I keep thinking there’s nothing left to write about this season. The Cubs have clinched the Central Division for the second straight year, while only Milwaukee still has a mathematical chance of overtaking the Rockies for the last Wild Card slot. While resting most of the starters, the defending World Champion Chicago Cubs continue their winning ways, with their 14th victory in the last 17 games. It was Ian Happ once again making the difference with a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the 8th and Jason Grimm with the save for another dramatic one-run victory 5-4. Happ-Happ-Hurray! Don’t Worry be Happ-y!
The Yankees are 2.5 games behind Boston, but assured of at least a Wild Card Playoff appearance. The Red Sox need to simply win one of their final three games against the A.L. West Champion Astros, who can claim their 100th victory with one more win. Aaron Judge is in the Yankee spotlight, having just broken Mark McGuire’s 30-year old rookie home run record with 51. It was also his 32nd long ball at Yankee Stadium this year, tying Babe Ruth for the most by a Yankee player in one season. Topps Now has issued commemorative trading cards for both of these milestones. All Rise! The Ruth record has stood since 1921. I also bought the limited-edition card when Judge won this year’s Home Run Derby in Miami. Giancarlo Stanton had won it the year before, and has three more games left this season to top the Roger Maris home run mark of 61 in 1961, and perhaps surpassing Sammy Sosa (66), Mark McGuire (70). and Barry Bonds (74) records before it’s all over. Stanton currently sits at 59. Hopefully, it’s just something like cabbage or spinach that is fueling his success!
I also bought Topps Now collector cards for three Cubs’ highlights in their drive for the Division title. The first was Jose Quintana’s 10 strike-out complete game 3-hitter to wrap-up the Brewers series in Milwaukee that gave his club a one-game edge for the year. The second card captures Addison Russell diving into the stands for a foul ball during the first victory in St. Louis. He did not come up with the catch and instead was covered with nacho cheese, but graciously replaced the fan’s order that was spilled on the field. The third card is captioned, “Clinch N.L. Central Division Spot for 2nd Straight Year.” I enjoy collecting these limited supply baseball cards that are only available for a 24-hour period following the highlight moment. I think they will have greater value in the future, as baseball card values continue to be a function of supply and demand. Earlier this season I purchased a Rizzo and Schwarber “Stay Classy” card that shows off their funky road trip outfits. (See Post #101). The road trip was a disaster, so that card lost value quickly!
As Addison Russell knocked over the Cardinal fan’s plate of nachos the other night, it reminded me of an incident at Wrigley Field many years ago. I was part of a season ticket syndicate that shared nine premium seats between the Cubs Dugout and home plate. They were supposedly installed in the original wide walk-ways just after Ryne Sandberg signed his final contract with the team many years before, hoping to off-set some of that investment. These special seats had enough room for spectators to pass both in-front and behind until the game actually started. At that point, two retired ladies “guarded” that walk-way to prevent passers-by from obstructing our view. The genius of the management decision to use little-old-ladies was that no one would have paid attention to an usher, but stopped quickly in their tracks when these grandmotherly women would kindly re-route them. Half the fun of sitting there was watching them work. The guarded pathway was also the most direct route for celebrities to get on the field, so it was not uncommon to see former players, movie stars, and other “ceremonial first pitch” types walk in front of us. Ryne Sandberg, for example, regularly sat a couple of rows in front of us with his wife. I took a close friend to the game one Saturday afternoon, who was a bit ambitious with the beer vendors, and had a full cup of Old Style sitting at his feet. I wasn’t paying much attention, but a man was trying to pass in front of us just as the game started, and I was patiently waiting for the ladies to stop him. Instead, he kicked-over my friend’s beer! As it turned out it was Ryne Sandberg himself, rushing off the field to get to his seat. Everyone sitting behind us saw him kick this beer, at the same time my friend, oblivious as to who he was, raised a fuss. Once Sandberg got back to his wife, he somehow realized what he had done. Perhaps, it was the cold, hard stares of the crowd. My heavily sedated buddy stumbled to the restroom after the first inning, and once he was gone I noticed a tap on my shoulder. It was Ryne Sandberg with a replacement beer, just as Addison Russell did the other night with the nachos. I made him sign the cup, that turned out to be nothing but a blur, and it was long before modern phone cameras, so when my friend returned I had no real proof of the visit. all the neighboring fans raved of Sandberg’s generosity, but I still don’t think he believes me to this day. “Nacho Man,” however, was able to take a photo, millions around the world witnessed it, and Topps produced a card.