I have fond memories of the College World Series or CWS for short. This dates back to living in Austin in 2009 and watching the Texas Longhorns make it to the final game in Omaha. They had won it in 2002 and 2005 under coach Augie Garrido, so expectations were high as we followed them throughout the season at nearby Disch-Falk Stadium. I can remember sitting in a bar with a friend for the final three games culminating with a disappointing 11-4 blowout loss to LSU. At that time, I thought it would be really cool to make the trip to Omaha.
The CWS tends to be more of a Southern and West Coast tradition, since the last Big Ten team to win it all was Ohio State in 1963. Indiana made the final 8 in 2013, adding to my interest in going to the event. When we moved to Oregon, I adopted the Oregon State Beavers who had won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008. In 2018, a good friend and I decided to make the trip to Omaha and were rewarded with a somewhat surprising Oregon State presence. (See Post #1707). It was a remarkable experience watching the Beavers ultimately win it all after moments of Arkansas triumph and obnoxious chants of Pig-Sooey! Because of some rain delays, I did not get to watch the championship game but listened to the final innings when I arrived back in Portland. Beaver catcher and tournament MVP, Adley Rutschman, was just called up be the Orioles a few weeks ago to make his Major League debut. It’s fun to follow these kids from college into the pros, as was also the case with Indiana’s Kyle Schwarber, Dansby Swanson of Vanderbilt, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. of South Carolina.
I’ve continued to follow the CWS games on TV every year, starting with the initial NCAA seeding. Indiana has not been back since, and once again the BIG will fail to have a presence. My Hoosiers were eliminated in the conference tourney by Iowa and never make the field of 64. Unfortunately, Oregon State games are often televised too late for me to watch on the East Coast. I was able to watch them beat Vanderbilt on Sunday afternoon and advance to the Super Regionals (Sweet 16). They will play the first game of a best of three series against Auburn on Saturday night starting at 10:30 p.m. my time. I will probably find out the results by monitoring my phone sometime in the middle of the night. Hopefully, they can get back to Omaha and the game times will be earlier. I will not be there this year, but the memories remain.
I had written a few weeks ago that the White Sox had turned the corner with their home series victory over the Yankees. However, both the Red Sox and Blue Jays quickly proved me wrong. Then, they continued to play poor baseball, dropping the first game (Friday) of the series against the Tampa Bay Rays and were stuck on a four-game losing streak. An old radio friend and I were enjoying our annual ball park trek to see our beloved Sox on Sunday, hoping to finally claim a victory. We watched them helplessly lose last year and several times in Chicago back at the turn of the century, thinking there was some kind of curse preventing us from seeing them win while together. He proved that it wasn’t him (just us), by going with his wife on Saturday to watch them snap the current losing streak with a game two victory.
My son, a lifelong Cubs fan, joined us for the trip into St. Petersburg and Tropicana Stadium. The two of us old guys had our throwback jerseys on in anticipation of perhaps breaking the curse. On the way into the park, I was surprisingly accused by a young woman of grabbing her butt. I assured her that it was accidental, since she had cut in front of my awkward arm swing while the back of my hand grazed her behind. She looked incensed but I was there for baseball not groping other fans. I apologized for being so forward, and tried to keep my wandering hands to myself for the rest of the day.
The guy right in front of me grabbed a baseball while I was still sitting on my hands. It was as close to getting a game-used souvenir that I’ve ever come, but my hands did not react. I sat there envying his girlfriend who shed a few tears of joy when he presented her with the ball. It reminded me of being a teddy bear hero at the state fair.
The game looked promising after the Sox scored six runs in the first two innings, but the Rays eventually scored five and had us on the edge of our seats with Liam Hendricks on for the save. Yasmani Grandal was out of position with the numerous Sox injuries and failed to make a critical play at first base. It nearly caused the curse to continue, but fortunately did not become a deciding factor. Bad Hands!
I’ve been shirking my commitment to writing in retirement of late. I had promised myself to do at least one post a day and considering that I’ve now reached the 2,044 mark at five-and-a-half years of doing this blog, I’ve been more than true to myself. However, yesterday, I did not get time to do a daily post after my run and swim. We were having several people over to watch the Indy 500, our first real group party in this new Florida home. Over twenty people attended, including my son and grandkids who stopped by on the way to the water park. Many of the people in our neighborhood have left for their summer homes, earning them the distinction of being called “snowbirds.” Our original intent was to find other Hoosiers in our area to attend this brunch and sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” with us. Instead, we ended up with a hodgepodge of friends, most of which weren’t as interested in the race as I was. There were only five born and bred Hoosiers, counting my son.
I saw the Facebook posts of friends that were actually attending the race, but I was not necessarily envious. The days of getting up early and fighting the traffic and crowds are no longer appealing. I was glad to be home watching on TV from a thousand miles away. I saw all the festivities in air conditioned comfort, although the years of being in luxury suites with a parking and pit pass or being transported by helicopter were highlights of my racing experience. It was a great race, as I cheered on a friend’s son, Conor Daly, to an impressive sixth place finish.
For the first time in history, the red flag stopped the race with five laps to go after Jimmie Johnson’s crash. Race officials could have let the cars finish under yellow, but this is the ultimate let down for fans. They decided on a restart, allowing two laps to decide the race winner. “Fortunately for Marcus Ericsson, who was leading the race at the time of the red flag, he won the race anyway. It might have been a much different reaction had the red cost him an Indy 500 trophy.”
I liked the following driver quote in reaction to those who felt that the restart was not in the spirit of conservative speedway traditions: “Screw the purists, if that’s what they say,” said Santino Ferrucci, who finished 10th. “You don’t want to win this race under yellow. That’s a BS win, to me. I’m happy IndyCar did what they did. They made the right call.” It was an exciting Red Flag Finish!
Even though the White Sox are playing .500 ball and four games behind the Twins in the standings, I feel like they turned a corner at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. They got both a double header win and a series victory over the Pinstripes. Or should I say the Pinheads after the “Jackie” taunts from the fans? Tim Anderson quieted the crowd with his finger to his lips as he rounded the bases on a 3-run homer to seal the nightcap victory. Josh Donaldson earned a one-game suspension with his comment that many regarded as “racist.” It was probably the kick in the butt that the White Sox needed after losing three of four at Comiskey Park earlier in the season. This was supposed to be the year of the White Sox.
Manager Tony La Russa has been under fire, while injuries have plagued team performance. It’s been one thing after another, as fans grow restless. The red-hot Red Sox, winners of five straight, come to town tonight for another critical series. The Twins have also won five-straight to stretch their divisional lead over the Pale Hose. The White Sox have seemed to recover from their disastrous eight-game losing streak that included a sweep by the Twins. A positive sign was when they took a recent series from the Royals for a change. They need to build on the momentum of the two-straight Yankee victories and make up for lost opportunities.
Can the aging La Russa lead this team to the promised land? I’ve got all my eggs in one basket this season, since the Cubs are one-step up from Little League. I hope to see the Sox win in Tampa/St. Pete in a few weeks to remove the bad taste from last year’s visit to Tropicana. Lets Go Sox…take some more of that “Jackie” angst out on playing field and rally behind Tim Anderson for some big wins. Make the old man, La Russa, look good!
I know this is selfish, however, for once, Covid has had a positive affect. In this case, on the future of the IU basketball program. Trayce Jackson-Davis returns to Bloomington for his senior season after a positive Covid test kept him from pursuing his NBA dreams. I always felt that he had a lot more to prove at the college level and his draft stock was not high. Perhaps, First Team All American honors through another year of play will get him the attention he deserves. Without the Covid setback, he probably would have come back anyways but let’s give the virus its due!
The future of IU basketball looks bright, but I’m cautioned from chugging the Kool-Aid. (See Post #1840). I drank too much of it before last year’s IU football season, so I’m not ready to buy in to the preseason hype. Injuries and the transfer portal can easily put a damper on things, so I’ve always preferred reduced expectations. There’s already talk of a North Carolina match-up in the BIG/ACC Challenge, and perhaps another top-10 match up against the Big East. The Hoosiers are already headed to Vegas in December for a game against Arizona and a week later they travel to Kansas. They could have four quick losses before the BIG battles even begin! Hopefully, they won’t bite off more than they can chew and not have the Kool-Aid to wash it down.
Let’s instead start with the basics of beating Wisconsin, Iowa, Rutgers, and Purdue – four bitter losses last season. We did manage to stop the bleeding against the Boilermakers, but fell short in West Lafayette. It was indeed a positive finish for the year as the Hoosiers had their best showing in years in the BIG tourney. The team also barely got to the Big Dance for the first time in the TJD era but ran out of gas. Slowly mix-in four top recruits that should add depth and scoring and we just might have a delicious Kool-Aid concoction. Big gulps are not good but BIG wins are a priority. Let’s sip our way through the season and avoid a Kool-Aid hangover.
Both the Cubs and White Sox won last night and I succeeded at Wordle and Quordle this morning, so it’s shaping up to be a special day. I’m watching Curse of Oak Island where they are dealing with another curse in trying to uncover the Money Pit. It seems to be a constant state of affairs, as the show was aptly well named. Last night we saw another episode of Severance on Apple TV, after immersing ourselves in Van Gogh and gorging ourselves on steak and Chilean Sea Bass at Michaels on East. Today is much less eventful, keeping my eye out for warranty-work repairmen. Yesterday, they were up on the roof to patch some tiles that were apparently “overlooked” after the last inspection. A year ago tomorrow we officially moved-in after a night at a nearby Fairfield Suites. It’s hard to believe it’s already been a full year of being a Florida resident.
Back in late March of 2018, we were headed home from our Mediterranean Cruise when I wrote about Vincent van Gogh and his Starry, Starry, Night painting that was made into a song by Don McLean. Last night, we experienced his work as a digital video in larger than life form. It incorporated all of his paintings with the most appealing being Almond Blossom with pedals falling all around us. We, of course, bought a magnet to stick on our garage refrigerator to commemorate the occasion, joining hundreds from other world travels.
We’ll hopefully hang the outdoor entry light later this afternoon. It will match those on both sides of the garage door and complete our overhead lighting needs. We have then agreed to invest in some outdoor lighting both in front and back of the house that should be installed in the next month. We also looked at tile and stonework for the outdoor kitchen while awaiting delivery of parts. These will be the last two major projects for 2022, with extensive travel on the horizon. My son and grand daughter should be over this afternoon to start this work – she’ll probably be more disruptive than helpful!
Almost every year has its unforgettable moments. In 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas upon re-entry, killing all seven astronauts on board. I watched on a TV in the lobby of an Indianapolis agency, wondering if it was another terrorist strike? It was also the year that made Cubs fan Steve Bartman famous when he supposedly interfered with a potential out against the Marlins in a Playoff game. The Marlins went on to win the World Series and Bartman was lucky to escape with his life. We were coming back from Hawaii and in the airport when I saw the Cubs collapse. We would have to wait another 13-years for the Cubs World Series curse to finally end after a 108-year draught.
The Cubs are on TV this afternoon as we head to Sarasota for the van Gogh exhibit. I guess I can give up a day of baseball for a little culture, although to me the game is culture. Our 2016 Wrigley Field World Series tickets are mounted on the home office wall next to me, along with the baseball cards of 1908 Cubs stars Tinker, Evers, and Chance, who took the crown in the early years. The cards of Rizzo, Russell, and Baez who were the modern-day version of the double-play trio, are encased next to them. All three of these Cubs stars are no longer with the team in the five years that have passed and most of the current lineup is unrecognizable.
I did not sleep well last night, although it was nothing in particular that was bothering me. My mind was busy thinking about being gone from home for two full weeks and the preparations necessary. It’s mostly silly things like this that keep me awake in retirement, and most of the things I worry about never happen. We’ll be gone for another two weeks in July/August, a whole month in September/October, and two more weeks in December. We have at least ten weeks of travel ahead in the 37-weeks remaining this year. It will undoubtedly be the busiest year of travel in our lives, if not affected by Covid, fires, work stoppages, border restrictions, or cancellations that have plagued our first few years of joint retirement. We’ll spend some time on the beach, fly cross-country, cruise from Alaska to Japan, drive 3,000 miles through the Midwest, and end up in Kauai with family to end this eventful year. I doubt that we’ll ever be this active again, although next year calls for a drive to Maine and an adventure down the Nile. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, again! (See Posts #1329 and #1877)
A year ago this day was our last in Portland, Oregon with a farewell Chinese dinner at Ling’s Garden downstairs in our apartment building. We have yet to find a Chinese favorite here in Venice. Last night, we tried Burgundy Square downtown and made the short walk to Kilwin’s for pralines & cream ice cream. There was not a concert in the park as expected so we drove home.
Our neighbors are hosting a brunch this morning, but the rest of my day will probably be devoted to basketball. Two IU basketball recruits are playing in the high school nationals, followed by the Final Four from New Orleans. The Duke vs. North Carolina match-up is getting the most publicity with Coach K’s retirement and the fact that country artist, Eric Church, cancelled a concert to attend this historic game. It caused a lot of controversy with fans that don’t understand his allegiance to the Tar Heels, but he did agree to do a freebee as a make-good. If he we truly a basketball fan, he would have scheduled his tour the night of the Final Four, so in my opinion he didn’t have much faith in his team in the first place.
While we were headed for ice cream last night, I spotted a guy in an Indiana t-shirt, so I asked him where he was from. “Vacationing from Fort Wayne,” he indicated, but when I told him that I worked for WMEE Radio there years ago, the conversation abruptly ended. I guess they just wanted to enjoy their ice cream and didn’t really care to reciprocate. So much for Hoosier Hospitality.
I now have a streak of 10 in Wordle, my latest word game challenge. It was just a matter of time before peer pressure drove me to try it. I barely solved this morning’s puzzle with a choice of three letters that could have each been correct. I FOUND the right one, a last second gasp similar to a game winning tourney shot. Speaking of basketball, I’ve still alive in the fantasy pool with Kansas – or will my small investment end up being “dust in the wind?” It’s been 35-years now since IU won the NCAA Championship in 1987 on Keith Smart’s buzzer beater. It’s also been twenty years since they reached the final game. Anymore, we’re just lucky to get into the Big Dance. It was also the year that Reagan and Gorbachev met in Washington.
We drove to Anna Marie Island and had lunch with Indy friends at the Beach House Restaurant. On the way there, a rock hit the windshield of my wife’s Lexus and cracked the glass. It’s just another hassle to deal with as I call the insurance company about my homeowners policy, as well. Mondays are probably a busy day in that business following a weekend of mishaps. In addition, I will call my sister about our plans to visit our cousins tomorrow in Bonita Springs. With a damaged car, a son who is now separated from his wife, and an unvaccinated sister, I’m not really in the mood for another drive. I do have to pick up my grandson this afternoon, also disrupting what might normally be “Matinee Monday,” It’s the last few days of our annual passes that will hopefully get renewed.
We did attend a rather pleasant concert last night with acoustic guitarist Cliff Erickson. It was a free show in our neighborhood events center. He was a good entertainer who got us old folks singing along to country and rock hits from the past, and ended with a couple original numbers. I took a call from my son in the middle of the show to make plans for a discussion about his future plans and to arrange a steak dinner with the grandkids tomorrow night. He also needs to help me hang three overhead light fixtures. Other than his marital ordeal, we have about three weeks of routine home life before we head to Singer Island. My wife is back to bridge club, while Tally spent the morning with her at the Dog Park. I’ll watch another episode of Winning Time this morning and a new season of Yellowstone starting tonight. Peace!