The baseball season is now down to a long weekend, with the Sox and Cubs both in miserable slumps. As a pessimist, I should have anticipated this, but this season is unprecedented. It all started back in March when we were supposed to attend a Spring Training game between the two Chicago foes. It was cancelled, along with many of our plans this year. When the season finally officially began on the 24th of July, I did not have great expectations for the league to make it to the postseason. The Cubs jumped to the top of their division but stumbled against the slower-starting Sox in their first series. The Pale Hose finally claimed the top spot in the AL Central over the Twins and Indians, only to falter down the stretch. I’ve watched them go 3-7 against the Twins, Indians, and Reds in the past week or so.
The last two nights have been particularly painful for the White Sox, losing in walk-off fashion to Cleveland on both occasions. On the other side of town, the Cubs lost another one this morning, their third straight, to the last-place Pirates. They could have helped the Sox in the series before that against the Twins, but Minnesota took two of the three. They did top the Indians in two of three, after a 12-0 drubbing of the Brewers and a no-hitter by Alec Mills. However, the poor-hitting Cubbies are now in danger of being caught by the Cardinals, Reds, and Brewers. The Covid-plagued regular season ironically all comes down to a three-game series against the Sox at Comiskey (excuse me – Guaranteed Rate). For a historical first, they each play in role in the other’s playoff fate this late in the season. Sadly, I just watched the Sox blow another early lead by the Indians – at least it’s not the last inning last the previous two, although there’s still three innings to go. It’s looking like a repeat of last night’s disappointment, with the White Sox up by one again after a Yoan Moncada triple in the 7th. If the Indians make it a four-game sweep, the Sox could fall to a full-game behind the division leading Twins, who are idle today, and could potentially face the perennial powerhouse Yankees in their first post-season appearance in twelve-years.
On the other hand, if the Cubs lose all three to the Sox, they could be passed by the Reds and/or Cards. It will be a tough weekend about who to cheer for in each critical game? Allegiance could easily change depending on the circumstances. In a normal season, both Chicago teams would be facing division rivals rather than cross-town foes. It’s just another Covid quirk, that also includes a expanded 16-team Playoff field, empty ballparks, limited homefield advantages, and designated hitters for both leagues. The World Series will take place in Arlington, Texas, another deviation from normalcy. It’s been a tough year for baseball purists.
The Covid-Cardinals are of particular concern to me, with respect to the Cubs. The Red Birds have seven games remaining, while standing only one game behind the Cubs in the loss column. They would have to win all seven to pass the Cubbies, but also postseason seeds are at stake. Three losses to the Sox would give them 27 for the year, while San Francisco, Cincy, Milwaukee and Miami could also disrupt their current #4 NL placement, down from #2 just a few days ago. This weekend, and possibly Monday, determines who plays where, who, and when. I’ll have to wear a Sox sock on one foot and a Cubs on the other.
In other sports important to me, the Celtics are in trouble, while the Lakers dropped their first to the dangerous Nuggets, who have miraculously come from behind in their last two series. The Timbers won their second straight match, outdueling the regional rival Seattle Sounders 1-0 last night. Against all odds, each sport has somehow persevered over threats of the virus. Thankfully, there are live sports to watch every day, including both NFL and NCAA football. The Pac-12 announced today that they will join the other power conferences in pursuit of a 2020-21 National Championship. However, teams won’t start play until November 6th, with a 7-game schedule. They reversed their initial decision and joined the BIG-10 in delayed reconsideration. It sets the stage for college basketball to start, missing only a few non-conference games this year. But first, I’ll focus on a expanded baseball Playoff that involves a very rare joint appearance by both of my teams – Cubs and Sox.
P.S. The White Sox brought in a reliever named Bummer following a 4-run collapse in the bottom of the 7th to the never-give-up Indians. It seemed like an appropriate name to describe the bullpen in this series. The red-hot Tribe took a 5-4 lead in response to falling behind once again in the series. Hand then shut-down the Sox, with two strike-outs and a easy grounder to finish up the 4-game sweep. Cleveland is now just one-game behind the Sox and two short of the Twins, after 5 straight Pale Hose losses. I couldn’t be more frustrated after cross-town losses today at a time when teams need to be playing their best ball. Who wants it more this weekend – the Sox or the Cubs?
It’s “Meatless Monday,” our dog Tally’s least favorite day of the week, as we lighten our food intake. She’ll come to the table, as always, but leave disappointed. It’s our way of starting the week with a healthier, lower intake of food. I just completed my morning run #4,285, enjoying the fresh, smoke-free air. There are still many fires burning in the area, as many Oregonians have lost lives and property. We’re lucky to have avoided such tragedy.
It was another boring weekend, with little to do but grocery shop and watch television. Many people were outside yesterday, soaking in the sunshine and admiring the bright blue skies. Traffic was hectic in our neighborhood, after weeks of little activity. Time to also take-in some of nature’s beauty. I’m surprised at the number of buckeye trees in our area. If it weren’t for Ohio State, I would appreciate them more. The nut is a beautiful mahogany brown with a round tan spot, and this must be the time of the year that they fall to the ground. It brings back memories of my childhood and walks home from Rice Elementary School. There was a huge buckeye tree nearby, and I would fill my pockets with these beautiful droppings. Now, they are just reminders that it’s football season and time for another loss to the Buckeyes. “Sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don’t.”
While my wife picked up some groceries at Zupan’s Market, I walked Tally over to Washington Park. There were buckeyes everywhere she stopped to sniff, and I was careful to keep her away from the potential poisons. They can be eaten if properly prepared, but why take a chance. Beware of the Buckeye! Beautiful yet dangerous, like the shiny apple that attracts Snow White. It’s probably why I’ve grown to associate Ohio State with witchcraft. The football Buckeyes have a 24-game winning streak over my I.U. Hoosiers. It used to be that I always looked to basketball season for revenge, but that’s no longer the case.
Summer is coming to an end in a few days, but its enjoyment has been disrupted by the virus, protests, and fires. Buckeyes dropping from the sky are a sure sign of Fall. Hopefully, the stock market does not follow suit, although this morning’s activity has not been positive. It’s all a matter of timing. We have to put more money down on the house we’re building in Florida, where there will be a palm tree rather than a buckeye.
Sports have probably never been a more important part of my life. It’s my sole entertainment in these pandemic times of isolation. I’ve gone through most of the movies and documentaries I’ve wanted to watch, waiting for live sports to finally return. Now, there’s almost too much to keep track of every day. My love of sports dates back to childhood and following my local high school team – The Elkhart Blue Blazers. A once dominant team in most every sport was eventually split into two high schools. Throughout the years, there was never a greater nemesis than the Penn Kingsmen in nearby Mishawaka, Indiana. Once I moved away from town, it seemed like every time I checked the scores it was another loss to Penn, particularly in football.
“Once A Blazer – Always a Blazer” is the motto of my generation, disturbed by the recent consolidation of the two Elkhart high schools into one again. They should have never been separated in the first place, but it did start another rivalry between the Memorial Chargers and the Elkhart Blue Blazers. Unfortunately, neither team was very competitive on the state level like Penn. The main problem with unifying the two programs became selecting a name. As a result, the Blazers or Chargers no longer exist, but the new Lions have become a football force. For the first time in 35 years, the final score of Friday night’s football match-up was Elkhart 20 Penn 19, and the team that I will always know as the Blazers are undefeated.
As I write this morning, I’m watching the final day of the Tour de France, reminiscent of our trips to Paris. It too was delayed several months as organizers made adjustments to deal with Coronavirus concerns. Slovenian Tadej Pogacar won it in his rookie debut. Cycling, golf, auto racing, football, and baseball are all now competing with each other for television viewership, with little in the way of live fan support. Plus, last night the Portland Timbers pounded the San Jose Earthquake 6-1 for a MLS victory, after a draw the other night in the same stadium.
So far, 2020 has been a good year for my teams. The Chicago White Sox just claimed their first playoff berth in twelve years. The Cubs will also soon clinch, putting both Chicago teams in the same post-season battle for only the third time since 1906. The White Sox, known that year as the “hitless wonders” upset the powerhouse Cubs in the World Series. Could it happen again in this year of strange surprises? Last Sunday, for example, the Bears, Cubs, and White Sox were all victorious. I bought a new pair of Sox Socks to celebrate their success. My Bears and Cubs socks don’t have holes in them yet.
The Cubs had a five-game winning streak going into last night’s game against the Twins. Sadly, the streak ended badly and the Cubbies allowed the Twins to clinch the fifth spot in this year’s post-season. The Cubs magic number is now four with three games remaining against the White Sox. They could each knock the other out of the top spot in their respective Division races. A week from now the seeds will all be finalized. Could the Sox and Cubs collide for all the marbles again after 114 years?
Chicago baseball has witnessed two no-hitters this year, the only ones in the majors. I bought Topps cards to commemorate these two remarkable achievements from Luis Giolito of the White Sox and Alec Mills of the Cubs. At no other time in history have both Windy City teams had this happen in the same season. It’s just the beginning of what could happen in Sweet Home Chicago this year. Unfortunately, a Cubs-Sox World Series would be held in Arlington, Texas,
The other important development this past week in sports was the BIG 10 conference rethinking the earlier decision to delay Fall football. After much controversy, schedules starting October 24th were finally announced. I.U. will open at Penn State and conclude with Purdue eight weeks later. The ninth game for the Cream & Crimson will either be the BIG Championship or a bonus conference match-up with potential Bowl implications. Let’s hope it’s not the Toilet Bowl – they could easily go 0-9. Basketball will begin November 25th when the Hoosiers were originally planning to play in Maui. It will be a week later in Asheville, as a further indication of the strange twists in sports this year. Will 2020 also be good to both Hoosier teams, despite the delays?
The Lakers are in the driver’s seat for this year’s NBA Championship, with an opening round final four victory over Denver. The Tampa Bay Lightening lost their Stanley Cup Finals opener against the Dallas Stars. I’ll need to follow them as a future Florida resident. The Rays are comfortably in the MLB play-off field, while the Bucs and Tom Brady did not get off to a great start last Sunday. I’ve now lived in enough states to always have a team in contention, but Chicago will forever remain my favorite.
It’s another blog milestone with this 1,450th post and consecutive daily run #4282. Somehow, I was able to avoid the rain this morning. The showers are a welcome sight, hopefully cleansing the smokey air that’s lingered in the city all week. I can finally see the top of Forest Hills out my home office window. More is expected today and tomorrow as firefighters continue to fight the 30-plus blazes still threatening lives and property. The Convention Center is filled with evacuees and homeless waiting out this local tragedy. As a family, we’ve been fortunate.
It’s another Leadershipless Friday as the group fails once again to get together. Buffalo Wild Wings is certainly suffering from our absence. Mid-week whale watching at least got two of us together for a beer. In a few short weeks, we’ll all be picking grapes and celebrating this year’s crop. Last year, mold ruined the harvest so there was no picking, crushing, racking or bottling. Brix levels are pointing to an early October harvest. I finished up the last few bottles of the 2015 Walleye this week in anticipation of adding more 2017 to the “cellar” that is really a stack of cases in my closet. I Will Work For Wine!
I did watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest yesterday afternoon with little recollection of viewing it years ago – probably in a theater. We motored under that same DePoe Bay Bridge as Jack Nicholson, except our boat wasn’t stolen or filled with lunatics. I finished the movie just before seeing the Chicago White Sox claim their first playoff birth in twelve years. It once again proves that Twenty-Twenty is a year of surprises.
Our schnauzer Tally’s playmate Falco was returned to my wife’s daughter’s home last evening, so dog duty is now back to normal. Tally was surprised this morning to meet her new neighbor nose-to-nose. It’s a big black Labrador with a ferocious deep growl that we had previously heard behind their apartment door. It would have probably liked to eat Tally for breakfast, but there was not a violent confrontation. Tally’s previous nemesis, Moose the Saint Bernard, just moved out a few weeks ago. I did not get to properly meet the owner, with us both hidden behind masks and keeping our distance in the hallway. Big and little black dogs will surely collide again!
They say that the Portland air quality is the equivalent of smoking twenty packs of cigarettes a day. Make mine Lucky Strike! Maybe I’ve been watching too much Mad Men in these solitary evenings? Breakfast for them usually consists of booze and cigarettes after a late-night affair. Breakfast for me is a 3-mile run, followed by a good cough. In these times, there are three different types of coughs: smoke, Covid, and allergy related. I tried my best to get the smoke out of my lungs this morning. It seemed worse than yesterday.
Despite it being a work day, there was no one on the streets this morning. There were some open businesses but no customers. I didn’t even see another crazy runner like myself, just a few folks walking their dogs and, of course, the homeless. The city is shut down and restaurants that expanded their outdoor service capabilities all have their arms up in the air, wondering what tragedy will befall them next. People were just starting to come out of hiding, and then the fires fill the air with harmful smoke. There’s no “Lucky” about it!
We still do plan on going whale watching in a few days. Hopefully, the sea air will clear out my lungs. Rain is in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. We get enough gray skies here in Portland during the winter months, but this time of year is usually comfortably sunny. Now this “Strikes.” People have retreated once again to the safety of their homes and the economy continues to suffer. What if this was twenty-five years ago with no internet and cable to keep us entertained? Amazon has to be making a killing, while small business continues to suffer!
I had sports to keep me occupied yesterday. A no-hitter by the Cubs, another victory by the White Sox, and Da’ Bears pulled off a football miracle. It was a rare Chicago sports sweep by my favorites. Also on the positive side personally, Tom Brady lost in his debut with the Buccs, as did the Cowboys in the fabulous new Chargers stadium. Only the Colts had a live audience in Jacksonsville to watch my biggest disappointment of the day. The Portland Timbers also lost to end the evening on a sour note. Then it was back to Mad Men and their pitch about “Luckies” being “toasted.” Ironically, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” was the title of the episode.
Baseball, NBA Basketball, Football, Cycling, Tennis, Auto Racing, and Golf are all now competing for television audiences, especially considering there are few fans in the stands. After months of nothing to watch, suddenly we’re overwhelmed. I had three screens going yesterday between college football, the Cubs, and the White Sox. Today, NFL Sunday kicks-off, plus more baseball, Safeway Open, the Tour de France, U.S. Open tennis, Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, and Portland Timber’s soccer fighting for our attention. I’ve got a date with the Bears vs. Lions, and Colts vs. Jags, Oh My! (Oh wait – I’m in the wrong part of the country for those games). I’ll turn to the RedZone.
Baseball season is already in the final stretch, and for once both the White Sox and Cubs are in first place. The Cubbies came from behind last night against the Brewers after 17-straight scoreless innings of frustration. They finally got to nemesis Josh Hader with two home runs in the top of the ninth. The Milwaukee reliever had not allowed a hit to a lefty or a home run all season long. I was getting to be a Hader-Hater until Jason Heyward took him deep for the winning runs. The cross-town Chicago White Sox had little trouble with the Tigers, posting a 14-0 rout. Former Oregon State star, Nick Madrigal, went 2-5, maintaining his team-leading .362 batting average. Today, the White Sox will debut former I.U. pitcher, Jonathan Stiever #90, on the mound. It’s fun to watch these rookie players like Madrigal and Stiever come up through the ranks. Sadly, there will be no college baseball this year.
The BIG 10 Conference could potentially reverse its initial decision not to play football this year. New medical advances have accelerated the COVID19 testing procedures. It was frustrating to see the southern and eastern conferences effectively start their seasons this week, while the teams I follow watched along with me in angry envy. Early entry into the NFL draft, transfers, and recruiting losses have already taken their toll on the late-comers.
I don’t care that much about Sports Galore, but I am a big fan of college round-ball. Conference basketball decisions will be finalized next, including a new temporary home for the IU-bound Maui Invitational. Indianapolis is now a possibility. Somehow, a casino in Asheville, N.C. does not seem like a suitable option, although Tar Heel fans would disagree. Sponsor Maui Jim will have a tough time selling sunglasses in either place. Regardless, I hope the future of the NCAA Tourney is looking bright!
P.S. Cubs win 12-0 as Alec Mills completes a no-hitter. Sox and Bears victorious, as well, for a rare city of Chicago sports sweep.
I got a surprise e-mail the other day and was pleased to find out that there are people who take the time to read what I write. There are indeed rewards to my ramblings other than just personal therapy.
“I came across your blog earlier today and wanted to drop you a note. Sherm Lollar was my grandfather. Much like you, I never met him but he’s a hero of mine. Guess I just want to say thanks for your kind words. And I need to know more about your Sherm Lollar t-shirt.”
When I first began writing a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame regarding John Sherman Lollar, (See Post #5), I reached out to one of his sons through Messenger. Kevin was a career writer, so I felt he should review my first draft, offering some great suggestions. I was relieved that he didn’t write me off as some star-struck baseball lunatic.
“Kevin is my uncle. I forwarded your blog links to my dad as well. He loved your ‘Ode to Sherm’ (See Post #1189). I look forward to seeing pics of your memorabilia.”
Several years have now passed and I’ve written several tributes to my baseball hero as a component of my daily diary that covers running, sports, adoption, retirement, travel, poetry, and pets. It’s an important part of my retirement routine that anymore keeps me sane in these pandemic times.
It’s crazy how a person I’ve never met has become such a personal influence. The closest I’ve ever gotten to him was a seat at Comiskey Park, where I watched several White Sox games as a child. His #10 was barely visible from the cheap seats, let alone his face. His was the first card I usually searched for in a fresh pack of Topps cards. His jersey digits became mine in any sport I poorly played, and continues to be my lucky number.
I get daily memorabilia notifications from E-Bay and auction houses on items pertaining to Sherm’s career. I buy what I can afford and keep a scrapbook of his cards, photos, and accomplishments. I’m glad to have a contact with his family because my collection will mean little to my heirs.
It’s doubtful that Sherm will ever become a Hall-of-Famer, although the White Sox organization has honored him as one of their greatest. There are too many catchers that have been slighted by the Cooperstown committees that don’t seem to recognize defensive and leadership achievements. He was one of the best defenders in the game and a skilled field general. I would challenge modern-day players to be as effective using the cumbersome, heavy gear he was forced to wear, and the poorly padded mitt designs of yesteryear. Sherm indeed lives-on in my office and in the hearts of his family.
When I walked out the door at 7:45 this morning here in Palm Desert it was already 91 degrees. As I got back after a 45 run it was 95. I tried my best to stay in the shady areas of the asphalt, but they were often hard to find. I picked up a local radio station that was LGBTQ, an indication of the diversity of the area. It was uniquely branded “Channel Q” to distinguish it from traditional radio stations. I immediately thought of the Avenue Q musical, filled with a “bright mixture of quirky and queer characters.” The music was very upbeat and the personalities very proud of their sexuality. It was my introduction to life here in the desert.
The first thing that caught my eye as we drove into the city was the largest wind farm I’ve ever seen. It was magical watching thousands of giant, white pinwheels spin in the breeze, a sharp contrast to the stark, brown hills in the background. We came in from our last stop in Cambria, California, rudely greeted with 106 degree temperatures. There will be little to do here but sit in the pool. We’re at least surrounded by a plush, green golf course. I got in trouble for veering off on one of the cart paths even though it’s too hot for anyone to be out playing. The restaurants on the premises are closed due to the pandemic, so my wife ran to the grocery store last evening, while I watched White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito complete his no-hitter in the air conditioned comfort of our room. This morning was my first exposure to the grueling heat. It’s no wonder the population swells here when the temperatures are bearable from October through March.
One of the unusual sights along the drive yesterday were these huge cut-outs of actor James Dean along Highway 46. His last stop in life was apparently at Blackwell’s Corner in Lost Hills where he topped off the gas tank of his Spider. He had already gotten a speeding ticket (his last autograph) and was soon to die in a head-on crash. There’s a memorial near the spot of the collision, where tributes to his popularity are left by tourists. It was about the only memorable discovery we made in our five-hour drive, with the possible exception of driving on a brief stretch of Route 66. Today is a full day of rest for us and the car in the sizzling sun as we continue on our Coast-to-Coast adventure to Florida.
A friend sent me an early birthday present. It’s a custom mug made from a hollowed-out baseball bat and engraved, “Michael L Johnston #1 fan of John Sherman ‘Sherm’ Lollar, Jr.” It also has the Sox logo on the barrel. It’s made by Dugout Mugs, a division of the Thompson Mug Company. I don’t know if I’m Sherm’s biggest fan, especially since he still has family, but I continue to recognize his achievements when most people have forgotten.
I have a substantial collection of his memorabilia, including a 1955 game-worn jersey, catcher’s mask, cups, glassware, pins, postcards, ball, newspaper clippings, press photos, autographs, and baseball cards. Until somebody proves me wrong, I will continue to boast of the largest collection in the world. The new mug and “Sherm Freakin’ Lollar” t-shirt that I occasionally wear make my collection unique. I’ve also written a letter to the Hall of Fame committee on his behalf.
August 23rd would have been Sherm’s 96th birthday. He died at age 53. Sherm Lollar was behind the plate for 18 seasons with four different teams – Indians, Yankees, Browns, and White Sox. He was a member of the “Go-Go Sox” who played in the 1959 World Series. I became a fan as a young boy of eight, watching him hit a home run against the Dodgers on black & white TV. His number 10 became my lucky number. When I joined a baseball card club here in Portland about 5-years ago, the other members asked me what I wanted to collect. I said I would start by getting any items associated with Sherm Lollar. At least, it was an affordable hobby, unlike the pricey Mickey Mantle cards. I’m now known in those circles as the “Sherm Guy.” (See Post #1328).
Sherm was apparently a quiet, humble man. We shared big ears and little else. I never got to meet him, but saw him play many times in Chicago throughout the years. He always seemed to be upstaged by Berra from the minute that Yogi replaced him in the Yankee’s starting line-up back in 194 7. His on-base percentage was actually better than Yogi’s, and he was a much better defensive back-stop, but cavernous Comiskey Park where Lollar spent most of his career was not designed with hitters in mind, unlike the Yankee right field porch that favored the lefty Berra. Sherm earned 7 All-Star selections and was the first catcher to receive a Golden Glove. His lifetime .9921 fielding percentage is ranked 60th all-time for catchers, but he played more games with a primitive equipment handicap than anyone else on the list. I have some of that gear in my collection and it amazes me that he could maintain that level of play with little padding, a smaller mitt, and bulky, heavy body protection.
Sherm Lollar’s playing career ended with a fractured thumb in 1963. I have a ticket stub from that game on September 7th. He went on to coach for the World Champion Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics, plus managed the Iowa Oaks and Tucson Toro’s before retirement. He earned two World Series rings in the process. I maintain a scrapbook of his career, along with other White Sox greats. Lollar is buried in Rivermonte Memorial Gardens in Springfield, Missouri. Happy Birthday – Sherm!
I got distracted this morning with my Hunt A Killer mystery game, originally a Father’s Day gift. There are 6 total episodes of the “Curtain Call” case surrounding the murder of a 1930s era stage actress. Each episode needs to be solved before moving on to the next. I just received the final episode in the mail and spent last evening through this morning trying to decipher the information. There are codes to break and an all important timeline of events to update. I think I know who did it, but there are unresolved details that still need to be sorted out.
I solved the cuff-link connection associated with the case on my run this morning, relating to a Bible passage. However, I can’t get to the bottom of the phrase, “When Vanity becomes Elegance, the truth can emerge.” This was a statement made by the victim, so it will not reveal the killer, but it may have significance in the circumstances. I hope to find all the answers today. In the meantime, it’s a mystery to me!
Sports will once again keep me entertained as I contemplate the “Curtain Call” case. We also have an extra dog for two days, as my wife’s daughter begins her recovery from surgery after breaking her leg. The Cubs split a double-header with the Cards, the Sox won, and the NBA Playoffs continue. Tonight, the Blazers meet the Lakers in game two. Tomorrow, we’ll start our long drive southeast. We’ll arrive in Florida twelve-days later, following visits with friends and family along the way.
The biggest mystery of all is what life has in store for us as we make this transition to Florida. What challenges will we incur over the next six months? I will certainly miss the friends that helped me celebrate an upcoming birthday yesterday. The time will pass quickly while we make decorating plans, start the building process, and make at least two more trips to Florida. We also have a family trip to Hawaii, and a spring cruise planned that will probably not happen. What could go wrong? It’s a mystery to me.