"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do, I stare out the window and wait for spring." - Rogers Hornsby

al yellon rants about the Cubs, the universe, and everything
:: welcome to 'and another thing!' - voted by readers as Best Cubs Blog 2004

:: Cubs' final 2004 record: 89-73, 3rd NL Central, -16. Last game: 10-8 win over Braves
:: Al's final 2004 record: 51-41, .554 (44-37 home, 7-4 road)
:: Cubs' 2004 record in all other games: 38-32, .543 (1-0 home, 37-32 road)
:: Next spring training game: Thursday, March 3, 2005, vs. A's at Phoenix, 2:05 pm CT
:: Next game: Monday, April 4, 2005, vs. Diamondbacks at Phoenix, 4:40 pm CT
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:: Saturday, June 14, 2003 ::

Up To The Heights

TORONTO -- My family and I scaled the heights today, visiting the CN Tower in Toronto this morning, the world's tallest freestanding structure -- it now has a "glass floor", where you can stand on glass and look down with nothing underneath you, which is extremely cool.

Then, we watched the Cubs scale the heights to first place in the NL Central with a stirring 4-2 win over the Blue Jays at Skydome (and yes, you're not supposed to say "The Skydome", just "Skydome".

But first, I had to do something fairly distasteful -- spend over $200 (Canadian) on replacing my Oakley sunglasses, which I inadvertently left at National Airport (and I refuse to call it "Reagan" airport) in Washington on Friday. Too bad, since I really liked these, and bought the very same ones to replace them. At least I can get the Canadian GST tax back on the purchase.

The Cubs hit Doug Davis early and often, scoring four runs in the first two innings, and made it hold up. The bullpen was really good today in relief of Mark Prior (who should have escaped with no runs, but an error by Eric Karros allowed an extra out, which gave Carlos Delgado a chance to hit a two-run homer. That guy can hit -- right now he's so hot I might consider the Barry Bonds treatment, walking him every time he comes up. That must have been what Joe Borowski was thinking when Delgado came up in the 9th representing the tying run, and Borowski gave him a semi-intentional walk, followed by Josh Phelps' game-ending forceout.

The Toronto fans today were lively and enthusiastic about their team, and the 33,167 was one of the largest crowds of the year, probably brought out by the nice weather and maybe the arrival of the Cubs, even without Sammy Sosa. I doubt the Carlos Delgado Celebriduck brought out too many people, but you never know. Those things are very odd; the Cubs gave away two of them last year, Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa, but none this season are scheduled. There were a small but loud contingent of Cub fans today again, including Jeff & Krista, who are driving back to Chicago tomorrow. Mark & I will be at the series finale, with the Cubs alone in first place after the Red Sox' 8-4 win over the Astros today.

After the game we rode the Toronto subway, also clean, fast and efficient, to our friends' house in the burbs, where we had a nice dinner of grilled salmon, and where I'm writing this, believe it or not, on my friend's iBook -- a computer that I've never used before, and which is kinda hard to use when you can't copy/paste URL's -- I've hand-typed all the links in today's post.

More later tomorrow, or Monday after we get home, and then I'll write more on the ballparks in Baltimore and Toronto, which I've seen before this year, but it was very cool to see the Cubs play in both of them for the first time.

We got heckled a bit by the Toronto fans, and all I could say after the win was, "Gee, they sure treated us nicer in Baltimore." I was kidding, of course, and they all laughed.

:: posted by Al at 9:19 PM [+] ::

TORONTO -- Either Kelvim Escobar is the next coming of Roger Clemens, or the Cubs' offense needs some major help.

I'd lean toward the latter, as the ballclub looked almost totally lifeless in a boring 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays.

There's not much to say about the baseball; I keep thinking Tom Goodwin should never again darken a starting lineup, but he had three hits last night, for all the good it did. In fact, the Cubs had twelve hits, and it took all 12 to generate one lousy run. Kerry Wood seems to be becoming someone who can't put his best game on if it's not a big game; last Saturday against Roger Clemens, he had his "A" game on. This one was maybe a C+.

Alex Gonzalez still seems very popular here in Toronto, especially among the adolescent-girl set, and I was surprised that the crowd, 23,018, was as small as it was, given the advance hype of Sammy Sosa coming here (even though, of course, he's not even here taking BP, as he was sent home to work on his stroke in the privacy of the empty Wrigley Field). They were enthusiastic though, and since the Cubs have never been here before, they got a chance to exercise all the lame "1908" jokes that we've all heard a million times from Cardinal fans.

I give them credit for a sense of humor, though. When the PA played the trumpet blasts that normally get the crowd response "Charge!", some local fans yelled "SARS!"

Off to tour the city, then to this afternoon's game. If Mark Prior is to be the ace of this staff, it's time to step up today.

:: posted by Al at 9:24 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, June 13, 2003 ::
The Land Of SARS

TORONTO -- It was like coming from summer to winter, from hot, humid & stormy DC to cold, misty, drizzly Toronto.

They do hand you a flyer about SARS when you step off the plane and you certify (by filling out a form) that you're not sick. I saw no masks, no sick people anywhere; it's just like coming to any other big city.

We booked the field-view room at the Skydome hotel, and let me tell you, it was worth the look on the kids faces to pay the extra $ for it. They are thrilled. You know, it's raining and foggy outside right now, but I don't care!! It can rain all night, and we'll still be dry watching tonight's game. There are quite a few Cub fans wandering around the hotel lobby already. I'd expect the Jays to have three crowds of about 30,000 or perhaps a few more.

One other note I wanted to make here about something I wrote about at length a few months ago when the subject first hit the media: the ridiculous suit brought by golddigger Karla Knafel against Michael Jordan was thrown out of court yesterday in Chicago. Cook County Judge Richard Siebel called it "extortionate" and he's right. The whole thing didn't make Jordan look very good either; sometimes I really question his judgment, from this to his ruining the most perfect ending of a sports career ever, by returning to play two mediocre seasons for the Wizards, to his attempts to do something with the rest of his life by managing/owning a basketball team, he really doesn't seem to know what to do except play basketball. That's fine, but at a certain point you've got to move on, and he doesn't seem to know how.

:: posted by Al at 2:47 PM [+] ::
A Memorable Night

WASHINGTON, DC -- And not for the Cubs' listless 6-1 loss to the Orioles, which suffered through two hours and 42 minutes of rain delays and finally ended just after midnight.

I only know this, incidentally, from the box score and recap reports, because we left about halfway through the second delay. But wait, I'm starting at the end of the story.

First, a quick recap on yesterday's sightseeing in DC. We had gone to the Holocaust Museum with 11 am timed tickets, hoping to also get in to see the just opened Anne Frank exhibition. Unfortunately, that also took timed tickets and the earliest they had was 3 pm. So we took those and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon at the Air & Space Museum, which the kids loved, and then went back for the other exhibitions later.

The Holocaust Museum now has a more kid-oriented display called "Daniel's Story", which is somewhat less intense than the rest of the exhibits, and oriented so that kids can understand without being frightened; and to see also the original pages from Anne Frank's diary, which are on loan from the museum in Amsterdam, is very powerful stuff. There's nothing more you can really say about visiting such a place, except to remember the words, "Never again".

So we went on to Baltimore on the train, through a couple of downpours, though it had mostly stopped by the time we got there. Not listed on the promotional schedule, they handed out very nice decorated baseballs that had "Go Birds" on them, in a display holder. Then the fun started. The ground crew at Camden Yards... well, I have to say they're pretty slow. It had stopped raining by about 6:50, but they waited. And waited. And waited. It reminded me of Aug. 25, 1999, when the Cubs had a two-hour non-rain delay at Wrigley Field, and lost the date anyway. The game didn't start till 7:58, and they managed to play for 43 minutes until it started pouring again.

Well, we figured this would go on for some time, so after about 45 minutes of waiting, we left, but not after having to walk back through the entire concourse to our seats, because Mark remembered (smart kid!) that I had left the promotional baseball sitting there.

Problem is, though we took the train to Baltimore, there is no train back. Instead, they run buses. But -- the buses will not run until after the game ends (though on Wednesday, they did run during the rain delay, probably because there were so many people leaving).

So there were about 12 of us standing around, getting a really bad attitude from the bus drivers, when six of us decided to take matters into our own hands.

The MTA light rail (which runs next to the MARC commuter trains) runs to the Baltimore-Washington Airport till about 11 pm. We decided to get there, and then take a bus to the DC Metro. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, the last bus for the Metro had already left. That left one choice -- taxi. As you can imagine, at an airport at 11:30 at night, it's not easy to find a taxi for six to take you about 25-30 miles. However, we squeezed in -- luckily the sixth passenger, Mark, is 7 years old and small -- and of course, ran into a massive traffic jam on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Finally, we arrived safe in DC at about 12:30 am, at which time the bus from the game would have been just pulling away from Camden Yards.

Thanks to Arnie, Joe, Allison and Jamie, my four new DC friends (and Cub fans too!), who helped us get back from the game, entertained Mark, and wouldn't let me pay my share of the cabfare. Hope to see you guys at Wrigley Field someday!

It's off to Toronto in half an hour... where if it rains at game time tonight, I don't care. I'm not a great fan of indoor baseball, but tonight, at least, that dome will be a welcome sight.

:: posted by Al at 7:33 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, June 12, 2003 ::
I Should Have Known Better...

WASHINGTON, DC -- It used to be a running joke. Every time I took my wife Alison to a ballgame, it rained. No, not rained, stormed. Huge storms. It happened at the Cubs' first night game in 1988; at the All-Star Game in 1990, and a couple others before we gave up.

So I should have known that taking both her and both of my kids last night would have resulted in a thunderstorm, and that's exactly what happened at the end of the 8th inning.

But before the game report, yesterday's travelogue.

My friend David picked us up and drove us over to Annapolis, capital of Maryland and home of the US Naval Academy. It was nothing like I expected... it's almost a small colonial-era town, yes, with the requisite fudge and cheap, tacky souvenir shops. But there's also a very nice harborfront, which I had forgotten was also the place where Alex Haley began and ended his search for "Roots" -- there's a memorial right at the harbor where the slave ships used to dock over 200 years ago. We saw the Maryland State Capitol, which has the largest wooden dome in the country constructed without nails. Then we walked around the grounds of the Naval Academy -- as David pointed out, in what other country would they let you wander about freely at a place where they train naval officers? -- it's quite beautiful, and we also saw the crypt of Admiral John Paul Jones, Revolutionary War hero. Lots of school groups walking around, as it seems to be field-trip time of year.

And now, back to baseball.

The Cubs' fourth win in a row, 7-6 over the Orioles, wasn't nearly as close as that score. Matt Clement gave up two earned runs in six innings, and they probably shouldn't have been earned -- a ball that should have been caught was muffed by David Kelton, allowing the two runs to score, and Jay Gibbons got a hit on the play, a play that most major league left fielders would have made easily. Frankly, I question Dusty's choice in playing Kelton in LF and DH'ing Moises Alou -- I think it should have been done the other way.

Just before it started pouring, the Cubs bullpen was starting to implode -- I always worry when Antonio Alfonseca comes in, and he wasn't very good, giving up a walk and a hit; then Mark Guthrie came in and gave up another hit, and finally, with the rain absolutely pouring down, Joe Borowski struck out Geronimo Gil to end the rally.

We left. OK, normally I wouldn't leave, but: I had two tired little kids with me (and in fact, Mark had a little meltdown when the game started and he wound up sitting behind a very large person, and he couldn't see. He could have switched seats but didn't, so he just sat there kind of sulking for three innings. I think he just had a very long day. Meanwhile, Rachel, who doesn't care about baseball, had a great time, throwing 23 MPH at the speed pitch booth)... and we were taking a bus back to DC, and weren't sure if the bus was going to wait around for the end of the game, and it seemed to be raining hard enough that they might have just called the game.

Turned out the timing was pretty good, because the rain delay was nearly two hours, and by the time we got back they were just about ready to finish the ninth inning, which I watched comfortably on TV (the game being on local cable).

The crowd was about 4,000 smaller than the night before and I'm not sure whether that was due to Sammy's suspension (I officially pronounce myself surprised that it happened before the Cubs hit Toronto), or due to the threat of thunderstorms, which exists again for tonight's game. I've seen enough rain this season to last me about five years. At least in Toronto, despite the artificial turf that I dislike, there's no threat of rainouts at Skydome.

We'll be leaving fairly early in the morning for Toronto; if I have a chance tonight or early tomorrow to write, I will, otherwise it'll have to wait till tomorrow afternoon. I still can't get my wireless card in my laptop to work (in fact, if any of you know why I'd be getting the message "Network cable unplugged" on a wireless card, please e-mail me!), so I'm on the B&B's dialup line (and man, am I spoiled by high-speed connections! Dialup is SLOW!)

:: posted by Al at 8:42 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 ::

WASHINGTON, DC -- You know, I just can't think up a clever, funny or even interesting title to today's game report, so it shall go untitled.

Last week, Jay Mariotti wrote another of his vitriol-filled columns in the Sun-Times, in which he castigated Sammy Sosa, said he would always be tainted, and booed everywhere but Wrigley Field.

As usual, wrong, Jay. There was a buzz last night at Camden Yards when Sammy took the field for batting practice, and he obliged the fans by putting on quite a show, skying several shots into the bullpen. The reaction when he took the field for the game was also 99% positive; there were scattered boos, and one guy holding up a sign that said "Cheater", but you can see that most everyone is willing to forgive this isolated transgression. That's why I think Sandy Alderson is going to take his time making the decision on Sammy's appeal, so that he can also treat the fans in Toronto to the same show. Attendance last night in Baltimore was 32,484, about 6,000 over the Orioles' season average.

Oh, the Cubs won the game 4-0. Shawn Estes threw his best game of the year, had a really sharp-breaking curveball, and he and Antonio Alfonseca and Joe Borowski scattered nine hits, pretty rare for a shutout. There were three nicely-turned double plays that helped, and the offense woke up with 14 hits. I was puzzled late in the game when I saw Troy O'Leary in LF; the PA announcements were inaudible where we were sitting, and we couldn't see the scoreboard either, so I had thought O'Leary was the DH, but actually Moises Alou DH'd last night. I suspect that tonight, David Kelton will DH against the lefty Omar Daal, who's always been a Cub-killer.

My friend Tom drove over from Virginia and had to remind my son Mark that we wouldn't be seeing him next week (we saw him only 10 days ago at the Colgate reunion), although he's coming to Wrigley Field next month for the Atlanta series. David and his daughter also joined us and drove us back to DC after the game.

You've probably read about the idiot who ran out onto the field and threw some cork at Sammy; that was bizarre, in that he didn't actually run at Sammy or touch him; he knelt down in front of him, as if he were bowing to the God of Cork or something like that. As David pointed out, he or I could have run out there faster than the Baltimore police did, though since the guy wasn't moving, I guess they figured they had plenty of time to get him out of there.

I've been to Camden Yards before, and the place really hasn't changed much since it opened in 1992; it's still one of the best of the new retro parks, kept up well, and the people who work there are friendly and helpful. We wound up with two extra tickets and the Orioles run a "no-scalp zone", where you can sell these tickets freely for up to face value, which we did after only about ten minutes. It's a great idea that ought to be copied by other ballclubs.

We are off to take a tour of Annapolis, MD today, then to the ballgame tonight, so the next report here will be tomorrow morning.

:: posted by Al at 8:14 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 ::
Tourist! Tourist!

WASHINGTON, DC -- Okay, armed with cameras, we definitely looked like tourists today in Washington... I actually really like the Washington Metro subway system. It's clean and fast, and cool-looking with subdued lighting in all the stations. With parking impossible in DC, that's how we are getting around.

This morning we had booked a tour at the Capitol through the office of my US representative, Rahm Emanuel. These days, the Capitol seems more inaccessible than ever, since it resembles a giant construction site, with the new visitors center (planned after the 9/11 attacks) that will open in 2005 being built. Thus, it was hard to find the right place to go. We wound up on the Senate side of the Capitol, where a very polite (!) Senate police officer told us how to get to Rahm's office, at which time two very enthusiastic young members of his staff gave us the tour. Actually, it was nicer that way, since it was more personal. There are many areas in the Capitol now sealed to the public, sadly, after 9/11, but we did see the Rotunda, many of the offices and did sit in the gallery of the House chamber and heard a couple of droning speeches about prescription drug reform (one of them, predictably by a Republican, was filled with errors).

Then we had lunch at the House cafeteria -- which has got to be one of the best-kept secrets in DC. The food is good, the lines short, and the prices ridiculously cheap (lunch for four: $19).

After lunch we headed over to another don't-miss site: the International Spy Museum in downtown Washington, not far from Ford's Theater. This cleverly arranged museum has tons of spy gadgets from the Cold War era, but also traces the history of spying, shows some actually interesting bits of videos (unlike many museum videos which are dull and old) -- one of which was a patriotic Donald Duck cartoon from World War II that I had never seen before; Donald promotes paying your taxes, so we could have "Taxes to beat the Axis". It also has some cool interactive exhibits which are good for adults as well as kids. The only downside to this museum is that it's a bit pricey ($13 for adults and $10 for kids), but I still think it was worth it.

I'm just kind of hanging out now at our B&B, The Inn at Dupont Circle, and in an hour or so it's off on the MARC commuter train to Baltimore for tonight's game.

Go Cubs! Will write about the game probably tomorrow morning.

:: posted by Al at 2:25 PM [+] ::
Baseball on the National Mall

WASHINGTON, DC -- Or more correctly, softball.

On our way to see the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial at sunset (spectacular sunset, incidentally), we walked past a softball game of the 2003 Congressional Softball League. How did we know this? Well, one of the teams was wearing shirts that said "McCainiacs", evidently Sen. McCain's staff. They were winning handily. Not sure what that says about the Senate. The shirts were pretty cool-looking, too.

Off to the Capitol later this morning, then we'll figure out some other sightseeing later on, and then to tonight's ballgame. Let's hope the Cubs can build off the emotional high they left Chicago with after Sunday's game. We ran into some people on our flight yesterday who were also going to this series, so there will be a good representation of Cub fans at Camden Yards.

:: posted by Al at 7:22 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, June 09, 2003 ::
Our Nation's Capital

WASHINGTON, DC -- That's where I'm writing you from this afternoon, after an uneventful flight to Baltimore (though oddly, and I've never experienced this before, the plane ran all the way down the runway after landing and then made a 360-degree turn on the runway itself before taxiing to the terminal), and a nice lunch with my friend David, who was generous enough to pick us up and drive us to DC. He's also joining me for the games at Camden Yards along with his daughter (nice company for the kids), and my Colgate friend Tom, who's driving over from rural Virginia for tomorrow night's game.

We are off to visit the Bureau of Engraving & Printing in an hour or so, which is of course where they print all US currency, which I thought the kids would find cool. I'm hoping for some free samples, but I won't hold my breath.

:: posted by Al at 2:47 PM [+] ::
:: Sunday, June 08, 2003 ::
Hey, I Was On TV!

Did you see me?

It was about the sixth inning (I can't remember) when I felt a presence over my shoulder; it was an ESPN cameraman, who shot my scorecard and the side of my face, then panned over to the action. Immediately, the cellphone started ringing; I kept joking I was going to give it to Jeff, my personal assistant, to answer. Jeff taped the game, as it turns out, so I'll get a chance to see this later. He and Krista are also going to a couple of the games that I'll see in Toronto this weekend.

As great as the first two days of Cubs-Yankees were, day three lived up to the hype as well, with a dramatic 8-7 win over the visitors from New York, capped by Joe Borowski's pickoff of his spring training teammate Charles Gipson, who was sent in to pinch-run for Jorge Posada. The last pickoff to end a game that I can remember was Mitch Williams' pickoff of Montreal's Jeff Huson in the division title year of 1989.

The offense woke up today and not a moment too soon; there were many heroes, including Moises Alou with a 3-run HR; Corey Patterson, singling and tripling; Ramon Martinez also homered and Sammy Sosa got his 2000th career hit. Mark Prior threw well again, striking out 10 in six innings. I wasn't so thrilled with Dusty's choice of Mike Remlinger to face Jason Giambi again, but once again, he struck him out, this after Giambi had earlier sent a monstrous HR into the shrubbery.

The Cubs match up real well with the Yankees, and in fact I saw a few weaknesses in the Yankee armor, particularly their bullpen and their lack of real good bench players. This really felt like a playoff series, and players from Kerry Wood to Mark Prior said they'd never experienced anything like it. I haven't heard the ballpark that loud since the tiebreaker game in 1998, and probably never that loud for a regular-season game, certainly not one in June.

It rained most of the late afternoon, continuing till about an hour before game time, when the sun finally appeared. Maybe summer is finally here.

My next game report will be from Camden Yards in Baltimore, where the Cubs continue interleague play. David Kelton, who lined out to left (and got a nice ovation for it!) in his major league debut, will probably do some DH duty in the AL parks in Baltimore and Toronto. I'll be at all six of the games in those two cities, as well as doing the tourist thing with the kids in Washington, DC, the next few days.

I hope the Cubs can keep up the intensity they've shown over the last three days; if it carries over, this could start to be a real special season. In any case, Cub fans now turn into Yankee fans too, as the Yanks will play the Astros and Cardinals this week.

See you from DC and Baltimore!

:: posted by Al at 11:28 PM [+] ::
Meigs Field Update

The Chicago Sun-Times reported today that the Butcher of Meigs Field is ready to open Meigs as a park.

According to the article, park district lackey Drew Becker said, "The terminal and fire station definitely are keepers. And we'd like to look at keeping the tower. It's a great observation point." Gee, wonder if terrorists could get up there? It's got a pretty straight line of sight to the Sears Tower and the other downtown buildings.

When we get our property taxes raised because businesses don't come to Chicago because there isn't a convenient lakefront airport, we'll have proved our point. But it'll be too late by then.

:: posted by Al at 1:56 PM [+] ::

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