"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, July 12, 2003 ::

Throw It Back!

If you were watching the game today on Fox, you saw me and our little group, because Rafael Furcal's third-inning homer landed among us, the first HR up in our section in about five years.

Now I'll let you in on a little secret. For two years I've kept a ball in my backpack, one I got in BP years ago, inscribed "THIS IS NOT THE HR BALL. THIS IS A THROWBACK BALL, COURTESY RF BLEACHERS". Been just waiting for the chance to use it. Jon grabbed the HR ball (got a scrape on his hand, after it bounced off Tom's right hand), I quickly grabbed the throwback ball out of my bag, we switched the balls and Jon threw the throwback ball back on the field. We watched the bullpen pitchers, who usually are the recipients of such balls, all examine it and then start looking out at us.

We figure this ball will be on exhibit at the All-Star FanFest by tomorrow. I'll be there tomorrow, so will look for it, and also report on the Fest here sometime late tomorrow or Monday.

As for the rest of the Cubs' decisive 7-3 win over the Braves, it was as big a blowout for the Cubs as the last two days have been against them. Five extra-base hits including another HR for Sammy Sosa (OK, into the basket, but with the wind blowing in, that'd have been an easy HR any other day), in a six-run fourth, did in Horacio Ramirez. And Matt Clement threw one of his best games of the year; Furcal's HR was really his only major mistake, as the other two runs were partly because of a Ramon Martinez error. Clement threw an efficient 99 pitches, with no walks, in his eight innings, and if the Cubs are to go anywhere in the second half, a recovery by Clement to 2002 form is critical.

I was a bit puzzled by Dusty's use of Joe Borowski in a non-save situation in the 9th, especially since:

a) closers tend not to do well in non-save situations;
b) Borowski threw an inning yesterday;
c) Dave Veres had been warming up and actually could have used the work.

But it worked out OK.

Jose Hernandez played CF for the first time in two years, and doubled and walked. I suspect we may see more of this, but I don't think I'd do it on a regular basis. If the Cubs decide over the break that they're still in this, which I think they are in the Comedy Central, they ought to go out and get some hitters to complement what still is the best pitching staff in the division.

I had arranged to get Sue's extra tickets to Brian (a different Brian, FWIW) and his brother-in-law and son for today, and I was going to get them from Sue and then meet Brian. Once the gates opened I figured, why not just have them contact each other and meet, which they did. I tell you, this ticket-arranging thing can get to be almost a fulltime job! That, plus saving fifteen seats, kept Jeff & me busy for most of the pre-game time.

It was as perfect a day as you can find. The weather was gorgeous, sunny and upper 70's; the Cubs won and played sound fundamental baseball, and in addition to all the other people joining us, Craig from the Cubs Usenet newsgroup was also there, his first time in the bleachers in nearly 20 years. I told him that with the win, he has to come out there more often. Click on the link above to read his report on our afternoon, in the newsgroup itself.

Now, to spend the evening rooting for Pittsburgh and San Diego.

:: posted by Al at 3:51 PM [+] ::
Correction Section

Yesterday I wrote that the Cubs were at .500 for the first time since they were 3-3 on April 6. My eyes must have been glazed over from the bad baseball yesterday, because they were also 5-5 on April 11, which is the real last time they were at .500.

Doesn't matter. If they're to do anything this year it had better start today.

:: posted by Al at 8:47 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, July 11, 2003 ::

1) Randall Simon has been suspended for three games and fined for the sausage race incident. I could make a few puns here, but I think I'm pretty fried. Instead, I'll just say that Simon seemed sorry that he did it, and this won't cost him a lot of bread.

2) Game time for the Wednesday, July 23 game vs. the Phillies has been changed to 6:05 CDT from 7:05. ESPN will telecast that game.

3) Before today's game I went over to Kenmore Avenue to see the mark that has been painted on the street where Sammy Sosa's rocket of a home run landed on June 25.

It's only about 20 feet short of where the legendary 600-foot shot that Dave Kingman hit while he was with the Mets in 1976. Sosa's blast, measured at 520 feet, and marked as "538 feet" on the street, has to be at least 550 feet, maybe longer. If you're in the neighborhood, check out the street on the 3700 block of North Kenmore.

:: posted by Al at 7:00 PM [+] ::
Starting Over

For the first time since April 6, the Cubs are at .500 after today's dispiriting 9-5 loss to the Braves. It also dropped my personal record in games I've attended to .500, at 27-27 (that's 22-22 at home, 5-5 on the road; I've missed three home games in which the Cubs are 1-2, so they are now under .500 at home, a truly miserable mark).

I did get my first batting-practice ball of the season today. I wish I could tell you I made a great leaping catch on it, but instead, while it was early and the bleachers were pretty empty, I simply walked over where it landed and picked it up. This will be good practice for the HR derby on Monday.

You probably already know about the baserunning collision between Mark Prior and Marcus Giles, which sent Giles to the hospital with a mild concussion. Prior stayed in the game and seemed to be OK, but he blew up in the fifth inning and had his worst outing of the season, throwing 96 pitches in his 4 2/3 innings of work. I have to say, Prior, though a great and smart athlete, was wrong here -- he was right in the way of Giles fielding Mark Grudzielanek's ground ball, and the fielder has the right of way. Prior, obviously, was called out for interference.

Prior now does rank second in the majors to Kerry Wood in strikeouts, 150 to Wood's 156.

Usually when people give me extra tickets to sell, I make the rounds of the bleachers with them. Today, the "Al-Master" service stayed right on the bench, as between people walking up to me and phone calls, I sold five tickets for this weekend's games, as well as my fourth All-Star ticket. Brian will be joining me, my son Mark and my dad, who's coming into town. I went with my dad to the 1984 All-Star game in San Francisco, so it'll be nice to share this year's game here with him.

Jessica finished up her week with us and will be in her terrace season seat this weekend; the Cubs Usenet Newsgroup will be represented tomorrow by Craig. Today was Jon's day to wear the Sausage Race t-shirt; if you haven't seen a copy of USA Today, go get one over the weekend; their articles on the topic were filled with groaner headline puns, which are much more creative than you usually see from the McPaper.

Needless to say, the Cubs must win the next two games if they want to go into the break with any momentum or chance to catch the Cardinals and Astros. I will mention to Tom tomorrow, that usually when he's in town the Cubs tend to split series, so that's probably a good sign.

Finally -- when will Dusty Baker learn that Lenny F. Harris is no longer a major league player? The next time I see his name in the paper, I want to see the words "Unconditionally Released" next to them.

:: posted by Al at 6:18 PM [+] ::

1) Forgot to mention yesterday that Tom, my friend from Colgate who joined us in Baltimore, is in town for the Atlanta series. He showed up wearing his Milwaukee Sausage Race T-shirt, which he got at old County Stadium in 1999. He claims he put it on before he even heard about the Randall Simon incident. Actually, I believe him.

2) Last night's moviegoing was my first time at the new AMC River East 21 in downtown Chicago. This is the largest movie screen complex in the city -- I give it mixed reviews. You have to go up three escalators and down a very long corridor to get to the "theater" -- and I put that in quotes because it's not that much bigger than a closet, or so it seems. There were 63 seats in screen #14. Yes, I counted them. It was about half full, and felt kind of closed-in. The screen was big enough and the sound was OK, but in a theater that small, the mandatory EXIT signs that have to stay on were shining pretty brightly. I wouldn't bother going back there again unless, as was the case last night, it was the only place/time I could see a particular film.

:: posted by Al at 8:52 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, July 10, 2003 ::
Movie Review: "Bend It Like Beckham"

You know, I really didn't want to see this movie; I thought it was going to be a silly kid's or teenager's film gushing about the British-soon-to-be-Spanish soccer star David Beckham.

Well, that's what the trailer kind of looked like, anyway.

But it wasn't like that at all. Instead, I found a film rich in the story of a teenage girl, the daughter of a traditional Indian family, who doesn't want her to play soccer (OK, football, since this is set in London), even though she's very good at it, good enough to catch the attention of a blonde English girl who sees her playing in a park with some boys, and joins up with her team.

What we find is the conflict between modern society and the older generation who wants to preserve traditions... but underlying these conflicts are some old hurts, and we learn what it's like to be tolerant and respectful of other cultures. There's also some very funny and sly scenes involving Jess' (the Indian girl, played by Parminder Nagra) sister's traditional wedding (it'll make you think that this is "My Big Fat Indian Wedding"), and the mother of Jules (Keira Knightley), who winds up misinterpreting almost every relationship in the movie. I won't spoil your fun by telling you the outrageous things she winds up thinking.

Jules and Jess seem like real friends, with moments of joy and moments of conflict; the dialogue between them seems so real. Current Brit slang must include the word "brilliant" for anything that's really good, because this word pops up seemingly dozens of times in the film.

There's some very realistically portrayed soccer action, and of course, the obligatory happy ending, which I won't ruin for you here. Beckham himself is in the film, but only for a moment, and he doesn't even have any dialogue. Wonder what they paid him and his Spice Girl wife for that.

Go see this film; there's plenty of laughs, a story line that makes you think, and well-drawn characters that pull you right into the story and make you root for all of them.

AYRating: *** 1/2

:: posted by Al at 10:21 PM [+] ::
Positive Thoughts... Positive Thoughts...

I told myself that when I sat down to write about today's game that I'd say something positive.

So here it is:

It didn't rain today!

There, I said it. It's the first game this homestand that I didn't have to bring the umbrella.

That's it. There's nothing else good that I can say about the Braves' 13-3 blowout of the Cubs. I didn't even get to stifle myself as Jessica asked yesterday, because no one hit a meaningless home run. None of the Cubs did much of anything after the third inning, at a time when one more timely hit with one out might have knocked Greg Maddux out of the game. You have to take those opportunities when you get them, because even Maddux having a bad year, won't beat himself. Today, he didn't have his best stuff but he didn't walk anybody, while Shawn Estes, matching him through five innings, started walking people in the sixth and that was basically the ballgame.

Today we got the bad version of Kyle Farnsworth, the one from last year, and even he got lucky because of a changed call; a base hit for Henry Blanco got switched to an error on Alex Gonzalez, making two of the five runs scored off Kyle unearned. Antonio you-know-who, who's reduced to garbage-time duty, came in and gave up two more hits and a home run to Blanco in the 9th, and left the field to a chorus of boos. Really, I think the Cubs simply have to eat the remaining money on his contract and just release him, and get someone else up from Iowa, someone like Rod Beck -- oops, he's busy saving games in San Diego.

Tom Goodwin had three hits today. That's sad, because he's probably going to play just well enough to convince the brass that they don't have to go out and get Kenny Lofton to play CF the rest of the year.

About the only thing we had to cheer for was Vinny Castilla, of all people, who came up in the 9th with a chance to hit for the cycle. Unfortunately, the hit he needed was a triple. He did send a fly ball to the wall in RCF, but pulled up at second, even though he had at least a chance to get to third safely. I guess maybe he didn't realize he had a shot at the cycle.

It was pretty calm and peaceful in the bleachers today; the blowout started emptying things out in the 8th inning, and though I tried all the luck I could find -- wore the same cap as yesterday, got my Super Big Gulp out of the same spigot at the 7-11 -- nothing worked.

I do think the Cubs match up pretty well with Mike Hampton tomorrow; I'd sure settle for a split of the 4-game series.

And I had told Mike on Monday that I thought the Tigers would win the series from the White Sox. Jeff one-upped me by saying they'd sweep, and sure enough, they did, winning 1-0 today. That's pretty embarrassing for the White Sox, who run around with a chip on their shoulders when they play the Cubs, but lay down against the weak teams in the league. That's a classic .500 ballclub, playing up or down to the level of their opponent.

It was the Tigers' first sweep at home since last July, and they are now 6-6 vs. the White Sox, 18-59 vs. everyone else.

:: posted by Al at 5:12 PM [+] ::

Kenny Hubbs?

OK, most of you probably don't. He was NL Rookie of the Year in 1962, a young, promising second baseman who had a terrible fear of flying. Back in the 60's, teams didn't fly to all cities, but they were starting to, and Hubbs decided to get over his fear of flying by taking flying lessons.

He took off in a Utah snowstorm in February 1964 and his plane crashed and he was killed.

He's been honored by the Cubs organization a couple of times over the last few years and recently, his brother donated one of his gloves to the Hall of Fame; it'll be exhibited at the All-Star FanFest here in Chicago this weekend.

Anyway, Frank Mathie of our station did a story about this yesterday and gave me a 60's era brochure which had been given out by the foundation started in Kenny Hubbs' memory. Fascinating, with lots of pictures, including one on the cover with Hubbs wearing #16. The Cubs had announced at the time that #16 would be retired, and in fact it wasn't reissued until 1972, when it was given to manager Whitey Lockman.

When I see a Cub wearing #16 -- and there isn't a current Cub with that number, the last one was Delino DeShields last year -- I'll always think of Kenny Hubbs, and the career and life that ended far too soon.

:: posted by Al at 11:17 AM [+] ::
Idiot Of The Week Award

This one's easy -- it goes to Randall Simon of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who thought it would be funny to attack one of the Racing Sausages at Miller Park in Milwaukee last night.

As the Sausages ran by the Pirates' dugout, Simon whacked the top of one of them with a bat, causing two of them to topple over in the top-heavy costumes, which are generally worn by young Brewers' employees, although a couple of years ago, the Pirates' Pat Meares was talked into wearing one and participating when he was on the DL. There's no promotion in baseball that's more charming than this one. They even sell Sausage Race T-shirts in Milwaukee. OK, so it's Milwaukee. Believe it or not, you can even play the Sausage Race on the Internet.

Making the scene even odder was the fact that last night was Turn Back The Clock night in Milwaukee, so the Pirates were wearing their 1970's era canary yellow uniforms.

I mean, just how stupid is this guy? He was charged with misdemeanor battery, which probably doesn't carry a very stiff sentence. But whatever it is, they ought to let Simon have it. Baseball players shouldn't be immune from criminal prosecution simply because they're wearing a uniform.

:: posted by Al at 10:49 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, July 09, 2003 ::
I Know You've Felt This Way

I'm starting to get too wrapped up in this team. I know this is bad. I know I need help. But you've all felt this way too, right? Totally down and depressed after a loss like yesterday's, then getting too emotionally high after a big win like today's exciting 5-1 win over the Marlins.

This game was key because Kerry Wood clearly didn't have his best stuff, and we've said for a very long time that he needs to win when he has only his "B" game on. And he did today, striking out 12, including Ivan Rodriguez with a ball that bounced about thirty feet away, allowing I-Rod to reach base.

It rained hard for about an hour just before game time, but after it cleared up, the game started just over an hour late and it didn't rain again. This makes seven consecutive days it has not only rained, but stormed hard here in Chicago, and according to Tom Skilling, this is the first time in over 70 years that it's rained this much in early July. There may be one more day of rain, tomorrow, then it's supposed to clear out. I actually did buy the poncho this morning, but it didn't help keep the rain away. It did help keep me totally dry, which was very helpful. Game time temperature was only 67 degrees, quite cool for this time of year, and it seemed to drop as the day went on. I decided to eschew the shorts today; I'm not trying to make a statement with them, just be comfortable, and I was more comfortable in jeans today.

Jeff started singing "We want a hit" (or something like that) just before Sammy hit his monster 450+ foot home run. Now he has to sing every time Sosa comes up. We're silly that way. Jessica told us we now have to have a three-day moratorium on saying "meaningless late-inning HR's" when he comes up when the Cubs are behind. I happily agreed. Also today, one of Sue's nurses brought her son. She was the smart one. She missed her train and so arrived long after the rain ended. Jessica stayed in Starbucks until the rain was over, but did remember to bring her chicken salad sandwich (on sourdough), because the Cubs have won every day she's had that for lunch in this homestand. Now she has to eat one every day... well, we decided for the rest of her life, at least during the baseball season.

We almost got to see a total rarity these days: a game with no lineup changes. The Marlins pulled Carl Pavano after the first three batters in the bottom of the 8th reached; that was the only change, as Kerry Wood threw a 129-pitch complete game. However, if Alou hadn't singled and Pavano had finished out the inning, I'd bet Wood might have been pulled in favor of Joe Borowski in the 9th. Wood threw 14 of the 129 pitches in the 9th, so he wasn't really overextending himself, and with a four-run lead, I guess Dusty figured he'd save his bullpen.

But he still hasn't explained why he let Lenny F. Harris pinch hit yesterday.

:: posted by Al at 6:14 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, July 08, 2003 ::
Problem Solved

I've got it figured out, how to stop all this rain. Sure, I bring an umbrella every day and stay mostly dry, but I don't have a poncho, which would keep my feet and backpack dry. So if I go buy one, I'll never need it, right? Tomorrow morning, off to buy a poncho.

And after keeping my scorecard totally dry the whole rain delay, I laid it on the bench to take a walk for a few minutes and Brian's drink dripped on it. Oh, well.

Before I give you more of the summary of yet another frustrating one-run loss, 4-3 to the Marlins, let me address one thing in particular, and that would be this.

You're in the bottom of the ninth, behind but your team is rallying, possibly toward a stirring come-from-behind win. And you have two left-handed hitters on the bench who could potentially hit a game-winning HR off the righty reliever who has nothing today.

And your choice for pinch-hitter is Lenny F. Harris? (And I think you can guess what the "F" stands for.)

What is Dusty Baker thinking? Both Hee Seop Choi and Troy O'Leary were on the bench, and either had at least the chance to hit a home run. Instead, Lenny F. Harris? Even though Harris made the plate appearance somewhat worthwhile by walking, why would you ever do this? Dusty is insane, I'm sure of it. He might be a great motivator of men and loved by his players, but this move just proves what Giants fans warned us about before the season -- that his lineup selection and in-game strategies bordered on the bizarre.

Hey, what can you do. Moises Alou followed Harris' walk with a screaming line drive that Luis Castillo made a fabulous acrobatic catch on; that otherwise would have tied the game. And in the sixth, Juan Pierre ice-cream-coned Damian Miller's fly ball, that otherwise would have been a bases-clearing double. The Marlins play great defense and today, that was the difference, unless you consider the putrid performances of Mike Remlinger and Antonio you-know-who to be the difference.

Interlude -- the scoreboard on the side of the LF upper deck has been broken for two days; it's showed the Marlins with 88 runs, the Cubs with 88 hits and 18 errors, and number 88 at bat.

I'd say it could easily be fixed, but remember this is the club that couldn't fix the overhead lights in the bleachers' men's room from September of last year till about two months ago.

Back to today's action -- Dontrelle Willis pitched as advertised; he is reminiscent of Vida Blue, with the high leg kick and high socks, he does seem like a man out of time. I like these kind of guys; I don't think anyone could have predicted he'd be this good this soon when the Cubs dealt him last year in the Clement trade. Carlos Zambrano, after his own defense nearly cost him a run in the first, settled down and threw six good innings. Too bad the bullpen ruined it.

Even so, with the Cardinals' 8-3 loss to the Giants today, the Cubs still find themselves only a game out of first place, with a chance to still win the series behind Kerry Wood tomorrow.

If it ever stops raining. Howard put on a pink poncho today -- yes, pink -- and after he flattened the hood over his head we decided he looked like a Teletubbie.

:: posted by Al at 7:13 PM [+] ::
Congratulations, You Are A Winner!

No, not the Cubs, though they did beat the Marlins 6-3 last night at the Ballyard.

I'm selfishly talking about myself, because I drew one of the 500 winning scratch-off cards that the club handed out last night, and thus won a genuine Dusty Baker autographed ball. The team is doing several of these all year, with current players like Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, and also former stars such as Ryne Sandberg and Ernie Banks. Jeff won a Prior ball last month, and it was my turn last night. Cool -- and Baker is a tough signature to get, and I've wanted to get his autograph on a ball for a while. The ball came already in a ballcube with a certificate of authenticity.

As far as the game is concerned, this was a terrific statement to make in the wake of Corey Patterson's season-ending injury. His (hopefully temporary) replacement Tom Goodwin had his best game of the year, with three hits, a walk and two stolen bases. It's ridiculous to think that he can do this kind of thing for very long, but at least for now, he's playing more at his career level (.269 lifetime BA) than the way he played the first two months of 2003. The club recalled Trenidad Hubbard from Iowa to be his backup, and if you've been reading here for a while, you know that Hubbard impressed me in spring training, and I had hoped he'd make the club, so we'll see if he can perform up to that level as a backup to Goodwin, on a temporary basis.

I say temporary because if, as Jim Hendry says, they're not giving up, he has to go out and find someone else. The Royals' Carlos Beltran has been suggested -- but has anyone saying this noticed that KC is in first place? I doubt they'd trade who arguably is their best player, plus it'd likely take a couple of the Cubs' top pitching prospects to get him. The Cubs are going to try David Kelton in CF, but the way he played in LF when I saw him in Toronto, I can't imagine throwing him into the pressure of a pennant race in such a critical defensive position, not to mention expect him, with virtually no major league experience, to hit well enough at this level. Another name that's been mentioned is Armando Rios, who played for Dusty in SF, but he hits left-handed, same as Goodwin, so that really doesn't help either.

The obvious choice -- to me -- is Rickey Henderson. Yeah, yeah, I know, he's 44 with a bad attitude, but he's tearing up the ball in the independent Atlantic League. He wouldn't have the attitude problem he had last year with the Red Sox, when the problem apparently was that he wasn't playing enough -- here, he'd start most days -- and the cost in players is zero, and the cost in dollars is probably minimal. Henderson has played on a lot of playoff teams, and if any manager can handle someone like this, I think Dusty Baker can. Incidentally, you'll note if you click on the above link and browse through the Newark Bears' website, that one of Rickey's teammates is ex-Cub Jaime Navarro.

Just a short couple of comments on the game: both Sammy Sosa and Alex Gonzalez made nifty diving catches of sinking liners; Matt Clement both threw well (6.1 innings of five-hit ball) and drove in two runs with a double (and why would you ever walk Paul Bako intentionally?).

Sue came with a bunch of relatives from Georgia -- I never was really clear on exactly who was who, but they seemed like nice people. I also had been given a bunch of extra tickets for this week by some fellow season-ticket holders, and by the end of the game had sold so many that I had to be careful that I didn't sell my own tickets for today and tomorrow!

Jessica from the Cubs NG and a friend were also there, for her first-ever bleacher night game (she doesn't care for night games to begin with, and bought these tickets accidentally, by checking off the wrong date on a ticket order form), and she'll be with us all week.

At least four morons threw beach balls on the field. Now let me get this straight. You're going to a baseball game, and before you leave the house, you say to yourself, "Gosh! I better bring my beach ball!" What idiots.

:: posted by Al at 7:55 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, July 07, 2003 ::
Waiting For Gametime

No, that's nothing like waiting for Godot, though sometimes it feels that way.

I haven't written anything about the horrible porch collapse here in Chicago a week or so ago, and partly because... well, 20 or so years ago, that could have been me. I lived in Lincoln Park, and I went to parties in older buildings with outside porches, and yes, people went out there all the time. I think, as many have said, that most times these things self-police. You see too many people out on one of those things and think, "Hmmmm... I probably shouldn't go out there." But it's not always easy to do when you're enjoying yourself, and I'm not even saying drinking too much, just having a good time, and I do not blame the people involved, certainly not, because no one's thinking that way when they're enjoying themselves with friends.

I hate it that the city tore the thing down before evidence could be gathered. This is typical of the way Emperor Richie runs the city, of course; same modus operandi that tore down Meigs Field. Act first, ask questions afterwards. This action, of course, is going to lead to this being bogged down with lawsuits against the owner and the city, perhaps for years. One suit has already been filed. And to me, this desecrates the memory of the thirteen young men and women who lost their lives, so senselessly.

If this tragedy leads to better standards for building back porches, that's a good thing. If it leads to more people being careful about how many people they load onto back porches, that's a good thing.

If it simply lines the pockets of attorneys, that's not a good thing. I hope that doesn't happen.

One final note. In what was obviously intended as a gesture of kindness, someone laid 13 crosses in memory of the victims, at the site, a day or so after it happened. While thoughtful, this should have been thought through a bit more carefully, as one of the victims was Jewish and another was Muslim.

I'm going to add their names to the sidebar here, in memory of lives that should not have been lost.

:: posted by Al at 3:44 PM [+] ::
:: Sunday, July 06, 2003 ::
It Was Forty Years Ago Today

Nearly forgot.

Forty years ago today, Saturday, July 6, 1963, was the very first time I ever entered the Ballyard, better known as Wrigley Field; my dad brought me on a nice Saturday afternoon. On that date the Cubs were 45-36, marginally in contention, third, nine games out.

To show you how different things were then, attendance was 18,000, only half capacity.

To show you how much the same things were then, the Cubs got shut out that day by the Phillies' Cal McLish 6-0, who threw a two-hitter. That was just to prepare me for the last four decades of disappointment and failure.

One other note from today's game: during the rain delay, I discovered the secret to not having to wait in too long of a line in the men's room in the bleachers when it's crowded.

And if you think I'm telling you what it is, you're wrong!

:: posted by Al at 6:56 PM [+] ::
All Wet

That's describing the Cub offense and lineup selection, NOT the state of our little group of bleacher geeks, because we came prepared with ponchos, plastic bags and my trusty blue & white umbrella, and not only did we stay dry, most importantly, Jeff, Howard, Mike, Jon & I kept our scorecards dry after the skies opened up with a sudden downpour in the bottom of the 8th inning today.

The rain was so sudden -- and looking out the window right now it's getting dark and ready to storm again -- that the usually terrific Wrigley Field ground crew was caught before they could get the infield covered; they had to dump a couple dozen bags of Turface on the infield to dry it out, turning the 10-minute rain into a 45-minute delay.

When it ended we got to see a statistical oddity -- Cal Eldred had been announced as pitcher, though he hadn't thrown a pitch, and due to the delay the Cardinals were allowed to pull him and Jason Isringhausen came in, so Eldred gets an appearance in the record books without throwing a pitch.

If you think I'm avoiding talking about the game, I am. The Cubs had another listless loss, 4-1 to the Cardinals today, despite having 8 hits and having two other batters reach on errors; seven left on base again, and I have to blame Dusty's odd lineup selection. Why was Hee Seop Choi on the bench yet again against a righty? Why did Lenny Harris pinch-hit in the 8th for Damian Miller, who actually had a hit today? I told Mike it was for efficiency, since Harris could make an out faster than Miller, which he proceeded to do.

Choi also pinch-hit, but that's not a good role for him; he'll never get his stroke back one at-bat at a time.

You can't blame Mark Prior for this one -- he had electric stuff; he simply made one mistake and Eduardo Perez jumped all over it for a three-run homer. Prior also distracted himself, I think, when after Tino Martinez singled in that same inning, he wasted several throws to first. Huh? Tino Martinez is hardly a base-stealing threat, especially in a scoreless game in the second inning. Otherwise Prior looked great, striking out eleven.

But when your aces throw, you have to start winning. This season is far from a lost cause, even now only two games out of first place, since Houston got swept by Pittsburgh, but the Cubs have to make a deal now to upgrade this offense, and especially get useless people like Lenny Harris off the team. Complicating matters will be whatever the injury to Corey Patterson is; he landed wrong in beating out an infield hit in the 8th, and though he did walk off under his own power and without a limp, he still may miss a few games.

The rain drove about half the crowd away; we were among the few prepared with rain gear, though after the rain there was bright sunshine and heat again. This is predicted to continue for the next two days, after which it's supposed to cool off and dry out for the rest of the week.

:: posted by Al at 5:55 PM [+] ::

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