View From The Last Row April 3, 2011
It’s been a while since my last post.
It seems that the analysis that I set out to accomplish has been
hashed and rehashed by so many others, that my opinions were lost in
the shuffle. Add to that a bit of writers block and here we are
From here on out my column will
contain not only my observations of the current Cubs but also my
memories of the great game of baseball over the past fifty years.
My first memory of major league
baseball was not of the Cubs, but of the newly formed Minnesota
Twins. I attended my first big league game at the age of six in 1961,
with my dad and my three older brothers.
My dad was a candy salesman on the
road much of the time, so our time with him was precious and a trip
to a major league baseball game was a special treat.
I recall entering Metropolitan
Stadium that first time, that thrill that I still experience today
when entering a ballpark. The initial view of the field, the bright
green grass, the straight bleached foul lines and batters boxes, all
exhilarating to all your senses. There is no other feeling quite like
There was so much happening to fill a
young boy’s head. Players from both teams taking final practice
before the game, as well as signing autographs for kids along the
infield walls. The background buzz of people taking their seats in
conversations about everything from today’s batteries and who will
play in the World Series this year.
The Twins played the Indians that
day. I remember thinking, where the heck is Cleveland? There was a
young player on the Indians named Ty Cline, I always asked if he was
related. He wasn’t but nonetheless it was pretty cool to see our name
on a big league scorecard. What most impressed me was the Indian
pitcher that day, a husky fireball throwing pitcher, Mudcat Grant. He
had the coolest name and a hot fastball that rang like a gunshot
when it hit Earl Battey’s glove. Funny what sticks in the mind. Note
that the Mudcat ended up pitching for the Twins and Cline played for
the 66 Cubbies.
That first season with the Twins laid
the groundwork for me as a Cub fan. I think they finished 70-90 that
year and were way out of contention. But I still loved them as I
would with decades of sub par Cub teams. I must mention that after
the ’61 season and our subsequent move to Illinois, the Twins had a
competitive ball club for many years. Imagine that!
I always attended the game with my
glove, a worn leather hand-me-down that was constantly being cared
for. The fingers were re-laced with care. The old leather laces had
passed and were replaced by a stout black boot lace. The palm was
lined with a thin strip of blue sponge remanded from under mom’s sink
in the kitchen For that theft I paid dearly. That glove always
smelled of saddle soap and dirt. It served me well. After all the
times I carried my glove to a game, I never had the opportunity to
One of my favorite memories entering
the ballpark was that familiar bark…”Get your Scorecard!”.
For a nickel you could purchase a stiff
cardboard scorecard and a thick carpenter pencil. With those simple
tools you could keep a permanent record of your adventure.
Those early Twins, my heroes,
Killebrew, Allison, Lemon, Pascual, Kaat, Mincher, Battey, and all
the rest, were all bigger than life to me at six. Even at that early
age I understood the significance of Killebrew’s number three. Harmon
Killebrew was Minnesota’s Babe. He seemed larger than life to me,
with his tight swing and massive power. Heady stuff for a lad that
loved stories of the old west and knights of the round table.
These are a few of the memories that
started my 50 year, love/hate relationship with Baseball.
2011 started on
a bright note for the Cubs with Natural star Robert Redford
tossing the ceremonial first pitch. After that though the Cubs failed
to get a runner to third base. Starter Ryan Dempster started out
great and even retired 9 straight at one point, only to walk a couple
batters and serve up a grand slam to the mighty Neil Walker… Game 2
saw the Cubs strand a bunch more runners and a decent start from
Zambrano, finally coming back to steal a late win.
I still believe
that the Cubs can make a run at the division, with the problems in
St. Louis and Milwaukee, and the fact that Baker still manages a
pitching staff in Cincinnati. As always, I am hopeful.
We have some
kids that could make a mark this year. Starlon Castro, Darwin Barney,
and Andrew Cashner. Could be a bright future!
My Two Cents
How many times has the scoreboard at
Wrigley Field been hit by a batted ball?
to the last Cub Trivia question:
In 1971 who was the first
NL player to appear in 1,000 consecutive games?