Chicago Cubs


Jose Valverde is a loud guy.

Jose Valverde is a loud guy.

After a draining night of watching a certain team I care a great deal about lose an important game in sudden, sickening fashion, I trudged out of bed this morning, got ready for work and, of course, started thinking about Jose Valverde and the Chicago Cubs. I’m sure that’s healthy.

I’m prone to making drastic leaps that can leave my friends confused, but allow me to re-connect the dots my beer-zapped brain linked this morning.

If sports are supposed to be entertainment, then Jose Valverde is a one-man cabaret act. At least he used to be.

From the safety of the left field grandstand, I got to know Valverde pretty well during my first year living in Arizona, while he closed games for the Diamondbacks in the 2007 season. That year was a great one for them, packed with one-run wins and a surprise division championship and the accompanying trip to the playoffs. Valverde was named an All-Star that season in recognition for his ability to rack up saves, but it was the way he pitched that got him into the spotlight. (more…)

Fisk didn’t waste any time getting comfortable in his new sox in the 1980s.

Last month, Kevin Youkilis joined a special branch in Boston Red Sox lore, that of the star and fan-favorite sent off to Chicago after spending quality time in Fenway Park.

Nomar Garciaparra joined the club in 2004, sent off to the Cubs as part of a three-team trade that sent Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera to Boston, jump-starting their run to an eventual World Series crown.

There have been others, too — Dennis Eckersley was traded to the Cubs in 1984 for Bill Buckner, for example — but the bad blood that seems to exist between the hard-swinging third baseman and certain members of the team, along with his dramatic return, more closely mirror that of catcher Carlton Fisk.

★ ★ ★

The contract fiasco that Fisk lived through in the winter of 1980-81 is famous and well-documented. Haywood Sullivan, the Red Sox general manager, “forgot” to mail the All-Star catcher his contract for the 1981 season, turning Fisk into a free agent. (more…)

Somewhere, Ryne Sandberg is either furious or laughing too hard to move.

I don’t often put up a post just to link to a video.

I also don’t normally like to call attention to something so utterly horrible.

But, sometimes, exceptions have to be made, because this is everything that’s wrong with baseball. Maybe not baseball, but every horror show masquerading as a fan.

On April 1, 2011, the Chicago Cubs opened up at Wrigley Field against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and NPR station WBEZ 91.5 was out looking for fans to interview. And find a fan they did. They found a doozy. The results are here.

And, if you do anything for me, ever, please be sure to watch this until the very end. You will not be disappointed, I promise.

This video is amazing.

Thanks go out to @RobEffinBrown for alerting me to the best moving picture I’ve seen since Black Swan.

I don't actually own this card, but I wish I did.

I’ve always had a thing for Chicago, I suppose. Years before I visited the city, years before a number of my friends moved there, I identified with it as a second love after Boston, sympathizing with their teams and digging their music (the blues scene, Wilco, Hum, Big Black, etc.).

In sports, they have some fantastic icons. The Bears had Gayle Sayers and Walter Payton, the Blackhawks had Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito, and the Cubs had Ernie Banks and, for our purposes today, Ron Santo.

Santo died late Thursday night at the age of 70. To say he was beloved by followers of the Cubbies is an understatement. One of the greatest third basemen in the history of the game, an announcer for the team for years, famous for being snubbed by the Hall of Fame, a champion for carrying on in the face of diabetes, Santo was as classy a former ballplayer as you’re likely to find.

I never saw him play (he retired after the 1974 season), and I don’t live in Chicago. But I’ve always admired him, and I was sad to hear he had passed.

Some folks who know better than me summed up his career and life pretty well, though, and I’d like to highlight them.

  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods has, in his typically understated way, captured Santo beautifuly in just a couple hundred words or so.
  • Joe Posnanski talks about how Santo carried himself with a dignity and grace that’s rare for the overlooked.
  • Bruce Levine looks back on his childhood hero, and how he grew to admire him even more as their paths crossed.

As they say, rest in peace, Ron. You were loved, and always will be.

Andre Dawson 1994 Topps Gold

This is how I will always remember the Hawk, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I haven’t heard too many people refer to Andre Dawson as “former Red Sox outfielder Andre Dawson” this past weekend, and for good reason. Over two seasons in Boston, he only played in 196 games, spent only 20 of them in right field, and hit only 20 home runs to go with a .297 on base percentage. Yes, his first home run with the Sox was number 400 (when 400 home runs still meant something), and he was a good guy in the clubhouse — you can’t spin around without finding someone who notes what a great guy he was.

Rightfully so, he’s remembered for his time in Montreal and Chicago. He was a dynamic outfielder, he was fast, he hit for power, he was a leader and he took a bullet financially during the collusion era, agreeing to play for the Cubs for minimum wage so he could escape the concrete playing surface of Montreal’s Stade Olymique. His supporters will point to his gold gloves, his 438 home runs, his 314 stolen bases and his 12 knee surgeries as proof of his worthiness to the Hall. His detractors will call attention to his lifetime .323 on base percentage and his low walk totals as not being good enough for induction. I fall in with the former group, myself.

But, for me, I’m not going to his numbers or his power arm in right field when I reach into my own memory banks. He spent the best part of his career at a time when I didn’t have much contact with the National League outside of box scores, books and baseball cards. He came to the Red Sox after six great years with the Cubs, where he hit home runs no. 225 through 399. It was his favorite stretch of his career.

Boston was rough on Dawson. His knees were pretty much gone at this point, leaving him stuck at DH and in and out of the lineup. I can remember, more than once, watching as Dawson would hit an early-inning double and then immediately be lifted for a pinch-runner. He could still hit better than the alternatives available (Bob Zupcic? Carlos Quintana?), but not like he used to.

I remember feeling bad for him at times, watching him try to soldier on despite the fact that he wasn’t the same player that earned the Hall of Fame reputation, at least physically. But I liked him quite a bit. I watched how he interacted with guys like Mike Greenwell and Mo Vaughn in the dugout. I rooted for him every time he stiffly strode to the batter’s box, and cheered when he’d get on base.

I knew I was watching a great at the end of the line, playing for a team that wasn’t likely to make the playoffs. He couldn’t play every day at that point, and his run with the Sox ended with the 1994 strike. It couldn’t have been the route he envisioned when he signed with Boston in the winter of 1992.

But he played on, never seeming to complain outwardly, and that stuck with me. It wasn’t a great run, but I was glad I got to see as much of Dawson as I did, at a pivotal time for me as a baseball fan. I was 11 years old, just starting to move from casual to obsessed in fandom, and I spent that summer watching a classy hitter and a true professional. The Hawk who could gun down runners at the plate on a line was a bedtime story, but the Hawk who gritted his teeth through bad knees on a bad team was my reality.

Worthy or unworthy stats aside, I’m glad that player was inducted into the Hall of Fame yesterday.