinske accepted a job as pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels.

Aside from Hickey, the Tribune is reporting that the Cubs may also pursue Mike Maddux as his contract with the Washington Nationals was not renewed. Maddux, brother of pitching ace Greg Maddux, interviewed for the Cubs managerial job in 2011, but withdrew from consideration citing family obligations. That job eventually went to Dale Sveum.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that I believe Hickey will be named the new pitching coach, though I do not know when that announcement might be made. And keep this in mind, I have been wrong before. Time will tell.

Wild Game 5 win puts Cubs in NLCS again

After a long and wild National League Division Series Game 5, in which the Cubs beat the Washington Nationals 9-8, the Cubs did some celebrating then boarded their charter flight to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the flight had to be diverted to Albuquerque< New Mexico, due to a health issue. It is unknown who got sick. It was not a player but a player’s family member, according to reports. The illness was not life-threatening.

After sitting on the ground, in the plane for more than four or five hours because a new flight crew was needed, the Cubs made it to LA early in the afternoon. They did not hold a workout and players were not required to meet with the media if they wanted some sleep.

Game 1 of the National League Championship Series is at 7 p.m. Chicago time. Jose Quintana, who threw 12 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, will start. The reasoning is that the 12 pitches was more like a bullpen session, so he should be good to go.

The Cubs also set their roster for the NLCS.

Eleven pitchers are on the roster. They are:

6-Carl Edwards Jr., RHP

28-Kyle Hendricks, RHP

32-Brian Duensing, LHP

34-Jon Lester, LHP

38-Mike Montgomery, LHP

41-John Lackey, RHP

46-Pedro Strop, RHP

49-Jake Arrieta, RHP

56-Hector Rondon, RHP

62-José Quintana, LHP

71-Wade Davis, RHP

Fourteen position players have been named. They are:

2-Tommy La Stella, INF

5-Albert Almora Jr., OF

8-Ian Happ, INF

9-Javier Báez, INF

12-Kyle Schwarber, OF

13-Alex Avila, C

17-Kris Bryant, INF

18-Ben Zobrist, INF

22-Jason Heyward, OF

24-Leonys Martín, OF

27-Addison Russell, INF

30-Jon Jay, OF

40-Willson Contreras, C

44-Anthony Rizzo, INF

Tonight’s lineup for the Cubs is: Jay in right field, Bryant at third base, Rizzo at first base, Contreras catching, Almora in center field, Russell at shortstop, Schwarber in left field, Baez at second base and Quintana pitching. Lester is scheduled to start tomorrow night’s game.

This is the third consecutive year the Cubs have made it to the NLCS. In 2015 they were swept by the Mets. I watched the Mets celebrate on our turf. Last year the Cubs beat the Dodgers at Wrigley, sending them to the World Series for the first time in 108 years. This year, we meet the Dodgers again. Anything can happen.

UPDATE: We now know have more details on why the Cubs’ flight was diverted to Albuqureque yesterday. Apparently, Quintana’s wife was experiencing an irregular heartbeat. Quintana’s agent was quoted as saying it was “just an irregular heartbeat.” Reports are that she is fine. Let’s hope Quintana can stay focused on the mound tonight.

Cubs Nats video board nlds

 Cubs fall to Nats in Game 4

 

Nothing is easy for the Cubs this season. They arrived home from Washington, D.C., with a 1-1 record in the National League Division Series, hoping to wrap up the series in Chicago on Monday and Tuesday. Monday went well, with the Cubs winning Game 3 2-1, but things started unraveling after that.

Tuesday’s game time originally was dependent upon what happened in the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game Monday night. If LA won, the Cubs were to play at 7:08. If the Diamondbacks won, the Cubs were to start at 4:38. The powers that be at MLB looked at the forecast for Chicago and decided that the Cubs game would be played at 4:38 on Tuesday in hopes of getting the game in before heavy rain hit the Chicago area. Well, 4:38 came and went. The game was officially put into a delay, with rumors that the league was keeping track of the weather and hoped they could get a window in which to play. At 5:08, as the rain started, the game was officially called due to rain, with the makeup scheduled for 3:08 Wednesday.

There were rumors that both teams had requested a 1 p.m. start time to get the game in, but MLB refused to grant the request because TBS, who was carrying the game, nixed it. TBS came out with a statement that the earlier start time was never came up in discussions. Whether any of this is true is unknown, though Chip Caray, working for TBS, tweeted that TBS was asked to start the game at 1 and refused.

Had the game started at 1, the Cubs and Nats most probably could have played the entire game before the rain started. Instead, the game was rescheduled, leaving many people saying they were unable to attend the Wednesday game due to work or flights to Washington for a potential Game 5. I had to change my plans. Originally, my boyfriend and I were going to use Wednesday to drive to D.C. for the potential Game 5. We were going to stay with a friend of mine and had a car, so the only issue was trying to sell our tickets, which we were able to do.

Even though many people were unable to attend yesterday’s game, apparently, they were able to sell their tickets, because Wrigley was full.

The game was played in a heavy, intermittent mist, which became heavier as the game went on. It was cold and miserable at Wrigley for fans and players.

Nationals Manger Dusty Baker claimed Tuesday night he would go with his original Tuesday pitcher, Tanner Roark, on Wednesday. This was good news for the Cubs as using Stephen Strasburg would have given the Nats an advantage. Baker claimed Strasburg was not feeling well due to mold in the hotel’s air conditioning system. But Wednesday morning Baker proclaimed that Strasburg was indeed pitching. And even though the Cubs had beaten the Nats and Strasburg in the first game of the series in D.C., everyone knew it would be tough to get to Strasburg, and it was.

Through he mist and rain, the Nats beat the Cubs 5-0. Jake Arrieta started off fine, but was pulled after four innings. Jon Lester came in to pitch, which surprised a lot of people. He was on a roll, even picking off Ryan Zimmerman at first, but was eventually pulled for Carl Edwards, Jr. Wade Davis entered the game after Edwards threw a wild pitch then loaded the bases on two walks. Then, Davis gave up a grand slam to Michael Taylor. And the Cubs were doomed after that.

Cubs fans can be relentless. After the mold comment, many in the crowd, including me, donned face masks, mocking Baker. Someone used chalk on one of the Wrigley walls and put the message Got Mold on the wall.

But Cubs fans can also be the best fans. I overhead a Nats fan telling a friend of mine how “awesome” Cubs fans are. Apparently, when it started raining, one fan offered his jacket to the Nats fan. Then another fan offered his jacket to her. She told my friend what a great experience she’s had at Wrigley and how much she really liked Cubs fans. She also said she liked how we played “Go Cubs Go” after our win and made fun of her cap with the W on it saying, “Yes, we stole the Walgreens W. Get your meds filled here.”

After the game, both teams headed for D.C. for tonight’s deciding game of the NLDS, which begins at 7:08 Chicago time. The winner of tonight’s game will fly to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers.

Cubs roster set for NLDS

The Chicago Cubs take on the Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C., tonight at 6:30 Central time, in the first game of the National League Division Series. Kyle Hendricks will take the mound for the Cubs. Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the Nats.

The Cubs finally announced the roster for the first round of games. I had said before that naming Justin Wilson to the roster would be a mistake, but the Cubs included him. Hector Rondon was not included on the roster for this series.

The Cubs will have 11 pitchers. They are:

Carl Edwards Jr., RHP

Kyle Hendricks, RHP

Brian Duensing, LHP

Jon Lester, LHP

Justin Wilson, LHP

Mike Montgomery, LHP

John Lackey, RHP

Pedro Strop, RHP

Jake Arrieta, RHP

José Quintana, LHP

Wade Davis, RHP

There are 14 position players. They are:

Tommy La Stella, INF

Albert Almora Jr., OF

Ian Happ, INF

Javier Báez, INF

Kyle Schwarber, OF

Alex Avila, C

Kris Bryant, INF

Ben Zobrist, INF

Jason Heyward, OF

Leonys Martín, OF

Addison Russell, INF

Jon Jay, OF

Willson Contreras, C

Anthony Rizzo, INF

While not having Rondon on the roster for this series may not surprise some people, it does surprise me. I really don’t trust Wilson, and for good reason. I wish I knew what Joe Maddon was thinking. I am not surprised Lackey is in the bullpen. Maddon went with his four most reliable starters, though if there is a Game 4 and Arietta is not yet ready, Lackey could take his place.

One of the big stories, or one that the media will make big, is Bryant playing against his childhood friend from Las Vegas, Bryce Harper. It has become more of a story, in some ways, since the tragic shooting in Las Vegas a few days ago.

If you’d like to watch the game with a few hundred of your closest friends at the Park at Wrigley, there still are a limited number of tickets left. Click here to find out how to get your tickets. Tonight’s game is at 6:30 Central time. Tomorrow’s game is at 4:30 Central time. No other game times have yet been revealed.

The Cubs lineup for tonight in DC is: Zobrist in right field, Bryant at third base, Rizzo at first base, Contreras catching, Schwarber in left field, Russell at shortstop, Heyward in center field, Baez at second base and Hendricks pitching.

UPDATE:

Game time for Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, between the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs at Wrigley is called for 3:08 p.m. Central time, though that could change if the AL winners have been decided. Tuesday’s game, if needed, at Wrigley is scheduled to start at 4:38 p.m. Central time.

 

End of regular season not a somber event

In past years, the last regular season home game at Wrigley Field was more of a somber affair, even if the Cubs won. My friends and I would linger in the bleachers taking in the experience of being at Wrigley one last time – until the next season.

But that changed three years ago when the Cubs made it to the postseason. After the last regular season home game, we knew we had at least one more game at Wrigley. Unfortunately, we were swept by the New York Mets and had to watch them celebrate on our turf.

But 2016 was a different year. The Cubs were the best team in baseball all year long. When taking in the atmosphere of Wrigley after the final regular season game, I knew we’d have more baseball in October – lots more. And I was right. You could feel the magic in the ballpark. And facing elimination in the World Series, we won the last home game of the postseason and the next two in Cleveland to become World Series Champions.

But, even though we know there is at least one more game to be played at Wrigley this postseason, we said our goodbyes to each other and the regular season. Hugs, photos and a pregame party to celebrate the season were all on tap in the left field bleachers. And even though we lost the game, it was not a somber affair.

I watched the L flag being raised and wondered how far we could go this postseason. Our guys are peaking at the right time, for the most part. And we are all speculating who will be on the postseason roster, at least in the first round. Some say Kyle Schwarber will not make the first-round roster because we need more defense in the outfield. Others say he will be on the roster because we need his power at the plate. There are rumors that Jake Arrieta will not make the first round because his hamstring is still bothering him and affecting his pitching. He did not pitch in the last regular season game, which would be a clue. And there is debate as to who will pitch the first two games in Washington, D.C., against the Nationals. Most of my friends are predicting Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks, though which one will pitch the first game is being debated.

Interestingly, yesterday’s Sun-Times had an article by Steve Greenberg stating that Arrieta will be one of the starters, Jon Lester will pitch the first game in Washington and John Lackey will take a place in the bullpen. The article also says that we should expect to see Justin Wilson in the bullpen. To me, that would be a big mistake. He is not reliable and he scares me. If you want to win, keep him off the postseason roster altogether. The same goes for Justin Grimm. I do agree that Wade Davis and Carl Edwards, Jr. belong in the bullpen along with Pedro Strope and perhaps Hector Rondon. We’re all just waiting for Joe Maddon to set his roster for the first round.

The Cubs play game one of the National League Division Championship Friday night at 6:31 Central time. Game two will be aired at 4:30 Central time Saturday.

UPDATE:

The starting rotation for the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals has been released. Kyle Hendricks will start the first game Friday in Washington. Jon Lester will take the mound in game two. Game three will feature Jose Quintana pitching and if needed, Jake Arrieta will take the mound in the fourth game. Game three, and if needed game four, will be played at Wrigley Field.

It is interesting to note that John Lackey is not in the rotation for this round. Also, we have Hendricks starting in Game One and Quintana starting Game Three. I was wrong about Quintana and Arrieta, but yesterday’s predictions by Greenberg were more off base than mine. Now we need to find out the position players who have made the roster.

 

Cubs host pop-up W’ville postseason event

Cubs popup wville

Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs are hosting a pop-up W’ville event at the Park at Wrigley this afternoon from 3-7 p.m. Attractions include a \number of free games, family-friendly entertainment, W-themed giveaways and opportunities to win 2017 Cubs postseason tickets. Afterward, fans are invited to view the American League Wild Card game inside the Budweiser Brickhouse Tavern or the Lucky Dorr Patio & Tap.

Complimentary giveaways celebrating the Cubs in the postseason for the third consecutive season, will be available. A giveaway tent will include free #FlyTheW cardboard posters, stickers, temporary tattoos, rally towels from American Airlines and W stencils provided by Benjamin Moore. CBS Radio Chicago will host several giveaway opportunities and games as well.

Want a chance to score free 2017 postseason tickets? All you have to do is participate in the fun and fast-paced Whiffle Ball challenge. Participants will get one swing of the bat, aiming at a large W Flag target in the lawn area. Anyone who hits the ball directly into the cut-out “W” will receive a pair of free tickets to a 2017 postseason game at Wrigley Field. Fans who hit the target with a fly ball but don’t make it into the “W” will receive a complimentary W Flag or can choose from a selection of other available prizes.

A number of family-friendly games and activities will be available for fans of all ages. Test your arm at an inflatable speed pitch station or take some warm-up swings at an inflatable whiffle ball station. A balloon artist, face painter and temporary tattoo artist will be on hand to entertain children. A caricature artist will provide W-themed drawings of fans. Other activities include oversized games, bags with custom #FlyTheW boards, an RBI Baseball gaming station and miniature Cubs robots that fans can control. These are courtesy of the Museum of Science and Industry’s Robot Revolution Exhibit.

A pop-up “W Shop” next to the Cubs Store will have many W-themed items, flags and apparel for sale. Food and non-alcoholic beverages from the food trucks and concession stands will be on-site for purchase.

Immediately following the conclusion of ‘W’ville, the Budweiser Brickhouse Tavern and Lucky Dorr Patio & Tap will host fans for the American League Wild Card game. Each venue will host special programming and giveaways for participants.

While there was some rain earlier today in parts of the city, I have been assured by the Cubs that there are tents for the event and the latest weather forecast shows the Park at Wrigley in the clear as far as rain is concerned. The event will go on rain or shine.

 

Where were you when Wrigley got lights?

August 8, 1988, found me sitting alone in my Atlanta apartment watching TV as the lights were turned on for the first time at Wrigley Field. As I wiped away a tear, my phone rang. I answered with a sniff and a familiar voice said, “I had a feeling you’d be upset.” Interestingly, it was my mother, not my father, calling at that moment. I think my dad was too upset to talk.

Sure, I was upset. Wrigley Field represented all that was pure in baseball – meaning all day games on natural grass. It was one of the great things that made Wrigley stand apart from all the other ballparks. Suddenly, that was gone.

Something must have ticked off the Baseball Gods because that first game on 8-8-88 was rained out. Instead, Greg Maddux used the tarp as a Slip ‘N Slide, along with some of his teammates. I thought to myself that it served the Cubs right to be rained out on that night.

The next spring, I was back in Chicago visiting family and friends and had a chance to go to a night game at Wrigley. I wanted to go. I wanted to see it for myself. And, you know what? I was pleasantly surprised. If it’s possible, the park was more charming than I had ever seen it. The lights were not obnoxious. They complimented the ballpark, which becomes an island in an urban neighborhood when it’s dark outside and the lights of Wrigley are shining. I fell in love with Wrigley all over again.

Twenty-nine years later, I welcome night baseball, but only during the week. I still think weekends should feature daytime baseball. That’s a part of me that must be a baseball purist. But, as I get older and health issues dictate much of what I do, I find it easier to get to Wrigley for night games than for day games. However, I do not like weekend night games. Those attract a different crowd – rowdier and, in many cases, liquored up.

On the flip side, due to an agreement with the city, no night games can be played on Fridays at Wrigley, which pleases the purist in me. When I’m sitting in the bleachers on a Friday afternoon and look at the scoreboard, I find satisfaction that the Cubs are the only team playing that afternoon. It’s baseball as it was meant to be played.

If you’re under the age of 30, you don’t know what Wrigley was like without lights, except from pictures. Those of us older than 40 who grew up with daytime baseball will never forget.

All I can say is that Wrigley is beautiful during the day and at night. Honestly, I cannot imagine what last year’s playoffs and World Series would have been like had there not been lights in Wrigley Field.

 

Jon Lester hits first career home run

Prior to last night’s game, fans were talking about the acquisitions from the Tigers of left-handed pitcher Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila from the Tigers for infielders Jeimer Candelario, Isaac Paredes and a player to be named later or cash. It seems everyone is happy with the trade. The Cubs needed a backup catcher, which they now have in Avila. They also gained another arm in the bullpen, and a possible new closer should Wade Davis not return to the team next year.

However, this all seemed to be put aside during the game when Jon Lester, last night’s starter for the Cubs, hit his first career home run. The ball was caught by a teenager from Iowa, attending his first game. After the cubs 16-4 win, the teen was escorted to the clubhouse where he presented the ball to Lester. In return, Lester posed for pictures and gave the teen a different ball he had signed.

But, that was not Lester’s only achievement last night. He also struck out his 2,000th batter.

But, as baseball fate sometimes has it, although Lester hit the home run, marked a strikeout milestone and left the game with an 8-2 lead in the fifth inning over the Arizona Diamondbacks after throwing 104 pitches, he did not get a quality start or the win. That said, Cubs fans still showed him the love with a standing ovation after his homer and as he left the game.

Lester and John Lackey are good friends. They played together in Boston. Also, Lester got his first hit off Lackey when Lackey was with the St. Louis Cardinals. The two have had some sort of wager going since Lackey joined the team concerning who would get the first home run in regular season. It should be noted that Lester did hit a home run in spring training this year, but that didn’t count toward the “friendly wager” he has with Lackey.  Your guess is as good as mine as to what that wager could be. Hopefully, we’ll find out soon.

RIP John Arguello

People think that all Cubs bloggers are competing against each other all the time. In one sense that is true, but in another sense, it is false. Case in point, spring training. A year ago, John Arguello of Cubs Den, Brett Taylor of BleacherNation, Al Yellon from Bleed Cubbie Blue and I were on the backfields at Sloan Park in Mesa when Dexter Fowler surprised all of us by returning to the Cubs for one more season. Someone had a hotspot and John, Brett and Al went to a set of bleachers to write about Fowler’s return. I was not blogging at the time but doing more straight news, so I went on a quest for quotes from fans.

The past couple of years the four of us, and one or two other bloggers have had the opportunity to sit down with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts for a group interview. We have had different focuses, but have learned from each other’s questions. After those interviews, some of us went for a drink, or met later for a show by another friend.

John was always friendly and asked interesting questions. You could tell he was spending his time on the backfields at Sloan by his focus. It was easy for him, he lived not far from Sloan Park. He seemed always ready to discuss the team and individual players with anyone. He seemed full of life and happy to be doing what he was doing.

Therefore, it came a shock to me on Saturday when I heard he had passed away from a rare, aggressive form of cancer. A cancer he thought he had beaten. It was through a routine six-month scan that cancer cells were found in his brain. He wrote about it on Cubs Den, and vowed to fight it.

Unfortunately, I know from watching a close friend struggle with an aggressive cancer that finally went to her brain, it’s usually a losing battle. This was the case for my friend, Kim, and for John.

John leaves behind a widow, Stacey, and many friends, not to mention his readership. It may seem trite to say this, but the world, at least the Cubs blogging world, was made better by his presence both online and in person. He was fair in his writing and his dealings with people, traits that were just who he was. He didn’t have to try. He just was a nice, fair and interesting guy. And he was a great Cubs fan.

RIP, John. It was an honor to know you. I am happy that you could see the Cubs win it all, and be able to write about it. Wherever your spirit takes you, I hope you find my friend, Ernie Banks, and my dad, Bob. They will both be more than happy to sit and talk to you about the Cubs and baseball.

I was told that another one of the bloggers who lives in Arizona set up a memorial for John at the Sloan backfields. It’s a fitting tribute to a wonderful person and writer. Cubs Den will never be the same, nor will the Cubs blogosphere.

 

Crosstown Classic moves to south side

The Cubs and White Sox are playing their annual Crosstown games. The first two were at Wrigley Field where the Sox won the first game and the Cubs won the second. Tonight, the games move to the south side to be played in newly named Guaranteed Rate Field, formerly U.S. Cellular (the Cell). Here are a few things you need to know if you’re headed to the south side tonight or tomorrow night.

First, games begin at 7:10. Gates open two hours before game time. Parking is available and tailgating is allowed. Like Wrigley, street parking is almost non-existent. Without a pass, the closest you will be able to park on the street (without paying) is a few blocks away. But, beware of meters that have been installed on some main streets.

Guaranteed Rate Field, also called The Great by some Sox fans and The G Spot by others, allows fans to bring in one bottle of factory-sealed water up to 1 liter per person. Assuming the only thing that has changed is the name, I have brought in up to three bottles of water without any problems, but the one time I tried to bring in a sealed bottled of seltzer water I was told it was not allowed. Also, not allowed are sodas or sports drinks. Regular bottled water is the only thing allowed.

Just like at Wrigley where you cannot get into the bleachers without a bleacher ticket, you will not be able to access the main seating level without a ticket for that level. Tickets are checked before entering the main level. Therefore, if you have a ticket in the 500 level and friends in the 100 level, you will not be able to find the friends in the 100 level.  I find this a bit odd since all seats are assigned, but that’s the way they work it there.

Unlike Wrigleyville, there the ballpark on the south side is surrounded by parking lots not bars and restaurants, so you’ll have to walk a few blocks to find a neighborhood bar for per- or post-game drinks.

If you’re not making the trek to the south side and want to watch the game without being blacked out, you may want to try watching a new way. Cubs fans living in the Channel 7 viewing area who would normally be blacked out of watching this game can find it streaming via Facebook Live on both the Cubs and ABC 7 websites. This was also available on Monday. Viewers reported a bit of a lag in the streaming, which was to be expected, but all in all, they could watch the game on their computers, tablets and even phones. According to the Cubs, there will be two more opportunities to view games via Facebook Live, though those games have not yet been determined.  Cubs fans outside the Chicago viewing area will be able to watch tonight’s game on ESPN.

 

Cubs sweep Orioles and Braves

The Cubs are headed back to Wrigley Field tomorrow after sweeping both the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves. Some might say that beating these two teams should have been easy, but, especially in Baltimore, the wins were anything but easy.

Many Cubs fans made the trip to Baltimore to see Camden Yards, the first of the “retro” parks. The 25-year-old ballpark has many Wrigley field elements including the brick wall behind home plate and actual Wrigley Field ivy growing on one of the outfield walls.  Perhaps this made the team feel for eat home.

The Friday night game started with a rain delay, but when play began, the Cubs jumped out to an early lead. They blew the lead but ended up winning the game.

Sunday say the Cubs debut of newly acquired pitcher Jose Quintana. Quintana showed everyone why it was to the Cubs’ advantage to trade away their two top prospects for one pitcher. He struck out a season-high 12 batters, giving up only three hits in 7 innings. Quintana’s career high strikeout record is 13.

From Baltimore, the Cubs flew to Atlanta to face the Braves in their new home, SunTrust Park, for two-night games and one-day game. As one Braves fan told me, the Baseball Gods must not be happy that the Braves moved from Turner Field. There have been too many rain delays. In fact, the Braves have now had 11 rain delays in their new home, the most in baseball. And, because of the topography where the park Is located, they will see more rain delays as the summer continues. Atlanta gets late afternoon and early evening thunderstorms almost every day. And Cobb County, where SunTrust was built, sees more of these thunderstorms than the Braves saw at the old Fulton County Stadium or Turner Field. As it was, the Tuesday game was delayed more than two hours, so the already sort of late start time of 7:35, was pushed back. The game did not end until close to 1 a.m. Atlanta time. This gave both teams time to go back to the hotel or home and take a nap before being back at SunTrust for a noon start (Atlanta time) on getaway day.

The Cubs flew back home to get ready for a three-game series with rivals the St. Louis Cardinals tomorrow. They will then host the White Sox for two games and then play the Sox in their park, newly renamed Guaranteed Rate Field (or the G Spot, depending on whom you talk to).  Quintana will pitch against the Cards, making him unavailable to play against his former team, but making him available to pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers when the Cubs head to Milwaukee the end of next week.

As usual, Cubs fans traveled to both Baltimore and Atlanta. Cubs fans easily made up half the crowd at the three games in Baltimore. This was a chance to see a new ballpark for many of the fans, including me. It’s a beautiful park.

Cubs fans made up about half the fans in Atlanta, as well, but that’s nothing new. Many of those Cubs fans are Chicago transplants. I know. I was one of those transplants for 20 years. I was at the games in Baltimore, but not in Atlanta, so I cannot comment on the Braves’ new ballpark. I have heard from friends who made the trip that it’s a very nice park. One friend complained he had to walk 3/4th of a mile from his car to the ballpark because there was no shuttle. Shuttles are supposed to be available. This is something the Braves will have to work on.

A note about Quintana. Watching him pitch is like watching a ballet. He is so fluid and graceful. His form is perfect. It’s easy to see why the Cubs wanted him. And here’s hoping that the addition of Quintana will make the other pitchers strive to do better. So far it seems to be working.

 

 

Cubs acquire Quintana from White Sox

The trade hiatus  between the Cubs and White Sox has ended. Today the Cubs acqured Pitcher Jose  Quintana from the White Sox for top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, along with Matt Rose and Bryant Flete. There are some who will not like this trade only because it is between the Cubs and White Sox. The reality, my friends, is that the Cubs needed to do something  to boost the pitching staff and Quintana could be the answer to many problems with our starters. In order to get a good pitcher they had to give up a couple of good players. That’s the beauty of a deep farm system. The Cubs \\\obviously wanted to make a statement not only to the fans but to the players. The Sox are rebuilding this year, so they were a likely choice. Also, Quintana is under club control through 2020. He is not a rental like Aroldis Chapman last year. If the Cubs happen to lose Jake Arrieta after this year or John Lakey or both, they still will have three starters.

The 28-year-old Quintana has had a bit of a rocky start this season owning a 4.49 ERA in 18 starts with the Sox. Attribute that to two bad outings toward the beginning of the season. Without those two starts, he has abeen a decent pitcher. Perhaps the change of scenery and guidance from Pitching Coach Chris Bosio will help make him the pitcher the Cubs believe he is.

Quintana, who hails from Arjona, Colombia, signed with the White Sox in 2011 after being released from both the New York Mets and New York Yankees. Oddly, with today’s trade, Quintana can now say he has played with the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs. How many players can make that claim?

Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was quoted as saying that the trade for Quintana would not have happened if Jimenez and Cease were not part of the deal. Apparently, he and Sox Senior Vice President/General Manager Rick Hahn agreed they wanted to make a swift deal.

Some fans believe there are more trades to come. According to mlb.com writer Carrie Muskat, Epstein has said that the decision for more trades will come after he sees how the current players are doing the second half.  The decision on when Quintana will start should be made tomorrow. It should be noted that Quintana has made a couple of starts against the Baltimore Orioles this year. He should be able to tell his new teammates what to expect. On the other hand, the Orioles players have already had a look at him.

 

 

Cubs need to do some soul searching

This past week I’ve seen the worst baseball I’ve ever seen. Thursday’s game, a rainout makeup game with the Milwaukee Brewers was a disaster from the beginning. The first inning took about an hour to play, and it seemed like it lasted longer. Things were so bad that instead of using the bullpen in the ninth inning, Manager Joe Maddon brought in Jon Jay to pitch. At least it was entertaining for those of us who stayed to the bitter end. The Cubs lost the game 11-2.

I thought that was bad, but, no! Just when I thought the Cubs had shown me the worst baseball I’d ever seen, they outdid themselves yesterday. Jon Lester set a franchise record giving up 10 runs in the first inning without finishing the inning. It was the shortest start of his career. After the game, he called it “embarrassing.” Ya think?  The final yesterday was 14-3 Pittsburgh Pirates.

So, what’s going on? Miguel Montero may have given us a clue about unrest in the clubhouse when he was banished from the team for throwing Jake Arietta under the bus to the media a week ago. Is there more going on in the clubhouse that we’re not aware of? It’s a real possibility. You can tell by looking at these guys that their heads just are not in the game. It shows in the errors on the field. It’s almost like there is really no leader among them. Everyone says Anthony Rizzo is the leader of the club, but is the leading? We have no way of knowing exactly what’s happening in the clubhouse, but my gut tells me that if Rizzo is trying to lead, his words are falling on deaf ears. Whatever is going on, it’s obvious there is trouble in paradise.

Yes, there were outside factors. The banner raising and ring ceremony were distractions. Endorsements by Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and others were distractions. Major League Baseball’s investigation of Addison Russell for domestic violence was a distraction. Injuries to Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward hurt the team. Slumps by Rizzo and Bryant and the team over all hurt. But, there must be more going on than meets the eye. And what’s going on with our pitching? Lester is inconsistent. Arrieta, also, though he may have other things on his mind. A clue there is when he did not join the team for the first White House visit. Published reports hinted at family matters. Even though you shouldn’t bring your private matters to work, it’s sometimes hard to get past them.

It’s a good thing the All-Star break came when it did. The only Cubs player named to the team was reliever Wade Davis. Kris Bryant was on the second chance ballot, but was not voted in. It’s a good thing. These guys all need some time off to rest and to take stock of what is happening to the World Series Campion Chicago Cubs. They sure aren’t playing like a championship team. These guys need to take these days off to do some real soul searching and figure out how to get back on track. Fans are getting disgusted and restless. A very high bar was set by winning the World Series. This team is talented enough to at least get back into the post-season, but they must focus on the game, not on outside influences. The fans will not stand for less.

 

Montero traded to Toronto Blue Jays

Last week he was designated for assignment after throwing Jake Arrieta under the bus. Today we learned that Miguel Montero was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for a cash consideration or a player to be named later.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to leave comments on my Facebook post, text and email me with comments about Montero. For the most part, everyone who contacted me agrees that the Montero should have kept his mouth shut in front of the media. Even Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins came out with a statement that Montero should not have said anything to the media.

Cubs fans remember Montero’s words after the World Series where he said there was a lack of communication from Manager Joe Maddon and he questioned his playing time during the post season.

One friend’s husband who attended the Fantasy Camp put on by Randy Hundley said Montero was there acting like a mentor, yet making himself seem like a bigger deal and better than he really was and was rude to the old timers like Jenkins.

My friend, Asheley, told me she will miss Miggy. “If you can’t act like a team player, then you shouldn’t be a player for the team,” she stated. “At the end of the day, the name on the front of that jersey is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back. Playing professional sports in the major leagues is a privilege, not a right. You don’t blast your pitcher in negative comments to the media after a bad game.”

My friend, Jason, said, “He’s right about not getting a lot of help from the pitching staff. Some of them are slow to the plate, but he doesn’t need to go to the media and act like an imbecile.”

Miggy did kind of apologize, but it was too late. The damage was done. The Cubs did the right thing. By trading him today, at least the Cubs will get something for Miggy rather than nothing.

In other news:

Relief Pitcher Wade Davis was the only Cubs player named to this year’s All-Star team. Kris Bryant is up against four other players for the National League final vote. Voting ends at 3 p.m. central time Thursday. You can cast your vote for Bryant by clicking here.

 

Montero DFA’d After Last Night’s Comments

The Cubs sure didn’t waste any time designating Miguel Montero for assignment after he blasted last night’s pitcher, Jake Arrieta, for allowing seven stolen bases.

Montero told the media that he is getting blamed for the seven stolen bases when, in fact, he says it’s Arrieta’s fault for not holding runners on and for his slow delivery. He told the media that he isn’t getting any time to try and throw runners out and it’s basically not his fault that he can’t get them.

He went further than just dissing Arrieta and dissed the entire Cubs pitching staff. And let’s not forget his complaints of lack of communication from Manager Joe Maddon or his complaining about not playing enough, in his opinion, in the playoffs last fall.

Anthony Rizzo, responding to Montero’s words this morning said that Montero should have known better than to go to the media. He said Montero should have kept his comments within the confines of the Cubs clubhouse. About Montero’s inability to get runners trying to steal bases out, Rizzo quickly pointed out that the Cubs have another catcher who can throw runners out.

The news came as a shock to fans, including Al Yellon of bleedcubbieblue.com.

“This is shocking, but in a way not surprising, given his comments about the pitching staff, piled on top of what he said complaining about playing time after the World Series.”

Montero not only complained after the World Series about playing time, or lack of, but he spoke out against Maddon for lack of communication.

Yellon said it made him sad, nonetheless. “I will never forget his grand slam in Game 1 of the NLCS — never heard Wrigley that loud — and the hit that got the insurance run the Cubs needed in Game 7.”

“I think he would have learned his lesson after the World Series,” said Cubs season ticket holder Judy Caldow. “I guess he did not.”

Some fans will be happy to see Montero gone. One fan has been saying for some time that Montero needed to go, citing his lack of ability to throw runners out. In fact, Montero was 0 for 31 in throwing out attempted base stealing.

Montero may have been frustrated with last night’s game, but calling out your pitcher and not taking responsibility for some of those steals does not bode well for a catcher who this season is 0-31 when trying to prevent the opposition from stealing bases. Arrieta’s delivery may have been slow, which it appears everyone agrees upon, but that does not get Miggy off the hook for failing to thwart at least one or two of those steals.

This afternoon, Miggy is taking responsibility for what he said. He has spoken to Arrieta and to President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and wishes the Cubs well. He has been quoted as saying he hopes the Cubs regain the “edge” that has been missing this season.

To fill the catching vacancy, the Cubs have called up Victor Caratini from Triple-A Iowa.

For many fans, Montero will be remembered for what he did in Game 7 of the World Series and for his trademark #WeAreGood.

This is a developing story.

 

The Javy Baez Show

We’ll call last night’s Chicago Cubs win 5-4 over the Washington Nationals the Javy Baez Show. Why? Didn’t you see the two spectacular catches he made? If not, you can see them here.

See what I mean? How did he do either of those? According to Carrie Muskat, Baez wasn’t quite sure. He told her he just did his best and kept going on that pop-up he caught behind his back.

We have seen Baez made some spectacular defensive plays, swiping a runner at second for an out. He usually doesn’t even look at the batter. His instincts are that good.

Offensively, Baez can be a menacing power at the plate. I have seen him send rockets out of the ballpark during spring training. But he doesn’t need to try and get towering home runs every time at the plate. However, when he does send balls out of the yard it is exciting.

Even with Baez’s two great defensive plays last night, the Cubs almost fell victim to a faltering bullpen. They led 5-0 going into the bottom of the inning. The Nats scored four times before the Cubs were able to hold onto the lead and get the win. It was a nail biter, and one that Cubs fans have seen before this season.

Part of the problem is that the bullpen is over-worked. Very few of our starters have been able to pitch seven innings. This is beginning to change as we have seen Jon Lester step up recently. Jake Arrieta, tonight’s starter, has his moments, but has not shown anyone the dominance he had last year. Kyle Hendricks has been on the Disabled List. It is unlikely he will return before the All-Star break, but when he does return, let’s hope the Professor can give the bullpen a bit of a break.

Tonight, Arrieta will start for the Cubs against Max Scherzer. According to Carrie Muskat, it’s the first time Cy Young Award winners have faced off since 2008 (Webb and Peavy). When this happens, Arrieta will be the 46th active player to reach this goal.

Other fun facts from Muskat: Arrieta is four strikeouts away from 1,000 strikeouts. If he’s on tonight, he will probably reach that milestone. Also, since the start of 2015, there have been nine no-hitters pitched in all of baseball. Arrieta and Scherzer have four of them.

Tonight’s Cubs starting lineup: Rizzo 1B, La Stella 2B, Happ CF, Bryant RF, Montero C, Jay LF, Baez SS, Arrieta P and Candelario 3B.

 

 

Promos may be more enticing than games

Rizzo wrap image
Have you gottne your box of Rizzo Wrap yet?

Are you frustrated with the way the Cubs are playing right now? Most of us are. If you have tickets to the three games being played at Wrigley Field next week, the Cubs are offering more than just a game.

This season, the Cubs are showcasing increased food offerings through their Chef Series.  This homestand’s guest chef will be Mattias Merges, owner of Yusho and Billy Sunday.  Merges will be offering Yusho Fried Chicken,  consisting of boneless chicken thighs served with Picnic Potato Salad and spicy gochulang sauce, BBQ Shrimp Skewer made up of spiced grilled shrimp with Japanese-style fried rice, The Yusho Hot Dog: a Korean frankwurst with kimchi, carrot kraut, grilled shishito peppers and Chinese mustard, Spicy Asian Pork Rinds consisting of crispy pork rinds with Yusho hot sauce and loaded Fries, which are fries topped with Chinese sausage gravy, scallions and pickled hot peppers. These will be offered at the Sheffield Counter, formerly the Sheffield Grill.

Unfortunately, I probably won’t be trying any of these offerings since I’m deathly allergic to cilantro and some of the offerings have cilantro in them. As I’ve said before, the word is no special orders can be made, so I’m not going to risk things.

Hot Doug’s, located behind the center field scoreboard in the Budweiser Bleachers, will be offering the Dave Rosello, an Argentinian pork and bacon sausage with chimichurri and smoked Gouda cheese, the Pete LaCock, a ribeye steak sausage with horseradish cream and blue cheese and the Ray Burris, a spicy Polish sausage with spicy brown mustard, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese.

Each day of this homestand, the Cubs will offer a promotion. Up to the first 20,000 fans at Monday’s game will receive a Cubs Reusable Tote Bag, always handy since shoppers must now bring their own bags when shopping. Tuesday’s promotion for up to the first 10,000 fans is a Championship Parade Confetti Globe. And Wednesday’s promotion for up to the first 10,000 fans will be a Replica Rizzo Platinum and Gold Glove Trophy.

At this point, the Cubs could do themselves and the fans a favor and offer at least 30,000 promotions, no matter what they are. The excuse used to be that there wasn’t enough space to store things, but that is longer true. The Cubs have moved into their new offices and there is plenty of storage space when they used to be. Besides, they don’t pay for the promos, the sponsors do. Offering more promos will reduce the problems caused by extremely long lines blocking streets around Wrigley, and alleviate bad tempers for those who arrived very early and still did not receive the promo.  Hopefully, this will be addressed either later this year or at the very least next year.

By the way, have you gotten your box of Rizzo Wrap? It is available at Jewel. I have mine. For this homestand only, the Reynolds Wrap tarp cover will be replaced with a Rizzo Wrap cover. If you don’t know the story, on April 1, Anthony Rizzo held a press conference announcing Rizzo Wrap. While at first, I thought it was an April Fool’s joke, it turned out to be a real thing. Apparently, Reynold’s Wrap told Rizzo if the Cubs won the World Series, they would manufacture Rizzo Wrap. Why Rizzo wrap as a tarp cover? Why Rizzo Wrap at all? Remember the great catch Rizzo made on top of the tarp a couple of years ago? It’s appropriate.

Tonight, the Cubs open a weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh. Let’s hope that they don’t blow a lead like they did the other night.

 

 

What’s wrong with the Cubs?

As former Cubs (and Red Sox) pitcher Ryan Dempster said to me after a key home run in Los Angeles during the playoffs, “That’s what I’m talking about.”

Last night the Cubs really broke out of their slump, with five home runs courtesy of Anthony Rizzo, Ian Happ (with his first grand slam), Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez, as the Cubs beat the New York Mets 14-3 in New York. To top it off, Jon Lester earned his 150th win.

But, let’s backtrack for a minute. What’s wrong with the Cubs? I am getting asked this question daily. I wish I knew. Sure, the Addison Russell news couldn’t have helped the team, and it seems it was affecting Russell’s performance. But, we don’t know exactly when the news was broken to the team. It’s likely that the team found out just before the rest of us, so we can’t blame that on the poor performance.

I’ve seen a pattern with our pitchers. It seems they are giving up runs in the first inning, then settling down. Maybe someone should tell them that it’s the second inning instead of the first and see what happens. It must be psychological. And because our starters are unable to go at least seven innings, the bullpen is taxed. Add to the problem the fact that Kyle Hendricks is on the 10-day disabled list. He threw a side session yesterday that did not go well, and he will miss his next start this weekend.

Joe Maddon has been playing around with the lineup. He has taken Schwarber out of the leadoff spot, at one time putting him ninth in the lineup. Ben Zobrist, Ian Happ and Jon Jay have taken the leadoff position, and last night Anthony Rizzo took that spot. He did so well, he is in the leadoff position again tonight.

There is more going on than any fan will ever know. At first I thought maybe there were too many distractions – banner raisings, ring ceremonies, sponsor appearances. But, that seems to have stopped.

And let’s get back to Russell. I have refrained from saying anything about the allegations against him because there just isn’t enough known. To my knowledge, there is no police report. The allegations played out on social media, not a good thing these days. There may be some truth to some or all of the allegations, and there may not be. MLB is investigating. In the meantime, Russell, after sitting out one game, has been back on the bench and in the lineup. I will reserve judgement until the facts are presented – if they are.

For now, I hope the Cubs did not use up all their runs last night.

 

A Warning About Food Choices at Wrigley

The Cubs ended their road trip with a loss in Boston last night, and return how today to begin a home stand against the Philadelphia Phillies. Vince Velasquez for the Phillies and Brett Anderson for the Cubs are the probable starters.

One thing the Cubs have made a lot of fuss over this season are the new food choices at Wrigley Field. Well, there are new choices, but they aren’t anything to write home about if you can’t eat any, or many of them. Although there are new choices, we have been told that there are no special orders. You cannot have something left off a sandwich. That means people with food allergies or other dietary restrictions are out of luck trying some of the new foods.

Here’s an example. I would love to try the new chicken tacos, but I cannot ask for it to be prepared without cilantro. I’m deathly allergic to cilantro. I can’t just scrape it off the tacos. So, I can’t eat those. For the W Burger, I found a couple of years ago I am allergic to something in the sauce. Last year I could order the burger without the sauce. This year, I’m told it must take it with the sauce. Again, I am allergic to something in the sauce so cannot just scrape it off.

I used to like the Italian Beef sandwich. This year, not so much. It is too soggy – I prefer my bread dry – and greasy. The grease in the last sandwich I had ruined a pair of new sweats I was wearing; The grease stains will not come out. I’m not a happy camper about that.

Other food choices have bacon or ham in them. I do not eat any kind of pork. Okay, I grew up in a Kosher home. I do not eat it for dietary reasons. That’s aside from the fact that I really don’t like how pork or bacon taste. I cannot scrape those things off sandwiches. The flavor stays on the rest of the sandwich. It makes me literally sick.

The person who made the decision not to accommodate those of us with allergies or other dietary issues does not understand that people with food allergies or restrictions cannot just scrape things off sandwiches. I predict a huge drop in food sales, especially of their specialty items, if this edict is not reversed. I used to buy my dinner at Wrigley for almost every night game. I can’t do that anymore. I’ll be bringing my own food or bringing in Subway, where I can have what I want on my sandwiches.

The New Cubs Store on the Plaza is Open

Friday, I had the opportunity to see the new Cubs store in the new Park at Wrigley, adjacent to the ballpark on the triangle property. The two-story store is stocked with Cubs clothes, hats, mugs and more. It even has items that can be found exclusively at the Wrigley Field store.

The first floor has the more general merchandise, including t-shirts, hats and W flags. The second floor has more expensive clothing items. It also has a photo booth where you can insert yourself into a photo of the field, you are looking out the scoreboard, you in the crowd on clinching night, you and the marquee… And it’s FREE. You do have to provide your email address since photos are almost instantly sent to you via email, but you also must accept some mass emails that you can probably opt out of once you receive the first one.

I tried this feature out with me standing inside the scoreboard. I had to take a second photo because my eyes were closed in the first one. You must be quick and you must be sure not to close your eyes or blink. It’s not always that easy.

Various collections are housed in display units on walls and shelves, sometimes giving it an almost museum-like feel. Or maybe it’s more like a gift shop at a museum.

Regular store hours are Monday – Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Game days, the store closes one hour after the game ends.

The store is accessible from Clark street and from the new plaza. Game days, someone will be at the door to the plaza making sure only those fans with tickets enter the plaza from the store. Those without tickets may not enter the plaza during games.

However, the store opened at 5:00 this morning to accommodate fans wandering around Wrigleyville at that hour. If you’re in the area, stop in. You won’t be disappointed.

Clark Strikes Again

Spring training is under way, and so is the World Baseball Classic. Yesterday, the Cubs played team Italy in an exhibition game that meant nothing to the Cubs both standing-wise and, apparently, on the field. What I mean is that the Cubs looked like they really didn’t care about the game since it meant nothing to them. This, I believe, was a great disservice to Team Italy, playing the first game together as a team before their first round of play.

The game also apparently meant not much to Cubs mascot Clark. Those of you who know me well know how much I despise Clark. For those of you who don’t know, I have had two incidences concerning this pantless mascot. I have been told by three people from the Cubs front office that what I experienced should never have happened.

The first encounter was a few years ago, when I got up on a cold, rainy morning (a real challenge for me) to watch the Wrigley Field Marquee being painted purple ahead of a football game at Wrigley between Northwestern and the University of Illinois. I was standing off to the side, minding my own business, wondering why I hadn’t just stayed in bed, when Clark came up behind me and ruffled my hair as he was walking by. I was so stunned I didn’t know what to do. I let it go – that time.

Then, a couple of years ago, Clark came out on the lawn during a spring training game holding a large squirt gun. He was acting like he was hunting someone or something down. I didn’t think that was appropriate for the mascot and was going to say something to the front office — eventually. Then, he planted himself right in front of me with his bare butt in my face, blocking my view of the field. I made a comment, he turned and looked at me and went back to his stance in front of me. After I told him he didn’t know who I was and he’d better move, he did, but I’d missed two plays. I complained to the front office almost immediately and was told that was never to happen. I was also told I should have reported the first incident when it happened because Clark was not supposed to touch anyone like he had me.

Obviously, the message was received because the next day I saw Clark again and he was with a “handler.” He stayed off the berm the rest of spring training.

Yesterday, Clark came out on the berm with the large squirt gun again, pretending he was stalking someone. Then he started squirting people with water. Two of these people were taking naps. If he had done that to me, I’d have had a real fit.

Clark should not be allowed to do things like that. Not everyone likes to be squirted with water. I also believe that this is a bad message to send to the kids who were following him. I commented on this with the “handler” standing right behind me. She did nothing to stop him.

Why am I mentioning it here? Well, it is my blog. But, while he didn’t squirt me, he did cause me to miss a couple of plays. That really irritated me.

I understand Clark is there for the kids. That’s fine. But someone needs to tell this character that he needs to be setting good examples, not showing kids how to stalk people and squirt water on unsuspecting victims. And he needs to stay in his area. If there isn’t a clubhouse for him at Sloan like here is at Wrigley, build one and make him stay there.

By the way, the Cubs ended up losing the game 9-8. But it didn’t count anyway.

 

 

Pitchers and Catchers Report to Camp

marquee-world-series-champs-by-mark-yellon

 

I don’t know about you, but I rarely rely on Punxsutawney Phil, General Beauregard Lee or any other groundhog to tell me when spring will arrive. I know spring is just about here when Cubs pitchers and catchers report to spring training. That would be today! That means spring really is just around the corner.

Some Cubs fans have been saying this spring training snuck up on them. Well, of course it did. We had a rather short winter, didn’t we? But I sure don’t hear any complaining, do you? In fact, almost all the games at Sloan Park in Mesa are already sold out, or close to sold out. This is not unusual because it’s the Cubs, but those games are in higher demand because our guys are the reigning World Series champs and it seems everyone wants to see them this year.

Usually spring training is a time to work on grounding, hitting, pitching, catching, bunting, fundamentals. Without this training, Kris Bryant does not make that last out of the World Series look so easy. He worked on plays like that and when it came to an actual situation in an important game, it was second nature to him.

This is also a time for Joe Maddon to see how his players are doing and begin to formulate his roster. This year will be more challenging for him and for the players who hope to make the team. Most positions are set. Our pitching rotation is set, but Maddon will be taking a hard look at the bullpen. All the position spots are set. And we already know that there will be platooning in the outfield and at second base, so look for Ben Zobrist to be getting more practice in the outfield.

In the big picture, wins and losses don’t really mean anything in spring training. This is the time for the guys to work on fielding and hitting skills. It’s the time for pitchers to hone their various pitches and try new pitches. It is a time for Jon Lester to work on fielding grounders back to the mound and tossing the ball to Anthony Rizzo at first base. Maybe he and Rizzo will also work on the ball-in-the-glove put out they do so well.

This is also spring training for the umpires. Years ago, I was sitting three rows up from third base and saw an umpire make a blatantly stupid call. We all booed him. His response? He turned to us and said, “Hey, this is spring training for me, too.”

Finally, this is spring training for the fans. It’s a totally different atmosphere throughout the ballpark. Those who keep score get a real workout as the guys might play only three innings and then be replaced with an unknown player wearing a duplicate uniform number.

Fans who make the trek to Mesa every year are reunited with their ballpark friends, some from Chicago, some who live in Arizona, some from other places. It’s a time of getting to know each other again and getting ready for a new season.

Today is a beautiful day in the Phoenix area. The weather is perfect. Pitchers and catchers report today. Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day.

Stil want to see the World Series Trophy? 

World Series Champions
Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs

Are you still looking for an opportunity to see the World Series Trophy before it leaves the Chicago area for a while? You’re in luck. There are three more venues in the Chicago area before the Trophy makes its way to Iowa and other locales.

Tomorrow, January 21, you can view the Trophy in Western Springs at the Western Springs Recreation Center, 1500 Walker St., from 4:30-6 p.m.

Sunday, you have two chances to see the Trophy. It will first be on view at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave. in Evanston, from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

After that the Trophy will be taken to the Gurnee American Legion at 749 Milwaukee Ave. in Gurnee, where it will be on view from 2-3:30 p.m.

Because lines have been very long and some people have been turned away unhappy, I contacted the City of Evanston to see just how Evanston had gotten the chance to be one of the venues, and how the crowds would be handled.

According to Wally Bobkiewicz, Evanston’s city manager, the Cubs contacted the city asking if the city would be interested in hosting the Trophy.

Organizers are aware of the long lines of people who want to see the Trophy and although they do not know how many people will actually attend, Bobkiewicz said they do expect several hundred people. Some of the other venues have required wristbands on a first-come first–served basis. Bobkiewicz said, as of Thursday, there were no plans to issue wristbands and they were hoping for an orderly line. However, the Cubs have said that they will be handing out wristbands on a first-come first-served basis to get as many people through the venue in the allotted timeframe. Either way, you’ll probably want to get in line early.

The Trophy will be on display in a room on the Garden level of the Civic Center, which Bobkiewicz says is easily accessible for all. Doors will open at 10 a.m. City staff will be on hand to help manage the line and answer questions.

“The City of Evanston is honored to have the Cubs Championship Trophy visit our community and the City looks forward to welcoming everyone on Sunday morning,” Bobkiewicz said.

Monday, the Trophy will head for stops in Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan and Arizona before heading back home for Opening Night. The full schedule can be viewed here.

 

Cubs make historic visit to White House

World Series Champions

The Cubs visited the White House and brought the World Series Trophy with them. Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs. 

After the Cubs won the World Series in November, President Barack Obama invited the team to be honored at the White House. With just four days left in his stint as President of the United States, the Cubs made the trip.

It is no secret that Obama is a big White Sox fan, but it was revealed during today’s ceremony that his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, is a lifelong Cubs fan. In fact, her favorite player growing up was Jose Cardenal, whom she made sure would be at the White House today. He was joined by Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg.

Many Cubs fans could relate to what Obama said Michelle told the team about how she used to watch the games with her father on WGN. And later in his speech, he referred again to stories like his wife’s and how baseball, and sports in general, brings generations of people together. How many of us remember our first Cubs game and who took us? For me, it was my dad in August 1968.

Apparently, Obama was questioned about entertaining the Cubs on the day the nation was honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But, Obama drew correlations to Dr. King’s ideals and today and himself. He stated that there was a direct correlation between Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball and his (Obama’s) being able to stand as President of the United States. He talked about how politics are put aside to support one team, noting the political differences within the Ricketts family, proving that the love of the Cubs transcends politics.

Obama talked about how likeable the individuals on the World Series Champion team were and how they came together. He joked that he and David Ross had both been celebrating their year-long farewell tours, though Obama’s staff had not given him a motorized scooter.

Obama singled a few of the players out either for their feats during the season and especially during the World Series, or for their work in the community, mentioning Cubs Charities and the work Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester, both cancer survivors, are doing to help find a cure for cancer.

President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein made a few remarks and then presented the President with what Obama called the best team swag he’d ever gotten. Among the gifts were a Cubs home jersey with the number 44 (for 44th President of the United States) and an away jersey with just “Chicago” on the front. He was also presented with a framed panel from the legendary scoreboard with the number 44 and a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field.  He was also presented with a W flag signed by all the players.

After the ceremony, the Cubs were scheduled to make a visit to Walter Reed Army Hospital before returning home.

 

 

Cubs announce “Ring Bearer” contest

World Series Champions

Photo courtest ofhicago Cubs

Do you know a die-hard Cubs fan who you’d like to nominate to be one of 20 “ring bearers” during the on-field ring ceremony April 12th at Wrigley Field? The Cubs announced at their Business Operations meeting during the Cubs Convention that nominations are now being accepted for the honor to present the World Series Rings to Cubs players and coaches.

To nominate your candidate for the Championship Ring Bearer Fan Contest, you must submit an online video stating why your candidate is worthy of this honor. It can be a specific gameday routine or a personal story.  Videos must be uploaded to Twitter using the #CubsRingBearer hashtag.  You must be able to explain why your nominee deserves to participate in the on-field ceremony in 60 seconds or less.

President of Business Operations Crane Kenney told session attendees, “It was truly amazing to see Cubs fans show their loyalty, passion and excitement for this team as we completed the greatest journey in all of sports. We were amazed by our fans who embraced old traditions like flying the W Flag and created new ones by crafting inspiring chalk messages on our bleacher walls. This Championship Ring Bearer Fan Contest is our way to thank the fans who stood by us for all these years, as well as give them a memory that will last a lifetime.”

Twenty fans will be selected by a team of judges for this honor. Winners also will receive two tickets to the April 12th game. Judges are looking for fans that express “authentic passion and enthusiasm for Cubs baseball.”

The online contest begins today, January 14, and will run through 11:59 p.m. CST Tuesday, February 14. For more information about the contest and to read contest rules, please visit http://www.cubs.com/cubsringbearer.

32nd Cubs Convention begins today

World Series Champions
Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs

 

Who’s ready for CubsCon? The 32nd annual Cubs Convention begins this evening with Opening Ceremonies at 6p.m. at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. As has become the norm for the Opening Ceremonies, Cubs players will be introduced and will enter the hall on an elevated runway. Special VIP access to the edge of that runway will once again be given to children 16 and under. It’s probably easy to assume that Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts will give a rousing speech and talk about the World Series Champs to the adoring crowd. Expect it to be crowded and loud.

After the Opening Ceremonies, fans will be able to find players giving surprise autograph signings before going to see Ryan Dempster’s show, which will feature interviews with Cubs players, coaches and alumni, as well as comedy vignettes. “Friday Night With Ryan Dempster” has become a fan favorite.

Saturday is when everyone gets down to business, sort of. Saturday’s schedule includes the return of Cubs Jeopardy, featuring unique trivia with Cubs alumni. Also, returning will be sessions by the Baseball Operations, Business Operations update, Joe Maddon and His Coaching Staff, a Kids Only Press Conference and the Ricketts Family panel.

New to Saturday’s line-up will be On the Mound with pitchers Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Mike Montgomery and Wade Davis; All-Star Infield with Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo; and Cubs Legends. Saturday’s events conclude with long-time Convention Favorite Cubs Bingo, in the evening. Wayne Messmer will again host the Convention favorite. Be sure to get there early if you want a seat. Past Contentions have seen this session fill up quickly.

The Convention concludes Sunday morning with additional autograph sessions and panels including Down on the Farm and Remembering ‘84.

One thing never seen at any of the previous Conventions will be the World Series Trophy. Fans will have the opportunity to see and take a photograph with the World Series Trophy in the Cubs Trophy Room.

Clark’s Clubhouse will host fun games, face painting, caricatures, balloon artists, a coloring station, inflatable T-ball and inflatable speed pitch.

Cubs Charities, located on the main lobby floor, will feature a variety of items and experiences for sale, including private player meet-and-greets, baseballs, ball cubes, autographed mystery baseballs, grab bags and a garage sale. The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation will also host a raffle.

Giveaways and an interactive GIF and photo booth with special guest appearances throughout the weekend can be found at a dedicated social media area.

To view a complete schedule of events, please click here. To view the press release and see the list of confirmed guests, please click here.

 

World Series Trophy Tour Continues

World Series Champions

Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs

It’s a new year and chances are that you’re still letting the fact that the Cubs won the World Series sink in. As you probably know, the World Series Trophy has been showing up for fans to see in many places. Chairman Tom Ricketts took it to a Blackhawks game before the end of the year. Cubs neighbors were given a chance to see the Trophy and take a photo with it before it hit the road.  It made its debut at the Cubs Team Store and was viewed at Chicago City Hall.  There was even a stop at the United Center.

If you’re in the Chicago area and haven’t had a chance to view the Trophy, it will be on display this Saturday in Naperville at the Naperville City Hall. Sunday, you have chance to see it at the Masonic Temple in Freeport.  It will then be transported to Rockford where it will make an appearance at the Rockford Ice Hogs/Chicago Wolves hockey game at the BMO Harris Bank Center.  You’ll be able to find it on the main concourse.

Monday the Trophy can be viewed in the Lecture Hall at the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumberg.

If you were lucky enough to score passes for the Cubs Convention, the Trophy will be on display at the Convention the 13-15.

The Cubs have not forgotten their fans Downstate and in Indiana, Iowa and other places in the Midwest.  Plans are being made for the World Series Trophy to be on display in Bloomington, Champaign, Peoria, the Quad Cities and Springfield in Illinois; South Bend and Indianapolis in Indiana; Des Moines and other Iowa cities. Give the Cubs credit for bringing the Trophy to the fans not just in Chicago but throughout the Midwest.  Dates and places will be released as plans are confirmed.

Fans will also be able to see the Trophy during Spring Training in Mesa before it is taken back to Wrigley Field for the Cubs Season Opener on April 10.

Turnout to see the World Series Trophy has been great. Fans have posted photos of themselves with the Trophy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Cubs suggest fans follow the Cubs on Twitter and Instagram (@Cubs) for specific updates on the Cubs Trophy Tour using the #CubsTrophyTour hashtag. You can also find information on where the Trophy will be on the Cubs website at http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/chc/fan_forum/trophy-tour/.

One hundred eight years is a long time to wait for a World Series win. Cubs management realizes what this means to fans and is sharing this momentous win with everyone.

A look back at the 2016 Chicago Cubs

World Series Champions

Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs fans can finally say this was our year! And what a year it was. The team was in first place, except one day, all season.  Comparisons to earlier teams, such as the 1945 Cubs, and even the 1907 Cubs were common.

The 2015 Cubs gave fans a gift. No one expected them to make it to the postseason, let alone go to the League Championship Series. But they did, and they were beaten by a much better team. But they had set a high bar for this year, and they rose to the occasion.

When Kyle Schwarber got hurt in game three and missed the entire season, others stepped up. Had Schwarber not gotten hurt, it’s possible Javier Baez doesn’t play as much as he did and it’s possible we would not have seen Albert Almora Jr. at all.

Dexter Fowler, now with the St. Louis Cardinals, was a key in this year’s success. His return to the Cubs in spring training helped ignite the team. Too bad we won’t have a repeat of his surprising the team in Mesa this coming season.

And what can you say about David Ross? Grandpa, as he is affectionately called. From spring training on he was embraced by the team and the fans. And he had one of his best seasons in years. Being carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates after winning the team won the World Series was a fitting tribute to a player to made a big difference both on and off the field.

Kris Bryant followed his rookie year National League Rookie of the Year Award with this year’s National League Most Valuable Player Award.  Who can guess what is in store for Bryant this coming season?

The year was not without controversy. When Aroldis Chapman joined the team in July, many fans were outraged because of his history of domestic abuse. It’s hard to say that he exactly won the fans over, but his smoking 100-plus mile and hour fastball was what the Cubs needed to get them to the postseason and beyond. And even though Chapman thought he had made it clear to Manager Joe Maddon that he does not like to throw more than one inning, he was called to do just that in many post season games. The fact that he has a World Series championship makes it hard to feel sorry for him as he complains that he was misused at the end of the season.

Although Jake Arrieta threw his second no-hitter just 11 games after his first one last year, he wasn’t as sharp most of the season as he was the second part of last year. Still, his contributions to the team, on the mound and even at the plate, made a difference.

And no Cubs fan alive will forget those exciting seven World Series Games. When things looked hopeless before game five, the Cubs did what they had done all season, they stepped up and won, taking the Series back to Cleveland, where they won the next two to finally win the World Series for the first time in 108 years.  It was memorable in all aspects.  Years from now people will happily tell others where they were November 2, 2016, when the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years.

This was the year Cubs fans could finally put to rest talk of any Billy goats, black cats, Bartman and other talk of jinxes and curses. In reality, the game in which the saying “five more outs” originated (the Bartman game) was lost because then-manager Dusty Baker did not go out to the mound to calm a very young Mark Prior. Blame that one on Dusty, not Bartman. And you can blame 2008 on Lou Piniella. He checked out before the postseason started.

Fans will look back and 2016 fondly and recall how Cubs management allowed fans to write chalk tributes to those no longer with us, whether it was just a name or a whole message. Because it was done in chalk and because the tributes were from the heart and not vulgar, management allowed the entire outside wall of the bleachers to be covered in chalk tributes. It was beautiful.

I will remember 2016 as an exciting season with bittersweet undertones. Years from now I will remember how I attended every home game, including all postseason home games. I’ll recall how I was at every postseason game until the World Series, where I only attended home games.  I’ll remember wishing my dad, who is the reason I am a Cubs fan, was with me to see this team finally make it. Like so many, he lived and died without seeing his beloved Cubs win it all. But I know he was there in spirit. I’ll remember putting his name on a brick outside the main bleacher gate in the spot where I always set up my chair to wait for the gates to open – a fitting tribute to a 12-year-old boy who did not get into the bleachers for Game 6 of the 1945 World Series because the man in front of him got the last bleacher ticket.  I’ll remember this World Series as one of the best ever played, going 10 innings with a short rain delay that seemed to reset the team and take them to victory. And I’ll remember stepping out onto my back deck after we won Game 7 and hearing the cheering and honking car horns coming from Wrigley Field about two miles north of where I live. Most of all, I’ll remember everyone with whom I shared this wonderful and exciting season.

It’s said there are no tears in baseball, but that’s not true. There were many tears during this season, mostly tears of joy and relief, mixed in with tears of sorrow that some did not get to experience this magical season. And you know what? It’s okay to cry. One hundred eight years is a long time to wait.

An Open Letter to Tom Ricketts

In the spirit of the season, while children are sending their wish lists to Santa, I decided to send my wish list to Tom Ricketts.

Dear Mr. Ricketts (okay, if you insist, Tom),

Thank you so very much for bringing a World Series Championship to the North Side. One of my greatest wishes has finally been fulfilled. My only regret is that my father, who is responsible for my love of the Cubs, is no longer with us. Like so many, he passed away without seeing his beloved Cubs win the World Series, though he did try, unsuccessfully, to get into the bleachers in 1945 when he was 12. But of course, you knew that.

Thank you also for understanding the meaning of the chalk tributes that graced the bleacher walls, and other walls, late in October. I could pay homage to my dad by writing his name on the spot where I always sit when I wait for the bleacher gate to open for games. It’s a moment I will never forget.

Thank you for allowing President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein to do what he needed to get us to the World Series. While the addition of Aroldis Chapman was controversial, he did his job. And thank you for not asking him back.

Thank you for all you are doing to make Wrigley Field the gem it should be and a park that will be around for the next generations of Cubs fans. I know it hasn’t been easy, but I think you will agree the obstacles you encountered were worth the fight you gave to get the expansion and renovations done.

Thank you for being you. I am asked many times what kind of owner walks around the ballpark talking to the fans. My answer is always “Tom Ricketts.” You understand what being a fan is and your presence among the fans helps them feel like a part of what is going on. I know you get a lot of “suggestions” on what to do and I’ve seen you gracefully listen, even to the most ridiculous suggestions, never letting on that you know that suggestion is never going to come to fruition.  It’s just the fact that you take the time to listen that makes a difference.  It lets fans tell their friends and family, “Hey, Tom Ricketts actually listened to my suggestions for the Cubs!”  I don’t know of any other owner who listens like you do.

Now for my “wish list” for the future.

First, would you please have Theo sign Kris Bryant to a long-term contract now? His value has gone up dramatically, especially after this past season, and especially after last year’s Rookie of the Year Award and this year’s Most Valuable Player Award. We need to keep him around and now is the time to see that happen.

My second wish is that you somehow find a way to keep David Ross in the organization. He was one of this season’s most beloved players. His leadership on and off the field I’m sure contributed to this team’s successes.

My third wish is for a stronger bullpen. Yes, I know Theo and Jed are working on that, but signing a 41-year-old reliever? Really? What about a fifth starter?

My fourth wish is more basic. Would you please see to it that there are vendors with water, ice cream, anything cold, in the bleachers on hot days? It is a disservice to fans in the bleachers to have to get up and stand in long lines just for a bottle of water or some ice cream. It is also dangerous if these people are already dehydrated and don’t know it.

My final wish (though I could write many more) is for another World Series championship, won this time AT Wrigley Field.

Thank you for reading and doing what you can.

A faithful Die-Hard Cubs fan

Miriam Romain

Live the 2016 Cubs Season Again

book-cover-als-book

Almost as soon as the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series, the market was flush with books and magazines about the historic Series. One of those books, (which I highly recommend) “A Season for The Ages,” was written by Al Yellon, managing editor of bleedcubbieblue.com.

I will stop here for a second to make full disclosure. I am mentioned more than a few times in this book. That said, what follows is an unbiased review of the book. Really.

Even though I was there every game this season, I had trouble putting the book down. Each page reminded me of each game during this historic season, letting me live again the highs, and some lows, and loving every minute of it.

Yellon does a masterful job weaving data and statistics into his personal journey this past season. And as the season goes on in the book, he can weave in the many “since” moments, as he called them, such as when the Cubs finished August 22-6, making it the first time any Cubs team had finished 22 games in any calendar month since September 1945.

He reminds us that even when the Cubs were at their worst, they were still the best team in baseball, staying in first place for all but one day all season. //

But living all those regular season games paled in comparison to October and postseason baseball. You can feel Yellon’s emotions as he relates his feelings, along with what was happening in each game. I was there, I felt them then and those feeling re-emerged as I read the book.

Did you remember that this was Catcher David Ross’ farewell year? Yellon reminds us that Ross, nicknamed “Grandpa” by Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, had his best season in a decade at the plate and behind the plate.

Did you remember Willson Contreras’ first at-bat? It was a first pitch home run, making Contreras the first to do that in his first at bat at Wrigley since Carmello Martinez in 1983.

One hundred eight years is a long time to go without winning a World Series. Many die-hard Cubs fans lived and died without seeing their beloved Cubs win the World Series, as well as favorite Cub players like Ernie Banks and Ron Santo.  Yellon pays homage to those players and those fans.

This book is a must for every Cubs fan. Years from now you can pick it up, read it, feel the emotions you had as you watched the season unfold and remember where you were on November 2, 2016 when the Cubs finally won it all.

You can find the book at Chicago area bookstores including Barnes and Noble. You can also order it on amazon.com in hard cover or Kindle format.

 

Showing our Cubs pride

louies-cubs-tat

It seems like we’ve had little time to let the fact sink in that the Cubs won the 2016 World Series before more awards were handed out and the spring training schedule was released. Last week we learned that Kris Bryant was named National League MVP, coming within one vote of being the unanimous winner. So, what other awards could he possibly receive in the future? A friend of mine suggested World Series MVP next year. I’ll go for that.

Even though it has been close to a month since the Cubs won the World Series, fans are still making visits to Wrigley Field and finding ways to celebrate.

A few of my friends have said that when the Cubs won it all, they were going to get special tattoos. One friend has her design made. I’m just waiting to see the actual tat. Another friend is just now showing off his new tat. That’s the photo you see above. It’s pretty cool, isn’t it? .

Last night, the Cubs hosted an invitation-only affair, complete with a Red Carpet, at the Civic Opera House to premier “The 2016 World Series,” an MLB production. It will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray soon.  My good friend, Danny Rockett, was at the premier. You can find what he wrote about it for bleedcubbieblue.com at http://www.bleedcubbieblue.com/2016/11/23/13727204/cubs-night-opera-house-world-series-film#0.

Many Cubs books are being published. I will be reviewing two very soon. And trust me, they are must-have books. One is out, the other will be within the next two weeks.

But there are a few things I’d like to say to my fellow Cubs fans, so I hope you will indulge me. It is MY blog.

We are all still riding that high of seeing something no Cubs fan has seen in 108 years – the Cubs winning the World Series. We have many reasons to celebrate this historic win, but there are some things I do think we, as Cubs fans, need to keep in mind.

I don’t know if it’s true for you, but over the years, the Cubs have taught me many life lessons. They have taught me sheer joy, pure love, how to be a good winner and a graceful loser – as well as supply and demand and percentages.

As long suffering Cubs fans, we have seen our share of losing. We’ve been teased and taunted for being Cubs fans. I’ve said before that I went to college with many Yankees, Pirates and Reds fans at the time the Pirates and Reds were really good. I was teased relentlessly, but always took it with a smile on my face. I was a good loser.

But it’s being a graceful winner that I want to address. Yes, we have waited very long for this time to come. It’s our time and we should celebrate, but we also need to check our attitudes at the door. I, for one, do not want to become like many (not all) Pirates, Cardinals and White Sox fans and throw our great win in others’ faces. I believe there is a way to show happiness without being a jerk.

We need to remember how all those losses felt to keep it all in perspective. Yes, we won and it was a long time coming, but the Indians also have been waiting a fairly long time for another World Series win. I remember how devastated I was when the Cubs were swept by the Mets and the Mets celebrated on our field last year. While we didn’t sweep the Indians, we celebrated a bigger win on the Indians’ field. Their fans surely felt the pain we felt a year ago; the pain we have felt for so many years. Believe it or not, most of their fans are people with feelings like us.

I have friends who are Indians fans. During the World Series, we had our friendly rivalry, noting that though we were rooting for different teams, we were still friends. They congratulated me when the Cubs won and I thanked them and congratulated them on a great series. Because it was a great series.

As time goes on and the reality sinks in about our beloved Cubs, it is my hope that Cubs fans will rise above what we have seen with other teams’ fans and not become snooty jerks about our win.

Stay classy Chicago. Continue to show the world what a good winner is!

 

 

Chalk Tributes Say it All

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Approximately 5 million people. That’s the estimate of how many Cubs fans lined the parade route and gathered in Grant Park for the big rally on Friday. It was reportedly the seventh largest gathering of people in the world.

During the National League Championship Series, I was interviewed by a reporter from a newspaper in Peoria, Illinois. He asked me what would happen if the Cubs won it all. I basically told him that the city would be host to the largest party it has ever seen. I was right.

And the celebrating continues. Some of the Cubs players went to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, to participate in a victory parade, and Anthony Rizzo, David Ross and Dexter Fowler, along with Bill Murray, appeared on “Saturday Night Live.”

Last night six of us went over to Wrigley after dinner to take a look at the chalk tributes that have been left all over the walls and sidewalks. The tributes extend onto buildings across from the ballpark on Waveland and Sheffield.

I wanted to leave my dad’s name somewhere, as well. We had chalk but found better chalk and started roaming around. As we approached the main bleacher entrance I was thinking how appropriate it would be to put my dad’s name near the bleacher entrance. As I’ve said before, in 1945 he tried to get into Wrigley for Game 6 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. A man in front of him got the last bleacher ticket. I’ve been sitting in the bleachers full time since 2009, and I knew I had a guaranteed ticket to this World Series. We found an empty spot to add my dad’s name – and guess where. Exactly where I set up my chair to wait for the gates to open.  Seriously, it was the only open spot in sight. It was a bit overwhelming for me. Of all the places to add my dad’s name. It was so appropriate. It was almost like somehow he had saved that particular spot for me to find.

I’m glad the Cubs have allowed the fans to leave these tributes. I even saw some photographs. It would be great if the Cubs could figure out a way to preserve a portion of the wall to show the world how passionate Cubs fans are. And I hope they find a way to preserve he photographs. The only way I can describe this is for you to imagine how people leave flowers, stuffed bears and other mementos when someone dies, only this time, while the tributes are to those no longer here, it’s a happy occasion mixed with sadness.

Many times, the Cubs have been criticized for not “getting it.” They obviously get it this time. However, I heard a rumor that it was all going to be removed tomorrow.  There’s more construction and expansion to be done this winter at Wrigley Field and contractors are now four weeks behind schedule. I don’t think anyone will complain about that, though. Especially because this ballpark will be hosting more World Series games in the future.

 

We Are the Champions! 

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Photo courtesy of Mark Yellon

“We are the champions, my friends

And we’ll keep on fighting ’til the end

We are the champions

We are the champions

No time for losers

‘Cause we are the champions of the world”

Queen

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”

 — James Earl Jones as Terrence Mann in Field of Dreams

I think a lot of Cubs fans had the same dream I had last night before last. My dream was that the Cubs were playing the Cleveland Indians in the seventh game of the World Series in Cleveland.  The dream was so vivid. The game was great, even if Aroldis Chapman gave up a home run that tied the score at six.

In the dream, there was a short rain delay and the game went into an extra inning. After the game, in my dream, I walked out on our back deck and could hear the cheering and horns honking from around Wrigley Field. Helicopters were flying around and it was a surreal scene.

Crazy, huh? But guess what Cubs Fans! It really did happen. The best team in baseball with 103 wins in the regular season won the World Series after a 108-year drought.  It wasn’t easy. The Indians were also a good team with a history of their own. But, like so many other times, the Cubs did not give up and they prevailed.

I don’t know about you, but I started getting text messages and emails almost as soon as the final out was recorded. I’ve been hearing from friends I hadn’t heard from in years! A cousin of mine, currently living and working in China, sent me a private message. He was a big Yankees fan when we were growing up but he knows my love of the Cubs.

I know some old college friends are thinking about me right now.  I’ve heard from some of them. They used to tease me for being a Cubs fan. I went to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and was surrounded by Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees fans.  Those were the years of the “Big Red Machine” and “We are Family.” I was teased relentlessly for my devotion to the Cubs, but was respected for that devotion and my knowledge of baseball.

I lived in Atlanta for 20 years. After 15 years, my BFF told me it was time to break allegiance to the Cubs and become a true Braves fan. I refused. Yes, the Braves had a great 14-year stint and played in two World Series games, winning one of them, but I stayed True Blue (as it were) to my Cubs.

But you know what? The teasing and ridicule were okay. I took it years ago but now I get the last laugh! MY team won the 2016 World Series! There can be no more talk of the “Loveable Losers.” We are not losers. We are the champions.

Like many other Cubs fans, I cried when we won. The tears were a mixture of pure joy and sadness that my dad, the one who is responsible for me being a Cubs fan, was not there. He would have been crying tears of pure joy at that final out. I know it. I felt it.

Baseball, the National Pastime, gets handed down from generation to generation.  It was passed to both of my brothers, as well. One of my brothers spent years of Saturdays with my dad at Wrigley in the seats he shared with a couple of other men.  I haven’t spoken to this brother, but I’m sure he was thinking the same thing I was. The Cubs and Dad. That always went together.  And I know it’s the same for other Cubs fans whether it’s fathers and daughters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons or grandparents and grandchildren. For many of us, baseball has brought families together in special ways. Not only was it an important part of my life with my dad, but baseball and the Cubs have been the basis for many lifelong friendships.

I have been writing a book since before my dad passed away tentatively titled “Summers at Wrigley with my Dad.” It’s more of an autobiography and how my life mirrored the ups and downs of the Cubs. It’s about how I became a Cubs fan and the times I spent at Wrigley with my dad and the stories he told me. And now I have the ending I always hoped for, though it is rather bittersweet.

The Cubs are the 2016 World Series Champions!

 

 

Are you ready for Game 7?

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“I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord

And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, Oh Lord

Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, oh Lord”

This sums up how I am feeling at this moment as I wait for Game 7 of the World Series between my beloved Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians to begin.  In fact, I really have been waiting my entire life for this moment.  At one time this moment was supposed to be shared with my dad, who never actually got into Wrigley Field for a World Series game but tried in 1945, the last time the Cubs were in the World Series.

After my father passed away on Oct. 3, 2008, the morning after we lost the second playoff game to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley, I knew this moment would need to be spent with someone very special. Someone who understands me and truly shares my passion for the Cubs. Someone who truly understands what this moment really means. And tonight, he and I will watch Game 7 together at home.

I thought last season was incredible but this season has been magical. I made it to all the Cubs home games and a couple in Milwaukee. All along, even when the team went into its worst slump, I knew this was going to be a very special season. And because of my firm belief that this was our year, we decided to save the money we’d have spent on regular season road trips to travel to see the team in the postseason.

We traveled to San Francisco, as did many other Cubs fans. Six days after our return to Chicago we got on another plane and flew back to California, this time to Los Angeles. When the Cubs clinched the National League pennant at home I cried. I mean I sobbed. It was a bittersweet moment – one I was happy to share with that special someone and many friends at Wrigley, but after countless games watching some of the worst Cubs teams in history with my dad, it seemed somewhat unfair that he wasn’t there to revel in the glory of seeing the best team in baseball move on to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

I believe things happen for a reason. We had tickets for a World Series matchup between the Cubs and the Toronto Blue Jays. We even had a place to stay with friends, but we did not get tickets for Cleveland. Once it became apparent that we would be facing Cleveland tickets were too expensive and neither one of us was up for the drive anyway.  Somehow it was meant for me to be in Chicago for this game. For this moment.

I will not be near Wrigley Field tonight. It’s not safe for a person who has trouble walking and standing. I’ll be safely at home, hopefully opening a bottle of champagne when the Cubs win it all. And I’ll be wearing one of my dad’s Cubs sweatshirts, one that has brought good luck when I’ve worn it.

The lineup has been set. Dexter Fowler will lead off and play centerfield. Kyle Schwarber will bat second and be the designated hitter. Kris Bryant will bat third and play third (I find this fact interesting).  Anthony Rizzo will bat cleanup and play his usual first base position. Ben Zobrist will bat fifth and play left field.  Addison Russell will bat sixth and play shortstop.  Willson Contreras will catch and bat seventh. Jason Heyward will bat eighth and play right field. Javier Baez will bat ninth and play second base.  Kyle Hendricks, who has a good shot at this year’s Cy Young Award, will be the starting pitcher for the Cubs.

I find this the perfect lineup for the perfect Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. And when the Cubs win you can bet I’ll cry! I’ll cry for joy. I’ll cry because my dad isn’t here. I’ll cry because he was unable to get a bleacher ticket for Game 6 of the 1945 World Series game at Wrigley and I had a guaranteed bleacher ticket all along. And I’ll cry because I’ve had this feeling all season …. I can feel it coming in the air tonight. Can you?

 

 

 

Dreams do come true!

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Photo by Miriam Romain

I have been extremely fortunate this baseball season. I attended all the spring training home games in Mesa, all the regular season home games at Wrigley and so far, all the postseason games at Wrigley. In addition to these games, I was able to make it to two games in Milwaukee this year and the postseason games in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It has totally worn me out, but for a once-in -a-lifetime opportunity, it has been worth making myself sick and pushing myself.

Why have I done this? History – both Cubs history and something personal. The Cubs have not been in the World Series since 1945. That year my dad was 12 years old and tried to get into the bleachers for game six. The guy in front of him in line got the last bleacher ticket. Friday, I’ll be sitting in the bleachers with a guaranteed ticket. My mind will keep drifting to my dad, wishing he was still around to see this Cubs team. My dad is the reason I’m a Cubs fan.

I have seen some pretty horrible games at Wrigley, both with and without my dad. I have felt the heartbreak of the ’69 season and the short-lived joy of the ’84 season. I was living in Atlanta for the ’98 and ’03 seasons, but still felt the sting of pain when my team didn’t advance to the World Series.

I have endured the taunts of White Sox, Reds, Pirates and Yankees fans almost my entire life. I’ve had to listen to people talk about Billy Goats and curses. My hope is that now those people will stop talking about those things and talk about this team.

This team is special. I felt it during spring training. It is made up of veterans and rookies who love the game and, it appears, each other. They have a manager who “gets it.” It’s not always about baseball. Life is part of the mix. He has not let them get sucked into the legends of the Billy Goat, the black cat or Bartman. The team went out and played the game and had fun. And even in their worst slump of the season, I had faith in this team and they had faith in themselves. This is the best team in baseball! They proved that with a 103-58 record in the regular season.

Last year was a special gift. No one expected the Cubs to get to the postseason. The players set an extremely high bar for themselves and the fans expected a lot more from this team because of it. And you know what? They delivered! There are no curses. “Five more outs” means only five more outs. Billy Goats and black cats are animals and nothing more.

Tomorrow night the Cubs will face the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland in the World Series. Unfortunately, I won’t be in attendance as getting tickets has been impossible.  I’ll wait eagerly for Friday when I can cheer my boys on in person. And I know my dad will be there with me.

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The Cubs bullpen at Wrigley Field will only exist in photos like this beginning next year. Photo by Al Yellon, bleedcubbieblue.com

What a season this has been for the Cubs and their fans. And it’s not over! I’m starting to get very excited about the postseason. We find out tonight if we’ll be playing the New York Mets or San Francisco Giants in the first round.

But there is one sad thing about the postseason. This will be the last time we’ll see the bullpens on the field at Wrigley Field. Next year the bullpens for both teams will be under the bleachers in left and right fields. I’m sure the visiting teams will be happy to have the bullpens out of their way, but it has been such a tradition at Wrigley. I have spoken with many of my friends and we all pretty much are in agreement that the video boards have been done tastefully and have blended in well with the scoreboard in center field. Sure, it took some getting used to, but now they seem natural – like they’ve been there a while, just like the lights allowing the Cubs to play night games.

I’ll miss watching Chad Noble, the Cubs bullpen catcher, “dance” to Anthony Rizzo’s walk-up music. I’ll never forget a few years ago when in the sixth inning, I think, I watched James Russell get up and start collecting his belongings. I said at the time to my friends that Russell had just been traded. There was nothing on Twitter yet, but when Russell starting hugging his fellow pitchers and some of the fans, I knew I was right. He had been traded to the Atlanta Braves. I also used to watch Russell’s warm-up routine. A few of us did some it along with him. And I watch today’s pitchers warming up. That won’t be possible after this season is complete.

One of the best sightings in the bullpen was the night we had gone into extra innings. It was about 1 a.m. and we had gone through all of our available pitchers and all but one bench player. While we were wondering why John Baker wasn’t pinch hitting, I looked and saw him warming up in the bullpen! He came in at the top of the 16th inning taking only 11 pitches to end the top of the inning, and in the bottom of the 16th inning he scored the winning run. He became the first position player in Cubs history to record a win. I tell people Baker is one of my favorite pitchers and he finished his “pitching” career with a perfect record. Not bad for a catcher!

I’ll miss watching the guys play “Chicken” in the bullpen and some of their other antics. And I’ll miss hearing the bullpen phone ring in the late innings.

When all the renovations and expansion are finished, Wrigley is going to look greater than it is now. The old scoreboard is still there. The ivy will always be there. I’m okay with what has been done and what they plan to do, except for moving the bullpens. I’ll miss the bullpens.

What is Ask Mir About the Cubs? 

As many of you know, about a month ago Examiner.com closed shop and left many writers, including me, wondering what happened. I lost eight years of published columns. I do have drafts of the columns because I first wrote them as Word documents, but I always tweaked things before sending to editorial for publishing.

That said, I would like to welcome you to my new home for Cubs columns, as I investigate other outlets for my pieces. Then again, maybe I’ll just keep the Cubs stuff here and have a little more fun with the blogging than just straight news.

So, what can you expect from this blog? A lot of the same things you found over the eight years when I was writing for Examiner.com, but with a more personal approach. I am sure the Cubs will not like some of what I have to say, but on my blog I can write what I want.

As always, I welcome your input. It’s easy to get to me with questions or comments through askmir.org.

Also, comments you’d like to share based on what I’ve written are welcome as long as there is no flaming – of me or anyone else who might comment – and as long as the language is kept clean. All comments will be moderated, so don’t expect to see what you’ve written immediately.  I promise to get to all comments to release them as soon as I can, but be aware that there will be delays if I’m at games or asleep. Comments that put anyone down, especially me, will never be approved, and you run the risk of being banned from the site completely. …

I hope you continue to enjoy my writing. This is a very special season for the Cubs and their fans. I’m sure there are issues you may want me to address. Please send me an email with any suggestions you have.

Also, be aware that the main askmir.org was started as an outlet to help others become their own best health advocates. I write from my experiences with lupus and RA, among other chronic illnesses. Every once in a while, a Cubs story may appear on the main askmir.org page, but for the most part the Cubs columns will be located on a separate page called Ask Mir About the Cubs. As always, I’ll post links to my pieces on Facebook and Twitter, and I’ll be creating a Facebook Page for Ask Mir About the Cubs in hopes of reaching more people.

Thank you for your continues support and for encouraging me to start my own blog about my favorite team.

Go Cubs!

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