Today's thoughts

Category: Cubs (Page 2 of 18)

Old Sport Shorts: Red Zone #1099

My favorite teams aren’t getting much TV support on the West Coast. Nobody cares about I.U., Indianapolis Colts, or Chicago Bears so I’m forced to follow games on the internet or the NFL Red Zone. I did watch the Ducks beat the Huskies yesterday, while monitoring I.U. versus Maryland on my phone. The football Hoosiers won their fifth game of the season – one away from a bowl invitation. After two straight 5-7 seasons and consecutive Decembers off, a holiday bonus game would be a welcome present. It’s about all I can ever expect from this consistently second division BIG Ten team. Even a major bowl appearance is probably never a realistic possibility. 

Rainy weather yesterday turned me into a couch potato, always a grateful role for a home – make that apartment – body like myself. It was rare to see both the Hoosiers and Ducks win at virtually the same time. The Timbers unfortunately were not as lucky as their season came to an end against Salt Lake. I.U. lost their first BIG conference game in four years to Maryland, reminiscent of last year’s trip to Santa Clare and National Championship defeat to these same Terps. College basketball is about to start, but the Hoosiers are expected to finish in the lower half of the conference – just like football. It’s frustrating when the round ball was always a welcome relief to a disappointing pig skin performance. Now, I.U. appears to be marginal in both money sports, with only soccer earning national respect. 

It’s the Nationals and Astros in this year’s World Series, certainly not what I expected. The Nats easily swept the Cards, proving once again just how poor the Cubs were this past season. However, it was good to see Cardinal fans humbled. We’ll see how the Cubbies perform next year without the services of Coach Joe Maddon, who will be guiding the Angels. I think perhaps the White Sox will be worth following in the future. My new office is now essentially an equal combination of Sox and Cubs memorabilia. Most of my Cubs merchandise was passed on to my son in Florida, since space did not allow. I’ll be taking some more items to him in a few weeks. 

The Hoosiers travel to Nebraska next week, a football team they haven’t beat since 1959. I was 8 years old and don’t remember, but I do recall some thorough thrashings by the Cornhuskers long before they were conference foes. My other team from Indiana, the Colts, are currently prevailing over the Texans in their quest to command the AFC South division. (Colts win 30-23). I’ve been a Colts fan since they were in Baltimore, but somewhere in the transition I began to follow the Bears. It’s rare when the Ducks, Hoosiers, Colts, and Bears win in the same week. It could happen by the end of the day, but the 5-1 Saints stand in the way. That’s next on “Couch Potato” Sunday, as I continue to watch the Red Zone

P.S, The Chicag Bears (No O) lost to the Saints at Soldier Field. Mitchell Trubisky was truly awful, and their pitiful offense was limited to a kick-off return along with a late touchdown pass, 2-point conversion, and an on-side kick recovery (nearly two) that led to another TD when it mattered little. Defense wasn’t much better, giving up a blocked punt for a safety. It was still 36-18 at the two minute warning and 36-25 with less than a minute remaining, despite their too-little-too-late comeback effort.  Final score: Saints 36 Bears 25 (17 rushing yards).   

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Hook Me Up #1086

I came back from Florida to a cluttered apartment filled with extra furniture and framed pictures that needed to be hung. We had even utilized an additional storage unit and every space in my car to hold excess items while my wife entertained friends from Indianapolis over the extended weekend. We got together yesterday after going our separate ways, to consolidate, terminate, and eliminate. As a result, our new place is slowly coming together to the point where we’re not stepping over one thing to get to another. Goodwill continues to be the beneficiary. 

Today, we’re having our TVs installed by Hook Me Up Solutions, including a new 55″ Samsung Q60 in the living room. I’m writing in the kitchen this morning while they finish work in my office/guest bedroom. I did manage to get my framed Timbers scarf and baseball bat cases hung on the wall before they arrived, but everything else will have to wait until they finish. When all is said and done, it will be but a mini museum of memorabilia, compared to my former room. I’ve got another suitcase full of autographed merchandise to take to my son’s house in Florida over the holidays, adding to what I just delivered to him last week. At least, he doesn’t have to wait until I die to inherit a good portion of my collection. Plus, I can visit it when I go to see my grand kids. 

Once I’ve finished setting up my office, I will soon return to the more sedentary retirement existence that I’ve enjoyed these past few years. I continue to be stiff and sore from the past few weeks of constant shuttles between condo and apartment. The Florida break was very welcome, although I did help me son organize and hang the Cubs “crap” that I gave him. He’s a fanatic, having even named his two daughters after former players Gregg Maddox (Maddux Alexander) and Mark Grace (Nora Grace). I did package up some items that hold no interest for him to unload at the baseball card show this weekend. I hope to trade them for smaller items that are more manageable in our limited space. It’s really very gracious of my wife to even allow me to display my stuff, considering that I don’t even have a garage any more. Likewise, my son’s wife showed equal “boys and their toys” patience, although she’s as big of a Cubs fan as he is. I retained most of my White Sox memorabilia, since they were my first baseball love. 

I’m only hours away from being officially “Hooked Up,” and once again have access to hours of television entertainment. There hasn’t been much time lately to sit and watch, and these tired bones can certainly use a another relaxing break of doing nothing. I’m glad I have professionals installing the equipment and miles of wires associated with our new system. It’s one less thing for me to do!

 

 

 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Stinkin’, Sinkin’ Cubs #1075

Three 100-win Division clinchers, with the potential of five. Only St. Louis, the probable Central Division Champs with 89 victories will fail to exceed the century mark this season. This tells you a lot about their chances in the post-season. Does this reveal my bitterness as a Cub fan? It was almost a predictable collapse considering the consistent failure of the Cubs bullpen. It almost became a joke, having watched game after game of blown late inning leads. Joe Maddon is almost certainly a goner, despite the fact that he made the only possible moves to preserve victory. If it wasn’t Pedro Strop giving up the walk-off, it was Craig Kimbrel or Brandon Kintzler. It just goes to prove that if your last name starts with K, it doesn’t mean you can deliver one!

The real “K” leader, Yu Darvich finally got his sh*t together, but could typically only deliver six or seven innings. Today, Joe stretched him to nine, but he ran out of gas. Strop once again could not save the day and the Cards struck “Gold” in earning their first 4-game sweep at Wrigley in almost a century. Each game was a one-run loss by the Cubs in the last inning, with the first happening in the 10th. It was “Nightmare on Clark Street!” There will now be three meaningless games at Busch Stadium to conclude the 2019 regular season. The Cards will play on, after four frustrating years of playing second fiddle to their Chicago rivals. I’ve seen the taunting Facebook posts all day long – like they really have a chance in the Post-Season. All they’ve really done is edge the Stinkin’ Sinkin’ Cubs!

The shining star for the Cubs down the stretch was Nico Hoerner, who played his college ball at Stanford. He was the only member of the 2018 class to make the Majors this year. Injuries to Baez and Russell brought him off the couch to the diamond, and he made it pay-off. They might as well now give the entire All Star quality, yet injury-riddled, infield of Baez, Rizzo, and Bryant have an extra week of off-season rest and let Zobrist, Bote, Caritini, Happ, Kemp and Russell get the extra practice. They certainly didn’t contribute much to the success of this team, especially when it mattered. As we’re accustomed to saying as Cubs’ fans, “Maybe Next Year?” Let me also be one of the first to add, “Goodbye Joe!”

 

Old Sport Shorts: ND Number 89 #1073

After this morning’s “Schnauzerton,” a visit from 1-800-GOT-JUNK, and two trips to our new downtown apartment to deliver carloads full of non-junk, I actually sat down and watched some college football. This was just after the Cubs blew another critical game, and I.U. claimed their third football victory of the season. I wanted to see the Oregon-Stanford match-up, but ended up flipping over to Notre Dame – Georgia. Early in the game, the Fighting Irish  recovered a fumble and completed a pass in the end zone, however The Bulldogs had cleverly called timeout and the play was disallowed. As number 89 (currently Brock Wright) caught the ball for the temporary TD, it caused me to flash back to my childhood.

It was just after my 9th birthday (9/24/60, 59 years ago next week), and my dad took me to the University of California opener at Notre Dame Stadium. I remember only two things: the Golden Bear Mascot and my cousin’s #89 number. He was a sophomore Tight End on the 1960 team and my uncle John was an assistant coach. Their last name was Murphy, so they also had that Irish Catholic heritage that undoubtedly attracted them to Touchdown Jesus! They must have gotten tickets for my Dad and I, so this became my very first college football game. I had to look it up, because I definitely didn’t pay much attention to the game at that age. In fact, it reminds me of my own experience taking my son to his first high school basketball game. He was totally focused on the Tiger mascot of my team’s opponent, just as I spent the afternoon watching the Cal Dancing Bear. 

My research this afternoon showed me that Notre Dame won the game 21-7 and nearly 50,000 fans were in attendance. It would be hard to not remember an experience like that! My dad went to Indiana University, and in fact hated Notre Dame, so I’m sure I didn’t get much encouragement in following the team that day. Maybe he even privately enjoyed the fact that I was following the Golden Bears? We did, of course, want to support my uncle and cousin, especially since they provided the tickets. As family, I’m certain we had good seats, plus we got together with them after the game. I also recollect my cousin as a giant, (probably 6’5″) and have a few black & white pictures with him in my scrapbook.

I did discover that Notre Dame had an awful team that year, winning only their first and last games and going 2-8 for the year. USC and California were their two victims. In my cousin’s Junior and Senior years they did improve to 5-5, with Daryle Lamonica at quarterback. Lamonica turned down a baseball contract with the Chicago Cubs and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills. I’m not really sure what happened to my cousin, to be quite honest. It seems like he went into coaching himself, but he’ll always be number 89 to me!

 

Old Sport Shorts: Misfits #1062

NFL Football is back – but do I really care? The Bears looked terrible on Thursday night against the Packers. Looking to my collection of gridiron misfits, the Colts are rarely seen on TV in this area. We regularly get to watch the Seahawks that have failed to gain personal favoritism (right now they’re down by 3). Indiana University football blew out Eastern Illinois 52-0 in an apparent grade school match-up. Any hopes for Hoosier glory will quickly deflate when the bully Buckeyes come to town for the BIG opener – next on the schedule. At least, my alma mater has already won a couple of games, unlike the Bears or Colts (right now they’re down by seven). It would be a rare pleasure to be able to brag about any of my teams. Why didn’t I choose Clemson over Crimson?

The fading Cubs have been equally impotent in an critical match-up with the Brewers, allowing the Cardinal division lead to grow. The White Sox aren’t even worth bringing up, as I already start to look ahead to next year. I’m envious of those who have become obnoxious fans – blessed with teams that rarely lose. In all sports, I’ve somehow endeared myself to the misfits. The Cubs proved once again yesterday that they can’t score runs in critical situations, and generously give them up freely in the late stages of games. Closer Kimbrel continues to disappoint with injuries and Javy Baez sadly has a hairline fracture in his thumb. Joe Maddon continues to juggle the lineup, but they still can’t win on the road – except at Citi Field. I’m afraid to even watch in the last two innings, and wish they had more games against the Mets! 

I know that in Bloomington, Indiana next Saturday Buckeye fans will flood the stands. This will allow I.U. media relations to show-off a packed stadium of solid red. Unfortunately, it will be Buckeye red, as smart Hoosiers will re-coop their season ticket investment and head to the bars. After all, you can’t get a seat in Columbus. As always, there will be a few Hoosier faithful that perhaps will still hold hope for an upset, until reality sets in. This has not happened since 1988 – 31 years ago. The Buckeyes lead the series of 92 games that date back to 1901. Overall, it’s 75-12-5 in favor of Ohio State. Do you believe in miracles? You have to if you support the misfits that I follow! At least, I’m not a Browns fan!

Old Sport Shorts: Baseball Blues #1056

The Yankees are the first team to 90 victories this year, as they hold a 9.5 game lead over Tampa Bay. The Astros and Dodgers will soon join them in that achievement, with still a month left in the regular season. Dodger and Yankee “Blues” are confined to the uniform. The Cubs, on the other hand, had a major set-back this weekend against the Brewers, going scoreless for 24 consecutive innings. Two straight shut-out losses at Wrigley hadn’t happened since the Dodgers did it in August of 2013. That year the Cubs were 66-96 under Dale Sveum and finished fifth in the National League Central. This year, at least, they already gotten 74 wins, but continue to trail the Cardinals by 3 games. The Redbirds are on a roll, without nearly the talent that Chicago possesses. I’m just hoping that the Cubbies can somehow come from behind in facing the Cards seven of the last ten games. First, they have to get by the Brewers in an upcoming four-game series at Miller Park

The struggling Cubs are a victim of their own color. They’ve got the “Baseball Blues” when it comes to scoring runs or preventing them late in games. It’s caused me great sadness when I watch them as they continue to stumble through the year. Of late, they’ve even had trouble winning in the “Friendly Confines.” Chicago is known for “The Blues,” but it should not apply when it comes to baseball: 

We’ve got those baseball blues,

When we put on our hitting shoes.

I just might blow a fuse, 

Since I hate so much to lose. 

That song has played too many times this year. Then, just when I think there’s hope, there’s an encore. I keep seeing too much Cardinal and Cincy red, and when it mixes with Cubbie Blue, it often leaves an ugly bruise. I’ve given up hope when the bullpen goes into action, and find myself constantly frustrated when it comes to getting hits with runners on base. I keep expecting a big finishing run down the stretch, but instead find us at an unacceptable 5-5. They did manage to beat the Mariners today, and once again my expectations are up  for an 8-2 stretch. The Cardinals have been doing that consistently the past two months. They apparently learned a lesson from the Stanley Cup Champion Blues.

 

 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Fall Ball #1050

With the exception of a handful of earlier match-ups this past week, college football is kicking off the season tonight in full gear. It’s that time of year when football overlaps with baseball, that I call “Fall Ball.” It leaves me with five opportunities to be frustrated between the Cubs or White Sox, Bears or Colts, and I.U. football. Believe me, I’ve tried unsuccessfully to adopt other teams, so I must be a masochist. Here in Oregon, I’ve attempted to get enthusiastic about the Ducks, as I was once responsible for selling radio advertising for their games, while most of my friends follow the team. However, I didn’t graduate from there, grow-up in the vicinity, or have family that attends, so I tend to migrate back to my roots. The exact same scenario occurred when we lived in Austin, Texas and were expected to be Longhorn fans or Illini fans in Illinois. I’ve always been a firm believer in fitting in with the community by supporting the local team, but it’s hard to find an emotional attachment- so you’re forced to fake it!

The Cubs won their fifth straight road game tonight, completing a sweep over the Mets. This is remarkable considering they are a dismal 28-39 away from Wrigley. In addition, this is only the second time this season they have swept an opponent in a three-game series on the road; the last time was mid-April against the Marlins. To make matters worse, just before this positive push, they miserably faltered at home in being swept by the Nationals. It’s been up and down this season, compounded by injuries and an ineffective bullpen. The Cubbies have now fallen behind the division-leading Cardinals that have prospered during a remarkable 15 wins during an 18-game stretch. The Cubs were 8-10 in that same time frame, moving them to simply a contender in the Wild Card race. On the other side of Chicago, the White Sox, my other “Fall Ball” failures, are a pitiful 22 games out of first place. By the same token, Da Chicago Bears have yet to win a football game and are still struggling to find a place kicker before the season begins in a week from today against the Packers.

The “Fall Ball” frustration continues for me, as the Indianapolis Colts have permanently lost quarterback Andrew Luck, although they did manage to win their first exhibition game tonight against the Bengals. They will start the regular season with an offense guided by Jacoby Brissett. Indiana University (I.U.) football battles in-state rival Ball State (Ball U) on the Colts field this weekend, while the local Ducks play Auburn in a match-up of Nationally ranked teams. I.U. is far from that level and will be lucky to win the 6 games necessary to get a bowl bid. A victory over Ball State is paramount – or the season is over. Once again, there are low expectations for all my favorites. I’m also not anticipating that my Cubs or Bears will achieve Playoff status, as they prepare for hibernation during the changing of the seasons from “Fall Ball” to “Winter What-If’s?”

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Baseball Card Day #1032

It’s the night of my 50th high school union, but I failed to make the trip back to my hometown of Elkhart, Indiana. Today is also National Baseball Card Day, so it’s appropriate that I went to our local Mall 205 baseball card show. My purchases were primarily Chicago White Sox players from 1953-1962. Fellow collectors also presented me with some gifts, including a Go-Go White Sox Pin from the Stock Yard Inn Dugout Club circa 1959, SOX & Cubs buttons, an Official 1961 Sox scorebook, and a Sports Illustrated photo of Sherm Lollar from behind the plate with Billy Pierce on the mound. It all goes in my collection binders, highlighting the years around the Go-Go White Sox World Series appearance in 1959. Despite their loss to the Dodgers, it was the beginning of my interest in Chicago sports.

I would have to wait until 2005 for the White Sox to actually win the World Series. In the meantime, I followed da Bears through their Super Bowl victory in 1986, and gravitated to the cross-town Cubs in an effort to bond more closely with my dad and son. I never really followed the Bulls, preferring the home state influence of The Pacers. When Indy became the home of the Colts, I split my Bears allegiance that soon led to a major conflict during the 2007 Super Bowl.  Obviously, there was not an Indiana based baseball team to divide my loyalties, but I do find my faithfulness wavering between the Cubs and Sox. However, the Sox have not been as successful in recent years to officially lure me in their direction. 

In the last few years, my favorite White Sox player has become Yoan Moncada who sports uniform #10 of my childhood idol, catcher Sherm Lollar. Honestly, I was not even aware of his existence until I randomly selected his autographed baseball as part of a promotion for Sox Kids at Cellular One Park three years ago. It will always be known to me as Comiskey Park prior until modern-day sponsorship began to dictate naming rights. Two years ago it was re-branded as Guaranteed Rate that obviously didn’t guarantee victory. Soon after I bought the ball, top-prospect Moncada was brought up from the Minors and established himself in the White Sox line-up. This year he’s hitting .300 with power, so any chance of Sherm’s number being retired is growing unlikely. Former White Sox player, Ron Santo wore that number in 1974 and carried it to the Cubs where it was retired in 2003. Sherm Lollar wore #10 for ten years, more than any other Sox player, but he failed to make the Hall of Fame despite his defensive abilities. (See Post #5). Hopefully, some day that honor will belong to Yoan. Right now, unfortunately, he’s on the injured list. Sadly, Sherm has been on the deceased list since 1977. His 95th birthday would have been in a couple of weeks. 

I did not get to Guaranteed Rate Stadium this year, but saw the Cubs lose at Wrigley. I’m looking forward to following Khalil Mack and the Bears defense this year, but on the basketball side have strayed from The Pacers to the Portland Trailblazers since our move west. It shows that I’m a fickle fan! I’m further than I’ve ever been from Chicago, and that’s part of the reason I’m not partying with my former high school classmates. At least I was able to celebrate National Baseball Card Day with a few more collectibles. Plus, today is the 10th!

 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Mood Swings #1023

I’m trying not to let my mood be reflected in the box score, but sports are an important part of my life. Some how I’ve become a suffering Cubs fan, just like I once obsessively absorbed myself in I.U. basketball. I can blame this on my upbringing and the bonds that I had with my father. For the record, I was not a Cubs fan until I was an adult. Now, I wake up in a bad mood if the Cubs lose, as they did last night. Fortunately, they made a trade, or the team wouldn’t have even gotten a hit. To make matters worse it was against the Cardinals. We should all have a box score to look at the next day.

My box score from yesterday would show a morning run, too much TV watching, an acupuncture session, and dinner with my wife at West while monitoring the Cubs game. Not exactly a constructive day in the life, capped-off by a game-generated mood swing. I went to bed with it, and woke up with it – like a pouty little kid. Why do I let this silly game get the best of me? I wasn’t even playing. I’ve got the Cubbies Blues!

These Cubbies literally sometimes suck the life out of me, when life is going great. I’m retired and happily married – have most days to myself with few worries. There’s no reason for this to get to me, but it does. Yet, I’ll be watching when they start to fill-in today’s box score against the Brewers. It’s like being involved in a bad relationship. Nothing makes me angrier than a Cubs loss. When they win, there are certainly happier moments in life, but I do feel better about getting up the next day. 

It’s been a long, disappointing year for the Cubs. Last night was the first time in an 18-game stretch since the All Star Game, where they hadn’t held the lead at one point. They’ve gotten runs for their starting pitchers and put them in a position to win. Unfortunately, relief and the road have not been welcome sights. They managed to sweep the Pirates and won two out of three from the stubborn Reds and Padres. Then they had to leave the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Chicago  next blew two games each against the Giants, Brewers, and Cardinals, as the relief corps simply didn’t do their jobs. To add to the misery, they only scored 3 runs in three games at Busch Stadium, after beefing-up their offensive power with the acquisition of Nick Castellanos from the surrendering Tigers. He sadly got their only hit last night against a pitcher that hadn’t won since mid-May. Overall, it was an 11-16 road flop.

So here we are in August, and the Cubs are a game behind the Cards and a game ahead of the Brewers. They are still in contention, but I expect to continue to suffer the rest of this season. I’ll be wearing Blue and seeing Red! The mood swings will persist in haunting my dreams, and the missed swings will reflect in the box score. October will come and go without the Cubs, and my anger will shift to I.U. basketball. It’s a vicious cycle that is a bigger part of my life than I really want it to be. Try to remember – It’s only a game!

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: SunDay FunDay #1019

It’s just another sunny day in the glorious world of retirement. For those still working for a living, it’s also Sunday. My wife is getting ready for a business trip to Los Angeles while I gladly stay home to watch the dogs. They see Sunday as FunDay, anticipating their weekend Schnauzerthons. My wife leads feisty Tally on a leash while I run with old lady Tinker pushing her stroller. As we make our way through the neighborhood park, we’ll occasionally exchange dogs in a carefully synchronized spin around the pond. There’s even a designated poop stop, having learned our lesson about giving Tinker a timely break. She is, after all, “The Poopingest Pup on The Planet,” and the fast buggy ride seems to relax her a bit too much. Just like a toddler, we now always carry Wet Wipes just in case. Once I complete my just over three-mile daily running goal, I let her out for the short walk home. Today was RunDay number 3.864, as “The Streak” continues. 

Tinker was really gimpy today as she waddled along by herself. Her regular outings are very short any more and often she doesn’t even make it down the driveway before she poops. A few steps later she’ll relieve her bladder in the neighbor’s grass and immediately head home. It’s almost like clockwork. She’ll then wait in the shade of the garage until Tally finishes her business, and will bark if it takes too long. Last night, we had dinner guests and she was very impatient. The neighborhood was so peaceful and quiet except for her demanding bark. It was the most outspoken I’ve ever seen her, so she must have thought that with guests at the table, she’d get more food if she was loud enough. As we well know, input equals output, so extra baggies were needed today.

One of my favorite SunDay morning rituals is listening to Sunday Morning Brunch on KINK radio. Although it’s a subtle reminder that I used to work there, it was a mellow way to start today. It helped me get through a sluggish hangover from too much wine and too many barks last night. I won’t be outdone by the neighbors when I set out my glass bottles for recycling tomorrow. It will look like a job well done, after another of my wife’s successful dinner parties. It may be one of our last at this home once we put it on the market in a few weeks. Who knows where we will be living next? I’m sure the neighbors won’t miss “Old Lady Bark” or the brown spots in their yard. 

I’ll be on my own for a couple of days, so baseball, beer and fried chicken with a friend is planned. Tinker will have no one to bark at but Tally, as she quietly dreams of the next Schnauzerthon. I just hope that the Cubs can get their sh*t together after blowing a couple of key games this past week. I’m sure my Cardinal friends are thrilled. They are only “my Cubs” when they’re winning and the Brewers are taking advantage of weak relief work with back-to-back-comebacks. It won’t be FunDay unless they can win in Milwaukee today. Also, the fried chicken won’t taste good unless they can beat the Cardinals. If not, you’ll get tired of hearing my bark!

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