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Category: Chicago Cubs (Page 1 of 21)

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Old Sport Shorts: Keep On Truckin’ 3 #1684

I continue to resort to the same headlines – in this case “Keep On Truckin'” – for the third time. I try to be clever, but there seems to be a reoccurring theme as the number of posts continue to add up. This will be the third time that I’ve used it, but in this case it actually refers to trucking rather than the music of the Grateful Dead or the Doo-Dah Man (Post #760 and Post#1603). The truck with our stuff should arrive within a week, the first sign that last night was going to be a good one. The good news phone call came when I was sipping on some Broken Barrel Whiskey as the red hot White Sox were losing the first game of a double header. They often say that good and bad news comes in threes, so after the dispatcher called with the report that our loaded truck would arrive in Tampa on Wednesday, it set off a wave of good fortune that continued through the rest of the night.

Whether or not it continues today I will soon find out. My run was painfully stiff, as soreness continues to rack my body. I’ve been doing exercises to offset the arthritis in my lower back, including the purchase of a body and back massage tool that resembles the hook of a shepherd’s staff at each end. It’s designed to reach those sore muscles and help them relax, recommended by my chiropractor. Today’s results were not encouraging. I go back again on Monday. However, with any sport or exercise there are always good and bad days. After 4,521 consecutive days of running, I should know as well as anyone. Regardless, last night was a great night of watching sports and the buzz was still there when I woke up this morning. 

It started with a Cubs victory, as their relief pitching continues to be strong. They’ve needed it since 9 or their last 11 games have been decided by one or two runs. They’ve won six of those for a May record of 8-3, putting them four games behind the first place Cardinals. However, the offense continues to struggle with a run differential of minus 5, compared with the Cards at +26. They play next weekend in St. Louis, the first head-to-head of the young season. 

I then turned over to IU soccer and watched the Hoosiers advance to the NCAA Championship in search of their 9th National Title. They edged out a tough Pittsburgh squad who dominated possession time but couldn’t score. The Panthers attempted twice as many shots but the Hoosier defenders prevailed. The Cream & Crimson, ranked #2, will face #10 Marshall in the Monday night finale.

At the same time the soccer game ended, the White Sox won the second game of the Kansas City doubleheader, going 8-2 in their last ten to keep pace with the Indians. The slugging Sox are +64 in run differential this season and just as exciting on the bases. Billy Hamilton has show some speed and promise, filling in for a number of serious injuries that have plagued stars like Jimenez, Robert, and now Abreu, So far, aging Tony La Russa has pushed the right buttons, although criticized for not knowing the newly established rules of doubleheader games. The Sox have so much depth that it doesn’t appear that there will be a La Russa-Pujols reunion in Chicago. I’m particularly impressed with rookie Yermin Mercedes and Oregon State product Nick Madrigal. The Sox are now referred to as the best team in baseball. Hopefully, that will continue.

To summarize the good news, our long delayed stuff  is within reach and sports are going my way. The Indy 500 is on the horizon and my wife gets her second vaccine shot today. Both granddaughters celebrate birthdays this month. The future indeed  looks sunny and bright here in our new Florida home. Go Sox, Cubs, and IU – and Keep On Truckin’.

 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Fry Day II #1669

About a year ago, 325 posts in the past, I wrote about Fry Day. (See #1344). We had started our Florida search for our forever home, but spent too much time in the car eating McDonald’s French fries. It had a much different meaning than today when we’re headed to the beach with our Fry Chairs, expecting to roast in the sun and surf. The search is over, construction complete, and we’ve moved in. The only thing missing at this point is our furniture, now two full weeks past due and still stuck in a Portland warehouse. We feel helpless in trying to rescue our possessions since numerous phone calls and conversations have been fruitless. 

Today we get a visit from the couple who inspired our retirement home decision. They were friends from our time in Decatur, Illinois but have since moved to Tucson, Arizona. They built a home in a Del Webb residential development that appealed to my wife and I. We have since followed their advise on looking for a resort community that fits our needs. The main difference is that their backyard is filled with cacti and succulents while ours is primarily water and a screened-in lanai. We also wanted to be near the ocean, so Venice became our #1 choice. These friends are traveling cross-country with children in Texas and the Carolinas, so they will stop in to check-out our new home. Sadly, it is like an empty tomb, without rugs, carpeting, artwork, and furniture. Not much to show-off!

We’ll return to Fins tonight for a sunset dinner after French Fries at the ballpark last night. Yesterday, I took the grandkids to the rooftop Tiki Bar to watch the Cubs play on the big screen. Unlike the night before, the struggling Cubbies were able to score some runs and eventually beat the Braves. The sunset was once again beautiful, but the kids a bit rowdy. I hope I can get used to it. Today, it will be the peaceful beach and bright sun. We’ll steer clear of McDonald’s, park our chairs with a Gulf view, and soak in some rays on a Friday Fry Day!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Pool School #1668

We go back to school today – Pool School – where we learn all about taking care of our new swimming pool. Hopefully, they can set up the fountain to run when we want and properly hook-up the underwater light. The pool also gets converted from chlorine to salt this afternoon. We’ll probably start with a maintenance program until we get the feel for its care. At some point, we’ll probably end up installing a heater, but I’m content with the temperature for my morning laps. I’ve gotten in it every day since we’ve moved in, slowly putting a dent in its cost-per-use. 

There’s a lot to learn about our new house, as we’re gradually trained on the use of associated appliances, electronics, and mechanics. We know all about smoke alarms and got our new central vacuum accessories yesterday. We’re ordering rugs and furniture to reduce the hollow echo, as we continue to wait for our lonely furniture that sits in the Portland warehouse. No word from North American Van Lines despite several calls this week. They supposedly continue to refund us $100/day penalty that now amounts to over $1000. Plantation shutters and lanai blinds have been ordered for much needed privacy from the close-by neighbors. I’ve met the people on both sides now, but those across the street seem much friendlier. 

New home celebrations continue, as we get settled. Two pictures have been hung on the wall and we own a new ladder. Today is my wife’s eldest daughter turns 40. My son and his wife presented us with a wall hanging of “Happy Together” in honor of our 20th anniversary last week. Two of their three kids have birthdays in May, as we soon flip to our second Florida month. Last night we went to the neighborhood ballpark for dinner, where the sunset was much more entertaining than the game. The Braves, now our home team, drubbed the struggling Cubs 10-0. They took them to school – not Pool School. 

Old Sport Shorts: Edge of my Seat #1604

Spring is nearly here – pitchers and catchers reported this week. Spring Training games begin at the end of February, so just a few weeks away. The Dodgers are picked to repeat, while the White Sox are in the favorites mix for once. The Cubs are picked behind the Cardinals and expected to have a mediocre year. As basketball heads to Selection Sunday, I.U. can take another step towards a spot in the 64-team field with a victory over Michigan State this morning. It’s another 9 a.m. start on the West Coast, far too early to get my blood pressure up. The match-up will likely be frustrating, with the Hoosiers unable to string multiple BIG victories together. Five games left until the BIG Tourney, after adding another this week, and I.U. needs at least two of them to go their way. 

At least there’s some excitement to look forward to watching, regardless of the outcome. It was hard when the pandemic reared its ugly head a year ago and there was no I.U. basketball for me to rant about. In fact, the only basketball was TBT, the first of the sporting events to play all tournament games in one quarantined location. MLS Soccer was next, then the NBA, and now the NCAA, all in venues around the state of Indiana. Baseball will probably continue to be regionalized and fans limited until the vaccine finally gets the viral spread under control.  My age group is eligible in a few weeks. 

I.U. looked strong to start the game for once, but Michigan State caught on fire to reverse a 13-point deficit.  I.U. then rallied for a rare 4-point halftime lead. It looks like another close BIG battle that will come down to the wire. There were a few brief moments when I foolishly thought it would be a blowout, but the Hoosiers could not hit an outside shot and too many bunnies. Dunk the ball dammit! We’re also 2-10 from three, but fortunately they aren’t shooting much better. The Spartans stole a couple of Indiana All-Stars from under our nose, so hopefully this won’t come back to haunt us down the stretch. I’m on the edge of my seat!

P.S. 78-71 I.U. loss!

 

 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Beach runs #1578

“Dodgertown” in Vero Beach was closed and extensive renovations are being done by MLB, so the closed I could get was the front iron gates. Our friend grew up there, her dad a pitcher for the 1955 World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers. He set a rookie record for 27 strike outs in two successive games before an injury ended his career. The park’s historical significance also reflects the 1947 signing of Jackie Robinson. Corona also affected visits this year to Cubs/White Sox Spring training in Phoenix and a Cardinals/Rangers exhibition game at the new Globe Life Park in Arlington. 

I found myself in front of the TV again last night with the Chiefs and Buccaneers headed to the Super Bowl. I also monitored another IU Basketball loss, this time to Rutgers after the surprising Iowa victory. The game against Michigan State this weekend has already been stomped out by the pandemic, so we’ll have to live with this disappointment for at least a full week before Illinois comes to town. That game will then likely lead to further despair, as tourney chances once again have been sadly derailed. 

We returned our rental car to the airport last night only to find a dent in the hood. I remember parking at a Cracker Barrell restaurant the other day under the shade of a coconut tree. Could one have fallen and caused this costly damage or was it like that when we picked it up? It’s just another hassle we’ll have to deal with on this journey. I’ve run the beach path and street in front of our hotel the past two mornings past all the Art Deco hotels in our area. The once heavily congested Ocean Avenue has been shut down to traffic, so the restaurants have all expanded into the streets. It’s now a much more pleasant atmosphere on the beach front if there’s such a thing as a plus-side to the Coronavirus outbreak. Running near the water and in the sun is always a nice distraction from the dreary streets of downtown Portland. 

Old Sport Shorts: Outback #1557

It’s a New Year with hopes of an I.U. Outback Bowl victory. Last year, they fell short against Tennessee with a late game letdown. With last night’s Ohio State Sugar Bowl domination of Clemson, this Hoosier team is even stronger than I thought. We came so close against the Buckeyes, plus Northwestern throttled Auburn, so the BIG 10 has proven to be a very formidable league, especially against the highly touted SEC. Indiana can add to the 3-0 conference bowl record today with a victory over Old Miss in Tampa. This would set the stage for more respect when next year’s postseason slate is determined. 

The Hoosiers should have played in the top tier Citrus Bowl instead of Northwestern but fell in the final rankings to #11 despite a convincing win over Wisconsin, the other BIG bowl representative. Clearly politics played a role, just as Notre Dame was awarded a playoff spot despite the Clemson blow-out loss. Coach Tom Allen has vaulted the I.U. program into the upper echelon of a powerful conference. They can prove their worth today! My other team, #25 Oregon, plays #10 Iowa State later today in the Fiesta Bowl. 

Meanwhile, basketball continues to struggle, but did manage to pull-off an OT win over Penn State. Another W against Maryland next week and they can even their BIG record after an 0-2 start. Basketball used to be the big sport on campus in Bloomington, but surprisingly football has proven to be more successful in recent years. In the Bob Knight era it was “The Magic of 60.” If the Hoosiers got to 60 before their opponent victory was eminent. However, with the addition of the 3-point shot, 70 is now coach Archie Miller’s defining number.  With his leadership, in conference play (including the B1G tourney) the Hoosiers are 18-7 when scoring 70 or more points and 10-30 when scoring below 70 points. 70 is the new 60 going forward. 

Purdue basketball is off to a 7-4 start, but 2-2 in the conference. They play #15 Illinois this afternoon, after losing to #14 Rutgers. It would be nice to see a ranked Purdue or Indiana program. Unfortunately, both rivals will be in the lower half of the BIG since the league is loaded with 7 nationally ranked teams. Here on the West coast, the undefeated Zags are still the #1 team in the country while the Oregon Ducks (6-1) stand at #21.

On the baseball front, the Cubs continue to clean house with the trade of Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to the Padres. Yu has been the pitching leader for the last two years, with Cy Young consideration. There’s also talk of dealing my favorite and IU alum, Kyle Schwarber. Rizzo and Bryant will soon become free agents, so the World Series Champions of 2016 are seeing their winning foundation deteriorate.  Today, however, my concern is football the Indiana Hoosiers in the Outback Bowl. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Variety is the Spice of Life #1527

Today started like most every other day in 2020 with a run and a blog post. There’s little indication that it will change soon. I do appreciate this mild December weather with clear blue skies, a rarity in Portland this time of year. We also continue to remain healthy and active. Travel would be nice, but not likely the remainder of this year and probably into next. Today’s calendar features a trip to the dentist for a cleaning. Basketball on TV keeps me entertained. Sadly, there’s not much variety in my life these days and little spice to go with it.  The words are from a William Cowper’s poem called “The Task,” written in 1785: “Variety is the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor.”

We watched an old Bill Murry movie called Quick Change as a change of pace last night. It was slap-stick comedy and somewhat disappointing. A couple more episodes of Suits filled the evening. I broke out a bottle of WhistlePig whiskey that I received as part of a Flaviar subscription. Tonight, they’re attempting to break the world record for participation in a virtual toast. I’ve yet to decide whether or not to get involved in this tribute to Dean Martin. Too many of the TV shows I’ve been watching are centered around the office beverage cart. They’ve finally tempted me enough to make my happy hour a sip or two of whiskey rather than a glass of wine. Variety is the spice of life thanks to Flaviar

I.U. finished third in the Maui Invitational after bouncing back from their poor performance against Texas to whip Stanford. Times have certainly changed to the point where Texas is now ranked higher than Indiana in basketball but lower in football. It’s always been the other way around as long as I can remember. Hoosier Football can take another giant leap with a victory over Wisconsin on Saturday. Injuries and Covid may be the determining factor. I do like the possibility that Ohio State may not be able to get in enough games to qualify for the BIG Championship. If I.U. somehow wins, it will be interesting to see if Michigan will thwart the rival Buckeye’s bid to compete for a title by simply not playing. In the world of baseball, former I.U. star and Cubs’ World Series hero Kyle Schwarber is now a free agent. Thankfully for me, there’s always variety in the world of sports when all else fails. 

Old Sport Shorts: Fantastic Finishes #1489

It’s a fantastic finish only when your team wins, otherwise it’s a nightmare! I saw two such glorious endings yesterday, in pandemic times when excitement is often hard to find. Thankfully there are at least live sports to watch on TV, plus I.U. athletics are up and running again. Yesterday, I was consumed in college football and World Series action. Even when my team isn’t playing I can always find another to hate and therefore someone else to root for. This is the case in the Fall Classic as the L.A. Dodgers battle the Tampa Bay Rays. The adrenaline was still flowing from the Indiana vs. Penn State game that kept me on the edge of my seat for four hours. 

I watched my Hoosiers fall behind early, as the Nittany Lions dominated the line of scrimmage but not the scoreboard. Two missed field goals, two interceptions, and critical penalties penalties allowed I.U. to lead 17-7 at half time. The end of the first half was a comedy of errors by both teams, so it was an emotional relief to take a break and catch-up on other scores. I.U. had not beaten a top-ten ranked team since 1987 at Ohio State. Penn State was ranked #8 in the country, so a 10-point halftime lead and getting the second half kickoff put the Lions on the ropes. I could smell blood in a moment of temporary insanity, but the punch-less Hoosiers could only muster a 48-yard field goal in the second half and fell hopelessly behind 21-20 with 2:30 remaining in the game. After a futile attempt at the two minute drill, the Nittany Lions were in a position to run out the clock. Miraculously, Penn State running back, Devyn Ford, took an unadvised step into the end zone. He realized his mistake too late, giving the Hoosiers one last chance. It led to their only TD of the second half, followed by a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 28. With 22-seconds left on the clock, I thought we were headed to overtime but a squib kick attempt went array, allowing Penn State a last second field goal attempt – it was their third miss of the day, just short of the school record distance. 

Both team scored in overtime, as the I.U. faithful like myself continued to sense another close loss. The game came down to a gutsy 2-point conversion by Hoosier QB Michael Penix, Jr. I held my breath as he attempted a dive for the goal line. It was unbelievable how he launched himself towards the pylon in desperation. It was questionable if he scored, but after a thousand replays it was confirmed. The decision was the break we needed to destroy the curse of loss expectation that has plagued the program since I can remember. A fantastic finish!

But there was more on this day of breathtaking endings. As a Cubs and White Sox fan, I have many reasons to hate the Dodgers more than the Rays, so picking a favorite in this year’s World Series is easy.  I watched a back-and-forth game-four with the evil Dodgers hoping to gain a 3-1 advantage over the less-evil Rays. They led 2-0 in the 3rd, 4-2 in the sixth, 6-5 in the seventh, and 7-6 in the eighth. The Rays had one last chance to win or send the game into extras, with rookie hero Randy Arozerena due to hit if they could just get a man on base. Kiermaier singled with one-out, while Wendle lined out to left. It was the World Series scenario that every kid dreams about, even in Cuba. Two-outs, full-count, and a home run wins it all. It was all set up for a Bill Mazeroski walk-off moment, but instead “Randy-Roza” walked in less dramatic fashion. However, he was soon to make an impact, as Phillips then singled to right center, scoring the tying run. Arozerena tried to stretch his luck, as Taylor bobbled the Phillips blooper and stumbled rounding third base on a dramatic attempt to score. The throw to the plate was mishandled, allowing Arozerena to score the winning run and tying the series. Another unbelievable, fantastic finish – two on the same day for my favorites.

 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Elimination #1466

I suppose that yesterday could have been a much worse day for my baseball teams, but rain prolonged the agony. The White Sox frustrating 6-4 loss to the A’s was enough for one day. The Sox were forced to use nine different pitchers and the A’s eight, so the game lasted an eternity. (Not as if I had anything else to do!) Injuries also had an impact on the final score.  However, one man’s misery is another man’s triumph, as the A’s ended 14-years of playoff futility to move on and face the Astros in the next round. 

Home field advantage for the A’s this year boiled down to last at-bats, since only a few family members were allowed inside the stadium. A 487-foot monster home run by Luis Robert was not enough to win, as the Sox stranded 12 baserunners, matching the A’s inability to drive in runs.  Sox pitchers gave up nine walks, including two with the bases loaded. It was a pitcher’s dual of the worst kind, and a bitter end to a promising season. I guess I should just be satisfied that the Sox won one playoff game, after twelve years of failure to even make the postseason. 

At least the Sox scored some runs, unlike the Reds that were totally shut-out in their two games with the Braves. Their AL Central division foes, the Twins and Indians, failed to win a game.  The Cubs got another day to think about their opening game loss to the Marlins, as rain postponed the action at Wrigley Field. The Cubbies remain my last hope for postseason success. Their division rival, the Cardinals, won their first game but in the process woke-up the sleepy Padre bats. That series will also be decided today. There have been few surprises with the undefeated Yankees, Rays, Braves, Astros, and Dodgers advancing with ease. Will the Cubs or Marlins join them? 

The Cubs still can’t hit, but have the advantage of Yu Darvish on the mound today. He’s had a remarkable season, considering the disappointment of his first couple years in Chicago. With a “W” today, fans could begin to feel some redemption regarding his addition to the team after a 2-4 record in six postseason starts. He has not pitched well against the Marlins. Even though they won the first game, “The Fish” may have lost center fielder Starling Marte with a hand injury suffered against Cubs pitcher, Dan Winkler. If you can’t beat them…hurt them! It’s a Cubs win today or elimination!

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Monopoly Mutt #1464

My wife was out walking our schnauzer, Tally, the other day, when I guy on a skateboard went out of his way to say hi. “Your dog reminds me of my favorite Monopoly piece,” he remarked. She didn’t have the heart to tell him that the Monopoly dog is actually a Scottish Terrier, but there is a resemblance. It gave her a bit of a chuckle, even though her first thought was that he was going to rob her. Thankfully, first impressions are often wrong. My fancy Monopoly set that I bought years ago on a whim, was then coincidentally one of the conversations that I had with our moving estimator yesterday. The mahogany board with a swivel base, gold hotels, silver houses, and built-in cash drawers reminded me of our Monopoly Mutt. 

With a lack of space in our two-bedroom apartment, we have stuff crammed in every nook and cranny. The Monopoly set is currently stored under our bed, along with dozens of framed pictures. It all needed to be accounted for in our estimate, and served as a reminder of how daunting and expensive this cross-country move will be. There will apparently be two days of packing, another to load, and a week or more to get it to Florida.  At this point, we don’t know exactly when it will all take place, pending construction on the new house. Plus, we’re trying to work in a cruise from Barcelona, Spain, once we get everything somewhat organized. This trip is at the mercy of Covid restrictions that have cancelled most of our other travel plans. It’s much more pleasant to look forward to the cruise than the stressful move.

The Moving Company rep interrupted my day of baseball, that turned out to be a major league disappointment.  Both the Cubs and Sox are now facing elimination today. In addition, the Twins lost their record 18th consecutive playoff game, after surpassing the Sox for the American League Central division championship in the final days of the regular season. The Indians also sneaked by the Sox in the standings, once the Cubs took two of three from their faltering Chicago rival to claim the top spot in National League Central. It will take much more than lucky socks to assure that today is not the end of the (Red) line for both of my Chicago teams. 

One of the punishments in the game of Monopoly is drawing a card that states, “do not pass GO and do not collect $200.” It was the only card that I was dealt yesterday, hoping that someone unexpected wins this season of Covid challenges. I naturally found myself rooting against the perennial favorites like the Dodgers, Yankees, and Cardinals, but they were all winners, while my teams are beginning to go “bankrupt.” By this evening, I will know the fate of the Cubs and Sox in their quests to somehow pass GO. Maybe my newly-dubbed Monopoly Mutt has the answer?

 

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