I had dinner tonight with Peter Gilbert, of “Hoop Dreams” fame. We had a great time catching up on a variety of subjects, and inevitably ended up talking about the Cubs. I spouted off on one of my theories about why the Cubs are approaching their 102nd year without a championship, and Peter told me I ought to make this public, so here goes…
Baseball teams are built for their ballparks. Some ballparks are good for hitters, some for pitchers, and some for speed. Shea was a pitcher’s park, and so is Citi Field. Both the old and the new Yankees Stadiums were and are hitter’s parks. When the Astros opened what was then called Enron Field the same year that the Tigers opened Comerica Park, each of the two teams fundamentally changed from one type of ballpark to the other. I remember reading an article that suggested that Houston and Detroit should trade their entire teams with each other. Peter made the point that the Minnesota Twins have been brilliant at tailoring their team to their ballparks.
So what about the Cubs?
Wrigley Field is a very fickle ballpark. Some days, it’s a pitcher’s park and some days it’s a hitter’s park. You can tell which it is each day by looking at the flags in the outfield.
Here is my big idea…
Instead of fielding a team based on rightly-lefty percentages, the Cubs need to have two teams that they can platoon…one is the small ball team they field when the wind is blowing in, and the other is the long ball team that they field when then wind is blowing out. If they can just put together a decent lineup for both circumstances, and then adjust the lineup depending on which way the wind is blowing, I think we can finally lick this championship issue.
It was August, and after dropping a number of hints that I was unhappy being the children’s waiter, I was finally promoted to the main dining room, but as a busboy. In retrospect, I assume that my locally powerful uncle had something to do with getting me the promotion. In any case, I was glad to be rid of the spoiled brats.
It turned out that bussing the tables in the main dining room was no picnic either. The Granit, like many hotels in the Catskills at that time, was strictly Kosher. Breakfast was always a dairy meal. Lunch would alternate between meat and dairy, and dinner was always meat. One of the most popular items on the lunch menu was borscht. To this day I’ve never tasted it, but at the end of a long day, my shirt sleeves were stained red from carrying the busboxes that were half filled with sloshing leftover borsht. Continue reading “40 Years ago… Part 2”
In the next few week’s it’s going to be hard to avoid the fact that it has been 40 years since the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival tracked its muddy footprints into history. I’ve been speculating that the 40th anniversary needed to be a big deal because it was likely that by the 50th, there would be no one left who was there. Personally, I didn’t make it to Woodstock. But the summer of 1969 was one of the most important in my life…so much so, that I’ve been considering trying to put it in a screenplay. But given that I have many other obligations, I may have to settle for this blog. (Hey Schamus, when do you find time to write?)
About 5 or so months ago, David Pogue wrote in the New York Times that he had tried out Twitter and wasn’t sure what it was good for. He wrote “Like the world needs ANOTHER ego-massaging, social-networking time drain? Between e-mail and blogs and Web sites and Facebook and chat and text messages, who on earth has the bandwidth to keep interrupting the day to visit a Web site and type in, “I’m now having lunch”? And to read the same stuff being broadcast by a hundred other people?” But then he had a revelation. He was on a panel and used Twitter to send out a quick request for an answer to a question, and got dozens of immediate responses from his followers. Continue reading “After 3 Months on Twitter, still wondering…”
Got my first glimpse of this year’s version of the Cubs at Yankees Stadium in the first game ever played in the new ballpark. It’s a good thing that the games were exhibitions because the Cubs were soundly trounced. Hopefully when these two teams meet in the Word Series (as predicted in last Sunday’s New York Times), the result will be quite different. In the game I saw, Lou didn’t start either Soriano or Ramirez, and he pulled Derrek Lee out after only a few innings, so it is pretty clear that he wasn’t playing to win…at least that’s what I was telling myself. And there were some bright spots, like seeing new acquisition Milton Bradley get on base several times and Micah Hoffpauer look like a hitting machine. But it was troubling watching the Yankees tee off on Ted Lilly like he was throwing batting practice.
The Yankees were clearly playing to win. They fielded their regular season starting line-up, including Derek Jeter’s debut in the lead-off position. They also seemed very pumped up to be playing in their new home, and wanted to put on a show for the home crowd. I have a feeling that Pinella, knowing this would be the dynamic, fielded the B team just so the Yankees couldn’t show them up.
I know it’s considered bad form to wish bad things on anyone…but I suppose everyone has their exceptions. For me it’s Republicans and the New York Mets.
Why the Mets? As we all know, our team affiliations are formed when we are young, and my formative years were spent in Chicago. These things become ingrained in ways that are unexplainable. Why are our emotions so wrapped up in what team we root for? In my case, being a Cubs fan became entangled in something far larger.
14 days to go until the election, and from what I can see, everything is trending in the right direction. There’s a part of me that is beginning to allow myself to dream about the possibilities. If Obama does indeed manage to win, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’ll be a true game changer in just about every way. New found respect abroad? Check. Forever removing the glass ceiling on race? Check. Reinvigorating the American dream? Check. Then there is the other part of me–I guess you could call it the Cubs fan part–which keeps reminding me that the Democrats (like the Cubs) have a way snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. In the meantime, I’ve become addicted to CNN, watching the pundits and reading into every potential portent.
The less said about the Cubs post-season performance, the better. Just know that there is definitely something more going on here than your average 100 year curse. Next year will mark the 101st anniversary of their last championship, and the 60th anniversary of their last World Series appearance. Could that be the omen we’ve been waiting for?
In the meantime, there is much to occupy us until Spring Training…
1. Ron santo is one on the 10 finalists on the Hall of Fame ballot. We’ll know if he made it in February. Go Ron!
2. Why not buy copies of “This Old Cub” and “Chasing October” to keep the baseball season alive!
3. We have another Cubs movie coming shortly…watch these pages!
The Cubs are in the playoffs for the second year in a row…a feat that they haven’t achieved since 1907-1908. Is that a sign that THIS COULD BE THE YEAR? I made up my mind many years ago that if it ever happened, I would be there to witness it. And so far I’ve managed to be at every post-season game played at Wrigley Field since the day I was born. Of course, there used to be a simple punch line to that–there weren’t all that many. But lately, the Cubs are acting like they mean it.
Please note that I have no special privileges that entitle me to post-season tickets. In 2003, I flew to Chicago for each game, not knowing how I’d be able to get in. I hung out at the will-call window and subtly let it be known that I was looking for a single ticket. I managed to score each time, at only a bit more than face value. But it was nerve wracking to say the least.
It’s not as if we Cubs fans aren’t used to this sort of thing. One thing we’ve learned is to enjoy the ride as long as it lasts. And this year was quite a ride.
I made it to Wrigley for the one and only playoff game. I was with Peter Gilbert (of “Hoop Dreams” fame) and his son Leo. The atmosphere was jubilant, but tempered by the history of this franchise. The fact that the Cubs had already lost the first 2 games in Arizona had people a bit nervous. But the snippets of conversation I caught outside the park were all optimistic.